Why Costa Rica is Happier

The above featured photo by Charlie Doggett is of the Bribri Watsi Waterfall in the South Caribe of Costa Rica. The latest international report to place Costa Rica as the happiest place on earth lists some of the reasons. See the full article at World Economic Forum  or here is my brief summary:

Our president, Carlos Alvarado Quesada, said at Davos 2019:

  1. Seventy years ago we did away with our army and now spend 8% of GDP on education while the rest of the world (including the U.S) spends only an average of 4.8%. So our strength is human talent, human wellbeing.
  2. Not spending on the armed forces also allows this country to protect the environment. Costa Rica generates more than 99% of its electricity from renewable sources.
  3. The Costa Rican government has used taxes collected on the sale of fossil fuels to pay for the protection of forests. “We saw in the eighties that the forest coverage was reduced to 20% due to animal farming and timber. We’ve managed to recover all this and we’re back to forest coverage of 50%. By this we are combating climate change.”
  4. Costa Rica hosts more than five per cent of the world’s species, despite a landmass that covers just 0.03% of the planet. “Many people say that to protect the environment goes against the economy. Whereas it’s the complete contrary. Our tourism has grown precisely because of this,” says Alvarado.
  5. As a result, Costa Rica is the happiest and most sustainable country on Earth, according to the 2019 Happy Planet Index (HPI).


See my photo Gallery of happiest, most sustainable country:

Charlie Doggett’s COSTA RICA

¡Pura Vida!


Two Gifts This Morning

I opened two gifts this morning – my eyes.


Photo is of a Caribe sunrise, Hotel Banana Azul,

Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica.

¡Pura Vida!


My prayers go to the Bush Family in their loss . . .

. . . a truly great & humble man!

George H. W. Bush

Humility is not thinking less of yourself,

it’s thinking of yourself less.

~C. S. Lewis

REPORT ON MY BIOPSY:  After removing the 10 stitches from my arm (where all that cancer was confirmed removed) and the two stitches from my face for the biopsy, Dr. Gamboa gave me the facial biopsy report:

In brief, it says I have another carcinoma cancer on my face which is a smaller and slower growing type than the one on my arm. No problem waiting until January to remove the rest of it (the biopsy took most of it). Because of the delicate and thinner skin location next to my eye, we will be doing a more complicated and more efficient (more expensive) “Mohs Surgery” with two doctors doing it with a pathologist standing by to make sure they get all of the cancer as he examines each layer as removed (continuous biopsy). It will not be in his office this time but in a clinic, hospital-like, operating room, but still out-patient. He is checking on availability of other doctor and the clinic for the week of 21 January – after my Boca Tapada trip.  Remember —  the doctors work around my trips!  🙂    Important! That is where I sleep in a tree house 5 nights!

Dr. Gamboa also “PRESCRIBED” wearing a wide-brim hat instead of the ball caps I’ve been wearing and of course sunscreen every day when out. I sure love sunny Costa Rica, just 673 miles north of the equator, but with the value of the sun also comes with some potential dangers for someone like me who loves the outdoors. I have already become more careful, even though the doc says these current growths and cancers were probably caused by sun I got as a child or teen, more sun now can make it worse, so I must be cautious.

¡Still Pura Vida!    🙂

Newest Book is Now Out! Caribe Tuanis

Here’s the LINK to the photo book of my trip two weeks ago: Caribe Tuanis    Click title to REVIEW the book electronically in my bookstore, all pages for free!  Best seen at Full Screen!

Jumping at Bribri Watsi Waterfall

The title is my fusion of two Costa Rica slang words and is not grammatically   correct Spanish! One Tico tried to get me to add “El” like “The” in English. No. “Caribe” is CR slang or short for Caribbean which I think is used in English some also and the slang word “Tuanis” is like the American slang of earlier years “Cool.” So my English translation of the title would be “Caribbean Cool.” 

Three-toed Sloth this year – Rare face shot

Since my last year’s book on the Caribbean was all birds and nature, I wanted to do something different this year, featuring teens jumping off a waterfall and surfers riding the waves plus Bribri Indigenous People, and of course the Rastas of all Caribbean Culture.  Enjoy!

¡Pura Vida!

