Things That Matter

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

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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

Tourists Are Flocking To This Tiny Mountain Village For A Trip On Mexico’s Magic Mushrooms

Culture

Tourists Are Flocking To This Tiny Mountain Village For A Trip On Mexico’s Magic Mushrooms

For almost 70 years, since Maria Sabina, also known as Santa Sabina, spread the culture around the ritualistic consumption of magic mushrooms in the Oaxaca highlands, the world has been fascinated by these special fungi. The region near Huautla de Jimenez, particularly places like San Jose del Pacifico, has since been swarmed with tourists in the months between July and October, both from inner Mexico and from overseas, who want to experienced the altered states of consciousness brought by one of nature’s most powerful secrets. 

So any story about Oaxacan magic mushrooms has to start with the legendary Maria Sabina, the godmother of all things trippy.

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Maria Sabina was a Mazatec curandera, or witchdoctor. She was well versed in the ancient arts of magic mushrooms and introduced the Western world to their consumption. She soon became a magnet for the rich and powerful who wanted to taste her psilocybin mushrooms. She was born in 1894 and died in 1985, so she saw the world change dramatically during her lifetime. 

She allowed foreigners into her healing evenings, known as veladas.

Credit: YouTube / Vice

She became legendary, as City A.M. reported in 2018: “It was here that, in 1955, R Gordon Wasson, a vice-president of JP Morgan and amateur ethnomycologist, consumed psilocybin mushrooms in a ceremony presided over by the healer Maria Sabina. The article Wasson subsequently wrote up for Life magazine – ‘Seeking the Magic Mushroom’ – transformed Sabina into a reluctant icon and caught the attention of scientists including Harvard psychologist Timothy Leary”. What followed is an enduring cult following of the plant. 

Mushroom tourism got a boost in the 1960s due to the high profile of some of Sabina’s visitors, who included The Beatles.

As EFE News Service reported back in 2007: “In the 1960s, the ‘high priestess of the mushrooms’ popularized this corner of Mexico located between the capital and Oaxaca city, a place visited by the Rolling Stones, the Beatles, Jim Morrison and Bob Dylan at the height of the psychedelic era”. We mean, the place has basically been a Hall of Fame! 

Consuming magic mushrooms is an ancient, ritualistic indigenous tradition that remains officially illegal.

Credit: High Times

Spanish friars first reported the use of psychedelic mushrooms in the region. Though magic mushrooms are illegal today, the authorities tend to turn a blind eye. This is due to the centrality to the customs and traditions of the Zapotecs, the area’s dominant indigenous group. Children as young as six participate in the ritualistic ingestion of shrooms.

However, tourism disrupts this long lasting understanding and ritual has turned into business.

Credit: YouTube. Vice

If you decide to try them for yourself, beware as the region is now swarmed with fake magic mushrooms offered by scammers. Anyway, San Jose del Pacifico is a natural joyita in itself, and you might get high just by taking in the landscape!

The state induced by the mushrooms is supposed to get you in touch with nature: with the soil below your feet and the celestial bodies above your head.

Credit: Giphy. Anonymous. 

According to man named Andres Garcia, he was introduced to the ritual ingestion of mushrooms by his grandfather. Just outside of Huautla, the man experienced mushrooms several times. He told High Times: “The first time I tried mushrooms I was 7 years old. And each time after that was different; each time there were messages and messages. Communication with the earth, the universe, the moon, especially the energy of the moon. The mushroom shows you everything—about your errors, your problems, all the good you’ve done, all the bad you’ve done. It’s something personal.”

Even though mushrooms are widely available in Oaxaca they are not for everyone, specially not for those who disrespect the ritual and want to do mushrooms just for some mindless fun.

Credit: Musrooms-in-Oaxaca. Digital image. Own Mexico

The magic mushroom tourism industry has brought an steady income to Huautla de Jimenez, the original stomping grounds of Maria Sabina. As reported by Juan Ramon Peña in EFE News Services, “visitors are greeted when they get off the bus by boys who offer to help them found the hallucinogenic fungi”. The wide availability of mushrooms is un secreto a voces. However, each person’s brain chemistry is different and you need to have an experienced guide to help you on a mushroom-induced trip. 

