Things That Matter

Pura Vida! 15 Reasons Why Costa Rica Is A Tropical Paradise

Costa Ricans have a motto that is as simple as it is full of wisdom: “Pura vida.” It roughly translates as “Just life” or “Life only.” This mantra is only fitting for a country which prides itself in its natural beauty and its sustainable policies that protect biodiversity. Costa Rica literally means “Rich Coast,” which gives you an idea of how ingrained the idea of having plentiful resources is in the national mind frame. Here are some facts that tell us why this Central American country is a prime destination for those seeking to lose themselves in nature, find adventure and get in touch with the flora and fauna we need to protect. Government policies have put spending in initiatives such as a strong educational system and the move to renewable and clean energies to power development. If you are planning a holiday, no descarten Costa Rica for any reason. Pura vida, mi gente! 

1. Costa Rica’s geographical position is such a privilege.

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The country borders beautiful Nicaragua to the north, the lush Caribbean Sea to the northeast, the financial epicenter of Panama to the Southeast and the warm Pacific Ocean to the southwest. Cocos Island has Ecuador just to the south. Having so much coast basically creates a lush, green jungle in between. Add some volcanoes and you have paradise on Earth. 

2. It has a small, happy population.

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Costa Rica is called by many “the Switzerland of Latin America.” It has a population of a mere 5 million, with about 2 million living in the capital of San Jose and surrounding metropolitan enclaves. This is a pretty manageable number, which also prevents overpopulation overcrowding protected natural areas, which is a pattern in the region. 

3. Who needs an army? Let us rejoice in peace.

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Costa Rica prides itself in not having an army. Federal resources that would otherwise be destined for defense purposes are instead directed to the protection of natural areas and resources. This gives the country a zen vibe that visitors just love. It must be amazing doing yoga there and just flowing with the universe! 

4. Education is queen in Costa Rica! 

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While most countries spend about 4 percent of their budget on education, Costa Rica spends up to 7 percent. This has allowed industries such as finance and corporate services to flourish. And tourism, of course: we mean, look at this amazing landscape! 

5. Volcanoes are a natural wonder and Costa Rica has plenty.

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When we think of a tropical paradise, we often think of beaches, jungles, and volcanoes! There are 14 known volcanoes in the country, and six have been active in the last 75 years. You can visit the Poas Volcano Crater, a sight to marvel at turquoise waters in the middle of grey, millenary rock formations. 

6. Costa Rica has a tropical climate all year round.

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The country is between 8 and 12 degrees north of the Equator, so if you want to escape winter at any time you can take a plane to this gorgeous country. Beware, though: with tropical climate comes a fair bit of rain. The period of May to November has heavy downpours in some regions, which provides a sort of charm in itself. If your thing is trekking, December to April is drier, and therefore more appropriate. 

7. Costa Rica is synonymous with biodiversity.

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Costa Rica is not a very big country, and it amounts to just 0.03 percent of the globe’s landmass. However, it contains a whopping 5 percent of the planet’s biodiversity. 

8. Twenty-five percent of the country consists of protected areas. This is the highest percentage in the world.

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That is huge! A quarter of the territory is made up of national parks and protected areas, basically providing a much needed “lung” to the region (bordering countries like Nicaragua and Panama are overexploited). If only every country followed Costa Rica’s lead.

9. Rivers and waterfalls are abundant.

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Costa Rica is surrounded by the Caribbean Sea and the Pacific Ocean, the country is tattooed with amazing rivers and waterfalls that keep the ecosystem alive and well. As fresh water becomes a more scarce commodity, Costa Rica will be even more blessed. 

10. Birds, reptiles, Costa Rica has it all.

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Besides the cutest animals that have made Costa Rica’s fauna famous (don’t worry, we’ll get to them!), the country is home to at least 840 species of birds (if you are into bird watching, then this is the place to go!). It also hosts endangered species of turtles, such as the green turtle, the Giant leatherback, the hawksbill, and loggerhead turtles. Authorities are working hard to protect turtles from poaching and harm to their habitats. So now it is your turn to stop using so much plastic that can harm them when they are swimming freely in the ocean.

