#5 – Costa Rica


Costa Rica’s diverse natural landscape, coupled with an abundance of outdoor activities and a focus on environmental sustainability and preservation, make it no surprise that the country has been rated as one of the happiest places on Earth.

Visitors can fly through the rainforest canopy on a zipline, go white-water rafting, climb a volcano, relax on a white-sand beach, check out colorful marine life while snorkeling, or try to hook a big one on a deep-sea fishing excursion. That’s why so many people choose to go there: In the past decade, the number of visitors has more than quintupled, and tourism has become the leading sector of the nation’s economy.

Costa Rica is practically synonymous with ecotourism—travel that incorporates education about the environment and promotes preservation of natural resources. The country has a large number of national parks and nature preserves that boast a rich array of birds, mammals, reptiles and rainforest plants. The variety of birds, in particular, is astounding with 850 species packed into a relatively small area.

The country also excels in adventure sports, including surfing, mountain biking, river rafting, hiking and scuba diving. Those who prefer a less strenuous vacation can view several active volcanoes, take boat trips down jungle rivers and float through the treetops in a rain-forest aerial tram or speed through the forest canopy on any of several dozen thrilling zipline systems.