Finish Caribe Posts with the Hotel & my Gallery Link

Like with every trip I make around my new home country I could keep posting about this trip and unique things about the Caribbean side of Costa Rica. But I won’t. Here’s some separate little slideshows on Banana Azul, my favorite hotel in Puerto Viejo so far. I may get brave and try some more hotels one of these days, though I have tried Cariblue and Almonds & Corals and they don’t quite equal Banana Azul in my opinion.

Tree Trimming

If you drill down into their website very far you will see that this is a “gay friendly” hotel which implies that a lot are not in this conservative Catholic country. I did not know that on my first visit and it would not have made a difference but it might to you, so I let you know. My casual observation and prominence of straight couples in the hotel indicates it is certainly not an exclusively gay hotel which I doubt could be profitable here. I did learn this time that the owners are two gay men from Canada whom I have still not met. The staff appears to be mostly straight, though can you really tell by looking at someone? I know my masseuse is straight because he told me about his daughter and the difficulties of going through a divorce with which I of course identified.

Anyway, the location right on the beach is perfect. The facilities are very good if basic and immersed in nature, and the service is better than most places plus their food is better than the other two hotels I’ve tried in the area. There is a new hotel in Puerto Viejo that claims to be upscale and have gourmet food which I may try someday, Le Cameleon, though it costs twice as much!

And I know that “Tree Trimming” doesn’t sound like an exciting activity for a slideshow, but in Costa Rica a Tico with a machete climbs a tree and wacks away. Yes, they have saws here, but this is just the way it is done, including when my trees are trimmed.  Hotel slideshows:

My Room – The Howler Suite

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Banana Azul Hotel staff

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Banana Azul Hotel Grounds

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Maintenance Tree Trimming

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Beachside Wilderness Road

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See my TRIP Photo Gallery:   2018 Caribe South, Puerto Viejo  for many other kinds of photos from this fun trip with these Sub-Gallery Names:

  • Banana Azul Howler Suite
  • Banana Azul Staff
  • Tree Trimming
  • Gandoca-Manzanillo Refuge
  • Mirador Manzanillo
  • Beaches
  • Surfers
  • Waterfall Jumpers
  • Bribri Indigenous Village
  • Biking Puerto Viejo
  • Walking Puerto Viejo
  • Beachside Wilderness Road

And for more on the South Caribe see these other past trip galleries:

And what about North Caribe?

When you are talking about the Caribbean side of Costa Rica, remember that there are two other parts not included above:  (1) The port city of Limon which I generally avoid with its high-crime reputation like the Pacific Coast port city of Puntarenas where my first camera bag was stolen.  And  (2) one of my favorite places, in the North Caribbean, Tortuguero, “The Amazon of Costa Rica.” I’m returning there in February and trying a new hotel/lodge. See photos of my 2016 visit there and I even had an earlier one in 2010 on the Caravan.com Tour. A real jungle adventure!

South Caribe Non-Bird Animals

Everywhere I go in Costa Rica I find birds and other animals to photograph and this trip was no exception. No new animal sightings here this time for me unless that purple grasshopper is truly different from the other “Giant Grasshoppers” I’ve seen and photographed. But there are some different kinds of shots this time and 11 to 13 different species. Enjoy the brief slideshow:

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Green Iguana male with mating orange color


“You cannot get through a single day without having an impact on the world around you. What you do makes a difference, and you have to decide what kind of difference you want to make.”   

~Jane Goodall


See my TRIP Photo Gallery:   2018 Caribe South, Puerto Viejo  for many other kinds of photos from this fun trip and for more on the South Caribe see these other trip galleries:

And oh yes, today is 15 Sept–Independence Day–and I made photos of the parade, but need to process and want to finish my Caribe visit posts first with one or two more. So the parade is coming here soon!  🙂

¡Pura Vida!

South Caribe Birds This Year

Some trips I put more energy into getting many more bird photos, this year in South Caribe was more relaxed and slower, focusing a little more on culture and people, but here are my 10 birds and 1 nest photos representing 8 species with 3 having both male and female photos. My one “lifer” or first-time seen bird was the Gray-necked Wood-Rail.

Birds are still my first passion, but tomorrow I will share the “Other Animals” seen here this year including one of my better sloth photos shot near the hotel, as were most of the birds. I saw a few water birds from a distance but not as many as usually seen here. And I’m very pleased with my new Tamron 60mm lense which has really helped to zoom in on more birds!

