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Pura vida! (Pure life!) is Costa Rica’s unofficial national slogan, and in many ways it defines the country. You’ll hear it exclaimed, proclaimed, and simply stated by Ticos from all walks of life, from children to octogenarians. It can be used as a cheer after your favorite soccer team scores a goal, or as a descriptive response when someone asks you, “¿Cómo estás?” (“How are you?”). It is symbolic of the easygoing nature of this country’s people, politics, and personality.

Costa Rica itself is a mostly rural country with vast areas of protected tropical forests. It is one of the biologically richest places on earth, with a wealth of flora and fauna that attracts and captivates biologists, photographers, ecotourists, and casual visitors alike.

Often called the “Switzerland of Central America,” Costa Rica is, and historically has been, a sea of tranquility in a region troubled by turmoil for centuries. For more than 100 years, it has enjoyed a stable democracy and a relatively high standard of living for Latin America. The literacy rate is high, as are medical standards and facilities. Perhaps most significant, at least for proud and peace-loving Costa Ricans, is that this country does not have an army.

The Little Drummer Boy -- Costa Rica’s national hero is Juan Santamaría. The legend goes that young Juan enlisted as a drummer boy in the campaign against William Walker. On April 11, 1856, when Costa Rican troops had a band of Walker’s men cornered in an inn in Rivas, Nicaragua, Santamaría volunteered for a suicidal mission to set the building on fire. Although he was mortally wounded, Santamaría was successful in torching the building and driving Walker’s men out, and they were swiftly routed. April 11 is now a national holiday.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.