Costa Rica, officially the Republic of Costa Rica is a country in Central America, bordered by
Nicaragua to the north, Panama to the east-southeast, the Pacific Ocean to the west and south,
and the Caribbean Sea to the east. Costa Rica, which means "Rich Coast", constitutionally
abolished its army permanently in 1949, thus becoming militarily neutral. It is the only Latin
American country included in the list of the world's 22 older democracies. Costa Rica has
consistently been among the top Latin American countries in terms of the Human Development
Index, and ranked 54th in the world in 2009. The country is ranked 3rd in the world, and 1st
among the Americas, in terms of the 2010 Environmental Performance Index.
In 2007 the Costa Rican government announced plans for Costa Rica to become the first
carbon neutral country by 2021. According to the New Economics Foundation, Costa Rica ranks
first in the Happy Planet Index and is the "greenest" country in the world.
The first European to reach what is now Costa Rica was Christopher Columbus in 1502.
During Spanish Colonial times, the largest city in Central America was Guatemala City. Costa
Rica's distance from this hub led to difficulty in establishing trade routes and was one of the
reasons that Costa Ricans developed in relative isolation and with little oversight from the
Spanish Monarchy ("The Crown"). While this isolation allowed the colony to develop free of
intervention by The Crown, it also contributed to its failure to share in the prosperity of the
Colonies, making Costa Rica the poorest Spanish Colony in Central America. Costa Rica was
described as "the poorest and most miserable Spanish colony in all Americas" by a Spanish
governor in 1719.
Costa Rica joined other Central American provinces in 1821 in a joint declaration of
independence from Spain. After a brief time in the Mexican Empire of Agustín de Iturbide Costa
Rica became a state in the Federal Republic of Central America from 1823 to 1839. In 1824 the
capital was moved to San José, but due to an intense rivalry with Cartago, violence briefly
ensued. Although the newly independent provinces formed a Federation, border disputes broke
out among them, adding to the region's turbulent history and conditions.
Costa Rica's membership in the newly formed Federal Republic of Central America, now free of
Spanish rule, was short lived; in 1838, long after the Central American Federation ceased to
function in practice, Costa Rica formally withdrew and proclaimed itself sovereign. The distance
from Guatemala City to the Central Valley of Costa Rica, where most of the population lived and
still lives, was great. The local population had little allegiance to the government in Guatemala
City, in part because of the history of isolation during Colonial times. Costa Rica's disinterest in
participating as a province in a greater Central American government was one of the deciding
factors in the break-up of the fledgling federation into independent states, which still exist today.
However, all of the Central American nations still celebrate September 15th as their
independence day, which pertains to the independence of Central America from Spain.
Historically, Costa Rica has generally enjoyed greater peace and more consistent political
stability compared with many of its fellow Latin American nations. Since the late nineteenth
century, however, Costa Rica has experienced two significant periods of violence. In 1917-19,
Federico Tinoco Granados ruled as a dictator until he was overthrown and forced into exile.
Again in 1948, José Figueres Ferrer led an armed uprising in the wake of a disputed
presidential election. With more than 2,000 dead, the resulting 44-day Costa Rica Civil War was
the bloodiest event in Costa Rican history during the twentieth-century. Afterwards, the new,
victorious government junta, led by the opposition, abolished the military and oversaw the
drafting of a new constitution by a democratically-elected assembly. Having enacted these
reforms, the regime finally relinquished its power on 8 November 1949 to the new democratic
government. After the coup d'etat, Figueres became a national hero, winning the country's first
democratic election under the new constitution in 1953. Since then, Costa Rica has held 12
presidential elections, the latest being in 2006. All of them have been widely regarded by the
international community as peaceful, transparent, and relatively smooth transitions.
Costa Rica is located on the Central American isthmus, 10° North of the equator and 84° West
of the Prime Meridian. It borders both the Caribbean Sea (to the east) and the North Pacific
Ocean (to the west), with a total of 1,290 kilometers (802 mi) of coastline (212 km / 132 mi on
the Caribbean coast and 1,016 km / 631 mi on the Pacific). It is about the size of West Virginia
and shares that state's reputation for excellent whitewater kayaking/rafting opportunities.
The highest point in the country is Cerro Chirripó, at 3,820 metres (12,532 ft), and is the fifth
highest peak in Central America. The highest volcano in the country is the Irazú Volcano (3,431
m / 11,257 ft). The largest lake in Costa Rica is Lake Arenal.
Costa Rica also comprises several islands. Cocos Island stands out because of its distance
from continental landmass (24 km² / 9.25 sq mi, 500 km or 300 mi (480 km) from Puntarenas
coast), but Calero Island is the largest island of the country (151.6 km² / 58.5 sq mi).
Costa Rica protects 23% of its national territory within the Protected Areas system. It also
possesses the greatest density of species in the world.