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The sound of birds stops the noise in my mind.

~Carly Simon

See my TRIP Photo Gallery:   2018 Caribe South, Puerto Viejo  for many other kinds of photos from this fun trip and for more on the South Caribe see these other past trip galleries:

¡Pura Vida!

Lunch at Watsi Village

Experiencing the simple life of an indigenous people is a true blessing and learning experience!

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Live a simple life; you will own the most beautiful treasures of the world!

~Mehmet Murat ildan

¡Pura Vida!

Bribri Watsi Waterfall

This stop reminded me of growing up in Arkansas with natural swim holes on streams with and without waterfalls and cliffs that teens love to jump off. This is the kind of swim hole rural people everywhere enjoy, including the indigenous here. We were there on the weekend so lots of local kids and whole families were there enjoying these wonderful swimming holes and of course I enjoyed getting shots of the kids jumping (3 different sequences below – watch as slideshow), most are indigenous Bribri kids, though other local Ticos come here too! The adult man ran a little snack stand at the top of the hill by the parking lot where we ate cold watermelon. A cool, old-fashion summer experience on Rio Dos Aguas near the Bribri village of Watsi. I’m the luckiest man in the world to live where I can enjoy these kinds of experiences in nature.     ¡Pura Vida!

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I suspect every one of the above teens felt something like this:

“I nodded, pretending to be a hundred times more courageous than I felt.  But that was the thing about courage. Sometimes you had to fake it to feel it.” 
― Lisa Tawn Bergren

¡Pura Vida!


One of the most intriguing things learned from this indigenous people was about the process of chocolate, in a similar way as with my visit to the Bribri Yorkin village 3 years ago.

In brief, the cacao seed grow as more than a dozen inside a fruit shown in the slideshow. The seeds are surrounded by a white jelly-like substance that you can suck off the seed and it is very sweet! The seeds are not! The seeds are removed from the fruit and allowed to ferment for 5 days during which time all the white substance goes away (not shown in slides). Then the dark brown seeds/beans are spread out in the sunshine to dry out for 22 days (not shown in the slides.) The seeds are then roasted (shown here in pan on wood fire). Then they are ground up into tiny pieces (shown here with old-fashion stone grinder by hand). Then they are winnowed or the shells are separated from the seed meat by tossing in the air (shown here by woman). Then without the shells they are ground some more until they turn to a creamy paste (shown here with a hand grinder though can be done with the same stone grinder).

Aaron then took half bananas sliced lengthwise and spread with the chocolate paste and we ate the little banana-chocolate sandwiches (not shown here, sorry). Then the woman had boiled some water into which she put some of the chocolate paste, a little cinnamon and some brown sugar. She stirred it well and gave us each a coconut shell cup of hot chocolate (see photo of one in my hand). It had no milk, so tasted a little different that the hot chocolate Americans are used to, but was good, if a little stronger chocolate taste than usual. The slideshow includes many of the above activities. After all this I don’t understand why chocolate is not more expensive than it is!   🙂 It is a labor intensive process! And reminds me of coffee production here.

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We need to return to learning about the land by being on the land, or better, by being in the thick of it. That is the best way we can stay in touch with the fates of its creatures, its indigenous cultures, its earthbound wisdom. That is the best way we can be in touch with ourselves.

~Gary Paul Nabhan

Bribri Indigenous Village Watsi – 1st Stop: Shaman

Yesterday I joined an all day tour Terraventuras Bribri Culture, where me and two ladies from Spain spent the day in an indigenous village near Puerto Viejo including first the Shaman, then medicine man (I got herbal medicine for my

The Shaman was really nice!

diarrhea), a plant study hike in forest, chocolate harvesting and production demonstration, indigenous lunch of boiled root vegetables and chicken, and a visit to the local teen hangout waterfalls where I photographed local teens jumping off the falls into plunge pool. A cool day! I will present in installments.

First is a slide show of our visit to the Shaman, their spiritual leader and trainer of the medicine man. We got lots of knowledge about the Bribri culture and their use of the conical structure for spiritual and history training of the children and various ceremonies. Then we were “cleansed” in their cleansing ceremony where we had a leaf heated over the fire whisked over our bodies with some Bribri words uttered.

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If people can’t acknowledge the wisdom of indigenous cultures, then that’s their loss.

~Jay Griffiths

¡Pura Vida!