A small country of dense jungles, chilled-out surfers, hermit crabs, and tons of monkeys, Costa Rica has perfected the national motto of “Pura Vida.” That can mean lazy afternoons in a hammock watching pelicans dive into the breaking waves or bobbing on your board waiting for the next perfect wave. The experiences are many, and the “pure life” is different for everyone.

Here, you’ll explore national parks, snorkel, surf, raft, and chill out somewhere off-grid on the Pacific or Caribbean coasts. You’ll watch Arenal, an active volcano surrounded by cloud forest, spill lava down its cone, then zipline through the canopy. Ditch the guidebook, and maybe even bring a tent — opportunities to camp on the beach are plentiful, and it can also save you some dough.

The first country to reverse deforestation, Costa Rica is also the first stop for many Americans — for a reason. Read below, and you’ll start to see why.