Coordinates: 10°N 84°W / 10°N 84°W / 10; -84
Republic of Costa Rica
República de Costa Rica (Spanish)
Coat of arms
Anthem: "Noble patria, tu hermosa bandera" (Spanish)
"Noble motherland, your beautiful flag"
and largest city
9°56′N 84°5′W / 9.933°N 84.083°W / 9.933; -84.083
Recognized regional languages
Ethnic groups (2011)
83.6% White/Castizo or Mestizo
1.1% Black (of African descent)
Unitary presidential constitutional republic
Luis Guillermo Solís
• 1st Vice-President
Helio Fallas Venegas
• 2nd Vice-President
Ana Helena Chacón Echeverría
• from Spain
September 15, 1821
• from First Mexican Empire
July 1, 1823
• from the Federal
• Recognized by Spain
May 10, 1850
November 7, 1949
51,100 km2 (19,700 sq mi) (126th)
• Water (%)
• 2016 estimate
220/sq mi (84.9/km2) (107th)
• Per capita
• Per capita
high · 66th
Costa Rican colón
Costa Rican colón (CRC)
Drives on the
ISO 3166 code
Costa Rica (/ˌkɒstə ˈriːkə/ ( listen);
Spanish: [ˈkosta ˈrika]; "Rich Coast"), officially the Republic
Costa Rica (Spanish: República de Costa Rica), is a country in
Central America, bordered by
Nicaragua to the north,
Panama to the
Pacific Ocean to the west, the
Caribbean Sea to the
Ecuador to the south of Cocos Island. It has a population of
around 4.9 million, in a land area of 51,060 square kilometers
(19,714 square miles); over 300,000 live in the capital and largest
city, San José, which had a population of an estimated 333,980 in
Costa Rica has been known for its stable democracy, in a region that
has had some instability, and for its highly educated workforce, most
of whom speak English. The country spends roughly 6.9% of its
budget (2016) on education, compared to a global average of 4.4%.
Its economy, once heavily dependent on agriculture, has diversified to
include sectors such as finance, corporate services for foreign
companies, pharmaceuticals, and ecotourism. Many foreign companies
(manufacturing and services) operate in Costa Rica's free trade zones
(FTZ) where they benefit from investment and tax incentives.
In spite of impressive growth in the
Gross domestic product
Gross domestic product (GDP), low
inflation, moderate interest rates and an acceptable unemployment
Costa Rica in 2017 was facing a liquidity crisis due to a
growing debt and budget deficit. By August 2017, the Treasury was
having difficulty paying its obligations. Other challenges
facing the country in its attempts to improve the economy by
increasing foreign investment include a poor infrastructure and a need
to improve public sector efficiency.
Costa Rica was sparsely inhabited by indigenous peoples before coming
under Spanish rule in the 16th century. It remained a peripheral
colony of the empire until independence as part of the short-lived
First Mexican Empire, followed by membership in the United Provinces
of Central America, from which it formally declared independence in
1847. Since then,
Costa Rica has remained among the most stable,
prosperous, and progressive nations in Latin America. Following the
brief Costa Rican Civil War, it permanently abolished its army in
1949, becoming one of only a few sovereign nations without a standing
The country has consistently performed favourably in the Human
Development Index (HDI), placing 69th in the world as of 2015[update],
among the highest of any Latin American nation. It has also been
cited by the
United Nations Development Programme
United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) as having
attained much higher human development than other countries at the
same income levels, with a better record on human development and
inequality than the median of the region.
Costa Rica also has progressive environmental policies. It is the only
country to meet all five
UNDP criteria established to measure
environmental sustainability. It was ranked 42nd in the world, and
third in the Americas, in the 2016 Environmental Performance
Index, and was twice ranked the best performing country in the New
Economics Foundation's (NEF) Happy Planet Index, which measures
environmental sustainability, and was identified by the NEF as
the greenest country in the world in 2009.
Costa Rica plans to
become a carbon-neutral country by 2021. By 2016, 98.1% of
its electricity was generated from green sources particularly
hydro, solar, geothermal and biomass.
