You can’t go far in Costa Rica without hearing the phrase pura vida. In simple terms it means ‘pure life’, but for Ticos (the Costa Rican people), pura vida’s much more than that – it’s a greeting, a superlative and a reminder to enjoy what you’ve got.

Perhaps that’s why this small Central American country, flanked on either side by the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea, is a global pioneer in preserving its remarkably diverse environment for future generations.

You’ll find everything from white sand beaches to mountains, rainforest and volcanoes, with some 25.6% of the country protected for conservation. And there’s plenty to protect: Costa Rica covers only 0.03% of the world’s surface but has 5% of its biodiversity.

The opportunity to see some of these species in their natural habitat is one of Costa Rica’s biggest draws for visitors, with capuchin monkeys, the blue jeans frog (pictured) and toucans all abundant. For a glimpse of the endangered green turtle, head to Tortuguero National Park – the most important nesting site for the species in the western hemisphere.

There’s adventure, too, from ziplines over the rainforest canopy in Arenal to 4x4 trips along coastal dirt roads, and some of the best surfing in Central America on both coasts.

No single country has it all, but Costa Rica has more than most, and a burning desire to keep it that way.


500,000 – the number of species found in Costa Rica

300,000 – the number of those species that are insects

79.5% – percentage of Costa Rica's electricity derived from hydroelectric sources

2021 – the year Costa Rica's government hopes to become the world's first carbon-neutral country

26% – the amount of Costa Rican land protected for conservation

50% – the amount of Costa Rica's coastline that contains protected areas

Getting there

Virgin Holidays Worldwide Journeys runs two tours to Costa Rica. The ten-day Highlights of Costa Rica trip (from £1,695pp) passes through the Tortuguero National Park, volcanic Arenal and the Manuel Antonio National Park. The Costa Rica Family Adventure (14 days; adult from £2,195, child from £1,295) takes in volcanoes, rainforests and beaches.