And tourism has put the sustainability of the species at stake.

Credit: User comment on https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G_XnzIYmUYw

The lack of regulation translates into indiscriminate picking. Of course, traditional owners of the land are affected and that is just not fair. 

Magic mushrooms have a good rep, but they are also unpredictable.

Credit: 2037. Digital image. The Guardian.

Several recent studies indicate that magic mushrooms could have medical benefits in people suffering from mental health issues. As reported by The Guardian earlier this year in relation to a study conducted at Imperial College London: “Magic mushrooms may effectively ‘reset’ the activity of key brain circuits known to play a role in depression, the latest study to highlight the therapeutic benefits of psychedelics suggests”. However, this study was done in a controlled environment. Doing mushrooms can have unpredictable effects that some people have described as a “bad trip”

Note: the consumptions of magic mushrooms is illegal throughout Mexico and only specific Indigenous groups can consume them for spiritual purposes. We do not condone the consumption of illegal substances. This article is for informational purposes only.

The Natural Wonders Of Mexico Are Straight Up Out Of A National Geographic Dream

Things That Matter

The Natural Wonders Of Mexico Are Straight Up Out Of A National Geographic Dream

Hierve el Agua Natural Petrified Rock Formation in Oaxaca, Mexico / Pintai Suchachaisri / Getty Images

So, it’s the end of summer break, and it’s back to the daily grind. Or is it? After all, spring break will be on its way in no time! And you know what that means? You’ve got time to travel, babes. We know you want to go to Mexico, so we’ve saved you the hard work of researching where the best places are to go in Mexico to see it in its natural glory.

Find out where you should go next with our list of natural wonders in Mexico!

1. Lake Chapala, Jalisco

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Being the largest freshwater lake Mexico has to offer, Lago de Chapala is one hella gorgeous body of water to spend your time around. It’s home to thousands of indigenous plants and animals, which means that it’s just teeming with unique wildlife that’ll liven up your ‘gram. That being said, you should be aware that the lake is also a sacred location for the Huichol Indians of Mexico’s southwest – so make sure you’re respectful!

2. Nanacamilpa, Tlaxcala

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We’ve written about the wonders of Nanacamilpa before, so of course, we have to mention it here, too. It’s home to a forest just filled with fireflies when it’s warmer, setting the place aglow with their tiny butts. The locals are working on preserving the firefly population, so it’s best to follow the rules when you’re on tour for the fireflies: no using your phone, and no talking.

3. Hierve el Agua, Oaxaca

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Hierve el Agua has one of the strangest optical illusions that will have you questioning your existence. Is it a waterfall, or a rock formation? If you chose rock formation, you’d be right! The mineral pools in the area are absolutely gorgeous, and not too far from ancient canals that are thought to have been built by the Zapotecs around 2,500 years ago.

4. Copper Canyon, Chihuahua

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The name “Copper Canyon” is a little misleading – it’s not one, but a group of six, canyons. The copper part, though? No, actually, that’s also misleading. The area’s known more for its gold and silver deposits. It’s the copper-green of the canyon walls that give Copper Canyon its name. One of the best times of year to visit is usually just after the summer’s rainy season since that’s when the upper region of the canyon blooms with wildflowers – so it’s time to get the ball rolling and make your way there!

5. Marieta Islands, Nayarit

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Formed thousands of years ago by volcanic activity, the Isalas Marietas are a group of small, uninhabited islands just off the coast Mexico. It’s popularity as a tourist destination springs largely from two things: the famous “love beach”, or Playa del Amor, and the fact that the islands have an abundance of marine life just chilling around its waters. Fishing and hunting are prohibited by the Mexican government here, so leave your fishing gear at home.