11. Ecotourism is highly developed.

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The high educational levels of the population and the natural beauty of the country have made it a great destination for ecotourism. This includes walks, trekking, surfing and, of course, visits to the country’s famous coffee plantations. The coffee in Costa Rica is similar to Mexican varieties from Chiapas, and provides a flowery, fruity aftertaste that screams “Holiday mood”! The country receives about 3 million visitors per year. 

12. Of course, we wouldn’t forget about a cute sloth pic.

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Sloths are gorgeous, slooooow mammals that live in the trees. Sadly, they have been trafficked as pets and some of them have been run over by cars. There are multiple efforts to rescue them and make sure that this species survives the biggest pest of them all: humans.

13. There are four species of cute Costa Rican monkeys, changuitos pa los cuates.

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The country is famous for its many animals, and the cries of monkeys in the jungle is a particularly iconic sound. The four furry cositas hermosas are: the white-headed capuchin, the mantled howler, the endangered Geoffroy’s spider monkey, and the Central American squirrel monkey. 

14. Costa Ricans are as diverse as their natural wonders.

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Costa Rica is a true cultural melting pot. Like all of Latin America, this melting pot is a product of the traumatic experiences of slavery and colonization, but Costa Ricans have learnt to live in harmony. As per the census, the country is made up of 83.6 percent whites or mestizos, 6.7 percent mulattoes, 2.4 percent Native American and 1.1 percent Black or Afro-Caribbean. There has been a constant influx of European migration: there are people of Italian, German, English, Dutch, French, Irish, Portuguese, and Polish descent.

15. Costa Rica is saying hasta nunca to fossil fuels.

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Costa Ricans know that protecting the environment goes far beyond having protected areas. That is why 98 percent of its electricity is produced without the use of fossil fuels. Wind farms abound in the country, the massive Reventazón hydroelectric dam is now fully operational, and solar panels are being introduced in businesses and households.

READ: This Costa Rican Plane Hotel Boasts More Monkeys Than People And It Is The Perfect Escape

I Just Got Back From A Trip To Colombia And This Is Why It’s As Amazing As Everyone Says It Is

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I Just Got Back From A Trip To Colombia And This Is Why It’s As Amazing As Everyone Says It Is

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Thanks to popular Netflix series that shall remain nameless, Colombia often conjures up images of drug cartel violence and kidnappings or extravagant lifestyles of those same cartels leaders. It was also ravaged by civil war for more than 30 years leaving tourism basically non-existent.

However, within just the last five years, Colombia has seen an increase in foreign travels of more than 45% and it now rates as one of the most visited countries in South America. The country is rapidly establishing itself as a major tourist destination, with Caribbean coastline, rainforest, endangered animals, unique ecosystems and the Andes mountain range. It has something for everyone, and unique experiences as well as unique landscapes. Here are 13 good reasons to visit Colombia.

It’s home to incredible biodiversity

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Colombia is considered one of the world’s ‘megadiverse’ countries. The Andes mountain range runs through the country, creating three connecting mountain ranges, with Bogotá situated on a flat savannah within them. The Amazon rainforest covers 35% of Colombia, and this unique rainforest environment is home to many indigenous communities, endangered animals and unique fauna.

And Colombia’s unique landscapes don’t stop at the rainforest. The connecting of two ecosystems occurs in many areas of Colombia, but the most unique is where the Amazon meets the Andes mountains range, creating a unique landscape at the Serranía de la Macarena National Park. Colombia also has two desert areas, La Guajira and Tatacoa. Colombia’s coastlines, one Caribbean and the other Pacific, create unique beaches, backed by snowcapped mountains and deep forest. Colombia is also home to a large páramo ecosystem that helps create rain.

There are countless once in a lifetime experiences

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Colombia is full of unique experiences and activities, with the biodiverse environment creating the perfect location for many activities. The choice is almost endless: whitewater rafting, rock climbing, abseiling, bungee jumping, surfing, whale-watching in the Pacific, kitesurfing in the Caribbean, waterskiing, horse riding through the mountains, hiking through the valleys, trekking through the Amazon, cliff jumping, diving on the island of San Andres, snorkelling in the reefs or swimming in endless fresh water lagoons.

