Switzerland of the Americas


People who have traveled all over the world affirm that Costa Rica's beaches are unsurpassed anywhere. Its various climates offer choices of weather as perfect as you could hope to find any place on earth (unless you are a skier, of course). Steep-sloped mountains, topped with cloud forests, ferns and exotic wildlife, tower over fertile farmlands dotted with hundreds of neatly r maintained homesteads. Flowers bloom everywhere; often entire t trees bear so many colorful, scented blossoms that green leaves are hidden. As if this weren't enough, the small towns are every bit as neat and clean as the countryside, and blessed with friendly Costa Rican hospitality. How can this country be described except by superlatives?

One of the more common descriptions of Costa Rica is "the I Switzerland of the Americas." At first glance, Costa Rica differs so much from Switzerland that one might wonder how it earned this title. True, both countries are of similar size (although Switzerland is actually a bit smaller-one of the world's few countries v with that distinction). But Costa Rica is lushly tropical, continually swathed in luxurious green vegetation, a place where coffee, Sugar cane and mangoes thrive, and where snow never falls. Costa Rica would seem to be totally opposite from Switzerland, With its snowcapped peaks and rocky terrain.

Yet, the more one travels in Costa Rica, the more apparent are the parallels with Switzerland. Both are peaceful, progressive countries where democracy and stability are hallmarks. Although Costa Rica's tropical beaches are incongruent with the Swiss -(terrain, the higher mountains rival the rugged beauty of the Alps. The lake area around the Arenal Volcano could easily pass for ) arts of Switzerland - during the Swiss summertime, at any rate.

Even closer similarities between the two countries appear in their philosophy of life and economic structures. Both are places Of small farms, small businesses, with an air of prosperity and a (feeling of equality among citizens. Both countries have renounced aggressive militarism, diverting resources-that otherwise could be consumed by wars-toward education, medical care and services for the good of all. In short, both places are affluent, happy and tranquil. Both are locations where North Americans can feel at home, safe and welcome.

There are differences, of course. Costa Rica is closer to the United States and Canada, making it more accessible than Europe. Costa Rica enjoys a dramatically lower cost of living. And, best of all, Costa Rica has a climate that can be enjoyed year round by those of us who hate wearing snow boots and earmuffs. The higher elevations enjoy spring-like temperatures all year; flowers bloom everywhere and seem to glow in the crystal-clear atmosphere. The countryside is so fertile that fence posts sprout and become trees despite all the farmers' efforts to keep them as fence posts. Crossing over the mountains, you drop down to tropical lowlands where North Americans own plantations of coffee, macadamia nuts, black pepper and other exotic crops for export. Costa Rican beaches are world-renowned and just too beautiful to describe.

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