Costa Rica is a democratic republic with a strong constitution. The country has had at least fifty-
nine years of uninterrupted democracy, making it one of the most stable countries in the region.
Costa Rica has been able to successfully avoid the widespread violence that has plagued most
of Latin America.
Costa Rica is a republic with three powers: executive responsibilities are vested in a president,
legislative power is vested on the Legislative Assembly, and Judicial power is vested on the
Supreme Court. There also are two vice presidents as well as a cabinet designated by the
president. The president, vice presidents, and fifty-seven Legislative Assembly delegates are
elected for four-year terms. A constitutional amendment approved in 1969 limited presidents
and delegates to one term, although delegates were allowed to run again for an Assembly seat
after sitting out a term.
The Supreme Electoral Body, the Office of the Comptroller General, the Office of the Procurator
General of the Republic and the Office of the Ombudsman also enjoy a lot of independence.
The Supreme Court is divided into 4 chambers, one dealing with Constitutional Law, one
dealing with Criminal Law and two dealing with Civil Law, Merchant Law and the like.
In April 2003, the constitutional amendment ban on presidential re-election was reversed,
allowing Óscar Arias (Nobel Peace Prize laureate, 1987) to run for President for a second term.
In 2006, Óscar Arias was re-elected in a tight and highly contested election, running on a
platform of promoting free trade. He was succeeded by Laura Chinchilla who won the election of
February 7, 2010, and took office on May 8, 2010. She is also from the National Liberation Party
and is the first woman to be elected president of the country.
Certain autonomous state agencies enjoy considerable operational independence; they include
the telecommunications and electrical power monopoly, the nationalized commercial banks, the
state insurance monopoly, and the social security agency. Costa Rica has no military by
PROVINCES, CANTONS AND DISTRICTS
Costa Rica is composed of seven provinces, which in turn are divided into 81 cantons ("cantón"
in Spanish, plural "cantones"), each of which is directed by a mayor. Mayors are chosen
democratically every four years by each canton's people. There are no provincial legislatures.
The cantons are further divided into districts (distritos). The provinces are: Alajuela, Cartago,
Guanacaste, Heredia, Limón, Puntarenas, San José.
Intel microprocessor facility in Costa Rica is responsible for 20% of Costa Rican exports and
4.9% of the country's GDP.
According to the CIA World Factbook, Costa Rica's GDP per capita is US$13,500 PPP (2007
estimate). The Costa Rican economy grew nearly 5% in 2006 after experiencing four years of
slow economic growth.
The central government offers tax exemptions for those who are willing to invest in the country.
Several global high tech corporations have already started developing in the area exporting
goods including chip manufacturer Intel, pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline, and
consumer products company Procter & Gamble. In 2006 Intel's microprocessor facility alone
was responsible for 20% of Costa Rican exports and 4.9% of the country's GDP
For the fiscal year 2005, the country showed a government deficit of 2.1%, internal revenue
increased an 18%, and exports increased a 12.8%. Revised economic figures released by the
Central Bank indicate that economic growth stood at 5%, nevertheless the country faced high
inflation (14%) and a trade deficit of 5.2%. As of 2007, Costa Rica's inflation rate stands at
9.30%, Latin Americas 4th highest inflation rate. The unit of currency is the colón (CRC).
In recent times electronics, pharmaceuticals, financial outsourcing, software development, and
ecotourism have become the prime industries in Costa Rica's economy. High levels of
education among its residents make the country an attractive investing location. Since 1999,
tourism earns more foreign exchange than the combined exports of the country's three main
cash crops: bananas, pineapples and coffee. Coffee production has played a key role in Costa
Rica's history and economy, and by 2006 was the third cash crop export. The largest coffee
growing areas are in the provinces of San José, Alajuela, Heredia, Puntarenas, and Cartago.
Costa Rica is famous for its gourmet coffee beans, with Costa Rican Tarrazú among the finest
Arabica coffee beans in the world used for making espresso coffee, together with Jamaican
Blue Mountain, Guatemalan Antigua and Ethiopian Sidamo.
Costa Rica's location provides easy access to American markets as it has the same time zone
as the central part of the United States and direct ocean access to Europe and Asia. A country
wide referendum has approved a free trade agreement with the United States. In the
referendum on October 7, 2007, the voters of Costa Rica narrowly backed the free trade
agreement, with 51.6 percent of "Yes" votes.
With a $1.9-billion-a-year tourism industry, Costa Rica stands as the most visited nation in the
Central American region, with 1.9 million foreign visitors in 2007, which translates into a
relatively high expenditure per tourist of $1000 per trip, and a rate of foreign tourists per capita of
0.46, one of the highest in the Caribbean Basin. Most of the tourists come from the U.S. (54%)
and the E.U. (14%). In 2005, tourism contributed with 8,1% of the country's GNP and
represented 13,3% of direct and indirect employment.
