While no country is perfect, the Central American nation of Costa Rica is probably not far off. Part of the isthmus which links North and South America, Costa Rica is a small, rugged piece of paradise, consisting largely of rainforest with golden beaches lapped by either the Pacific or the Caribbean.Costa Rica – doubtless inspired by its natural beauty and outrageous biodiversity – has successfully positioned itself as a prime ecotourism destination. But this is no passing fad – preserving the environment is a way of life here. Costa Ricans wish each other ‘Pura vida’ – a pure life – when they meet.Costa Rica will be carbon neutral by 2021, and it’s regularly ranked as one of the happiest countries in the world. It’s easy to see why: lush emerald rainforests cloak rolling hills and impressive volcanoes, while over fifty species of bejeweled hummingbirds flit between the tropical blooms.There are turquoise rivers and beaches that come alive with turtle hatchlings heading for the ocean. You’ll be charmed by the sloths – who can perhaps teach us all something about the pace of life – and puzzled by mysterious stone spheres. They were obviously made by people, but no one knows whom.Costa Rica offers ample opportunities to simply soak it all in, but you can also enjoy more active moments. Catch a wave – the surfing on the Nicoya Peninsula is superb – or overcome your vertigo as you fly through the jungle canopy on a zipwire.White water rafting is another option for exploring the interior (try the Turrialba area for excellent thrills and the occasional spill), and after all that excitement, a cocktail whilst watching the sunset could just be in order. The combination of outstanding natural beauty, warm and friendly people, and fascinating wildlife is a winning one. Costa Ricans are justifiably proud of the pristine state of much of their homeland, and have gone to considerable lengths to protect the many different ecosystems contained within this small country.Look out for orchids and colorful quetzals (a type of bird) when you trek through the Monteverde cloud forest – as you pause and look around you, you won’t need much convincing that you’ve found a little piece of heaven on earth.