Costa Rica and Finland—Why They’re Consistently the Happiest Countries

Both Costa Rica and Finland are some of the happiest countries on the planet and they are both my favorite in the world.

Let’s compare the two countries by highlighting the traits they have in common and why they make us happy.

At the end of this article, you’ll be able to evaluate which of your own habits make you happy as well!

I’ve had the incredible luck to spend time in both countries during their reign as the happiest countries on Earth, and I was blown away by the similarities between two seemingly different countries.

Costa Rica because it’s my second home and Finland because I was recently there on a family travel press trip. More on that in a minute.

The Northern Lights in Finland

Why are so many countries proclaiming to be the happiest in the world?

In doing my pre-trip research on Finland, I was curious to find out how both Finland and Costa Rica could be the “happiest countries in the world” in the same year.

And when I Googled one and then the other, I got totally different results. Until I realized there are actually two distinct happiness indices, both of which are equally legitimate but measure slightly different aspects of happiness.

The Happy Planet Index has often named Costa Rica the happiest country in the world whereas on their index, Finland does not even score.

Arenal Volcano in Costa Rica

On the other hand, we have the World Happiness Report, which has scored Finland as the happiest country in the world for the past two years (2018 and 2019).

If you look alone at climate, GDP, and location the two countries could not be more distinct. Finland is a very developed first world country, where Costa Rica is a third (I would argue second) world country. However, when you look closer at daily life and values, both countries have a lot in common. Let’s take a closer look.

Check out our 10 Fun Facts about Finland and our 10 Fun Facts About Costa Rica!

Coffee Consumption

I was in a very rural part of Finland enjoying afternoon coffee with an older couple who had invited me into their home for the afternoon to do crafts and then have a typical Finnish coffee.

When Irene, the Finnish woman who hosted me mentioned that Finns were the highest consumers of coffee per capita in the entire world, I was super skeptical. I mean, who could consume more coffee than Costa Ricans?

Finish Lapland

Well, Finns can and they do.

Finns drink the most coffee per capita of any country in the world. (Fun side note- when we asked Irene what her favorite type of coffee is, she said ” Costa Rica, of course. It’s the most sustainable.”)

I find that both Finland and Costa Rica consume large quantities of coffee, but the consumption itself is a ritual.

From the preparation to the accompanying food to the company, coffee drinking is an important part of the daily routine in these happy countries.

Costa Rican coffee cherries

Love of Nature/Outdoors

Finns are very well known for their love of nature. There are more lakes than people in Finland!

From a very young age, Finnish children learn to forage food, ride their bikes, and camp year-round.

The weather in Finland is cold for most of the year, so I consider Finns pretty hardy nature lovers!

And then of course there are the Northern Lights! So many reasons to get outside in Finland.

Rovanniemi, Finland

Costa Rican Rainforests

Costa Rica is no different. With thousands of kilometers of pristine coasts and hundreds of thousands of hectares of pristine protected rainforest, Costa Ricans take nature seriously.

With nearly perfect tropical weather year-round, Costa Ricans spend tons of time biking, camping, hiking, and swimming.

There are thousands of amazing family beach destinations, day trips into the forest, and off the grid family farms to enjoy- among other activities.

Spending time outdoors is super healthy for your brain and body, and Harvard even says so! Finns and ticos have spending time in nature down to a science.

Costa Rica

Commitment to Sustainability

Costa Ricans and Finns love the planet, and they make conscious choices each day to lessen their environmental impact and make the world a better place.

Costa Rica is on track to be the first fully carbon-neutral country in the world.

With excellent recycle and compost available to everyone, Costa Rica is making strides to take care of the planet and protect their own national forests.

Finland has some of the best public transportation around, and Finns bike and walk everywhere possible! You’ll find other awesome sustainable practices in everyday Finnish life too.

For example, most every place I visited had a water station, so you can just fill up a reusable water container with the freshest tap water in the world.

Much of Finnish home construction is made of wood and fiber insulation- eradicating the need for plastics in construction.

Delicious, Healthy Food

While Costa Rican and Finnish diets are drastically different, I did notice that both countries have a strong focus on eating fresh, healthy food cooked at home.

I laugh a bit at both the tico and Finnish aversion to eating out. Both cultures would much rather prepare food at home and enjoy with family.

Costa Rican food is defined by the use of garlic, cilantro and onion, and the famous Salsa Lizano.

Almost every dish is accompanied by white rice and black beans, fresh green salads, and picadillos (vegetable hash).

Costa Rican gallo pinto

Finnish food is very low in sodium. Extra salt is rarely added to Finnish dishes.

You’ll find tons of root vegetables—especially potatoes, along with lots of seafood (definitely salmon.)

In Lapland, reindeer meat is king, and Finns love their gin. They also have a super fun Christmas cookie recipe!

Finnish salmon soup

Access To Quality Health Care

Both Costa Rica and Finland have socialized medicine, generous maternity leaves, and excellent pension plans.

I think this contributes to happiness on a daily basis in that people don’t have to worry so much about the future, or a potential catastrophe.

Want to find out how happy you are?

Visit Finland has put together a super fun happiness quiz to see how closely your daily life aligns with the Finnish way of life.

You take the survey and then they will send you a personalized pdf with your results and specific ways you can improve your health. I had a lot of fun taking it!

What do you think of the happiest countries on Earth?

What are some healthy habits that you practice that make you extra happy?

Let us know in the comments!



You might also enjoy

A Guide to Happiness

Coffee Around the World

6 Tips to Use Your Library Card as a Passport to Costa Rica

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Hi, I'm Christa- writer, photographer, world traveler, foodie, voracious reader and bilingual mom. I love all things Costa Rica- including my soccer loving husband and two bicultural daughters. You can find me at
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