If you've ever felt like surfing in the morning, spotting a sloth dangling in the rainforest in the afternoon, and relaxing in volcanically heated hot springs at night, Costa Rica is the place, folks. This tropical, nature lover’s paradise has managed to preserve a quarter of its land in national parks and protected areas for jaguars, crocodiles, monkeys, toucans, everybody. Also, it’s relatively safe, healthy, and educated (perhaps because a president had the chutzpah to abolish the military in 1948).
Everywhere you turn, someone seems to be offering fresh coconut water right out of the husk, which is best accompanied with some of the country's delicious guaro, a sugarcane liquor. And the affable Costa Rican people, also known as the Ticos, embody their ubiquitous catchphrase -- pura vida. It translates to "pure life" but can also mean "hello," "goodbye," "nice bathing suit," or just about anything else. Costa Rica is laid-back that way, until of course you find yourself on one of its extreme adventures, like whitewater rafting, mountain climbing, or scuba diving with hammerhead sharks. For such a tiny country, there's oodles of shoreline on the rich coast -- 800 miles of it, in fact, on both the Pacific and the Caribbean. The beaches, waves, and sunsets seen from clifftops have a way of making the place feel a whole lot bigger. - Ashley Harrell, Thrillist contributor