1.1 Pre-Columbian period
1.2 Spanish colonization
1.4 Economic growth in the 19th Century
1.4.1 20th century
2.2 Flora and fauna
Debt and deficit issues
3.1.1 Liquidity crisis
3.2 Trade and foreign investment
4.1 Administrative divisions
4.2 Foreign relations
5.1 Largest cities
9 See also
11 Further reading
12 External links
Main article: History of Costa Rica
A stone sphere created by the
Diquis culture at the National Museum of
Costa Rica. The sphere is the icon of the country's cultural identity.
Historians have classified the indigenous people of
Costa Rica as
belonging to the Intermediate Area, where the peripheries of the
Andean native cultures overlapped. More recently,
Costa Rica has also been described as part of the
Stone tools, the oldest evidence of human occupation in Costa Rica,
are associated with the arrival of various groups of hunter-gatherers
about 10,000 to 7,000 years BCE in the
Turrialba Valley. The presence
Clovis culture type spearheads and arrows from
South America opens
the possibility that, in this area, two different cultures
Agriculture became evident in the populations that lived in Costa Rica
about 5,000 years ago. They mainly grew tubers and roots. For the
first and second millennia BCE there were already settled farming
communities. These were small and scattered, although the timing of
the transition from hunting and gathering to agriculture as the main
livelihood in the territory is still unknown.
The earliest use of pottery appears around 2,000 to 3,000 BCE. Shards
of pots, cylindrical vases, platters, gourds and other forms of vases
decorated with grooves, prints, and some modelled after animals have
The impact of indigenous peoples on modern Costa Rican culture has
been relatively small compared to other nations, since the country
lacked a strong native civilization to begin with. Most of the native
population was absorbed into the Spanish-speaking colonial society
through inter-marriage, except for some small remnants, the most
significant of which are the Bribri and Boruca tribes who still
inhabit the mountains of the Cordillera de Talamanca, in the
southeastern part of Costa Rica, near the frontier with Panama.
The name la costa rica, meaning "rich coast" in the Spanish language,
was in some accounts first applied by Christopher Columbus, who sailed
to the eastern shores of
Costa Rica during his final voyage in
1502, and reported vast quantities of gold jewelry worn by
natives. The name may also have come from conquistador Gil
González Dávila, who landed on the west coast in 1522, encountered
natives, and appropriated some of their gold.
Ujarrás historical site in the
Orosí Valley, Cartago province.
The church was built between 1686 and 1693.
During most of the colonial period,
Costa Rica was the southernmost
province of the Captaincy General of Guatemala, nominally part of the
Viceroyalty of New Spain. In practice, the captaincy general was a
largely autonomous entity within the Spanish Empire. Costa Rica's
distance from the capital of the captaincy in Guatemala, its legal
prohibition under Spanish law from trade with its southern neighbor
Panama, then part of the
Viceroyalty of New Granada
Viceroyalty of New Granada (i.e. Colombia),
and lack of resources such as gold and silver, made
Costa Rica into a
poor, isolated, and sparsely-inhabited region within the Spanish
Costa Rica was described as "the poorest and most
miserable Spanish colony in all America" by a Spanish governor in
Another important factor behind Costa Rica's poverty was the lack of a
significant indigenous population available for encomienda (forced
labor), which meant most of the Costa Rican settlers had to work on
their own land, preventing the establishment of large haciendas
(plantations). For all these reasons,
Costa Rica was, by and large,
unappreciated and overlooked by the Spanish Crown and left to develop
on its own. The circumstances during this period are believed to have
led to many of the idiosyncrasies for which
Costa Rica has become
known, while concomitantly setting the stage for Costa Rica's
development as a more egalitarian society than the rest of its
Costa Rica became a "rural democracy" with no oppressed
mestizo or indigenous class. It was not long before Spanish settlers
turned to the hills, where they found rich volcanic soil and a milder
climate than that of the lowlands.
Like the rest of Central America,
Costa Rica never fought for
independence from Spain. On September 15, 1821, after the final
Spanish defeat in the
Mexican War of Independence
Mexican War of Independence (1810–21), the
Guatemala declared the independence of all of Central
America. That date is still celebrated as Independence Day in Costa
Rica even though, technically, under the Spanish Constitution of 1812
that had been readopted in 1820,
Costa Rica had become
an autonomous province with its capital in León.
