Folks, in just a short while, you will all be going to Switzerland. Yes, you heard me right, Switzerland. If you think you are in the wrong group of tourists, then you are mistaken because you are all going to the Switzerland of Central America, Costa Rica. Indeed Costa Rica has sometimes been likened to Switzerland because of the nation’s “comfortable lifestyle, peaceful democracy and overwhelming natural beauty” (Firestone et. al 20). Furthermore, Costa Rica is home to over four million Ticos – this is what Costa Ricans call themselves.
You can consider yourselves lucky to have the opportunity to get a taste of what Costa Rica offers because this country is known to be the most user-friendly nation in Central America. This means plenty of cheap buses that can take you to the most beautiful tourist spots, several accommodations waiting to make you feel at home, and a multitude of decent eateries and restaurants in most corners of the country. However, since Costa Rica boasts of a higher standard of living compared to its neighboring countries, prices tend to be slightly higher.
Yet do not fret, this only means you are certain to experience quality goods and services throughout the country (Firestone et. al 20-22). Moreover, Costa Rica is the third smallest country in Central America, with a land area of 19,730 square miles. It is actually a bit smaller than West Virginia so you can visit all the places in your itinerary in just a short period of time. Furthermore, the country is bounded by Nicaragua in the north, Panama in the south and southeast, the Caribbean Sea in the northeast, and the Pacific Ocean in the west and southwest.
It is further defined by three geographical regions, namely, the Pacific lowlands with steep cliffs and narrow white beaches; the central highlands with temperate and populous basins; and the Caribbean lowlands with flat plains and flowing streams. Though this naturally rich country is a tropical one, the best time to visit is in the summer or “verano” by the end of the year. Nonetheless, if you wish to know what their wet season feels like, then go there in the middle of the year to experience winter or “invierno. In addition, whether in “verano” or in “invierno,” one can never go wrong with Costa Rica’s flora and fauna. Tropical rainforests, tropical dry forests, and coastal vegetations, and various species of amphibian and reptiles, mammals, birds, and insects (Foley & Cooke, 7-17) – these just depict the beauty and richness nature blessed Costa Rica with. Looking back in time, the Spanish were the first to be captivated by this richness.
In fact, they optimistically referred to the country as the “Rich Coast” when they began settling in the region in 1522, thinking that it holds several gold and other mineral reserves. Yet they only found little and so they shifted to agriculture. Moreover, together with other provinces in Central America, Costa Rica declared independence from Spain in 1821, after almost three centuries of ruling. These newly-independent provinces formed an alliance. Because of border disputes though, the federation failed to thrive so Costa Rica withdrew and declared its sovereignty in 1838.
The years that followed were smooth-sailing with a peaceful democracy beginning in 1899. This positive development persists up to this very day with only two notable disruptions – one in 1917-19 when Federico Tinoco governed with dictatorship and the other in 1948 when Jose Figueres led an armed uprising following a doubtful presidential election (US Department of State). Hence, Costa Rica has since been peaceful, not to mention, progressive. A close look at its economy would reveal that it has enjoyed a stable economic growth before the global economic crisis.
Instrumental to this growth are the country’s export commodities such as coffee, sugar, and beef as well as the widening trade of industrial and specialized agricultural products. Moreover, Costa Rica has kept its 15 to 20 percent poverty rate for almost 20 years. In addition, foreign investors are attracted to enter the country because of its political stability, high quality of education, and fiscal incentives. Needless to say, tourists like you, who are attracted to the rich biodiversity of the country, contribute greatly to the economy as ecotourism continues to develop and strengthen (Central Intelligence Agency).
This ecotourism of Costa Rica is in fact one of the country’s fastest improving sector (Tourist Spots Organization). In fact, the government has signed various trade agreements with other countries. Who knows, this trip of yours may be a product of one of those agreements. So once you land in Costa Rica, either through the international airport Juan Santamaria in San Jose or the Daniel Oduber in Liberia (Costa Rica Tourism), your first instinct would be to go directly to that tourist spot of your choice.
Well in this case Costa Rica has plenty, from national parks to mountains and volcanoes, from beaches to cultural sites – Costa Rica has these options and more that would suit various tastes. For those who want to head out straight to the waters, Cocos Island and Puerto Viejo Beach are just two options. A choice of water sports such as kayaking, surfing, and scuba diving as well as rich marine life await visitors in these top spots. For those who wish to witness the natural wonder of the country at its best, try Tortuguero National Park and Tenorio Volcano National Park.
For the nature lovers, a trip to Poas Volcano to see the two crater lakes may be an option. For the adventurous ones, rock climbing and hiking in Chirripo Mountain may be the perfect activities. For the animal lovers, Monteverde Reserve, which houses the extinct gold toad as well as squirrels, wild pigs, and porcupines, may just be the right place. For those who want to see two attractive spots in one location, the Area de Conservacion Guanacaste, which comprises of the Junquillal Bay Wildlife Refuge and the Rincon de la Vieja National Park, may be the best spot.
For those who wish to spend a quiet time in the city, the Teatro Nacional de Costa Rica may offer the peace you long for (Tourist Spots Organization). However, in visiting these marvelous tourist spots, it is important that you get to know Ticos in order to deal with them well. For one, they opt to think small, go slow, and avoid risks, anxiety, and overwork. They also put high value to their families and tend to give them favored treatments. They likewise have a strong belief on equality than most Latin Americans and further hold a strong sense of personal honor and dignity regardless of their social status.
Hence, it is very important to note that you need to avoid embarrassing another person especially in public. Moreover in decision-making, a consensus is more likely to happen, which sometimes slows down the process. Hence, showing of impatient attitude is discouraged and lowers credibility. Furthermore, as time and deadlines may be flexible, be tolerant and understanding of delays and put in mind that courtesy and enjoyment are more important than time. Remember to address Ticos properly with Mr. /Senor, Mrs. Senora, or Miss/Senorita plus the last name. Also, avoid resting your feet on any furniture but footstools. Finally, when you decide to head out to the beach, shorts for men will do while too much revealing clothes for women will not (qtd. in Tacey, 1-3). With these, I hope you now have a clear picture of what your tour to the Switzerland of Central America will be like; yet no lecture or discussion of the place would surpass the real thing. So make the most out of what Costa Rica can offer and be sure to enjoy.