Things That Matter

Costa Rica’s Place In The World Makes It The Tropical Paradise Dreams Are Made Of

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

The US Has Issued New Security Warnings About Travel To Mexico And Here’s What You Should Know

Things That Matter

The US Has Issued New Security Warnings About Travel To Mexico And Here’s What You Should Know

Is Mexico safe? That’s the question many travelers are asking in light of the recent murders of nine Americans who were gunned down in a remote region about 100 miles from the U.S. border. The chilling incident comes on the heels of other highly publicized murders, including an American couple who was killed in front of their 12-year-old son this summer in Guerrero, and 27-year-old honeymooner Tatiana Mirutenko, who was caught in stray gunfire while emerging from a Mexico City bar last December.

Last year, Mexico had the highest number of homicides in the country’s history, with an average of 91 deaths a day — and 2019 is on track to break the record. Drug cartels and criminal organizations are running rampant throughout the country, with lethal results.

So what’s a visitor to do when faced with such grim stories? This is where the US government has stepped in.

The US has increased its warning level for US citizens traveling to Mexico.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security expanded its list of places it does not recommend its citizens visit because of widespread cartel violence. DHS has now expanded its ‘Do Not Travel’ list to six states (up from five) and suggests travelers reconsider visiting 11 others.

The Mexican states of Chihuahua, Sinaloa, Colima, Michoacán, Guerrero, and Tamaulipas make up the black list that the U.S. government has asked US Citizens to avoid (including tourist, family, and business visits).

The Bureau of Consular Affairs of the U.S. Department of State extended the security alert in force since last April, due to “increased criminal activity” in the state of Chihuahua, where nine members of the LeBarón family were massacred. Chihuahua capital already had a travel restriction for U.S. government officials, who could only use Highway 45 and were prohibited from crossing the neighborhoods of Morelos, Villa and Zapata.

Beginning April 9, the U.S. State Department alerted its citizens to the high crime rates and kidnapping risks in the states of Sinaloa, Colima, Michoacán, Guerrero, and Tamaulipas.

Now most all of Mexico is at a Level 3 or above warning level (on a scale of 1-4).

Even on its travel information page, more than half of Mexico’s territory is listed at level 3, which means a “high risk of violence,” prompting U.S. citizens to reconsider their trips. The rest of the states are at level 2 and the U.S. government advises them to take precautions during their travels because the risk of illegal activity has increased.

Much of these additional warnings come on the heel of several high-profile violent incidents.

There are places that are clearly dangerous, like the border towns. But even some of the bigger resort destinations have had issues. Formerly peaceful Los Cabos has been called the murder capital of the world. An attack in a bar in Cancún in February killed five people, and last year, eight dead bodies were discovered just outside of Cancún’s hotel zone. And on the beaches of Acapulco, people have been getting gunned down in broad daylight while tourists lounge on the beach nearby.

Ok, but despite these warnings you should still feel comfortable traveling to Mexico.

Mexico has long been a popular tourist destination for travelers from the United States. From Spring Break parties in Cancun and Puerto Vallara to hipsters and influencers taking over the beaches of Tulum or the colonial pueblo of San Miguel de Allende, Americans flock to Mexico in huge numbers.

And despite years of ongoing violence that has racked the country, Americans have continued to enjoy all the incredible natural beauty, food, and culture that Mexico has to offer. And none of this necessarily needs to change.

Mexico received # visitors every year from the US and the vast majority of them return home perfectly fine with wonderful stories and souvenirs from their trip. The warnings from the US State Department are simply saying to exercise increase caution and to avoid areas where known illegal activity has occurred.

In Latin America, only a handful of countries receive the State Department’s Level One warning.

Beginning in January 2018, the U.S. government established a new security alert system for travelers, which classifies countries around the world according to their level of danger. It is a tool aimed at tourists and business people who plan to travel abroad.

The ranking of Travel Recommendations of the State Department establishes level 4 as the most dangerous, in which they are labeled with the recommendation “Do not travel” destinations such as Syria, North Korea or Somalia.

At the time of 2018, Mexico, Brazil, and Colombia were placed in category 2 and advised U.S. citizens to exercise caution and be aware of the risks of insecurity.

Argentina, Chile, Peru, Uruguay, Paraguay, and Ecuador are in category 1 of the ranking drawn up almost two years ago. For all of these countries, the U.S. recommends “exercising normal precautions: this is the lowest warning for insecurity. There are risks in all international travel.

10 ‘Instagram Vs. Reality’ Photos Of Mexico’s Most Instagrammable Places To See Before You Book Plane Tickets

Culture

10 ‘Instagram Vs. Reality’ Photos Of Mexico’s Most Instagrammable Places To See Before You Book Plane Tickets

It’s no secret that Instagram is the highlight reel of life, but it doesn’t hurt to be reminded from time to time. Sometimes we forget that influencers, celebs, brands —and even ourselves— are guilty of editing and filtering photos so heavily that they end up looking nothing like the real life version. In the search for the perfect “Instagram-worthy” shot, we lose perspective of what things looked like in reality. 