Upon independence, Costa Rican authorities faced the issue of
officially deciding the future of the country. Two bands formed, the
Imperialists, defended by Cartago and Heredia cities which were in
favor of joining the Mexican Empire, and the Republicans, represented
by the cities of San José and
Alajuela who defended full
independence. Because of the lack of agreement on these two possible
outcomes, the first civil war of
Costa Rica occurred. The battle of
Ochomogo (es) took place on the Hill of Ochomogo, located in the
Central Valley in 1823. The conflict was won by the Republicans and,
as a consequence, the city of Cartago lost its status as the capital,
which moved to San José.
The 1849 national coat of arms was featured in the first postal stamp
issued in 1862.
In 1838, long after the
Federal Republic of Central America
Federal Republic of Central America ceased to
function in practice,
Costa Rica formally withdrew and proclaimed
itself sovereign. The considerable distance and poor communication
Guatemala City and the Central Plateau, where most of
the Costa Rican population lived then and still lives now, meant the
local population had little allegiance to the federal government in
Guatemala. From colonial times to now, Costa Rica's reluctance to
become economically tied with the rest of
Central America has been a
major obstacle to efforts for greater regional integration.
Economic growth in the 19th Century
Coffee was first planted in
Costa Rica in 1808, and by the 1820s,
it surpassed tobacco, sugar, and cacao as a primary export. Coffee
production remained Costa Rica's principal source of wealth well into
the 20th century, creating a wealthy class of growers, the so-called
Coffee Barons. The revenue helped to modernize the
Most of the coffee exported was grown around the main centers of
population in the Central Plateau and then transported by oxcart to
the Pacific port of
Puntarenas after the main road was built in
1846. By the mid-1850s the main market for coffee was Britain.
It soon became a high priority to develop an effective transportation
route from the Central Plateau to the Atlantic Ocean. For this
purpose, in the 1870s, the Costa Rican government contracted with U.S.
Minor C. Keith
Minor C. Keith to build a railroad from San José to the
Caribbean port of Limón. Despite enormous difficulties with
construction, disease, and financing, the railroad was completed in
Costa Ricans descend from Jamaican immigrants who worked in
the construction of that railway and now make up about 3% of Costa
Rica's population. U.S. convicts, Italians and Chinese immigrants
also participated in the construction project. In exchange for
completing the railroad, the Costa Rican government granted Keith
large tracts of land and a lease on the train route, which he used to
produce bananas and export them to the United States. As a result,
bananas came to rival coffee as the principal Costa Rican export,
while foreign-owned corporations (including the United Fruit Company
later) began to hold a major role in the national economy and
eventually became a symbol of the exploitative export economy. The
major labor dispute between the peasants and the United Fruit Company
(The Great Banana Strike) was a major event in the country's history
and was an important step that would eventually lead to the formation
of effective trade unions in Costa Rica, as the company was required
to sign a collective agreement with its workers in 1938.
Costa Rica has generally enjoyed greater peace and more
consistent political stability than many of its fellow Latin American
nations. Since the late 19th century, however,
Costa Rica has
experienced two significant periods of violence. In 1917–19, General
Federico Tinoco Granados
Federico Tinoco Granados ruled as a military dictator until he was
overthrown and forced into exile. The unpopularity of Tinoco's regime
led, after he was overthrown, to a considerable decline in the size,
wealth, and political influence of the Costa Rican military. In 1948,
José Figueres Ferrer
José Figueres Ferrer led an armed uprising in the wake of a disputed
presidential election between
Rafael Ángel Calderón Guardia
Rafael Ángel Calderón Guardia (who had
been president between 1940 and 1944) and Otilio Ulate Blanco.
With more than 2,000 dead, the resulting 44-day Costa Rican Civil War
was the bloodiest event in
Costa Rica during the 20th century.
The victorious rebels formed a government junta that abolished the
military altogether, and oversaw the drafting of a new constitution by
a democratically elected assembly. Having enacted these reforms,
the junta transferred power to Ulate on November 8, 1949. After the
coup d'état, Figueres became a national hero, winning the country's
first democratic election under the new constitution in 1953. Since
Costa Rica has held 14 presidential elections, the latest in
2014. With uninterrupted democracy dating back to at least 1948, the
country is the region's most stable.