Tapantí National Park in Costa Rica Ecotourism is extremely popular with the many tourists
visiting the extensive national parks and protected areas around the country. Costa Rica was a
pioneer in this type of tourism and the country is recognized as one of the few with real
ecotourism. In terms of 2008 Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Index, Costa Rica reached
the 44th place in the world ranking, being the first among Latin American countries. Just
considering the subindex measuring human, cultural, and natural resources, Costa Rica ranks
in the 24th place at a worldwide level, and ranks 7th when considering only the natural
Costa Rica is an active member of the United Nations and the Organization of American States.
The Inter-American Court of Human Rights and the United Nations University of Peace are
based in Costa Rica. The Costa Rican State is also a member of many other international
organizations related to human rights and democracy.
Costa Rica's main foreign policy objective is to foster human rights and sustainable
development as a way to secure stability and growth.
Costa Rica is also a member of the International Criminal Court, without a Bilateral Immunity
Agreement of protection for the US-military.
On June 1, 2007, Costa Rica broke ties with the Republic of China in Taiwan, switching to the
People's Republic of China in mainland China.
FLORA AND FAUNA
Costa Rica is home to a rich variety of plants and animals. While the country has only about
0.1% of the world's landmass, it contains 5% of the world's biodiversity. About 23% of Costa
Rica is composed of protected forests and reserves.
One national park that is internationally-renowned among ecologists for its biodiversity
(including big cats and tapirs) and where visitors can expect to see an abundance of wildlife is
the Corcovado National Park.
The Clay-colored Robin is Costa Rica's national bird.Tortuguero National Park – the name
Tortuguero can be translated as "Full of Turtles" – is home to spider, howler and white-throated
Capuchin monkeys, the three-toed sloth, 320 species of birds (including eight species of
parrots), a variety of reptiles, but is mostly recognized for the annual nesting of the endangered
green turtle and is considered the most important nesting site for this species. Giant
leatherback, hawksbill, and loggerhead turtles also nest here.
The Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve is home to about 2,000 plant species, including
numerous orchids. Over four hundred types of birds can be found here, and over one hundred
species of mammals. As a whole, around eight hundred species of birds have been identified
in Costa Rica. The Instituto Nacional de Biodiversidad (INBIO) is allowed to collect royalties on
any biological discoveries of medical importance.
According to the CIA World Factbook, Costa Rica has a population of 4,133,884 of which 94%
are Mestizo or white, 3% black, 1% Amerindian, 1% Chinese and 1% other. The exact amount,
however, is not known because the Costa Rican census combines mestizos and whites in one
category. The white population is primarily of Spanish ancestry with significant numbers of
Costa Ricans of Italian, German, Jewish and Polish descent. In contrast to its neighboring
countries' populations, less mixing of the Spanish settlers and the indigenous populations
occurred. Therefore, a vast majority of Costa Ricans are either of Spanish or of mixed mestizo
Just under 3% of the population is of black African descent. The majority of the afro Costa
Ricans are Creole English-speaking descendants of nineteenth century black Jamaican
immigrant workers, as well as slaves who were brought during the Atlantic slave trade.
The indigenous or Amerindian population numbers around 1%, or over 41,000 individuals. In
the Guanacaste Province a significant portion of the population descends from a bi-racial mix of
local Amerindians and Spaniards. There is also an expatriate community of people of all ages
from the United States, Canada, Germany, Netherlands, Britain, and other countries.
Costa Rica hosts many refugees, mainly from Colombia and Nicaragua. As a result, an
estimated 10% to 15% of the Costa Rican population is made up of Nicaraguans, most of
whom migrate for seasonal work opportunities and then return to their country. There is also a
growing number of Peruvian refugees. Moreover, Costa Rica took in many refugees from a
range of other Latin American countries fleeing civil wars and dictatorships during the 1970s
and 80s - notably from Chile and Argentina, as well as those from El Salvador who fled from
guerrillas and government death squads.
Christianity is the predominant religion in Costa Rica, and Roman Catholicism is the official
state religion as guaranteed by the Constitution of 1949. Some 92% of Costa Ricans are
Christian and like many other parts of Latin America, Protestant denominations have been
experiencing rapid growth. However, three in four Costa Ricans still adhere to Roman
Due to the recent small but continuous immigration of communities from Asia, the Middle East,
and other places, other religions have grown, the most popular being Buddhism (because of an
increasing Chinese community of 40,000), and smaller numbers of Jewish, Muslim, Bahá’í and
There is a Jewish synagogue, the B'nei Israel Congregation, in San José, near the La Sabana
Metropolitan Park. Several homes in the neighborhood east of La Sabana Metropolitan Park are
festooned with the Star of David and other recognizable Jewish symbols.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has seen modest growth in Costa Rica in the
last 40 years and has built one of only two temples in Central America in the San Antonio de
Belen region of Heredia.
