Where you need to go for sun, sea and happiness once the travel ban is lifted

After what seems like an eternity spent in lockdown, it’s about time we looked at treating ourselves – and what better reward is there than an exotic holiday?

While foreign travel to some locations may still be on hold for this year, that shouldn’t stop us from dreaming to a time when, hopefully, we’ll be back to some sense of normality.

So, the next question is where should our first holiday be? To celebrate the return of travel in style, what we want is somewhere that defines paradise on earth; a place where pristine white beaches and lush, gorgeous tropical rainforests abound; a happy country bathed in sunshine all year – and, most importantly, a destination that is safe.

Not only that, but in the wake of the lockdown, where we’ve watched the natural world relish in environments where human impact has decreased, it would be refreshing to travel somewhere that has sustainability in mind, too, right?

Well, luckily, there is such a place: Costa Rica.

With a year-round perfect climate that averages temperatures in the high 20s, this diverse corner of the world, which borders both the gorgeous Caribbean Sea and the Pacific Ocean, is ready and waiting to provide the dream escape the second we’re allowed on a plane again.

Not only that, but thanks to its nationwide Pura Vida Pledge, this beautiful country is going all out in effort to become emissions free and protect the incredible animals and plants that call this place home – and it’s something you can help with when you visit, as we’ll explain later.

The combination of idyllic weather and well-cared for environments makes the prospect of a beach holiday even during the winter months promising, but it’s not just our own vitamin D levels that all this sunshine benefits. Costa Rica is home to a staggering 6.5 per cent of all the world’s flora and fauna, who dwell in the country’s wealth of protected national parks and rainforests, something you’re quick to realise as you’re exploring this small country.

Pura vida, or pure, full life, embodies everything in Costa Rica

To scale, Costa Rica is roughly 2.5-times the size of Wales, so travelling about to see all the incredible natural sights it has to offer isn’t an arduous process. The region’s diverse landscapes offer a variety of microclimates which make it such a perfect place to immerse yourself in wildlife – exactly what the doctor ordered when you’ve been stuck in your home for months on end.

It’s testament to the positive impact the Pura Vida Pledge is already having. By promoting a green, low-emission economy, supporting sustainable tourist companies and introducing measures such as increasing rainforests to counteract years of deforestation, the wildlife in Costa Rica is thriving and excitingly diverse.

As a result, you’re guaranteed to spot a whole host of incredible creatures during your time here. Cheeky coatis, for example – a cute ring-tailed mammal that lives in the trees and is distantly related to the racoon – are curious animals who are normally on the prowl scavenging for food, so keep your wits about your packed lunch.

The national parks are the best places to dabble in some wildlife watching. Guanacaste province on the Pacific coast is an especially vibrant place to visit, with the Rincón de la Viega national park offering sights of everything from pumas and jaguars to armadillos.

However, between white-face capuchin monkeys, crocodiles and toucans, to two-toed sloths, iguanas and striking Halloween Moon Crabs, perhaps Costa Rica’s most famous resident has to be the scarlet macaw, who live among the almond trees on the country’s Pacific coast.

Putting the health of its environment at the centre of everything it does, Costa Rica is working towards a zero-emissions existence

Unfortunately, the birds are endangered, but there are enough of them remaining in what is now protected land that you’ll almost definitely see them at least once during your adventures. If you time your visit right, you may even be able to watch them partake in their ritual mating dance and display all the beautiful colours in their wings. And, if you sign up to the Pura Vida Pledge, you can help keep this amazing birds safe and happy in their natural habitat.

As you can see, being able to experience this variety of extraordinary creatures is helped enormously by the Costa Rican way of life, which they refer to as ‘pura vida’.

Pura vida, or pure, full life, embodies everything in Costa Rica. From the positive attitude of its residents, which has given the country its title as the world’s happiest, to its determinism for peace and tranquility, which saw it completely eradicate its army in 1948, this feel-good way of living has also been advantageous for the natural world here.

So beneficial is this ethos, that it earned Costa Rica the Champions of the Earth award last year, the UN’s highest environmental honour. Putting the health of its environment at the centre of everything it does, Costa Rica is working towards a zero-emissions existence, and it’s already made great strides in the right direction.

The Pura Vida Pledge is a call to everyone to give something back and think about their actions

From increasing its forests to over 50 per cent to combat years of deforestation, to ensuring that a staggering 95 per cent of its energy resources are renewable, the pura vida mentality has paid off, and everything from Costa Rica’s rainforests, animals, birds and oceans are flourishing. It’s an attitude we can all get on board with – particularly as, during the course of the pandemic, we’ve watched the earth begin to heal itself as we put our polluting lifestyles on pause. It’s a way of life that has inspired the Pura Vida Pledge.

This is a call to everyone to give something back and think about their actions during their time in this beautiful country. Booking accommodation with sustainable partners, carbon offsetting, and simply respecting the environment may all seem like small actions, but collectively they can have an enormous impact.

So, whether it’s to enjoy a much-needed escape from the restricted lives we’ve been living during the pandemic, or to experience a country leading the way in a better, more harmonious way of life, a trip to Costa Rica is certainly alluring. And, in choosing to holiday here, we can each do our bit to support this amazing way of life, too.

And, while you’re planning soaring through Costa Rica’s rainforest canopies on a zipwire, hiking up to see its magnificent volcanoes or coming face-to-face with its resident sea turtles, think about how your long anticipated vacation here could be doing a great deal of good – and not just for your tan.

Fancy winning a seven-night holiday to Costa Rica for two in 2021?

The Costa Rica Tourism Board are offering one person and a guest the chance to win this amazing opportunity to experience your own Pura Vida in this beautiful country, including air travel and transfers as well as bed and breakfast accommodation.