The country is known for its warm, friendly, and diverse people

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Columbians have a great reputation for friendliness and hospitality. As with all stereotypes, you may want to take this with a pinch of salt – but why not visit and find out for yourself? You may find that you never want to leave.

“It’s ludicrous this place exists and everybody doesn’t want to live here,” uttered by the late Anthony Bourdain while strolling through the streets of Cartagena in 2008.

Diverse and delicious foods – especially when it comes to unique fruits and vegetables

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Colombia’s range of climates and altitudes allows farmers to grow a large variety of crops all year round, and the country is home to a number of unique fruits and vegetables. Colombia prides itself on its fresh foods, with restaurants serving home-cooked meals, and many homemade meals and foods available from street stalls or local cafes. Juices are popular, as well as rices, corn arepas and fresh breads.

When you’re there, these are the musts: Bandeja paisa, a traditional lunch of rice, beans, fried egg, avocado, pig belly, beef and chorizo; the Pacific and Andean cuisines in Popayan, UNESCO’s first Creative City of Gastronomy; and West African-influenced dishes of the Palenque people in San Basilio de Palenque, the first free-slave town in the Americas.

A robust and well-preserved national parks system

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Colombia has 59 National Natural Parks, which vary in landscape, climate and ecosystems. Many of them offer unique experiences for visitors, such as hikes, water activities and other experiences. All of Colombia’s National Parks are designed to protect the wildlife, ecosystems, culture and architectural heritage of the area.

Unique and exotic wildlife that can’t be found anywhere else on Earth

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Colombia is a country with a high level of biodiversity; it is home to over 10% of the world’s animal species as well as the highest number of endemic species. Over 1,800 species of bird inhabit Colombia, with over 456 mammal species and large numbers of insects, reptiles and marine creatures. The majority of the country’s wildlife resides within four National Parks – Cocora Valley, Gorgona Island, Serrania de la Macarena and Amacayacu.

Miles and miles of hiking for all skill levels

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Colombian National Natural Park’s feature a large number of hiking routes, which vary in both difficulty and distance. Hiking gives visitors the opportunity to experience the country’s unique landscapes and ecosystems, and to see wildlife up close. Hiking trails and guided tours are available throughout the country, with the most popular being in the Valle de Cocora and the hike or trek to the Lost City, an ancient indigenous abandoned village created in 800 AD, or 600 years before Machu Picchu.

Stunning classic and modern architecture

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Colombian architecture dates back centuries, with small towns and villages all traditionally having a plaza and cathedrals, many of them hundreds of years old. The architecture of Colombia’s cathedrals is beautiful, detailed and has to be seen to be believed.

While parts of Colombia’s big cities have become marvels of modern architecture, Bogotá, the country’s capital, has a historic centre that is home to many very old buildings on cobbled streets. Colombia combines old and new within its cities, and continually strives to create exquisite new modern buildings, as well as restoring its colonial heritage.

Fun and modern cities full of entertainment

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Bogotá (Colombia’s capital) and Medellín (the second-biggest city) are both up-and-coming conurbations in South American and the world. Medellín has created and implemented an extensive Urban Development strategy, which has seen the city completely change over the last 20 years from one of the world’s most violent cities to an award-winning centre of innovation, which is becoming a model for other cites around the world.

Bogotá is also developing rapidly into a major business hub for Latin America, and a large number of multinational companies are creating their Latin American HQs within the business district.

A frenetic obsession with sports

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Colombia has been gaining huge success in sports in recent years. The country’s football team is one of the best in the world and is heavily supported throughout the country. When a football match is played the majority of the country stops to watch and offer support. Cycling is another popular sport, with large numbers of Colombians taking to the streets and countryside to take part in long-distance rides or the city’s ciclovía events.

Thousands of years of recorded history

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Colombia’s history dates back for many centuries, with Pre-Colombian indigenous communities establishing themselves all over the country and creating many of the country’s towns and cities. Colombia has been heavily influenced by its natives, as well as by the Spanish, French and British, with many countries trying and failing to take control of the country from the Spanish.

