Costa Rica has begun 2016 with a BANG! For those of us who live here full time, it is evident that the amount of tourists that are flocking to our little slice of paradise has increased dramatically over the past few years.

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It comes as no surprise that year in and year out, the tiny country that occupies only .03% of the earth’s land mass but boast 5% of the planet’s bio-diversity, consistently ranks at the top of every important list or report as an international vacation and retirement hotspot. We are only two weeks into the new year and the news is not disappointing.

Last week, Priceline, the online travel company made famous by celebrity turned spokesman William Shatner and its ‘name your own price’ system for the travel industry, ranked Costa Rica as the #1 most affordable international destination for 2016.

Culture CheatSheet reports that “the website (Priceline) analyzed the average daily room rate for different international destinations and put together a list of those cities where travelers can expect to find the most affordable accommodations in 2016.”

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Priceline was not the first company in the travel industry to call Costa Rica an affordable destination for 2016. Last November, Lonely Planet named Costa Rica’s Caribbean coast one of its best value destinations for 2016.

Lonely Planet says “Looking for a Costa Rica that’s more Tico than tourist, but with everything that makes the country such a big draw? Get to the country’s Caribbean coast and you’ll find a still-evolving destination that’s likely to become a big noise over the next few years.

Here you’ll find nesting turtles at Tortuguero, rafting on the Río Pacuare and diving in the reefs of Manzanillo. Surfers and fans of laid-back black-sand beaches should aim for the southern coast. For now, this is a land mostly visited by independent travelers and those seeking out birdlife. Not sold? Two words: sloth sanctuary.”

When I first visited Costa Rica back in 2004/2005, I was instantly taken with its natural beauty as well as its friendly, welcoming locals. By then, Costa Rica had already been ‘discovered’, receiving 1.4 million visitors for the year in 2004. Fast forward to January 2016 and tourism numbers have skyrocketed.

On Friday, Tourism Minister Mauricio Ventura reported that a whopping 2.66 million visitors arrived to Costa Rica in 2015. With increased publicity as well as more directly flights from the United States and Europe, the numbers do not come as surprise. However, it is still quite impressive for a small country who’s own population only totals 4.8 million inhabitants.

I have the good fortune to travel and visit some amazing destinations around the globe. However, when I return home to Costa Rica, admire the lush, green scenery, breath the clean, fresh air, I know I have made the right decision. I just feels right. I am home.

Are you one of the 7,197,340,000 inhabitants of planet Earth that have not visited Costa Rica? What are you waiting for?

Pura Vida MAE!

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Priceline Ranks Costa Rica #1 Most Affordable International Destination For 2016.

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