Pura vida. Translated literally, it means "pure life," but for Costa Ricans, those two words mean much more, encompassing a rich, laid-back, community-focused lifestyle that pervades the Central American nation. And so perhaps it's no surprise that a country known for its happy and contented citizens would be just fine without a military.
What prompted Costa Rica to eliminate its armed forces? In 1948, after an unusual period of political upheaval, it burst into a civil war that lasted for 44 days, resulting in 2,000 casualties [source: U.S. Department of State]. In an effort to ensure such a conflict would never happen again, the new government drafted a constitution that not only guaranteed free and open elections but also abolished the country's armed forces.
That doesn't mean the country is defenseless. In 2011, Costa Rica is projected to spend nearly $300 million on a police force armed with military-grade weaponry and a coast guard [source: GlobalSecurity.org]. In fact, its defense budget has grown to be more than three times as large as Nicaragua's, a fact not lost on its neighbor to the north, in light of border disputes between the two countries.
Unlike Costa Rica, the next spot ditched its military at the very first opportunity: when it gained independence.