These places are still beautiful —just a little different than you might expect. 

This is why we thought we’d round up Mexico’s most “Instagrammable” spots according to social media users and show you the curated, edited and heavily filtered version, as opposed to the everyday scenario. And don’t get me wrong, all of these places are beautiful in their own way. I simply thought you might want to know that there can be crowds, it can get hot and humid, and Instagram won’t show any of that. 

1. Hierve el agua 

Instagram

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Reality 

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Hierve el Agua is a set of natural rock formations in the Mexican state of Oaxaca that resemble cascades of water. There’s no denying that this place is a wonder of nature —but be warned; it will get crowded and the water isn’t always crystal clear. Depending on the season, the pools get a little opaque, just letting you know.  

2. Islas Marietas

Instagram 

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Reality

The Marieta Islands are a group of small uninhabited islands a few miles off the coast of the state of Nayarit, Mexico. Playa del Amor, commonly known as the Hidden Beach, is thought to be —because of deceiving IG posts— “a lovers’ beach, tucked below the surface of the island, provides a safe haven for romance.” In actuality, the beach is only accessible via boat —and you have to swim to get to the hidden beach. Once there, there are crowds and crowds of people in orange life-vests (these are mandatory unless you want to risk a ticket and fine). The place is still beautiful, but getting an insta-worthy shot might be close to impossible unless you make it out there before 9am.

3. Las Coloradas

Instagram

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Reality 

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The viral cotton candy pink lakes located in Yucatan, Mexico are really a sight to be seen. The vibrant pink color of these lakes is due to red-colored algae, plankton, and brine shrimp that thrive in the salty environment. As the water evaporates, these organisms become more concentrated, glimmering pink in the bright Mexican sunlight. Unfortunately this is a not a year-round event —sometimes the organisms that give color to the lakes run low, and so the water takes on the regular murky color of a good old lake.

4. Grutas Tolantongo

Instagram 

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Reality

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Tolantongo is a box canyon and resort located 17 kilometres from Ixmiquilpan on Route 27 in the Mezquital Valley, State of Hidalgo in Mexico, It is about 1.5 hours northwest of Pachuca and 198 km or three-to-four hours northwest of Mexico City —aka. it’s a looong drive into the country. The place no doubt, is beautiful and well worth the drive. But you might have to wait a bit to grab a pool due to the large groups of tourists that flock to the area as soon as spring and summer hits Mexico.

5. Jardín Escultorico Las Pozas 

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Reality

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Las Pozas is a surrealistic group of structures created by Edward James, more than 2,000 feet above sea level, in a subtropical rainforest in the mountains of Mexico. The place is comprised of over 80 acres of land —so you best bring a tour guide, lots of water and a change of clothes, because it will get sweaty. Oh, and don’t forget the mosquito repellent, it is the rainforest after all.

6. San Miguel de Allende

Instagram 

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Reality

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San Miguel de Allende, a colonial-era city in Mexico’s central highlands, is known for its baroque Spanish architecture, thriving arts scene and cultural festivals. In the city’s historic, cobblestoned center lies the neo-Gothic church Parroquia de San Miguel Arcángel. Keep in mind that this city was first built in the 16th century so it wasn’t planned with cars and crowds in mind. The place can get pretty hectic and busy, so set a meeting point for your friends and/or family to meet in case you get lost in the crowds.

7. Ruinas de Tulum

Instagram

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Reality

The trendy town of Tulum was built next to the Mayan ruins. The 13th-century, walled Mayan archaeological site at Tulum National Park overlooks the sea. It incorporates the clifftop Castillo, built as a watchtower, and the Templo de las Pinturas, with a partially restored mural. The place is truly magical, you’ll get a chance to swim in the crystal clear waters of the Mexican Caribbean after you tour the ruins —but a word of caution: the walk from the parking lot into the archaeological site es LONG, and it’s HOT in Quintana Roo, so if you can, take the shuttle. Bring lots of water and if possible, a parasol or hat to to get some respite from the sun.

8. El salto del Meco 

Instagram

Reality 

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If you visit this waterfall in dry season (May-September), you might find it empty, because a company located next to it, takes all the water to provide energy for the region. But although the waterfall itself is just visible in rainy season, the beautiful green natural pools are always there to amaze you.

9. Sayulita

Instagram

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Reality

Sayulita is a village on Mexico’s Pacific coast backed by the Sierra Madre Occidental mountains. It’s known for beaches with strong surf, like the central Sayulita Beach and for its brightly decorated streets. Yes, the place is beautiful but remember that filters and editing can make a place look much more ‘enhanced’ than it might look like IRL.

10.Mercado de la Ciudadela

Instagram

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Reality

The Ciudadela Market is a traditional style Mexican market which specializes in the sale of Mexican handcrafts and folk art, located in the southwest corner of the historic center of Mexico City. The place is ideal if you need to buy some souvenirs, other than that, it’s just a good old Mexican ‘mercado’.