I just returned from a fantastic vacation to Costa Rica with my family. Have you been? You should go! It’s jumped on the eco-tourism wagon, and there is plenty to do for hikers, birdwatchers, volcano enthusiasts, coffee lovers…. The flipside of that is that CR has become essentially a fiscal colony of the United States. By that I mean dollars are accepted *everywhere*, even sodas, the restaurant equivalent of a bodega where we would grab lunch before heading back into the rainforest. Changing your money is more than just a hassle at the bank — it’s a symbol that you’re entering a different world with brightly-colored banknotes and funky coins. You don’t quite get that when you are just dealing with boring old greenbacks.
Nevertheless, it was an amazing trip, and CR as a whole really has its act together. Stable political system! No army since 1949! Female president! Universal healthcare (which the Costa Ricans and expats we talked to actually liked)! Free and compulsory public education through 6th grade, with a 96% literacy rate! For a tiny, agrarian country stuck smack-dab in the middle of the world’s drug-running region, they seem to really know what they are doing. Kudos, Costa Rica!