EXPLORING

COSTA RICA

Exploring Costa Rica

Costa Rica is located in Central America, occupying an area of ​​51,100 km2 (19,730 sq mi), bordered by Nicaragua to the north and Panama to the south. It is roughly the size of Denmark. Costa Rica boasts one of the largest protected areas in the world, as approximately 25 percent of the national territory consists of terrestrial and marine national parks, biological reserves, and other wilderness areas. Costa Rica is home to approximately 890 bird species, of which around 600 are residents, and the rest migrate from North America during the winter, stopping in Costa Rica before continuing their journey to South America. Costa Rica is one of the most cherished tourist destinations on the planet. This small country has been blessed with everything to meet the interests of thousands of travelers who visit each year.

Costa Rica’s territorial division comprises seven provinces: San José, Alajuela, Cartago, Heredia, Guanacaste, Puntarenas, and Limón, interspersed between the Pacific Ocean to the west and the Caribbean Sea to the east. Together, they offer an attractive tourist destination with nearly limitless possibilities.

HISTORY

Human settlements in Costa Rica date back to at least 5000 BC, but compared to the great pre-Hispanic civilizations in the Americas, the indigenous people of Costa Rica were neither numerous nor did they achieve significant development.

The current Constitution, established on November 7, 1949, defines Costa Rica as a Democratic Republic. With the abolition of the army in 1948, Costa Rica has solidified its commitment to peace and democracy. National forces serve as its only security. Instead of spending on troops and weapons, Costa Rica has invested those resources in health and education. This historical decision has created a peaceful and pacifist country.

CUISINE

The cuisine in Costa Rica is easy to digest and not spicy. Local dishes are mainly based on rice and beans. The typical breakfast is called «Gallo Pinto» («Spotted Rooster»), a tasty mix of white rice, black beans, and spices, served with fried or scrambled eggs. Lunch and dinner for Costa Ricans consist of rice, beans, fried plantains, vegetables, salad, and any fish, chicken, or meat, and is known as a «casado.» Costa Ricans also frequently eat seafood. Costa Rica is a paradise of fruits, which are consumed fresh, or in smoothies made with milk, or juices made with water. In almost every restaurant, you can find good quality imported wine and local and imported beers.

CULTURE

In San Jose, you can find libraries and museums renowned throughout Central America. The National Theater is a local treasure, built by the coffee barons in 1897 as part of their vision to provide the city with a suitable venue for performances by famous national and international artists. San Jose boasts an extensive network of galleries and theaters that ensure a constant offering of culture. Artisans from across the country produce beautiful art from clay, fabric and fibers, wood, and other materials. Additionally, you can find traditional music and folkloric dance with colorful costumes, marimba music, and infectious rhythms.
The city of San Jose (the capital of the country) has a lot of traffic and congestion; however, it is recommended to visit these sites: the National Theater, the Plaza de la Cultura, the museums of the Central Bank, the National Museum, and the Jade Museum.

SUSTAINABILITY

The climatic diversity and conservation policies of the Costa Rican government make this country a true natural paradise with a diversity of ecosystems that protect a large amount of the world’s biodiversity. In its just over 51,000 square kilometers (19,730 square miles), representing 0.03 percent of the planet’s surface, around 5 percent of the world’s biodiversity lives here. Costa Rica is home to five different climatic regions – dry forest, jungle, temperate, cloud forest, and wetlands. These different environments give rise to multiple ecological systems that host numerous species of flora and fauna. The Costa Rican government has developed and maintains a dynamic policy of conservation of national parks and wildlife refuges, among other management initiatives and protection of natural and cultural environmental resources. The Caribbean and Pacific coasts are scenic paradises; and from north to south, along the country, stretch 500 km of mountains interspersed with majestic volcanoes and gentle hills, from which rivers and streams irrigate the pristine forest and agricultural crops. In the mountainous area of the Caribbean, between 800 and 1500 meters (2,625-4,920 feet) above sea level, the vegetation is characteristic of the tropical jungle, while the dry forest is dominant in the North Pacific and the Central Valley; here fewer trees grow and instead herbs and herbaceous plants proliferate. Regarding fauna, we can say that Costa Rica has an extraordinarily large and diverse number of species living here. Depending on the area, you have the opportunity to see resplendent Quetzals, five or six species of toucans, four types of monkeys, tapirs, deer, anteaters, sloths, coatis, otters, foxes, jaguars, ocelots, pumas, scarlet macaws, crocodiles, and dolphins, among many other animals. In addition to the species, wilderness areas are home to approximately 13,000 types of plants, more than 2,000 species of butterflies, 4,500 moths, 175 types of amphibians, 225 types of reptiles, 250 mammals, 1,600 species of freshwater and saltwater fish, and more than 890 different birds. Tens of thousands of insect species live in Costa Rica, and new species are continuously being discovered.

