Disney may be the happiest place on earth, but Costa Rica has many happy places. Take that mouse boy! From nature to technology (or a lack of), and from racing to relaxing, here are 8 places you can visit in Costa Rica if smiling and being generally happy is something that you’re in to.

Low Tide at Cabo Matapalo
Low Tide at Cabo Matapalo

1.) Matapalo on the tip of the Osa Peninsula

If you plan on being attached to your (insert favorite gadget here) the whole trip, don’t even bother heading here. If you’re interested in experiencing an isolated village that will make you feel like you’ve stepped through history, welcome! This incredible place is oooooold school – no electricity, dirt roads – by choice. The residents enjoy the isolation, wildlife and, of course, the surf. The fact that there are still places like this in existence, and that you can spend time there, is enough to make any sing about how happy they are.


Tourist trying to hear as a Bat, Monteverde
Tourist trying to hear as a Bat, Monteverde

2.) The Bat Jungle in Monteverde

Eating – necessary. Eating handmade chocolate – luxury. This is a museum and a restaurant. The museum exhibit is a culmination of 40 years of worldwide research and deserves a mention, but happiness is in the handmade chocolate. The entire delicious menu will tingle your spidey senses (wait…wrong superhero reference…) and you can eat before or after you tour the bat cave . In case you are just skimming this, just another quick shout out about the handmade chocolate so you don’t miss it.


Javi the Frog eating typical costarican breakfast in a San Jose soda
Javi the Frog eating typical costarican breakfast in a San Jose soda

3.) Eating at a Remote Roadside Soda

A soda is a local restaurant. If you happen to stop at one in your travels be prepared for three things: awesome food, cold beer, a small check. It’s like tat dive bar or theater that you love to go to because you get a more authentic experience than at commercial, chain places. Also, did you see the part about cold beer? Is your inner Homer Simpson drooling now?


The perfect way to hike dad & son
The perfect way to hike dad & son

4.) Hiking in the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve

Now that you’re stuffed with homemade chocolate and cold beer, time to work that off! Hiking in the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve never gets old. Every time you go for a hike, you’re going to discover something new. Pick up a GoPro camera and wear it during your hike. When you watch it back, you’ll be sure to see something that you didn’t notice live.


Hiker sitting on rock in river at Corcovado National Park
Hiker sitting on rock in river at Corcovado National Park

5.) Hiking in Corcovado National Park

Seriously, you probably ate a TON of chocolate and guzzled a few beers. You still have more hiking to do. Corcovado National Park is sure to get you moving and get you smiling. This place is remote, with a beautiful landscape and exciting wildlife, you’re smile will likely turn into whatever your mouth looks like when you say “WOW!” a thousand times in a row.


Arenal Volcano Smoking
Arenal Volcano Smoking

6.) Arenal Volcano

Now that you’re back in shape after your candy and beer binge, you can visit the more dangerous places, like volcanoes. If it were going to erupt there would be some warning, but you still want to make sure that you are ready to run. Just in case. This place is one of those places that you have to see to believe. Or maybe see-to-not-believe, since the place feels so prehistoric that you’ll be super sure a dinosaur just passed you by.


Mal País Beach
Mal País Beach

7.) Sitting in a Hammock at Mal Pais

Now that you’ve worn yourself out with all those hikes and running from dinosaurs, it is time for a little R&R. If you travel to Costa Rica often and have your own favorite beach, you know exactly why this is on the list. The weather is tropical, the water is warm, the surf here is high, the beach is isolated but the bar is close. You just smiled didn’t you?


Hermit crab running on beach in Playa Bejuco
Hermit crab running on beach in Playa Bejuco

8.) Hermit Crab Races

Ok, so now that you’ve experienced food, nature and relaxation in paradise, what is there left to do? Get creative! Have some hermit crab races with your friends…or with strangers. You’ll be laughing and smiling…and then realize that you’ve been having an amazing time for hours. You’re probably drinking a few cold beers too, so plan on doing some more hiking tomorrow.