6. Sumidero Canyon, Chiapas

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Cañón del Sumidero is a deep natural canyon which formed around the same time as the Grand Canyon in the US, meaning that if you’re looking for an impressive canyon in Mexico, this is it. Funnily enough, about 80 percent of the visitors to the Sumidero Canyon are Mexicans themselves, who go for the eco tourism and extreme sports. If you’re less keen on hanging around the water, you could try seeing the Ruins of Berlin, which are also located in the Sumidero Canyon.

7. Espíritu Santo Island, Baja California Sur

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The last time that there was a proper human presence on Isla Espíritu Santo was estimated to be around 9,000 years ago. Whew. More recently, UNESCO declared the site a Biosphere Reserve in 1995, and for good reason: it’s the only known habitat of the black jackrabbit. Plus, the Ensenada Grande beach on Isla Partida was voted the most beautiful beach in Mexico by The Travel Magazine, making Espíritu Santo Island a must-see.

8. Rosario Sanctuary, Michoacán

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Otherwise known as El Rosario, the sanctuary is part of a larger world heritage site known for hosting literally millions of butterflies. The reserve is dedicated to preserving its butterfly population, which means that the Rosario Sanctuary is only one of two colonies in Mexico that’s open to the public. Guided tours are on offer, so it means that you can learn more about beautiful butterflies that frequent the area.

9. Nevado de Toluca, State of Mexico

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Nevado de Toluca is the fourth highest peak in Mexico, after Pico de Orizaba, Popocatépetl and Iztaccíhuatl. Classed as a stratovolcano, it boasts two crater lakes on the floor of the basin – the Lago del Sol and the Lago de la Luna – which were created by the volcano’s melting snow. While you’re in the area, look up the Nahuatl legends that explain the mythology behind why Nevado de Toluca looks the way it does.

10. Cenotes, Quintana Roo

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These jaw-dropping, gorgeous sinkholes, created by the collapse of limestone rock, can be found throughout the state of Quintana Roo. That’s not all there is to see in Quintana Roo, considering that it’s got a coastline that serves as one of the best manatee habitats in the world. But, visiting the cenotes is a good start, if you really want to experience the beauty of Quintana Roo.

11. Potrero Chico, Nuevo León

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Rock climbing aficionados, this is the place for you to be! Potrero Chico boasts peaks which stretch to around 2,000 feet, and have some really amazing views at the top. While a lot of the area around Potrero Chico is considered a protected zone, it’s not an actual national park, which means that there’s not as much conservation happening in the area as what there could be.

12. Chinampas, Mexico City

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The Valley of Mexico still has plenty of chinampas, or island farms, that can be seen today. The agricultural practice has been around for almost a thousand years and is unique to the area. These days, produce such as lettuce, cilantro, spinach, cauliflower, celery, mint, chives, rosemary, corn and radish are grown in the chinampas. Whether you can actually try them straight from the chinanmpa is another matter!

13. Las Coloradas, Yucatán

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You’re probably less interested in the actual fishing village, and more interested in touring the pink – yes, pink – lake and salt flats surrounding Las Colaradas. It’s entirely possible that you’ll see flamingoes while you’re hanging around the lagoon, so keep your bird-watching binoculars on you at all times!

14. Basaltic Prisms, Hidalgo

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The Basaltic Prisms of Santa María Regla are basically the Mexican version of Northern Ireland’s Giant’s Causeway, except that the Basaltic Prisms also have two waterfalls running through it. The natural canyon, which was created by the slow cooling of volcanic lava, has been modified with stars, walkways, and bridges so that tourists can easily access the Basaltic Prisms. It’s basically made for you to come and visit!

15. Tamul Waterfall, San Luis Potosi

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The Tamul waterfall is known for its gorgeous, crystal-clear water that’ll make you never want to leave. At 344 feet, the waterfall is one of Mexico’s largest, and is usually accessed by boat. How. Heckin’. Awesome.

So where will you be heading next? Tell us about it on Twitter – you can find it by clicking on the logo at the top of the page.