HEALTH

To enter Costa Rica, vaccines are not required for European and American tourists. Due to Costa Rica’s geographical location, despite the country’s high health standards, there are still isolated cases of tropical diseases. Each city has one or more hospitals, and there are always clinics or other medical services in small towns. Private medical clinics in San José comply with European standards.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), Costa Rica has one of the best healthcare systems in the world. Infant mortality has decreased, while life expectancy has increased. In education, the country currently has one of the highest literacy rates on the continent, with nearly 96% of the population.

CLIMATE

Costa Rica is a tropical country located between two oceans, with a complex geography that gives rise to varied climatic conditions and diverse ecosystems, ranging from tropical dry forests to rainforests and cloud forests. In the Central Valley, temperatures generally range between 14 and 22 degrees Celsius (57-72 degrees Fahrenheit). While the country does not have defined seasons, and regional climates remain relatively stable throughout the year, there are shifts between «summer» (dry season) and «winter» (rainy season). The summer season is typically from December to April, and «winter» is from May to November.

SECURITY

Costa Rica is a relatively safe country. However, in recent years, there has been an increase in the number of assaults and robberies, so it is advisable to take general security measures. Leave expensive jewelry at home. Use a safe for your valuables. Do not leave valuables visible in a car. Be mindful when walking around. Use taxis at night instead of walking.

HOLIDAYS
  • January 1: New Year’s Day
    April 11: Juan Santamaría Day (national hero of the 1856 war)
    May 1: Labor Day
    July 25: Guanacaste Day (Annexation of Guanacaste)
    August 2: Day of the Virgin of Los Ángeles, patron saint of Costa Rica
    August 15: Mother’s Day
    September 15: Independence Day
    December 25: Christmas
    Maundy Thursday and Good Friday: Holy Week
LANGUAGE

Costa Rica is a Spanish-speaking country, although a high percentage of the population speaks English.

MONEY

The Costa Rican colón is the country’s official currency and can be exchanged at banks for USD, and vice versa. Exchanging euros is only possible at a few bank branches; for this reason, it’s important to carry cash in dollars when traveling to Costa Rica. At ATMs on the Cirrus and Maestro networks, cash can be withdrawn using a Eurocard; these are especially found in San José and larger cities. The exchange rate for colones at the airport is less favorable than at banks. Regarding tips, there’s no need to tip in restaurants because bills automatically include a 10% service charge, plus 13% tax. It’s advisable to leave a tip of around 0.50 Euros for hotel porters and housekeeping staff, as well as between 1 and 5 Euros per day per person for tour guides.

GENERAL INFORMATION

Capital: San José

Currency: Colón

Country Code: (506)

Borders: It borders to the east and northeast with the Caribbean Sea; to the west and south with the Pacific Ocean; to the southeast with Panama, and to the north with Nicaragua.

Land Area: 51,100 km2 (19,730 sq mi)

Maximum Length: 464 km (288 miles) from the Sapoá River to Burica Point.

Minimum Length: 119 km (74 miles) from the mouth of the Colorado River.

Maximum Width: 259 km (161 miles) from Santa Elena Cape to the mouth of the Colorado River.

Highest Mountain: Mount Chirripó (elevation 3,820m – 12,530 feet above sea level).

Widest Volcanic Crater: Poás Volcano (one of the largest craters in the world at 1km – 0.62 miles in diameter).

National Flower: Purple Orchid (Guarianthe skinneri).

National Tree: Guanacaste or Elephant Ear Tree (Enterolobium cyclocarpum).

National Bird: Yigüirro or Clay-colored Thrush (Turdus grayi).

Climate: Tropical with two annual seasons: Dry or Summer (December-April) and Rainy or Winter (May to November).

Population: 5,500,000 inhabitants.

Provinces: Seven – San José, Cartago, Heredia, Alajuela, Puntarenas, Guanacaste, and Limón.

Electricity: 110 volts.