The only official language is Spanish. There are two main accents native to Costa Rica, the
standard Costa Rican and the Nicoyan. The Nicoyan accent is very similar to the standard
Nicaraguan accent due, in part, to its vicinity. A notable Costa Rican pronunciation difference
includes a soft initial and double [r] phoneme that is not trilled as is normal in the Spanish
Jamaican immigrants in the 19th Century brought with them a dialect of English that has
evolved into the Mekatelyu creole dialect.
Because Roman Catholicism is the official state religion, only that church's marriages are
legally recognized by the government. Any persons wishing to wed outside of the Catholic
church must hire a lawyer who will perform and then register their civil wedding for them. Legal
age for marriage in Costa Rica is 18. The age of consent is 15.
Costa Ricans often refer to themselves as tico (masculine) or tica (feminine). "Tico" comes from
the popular local usage of "tico" and "tica" as diminutive suffixes (e.g., "momentico" instead of
"momentito"). The phrase "Pura Vida" (literally "Pure Life") is a ubiquitous motto in Costa Rica.
Some youth use mae, a contraction of "maje" (mae means "guy/dude"), to refer to each other,
although this might be perceived as insulting to those of an older generation; maje was a
synonym for "tonto" (stupid).
Costa Rica boasts a varied history. Costa Rica was the point where the Mesoamerican and
South American native cultures met. The northwest of the country, the Nicoya peninsula, was the
southernmost point of Nahuatl cultural influence when the Spanish conquerors
(conquistadores) came in the sixteenth century. The center and southern portions of the country
had Chibcha influences.
The Atlantic coast, meanwhile, was populated with African workers during the seventeenth and
eighteenth centuries. Most afro Costa Ricans, however, derive from nineteenth-century
Jamaican workers, brought in to work on the construction of railroads between the urban
populations of the Central Plateau and the port of Limon on the Caribbean coast. Italian and
Chinese immigrants also arrived at this time to work on railroad construction.
Costa Rican popular music genres include: an indigenous calypso scene which is distinct from
the more widely-known Trinidadian calypso sound audience that supports nightclubs in cities
like San José. American and British rock and roll, pop and reggaeton are popular and common
among the youth (especially urban youth) while dance-oriented genres like soca, salsa,
bachata, merengue and cumbia have an appeal as well. Many dances and music of Costa Rica
demonstrates an African, pre-Columbian, and Spanish influence. The guitar is a popular
instrument especially as an accompaniment to Folk dances.
The literacy rate in Costa Rica is of 96% (CIA World Factbook, February 2007), one of the
highest in Latin America. Elementary and high schools are found throughout the country in
practically every community. Universal public education is guaranteed in the Constitution.
Primary education is obligatory, and both preschool and high school are free. There are both
state and private universities.
There are only a few schools in Costa Rica that go beyond the 12th grade. Those schools that
finish at 11th grade receive a Costa Rican Bachillerato Diploma accredited by the Costa Rican
Ministry of Education.
"Himno Nacional de Costa Rica" (Spanish language, Costa Rican National Anthem) is the
national anthem of Costa Rica. It was originally adopted in 1853, with the music composed by
Manuel María Gutiérrez. Words by José María Zeledón Brenes were added in 1900.
The flag of Costa Rica was officially adopted on November 27, 1906. However, the blue, white
and red horizontal design was created and used since 1848 when Costa Rica left the Federal
Republic of Central America and declared itself a Sovereign Republic. Pacífica Fernández, wife
of the president, José María Castro Madriz created it inspired on the colors of the French Flag.
The blue color stands for the sky, opportunities, idealism and perseverance. The white color
stands for peace, wisdom and happiness. The red color stands for the blood spilt by martyrs in
defense of the country, as well as the warmth and generosity of the people. The stripes are in
the ratio 1:1:2:1:1.
COAT OF ARMS
The Coat of Arms of Costa Rica depicts an essential simplification of the nation. The two ships
on either side represent the Caribbean Sea and Pacific Ocean, both of which border Costa Rica.
The ships also represent the maritime history of the country. The three mountains represent the
three major mountain ranges of Costa Rica, and also stand to show the location of the country
relative to the two bodies of sea. The current coat of arms has seven stars on it to represent the
seven provinces of Costa Rica. On the sides, small golden beads can be seen; these were put
here in representation of the Costa Rican coffee, which for a long time was the largest line of
production and exportation in the country. They are golden because in Costa Rica, coffee is
sometimes referred to as "El Grano de Oro" or "The Bead of Gold".
Time zone (UTC-6)
Internet TLD .cr
Calling code +506