For many Americans, there are plenty of natural locations on Earth to explore in their own backyards. However, taking a nature-focused vacation in another country is a great way to experience a different culture while also enjoying beautiful scenery. Over the years, Costa Rica has been a popular destination for those seeking beautiful weather, clean air, and a rich historical background.In 2010, Costa Rica was ranked 3rd in the world in terms of its Environmental Performance Indexa quantitative analysis of a country’s environmental policies. In the Americas, Costa Rica ranks 1st. The country’s biodiversity is also a commonly-quoted feature. Although the country only contains around 0.25 of the earth’s landmass (about the size of Vermont and New Hampshire combined), it is said to contain as from 4-6 of the world’s biodiversity. That affords travelers a chance to see plenty of plants and animals that never make their way to North America.Researchers have recorded around 175 amphibians, 225 reptiles, 250 mammals, and 894 bird species living in the country, along with hundreds of thousands of invertebrates and several thousand moths and butterflies. Some of the common large reptiles, like the Striped basilisk, the Green iguana, and the Black iguana, are in fact making their way up to the state of Florida, and sometimes even further. For most Americans, though, the opportunity to see these creatures in the wild will be a rare experience. Costa Rica also has a number of protected national parks, designed by the government to keep urban growth from destroying beautiful national treasures. Cahuita National Park is located on the country’s southern Caribbean coast and offers tourists a chance to see some of the least developed beaches in Costa Rica. Scuba diving and snorkeling are common in the off-shore Coralline Reefs. The Corcovado National Park is part of the much larger Osa Conservation Area, which consists of a number of parks and refuges on the country’s southern Pacific coast. Corcovado contains the densest concentration of Costa Rica’s biodiversity, including rare and threatened species like the Baird’s Tapir and the Harpy Eagle. The Northern Tamandua anteater can be found in the park, as well as the small Silky Anteater.In addition to hiking through national parks and refuges, Costa Rica is a great place to try out a new activity, whether it’s surfing, rafting, or mountain biking. For cycling fans, the foothills around Turrialba Volcano are a popular destination.When it’s time to eat, there are plenty of options, from delicious fresh fruit to a rice and bean mixture known as Gallo pinto. Salsa lizano, known as Costa Rican ketchup, is a popular condiment sweet vegetable sauce with a hint of curry. There are also a number of national beers and a national alcoholic drink called guaro.