Look at the vegetation and you'll notice two things. First, where the city hasn't eaten away at the mountainside, farms have. Large patches of scraped earth feed cattle, or produce coffee, or shine with ornamental plants. Fifty years ago, over 80% of Costa Rica was covered in lush tropical forest.
Coco's Island National Park
Economic and urban expansion, however, began to erode that number, causing environ-mentalists from around the world to take note and scramble to preserve the country's diversity.
Fortunately, Costa Rica recovered. That's the second thing you'll notice: there is a lot of dense vegetation along those same hills. Visionary leaders recognized the value of the rich Costa Rican countryside, and they began to protect it.
Today, over a quarter of its national territory is protected. Costa Rica has set the bar for worldwide conservation efforts, and the result is a comprehensive system encompassing 26 national parks and eleven Conservation Areas,
which include the parks, biological reserves, forest reserves, and other protected zones.
The eventual goal is to create biological corridors criss-crossing the country, to allow wildlife to move about freely in the full range of original habitats, from coast to coast.
Here is a list of seven of Traveler's favorite protected lands in Costa Rica, reflecting all her diverse nature and changing moods.