Colombia is now turning a corner from its history of the last 50 years. Civil war has torn through the country, but in 2016 a peace agreement was signed and implemented, creating at last a positive and sustainable future for the country.

Hundreds of Indigenous cultures

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Indigenous natives live within many areas of Colombia, including the Amazon, Pacific Coast and La Guajira. Indigenous Colombians and Afro-Colombians strive to keep their traditions alive, with traditional foods, music, culture and events. Colombia has been predominately influenced by its indigenous communities and heritage through music, with many sounds and rhythms originating from Africa and being brought to Colombia along with descendants of Afro-Colombians.

A Toxi-Tour Will Take Activists To Seven States In Mexico That Host The Country’s Most Polluted Spots

Things That Matter

A Toxi-Tour Will Take Activists To Seven States In Mexico That Host The Country’s Most Polluted Spots

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Like most countries that depend heavily on coal energy and on manufacturing to keep its productive wheels running, Mexico is deeply affected by the environmental damage that many industries cause. Added to local production, Mexico has also been the site of maquilas, factories set up by foreign investors who are lured by cheaper labour and by lax tax regimes, as well as by looser rules when it comes to environmental impact. Both industry and public opinion need to be better informed of the toxic hot spots in the country.

Mexico sits at an strategic political and commercial position, and industrial powerhouses such as the United States and Canada, whose companies have set shop in the other member of NAFTA, by far the most disadvantaged. 

The toxi-tour caravan will travel the country for ten days in total, December 2-11.

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Participants include environmentalists and scientists from both Mexico and overseas. The objective is to raise awareness and to denounce the companies that cause most damage. Perhaps shaming is the first step towards change. Besides Mexicans, there are representatives from the United States, Europe and other Latin American Countries. 

The journey began in El Salto, Jalisco, where a polluted river has led to cancer and death.

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In this site industrial pollution of the Santiago river has caused the death of more than a thousand people due to cancer and kidney failure. People from cities in the United States affected by pollution in places like Flint, Michigan, can surely relate. A river is generally a propeller for economic development and productive activity, as well as a source of an increasingly scarce commodity: water. However, this river is basically poisonous now and has brought death to those who live nearby. 

The caravan will visit sites were more than three million people have seen their health diminished by pollution.

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The rest of the Toxi-tour stops include Dolores Hidalgo, Guanajuato; Apaxco, México state; Atonilco de Tula, Hidalgo; Tlaxcala; Puebla; and Coatzacoalcos, Veracruz. The journey will conclude in Mexico City on December 11. As you may lmow, Mexico City is deeply affected by high levels of pollution. Its high altitude and the fact that it is nested in a valley make it prone to elevated pollution levels that have damaged the upper respiratory tract in millions of its inhabitants.

In the photo we can see the cement manufacturing plant of Apaxco, which releases fine particles that have caused upper respiratory tract issues for both the workers and the people living near the factory. Imagine breathing grainy, minuscule cement dust day in, day out. Another big issue is the unlawful disposal of waste in landfills which end up pumping chemicals into the soil and rendering it sterile. 

The organizers have a pretty clear idea of who is to blame for the environmental crisis in these places.

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As Mexico Daily News reports: “The Toxi-Tour will “denounce United States, Canadian, German, French, Spanish and Mexican companies” that cause environmental damage, said Andrés Barreda, a representative of the National Assembly of Environmental Victims, which organized the caravan.”

Yes, Mexican companies share the blame, but the fact that Global North companies have caused physical damage to the land and people of a previously colonized nation brings back memories of colonial times and trauma. So for these companies the lives of Global South countries are less valuable? It would appear that is the case. This is afforded of course, by corrupt authorities. The caravan will also get political and will engage local community leaders and people that have been affected or displaced by industry.

As Mexico News Daily reports: “In Tlaxcala on Friday, caravan members will learn about the community proposal to clean up the Atoyac–Zahuapan river basin, while on Saturday they will visit contaminated areas of Puebla city and speak with locals who have been dispossessed of their communal lands.”

Mexican history is a history of dispossession, and environmental violence is another way in which those in power have decimated the productive capabilities and future survival of communities that live and die by a deep attachment to the land and nature.