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Why is Costa Rica the most ecological place in the world?

As well as leading the Happy Planet Index for 2016 from a total of 140 countries, Costa Rica also has an enviable reputation for being one of the most ecological countries in the world.

A huge 94% of its energy comes from renewable sources, and Costa Rica is aiming to have a carbon neutral economy by 2021. This is a country that takes its green credentials seriously and we explain how that came about.

Exploring the forests

It's thought ziplines were first used in Costa Rica in 1974 as a way of moving around the rainforest more freely, and since that time the craze has swept across the planet. The Monteverde Cloud forest is the place to go to whizz over the forest on a zipwire. It has a set of eight hanging bridges high in the trees and a zipline that takes you on the one-kilometre journey back down to earth, spotting quetzal birds as you go.

For an experience not a million miles away from being an ewok, visit the Finca Bellavista treehouse community in central Costa Rica. They live in treehouses far above the leafy rainforest canopy, demonstrating how humans can live in harmony with nature.

Ruled by nature

51% of Costa Rica is covered by tropical rainforests, and its diverse nature is protected by 100 biological reserves, national parks, and wildlife refuges. If you've always wanted to spot spider monkeys, or 52 species of hummingbird, or even take in the beauty of 500 variations of orchid then Costa Rica should be on your list of countries to visit.

To fulfil your desire to watch baby turtles hatching, Playa Flamingo is a one and a half hour's drive away from their main hatching site in Ostional, and also close to a national animal refuge. And to see one of the world's largest reptiles, leatherback turtles are protected at the Parque Nacional Marino Las Baulas, just north of Playa Tamarindo. The park has the added benefit of being full of stunning white sand beaches, such as Playa Grande.

A happy long life

In no small part due to the outdoors lifestyle and peaceful nature of the country, Costa Rica has an impressively low mortality rate. Residents of the Nicoya Peninsula, that houses luscious beaches such as Playa Tamarindo, often live to celebrate their 100th birthday.

You don't have to know much about the environment when you spend a holiday here but when you leave you'll appreciate it a lot more. Simply prepare to have the adventure of a lifetime and look out for the sloths, they have a happy life here too.

Ecology for all to enjoy

The inhabitants of Costa Rica have developed their culture by listening to nature rather than trying to override it, and protecting their forests and wildlife for everyone to enjoy. By abolishing its standing army and ploughing its resources into the environment as well as healthcare and education, Costa Rica is preserving its idyllic environment and conserving its future.

Making all of its natural wonders – including rainforests, volcanoes, beaches and estuaries – more accessible to the public means that visitors are more aware of the need to protect this heritage. This in turn helps preserve Costa Rica's ranking as the most ecological place in the world.

Historical sustainability

At the roots of the Costa Rican people is an appreciation of the wildlife around them.

If we look back to their Mayan and Aztec ancestors, they believed that the quetzal bird was sacred and therefore only royalty and priests wore its feathers during ceremonies. The feathers were even valued as greater than gold.

This is no doubt why the beautifully coloured bird is still so prominent in Costa Rica's cloud forests. In fact, The Monteverde Cloud Forest in the centre of the country is home to the world's largest collection of quetzals.

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