Geography of Costa Rica
Geography of Costa Rica and List of earthquakes in
Costa Rica map of Köppen climate classification
Costa Rica is located on the Central American isthmus, lying between
latitudes 8° and 12°N, and longitudes 82° and 86°W. It borders the
Caribbean Sea (to the east) and the
Pacific Ocean (to the west), with
a total of 1,290 kilometres (800 mi) of coastline, 212 km
(132 mi) on the Caribbean coast and 1,016 km (631 mi)
on the Pacific.
Costa Rica also borders
Nicaragua to the north
(309 km or 192 mi of border) and
Panama to the
south-southeast (330 km or 210 mi of border). In total,
Costa Rica comprises 51,100 square kilometres (19,700 sq mi)
plus 589 square kilometres (227 sq mi) of territorial
The highest point in the country is Cerro Chirripó, at 3,819 metres
(12,530 ft); it is the fifth highest peak in Central America. The
highest volcano in the country is the
Irazú Volcano (3,431 m or
11,257 ft) and the largest lake is Lake Arenal. There are 14
known volcanoes in Costa Rica, and six of them have been active in the
last 75 years. The country has also experienced at least ten
earthquakes of magnitude 5.7 or higher (3 of magnitude 7.0 or higher)
in the last century.
Costa Rica also comprises several islands.
Cocos Island (24 square
kilometres or 9.3 square miles) stands out because of its distance
from the continental landmass, 480 kilometres (300 mi) from
Isla Calero is the largest island of the country
(151.6 square kilometres or 58.5 square miles). Over 25% of Costa
Rica's national territory is protected by
SINAC (the National System
of Conservation Areas), which oversees all of the country's protected
Costa Rica also possesses the greatest density of species in
Costa Rica is located between 8 and 12 degrees north of the
Equator, the climate is tropical year round. However, the country has
many microclimates depending on elevation, rainfall, topography, and
by the geography of each particular region.
Costa Rica's seasons are defined by how much rain falls during a
particular period. The year can be split into two periods, the dry
season known to the residents as summer (verano), and the rainy
season, known locally as winter (invierno). The "summer" or dry season
goes from December to April, and "winter" or rainy season goes from
May to November, which almost coincides with the Atlantic hurricane
season, and during this time, it rains constantly in some regions.
The location receiving the most rain is the Caribbean slopes of the
Cordillera Central mountains, with an annual rainfall of over
5,000 mm (196.9 in). Humidity is also higher on the
Caribbean side than on the Pacific side. The mean annual temperature
on the coastal lowlands is around 27 °C (81 °F),
20 °C (68 °F) in the main populated areas of the
Cordillera Central, and below 10 °C (50 °F) on the summits
of the highest mountains.
Climate data for Costa Rica
Average high °C (°F)
Average low °C (°F)
Average precipitation mm (inches)
Percent possible sunshine
Flora and fauna
Further information: Wildlife of Costa Rica
Red-eyed Tree Frog (Agalychnis callidryas)
Heliconius doris Linnaeus butterfly of Costa Rica
Costa Rica is home to a rich variety of plants and animals. While the
country has only about 0.03% of the world's landmass, it contains 5%
of the world's biodiversity. Around 25% of the country's land
area is in protected national parks and protected areas, the
largest percentage of protected areas in the world (developing world
average 13%, developed world average 8%).
Costa Rica has
successfully managed to diminish deforestation from some of the worst
rates in the world from 1973 to 1989, to almost zero by 2005.
One national park, the Corcovado National Park, is internationally
renowned among ecologists for its biodiversity (including big cats and
tapirs) and is where visitors can expect to see an abundance of
wildlife. Corcovado is the one park in
Costa Rica where all
four Costa Rican monkey species can be found. These include the
white-headed capuchin, the mantled howler, the endangered Geoffroy's
spider monkey, and the Central American squirrel monkey, found
only on the Pacific coast of
Costa Rica and a small part of Panama,
and considered endangered until 2008, when its status was upgraded to
vulnerable. Deforestation, illegal pet-trading, and hunting are the
main reasons for its threatened status.
Tortuguero National Park
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 and two-toed sloth; 320 species
of birds; and a variety of reptiles. The park is recognized for the
annual nesting of the endangered green turtle, and is the most
important nesting site for the species. Giant leatherback, hawksbill,
and loggerhead turtles also nest there. The Monteverde Cloud Forest
Reserve is home to about 2,000 plant species, including numerous
orchids. Over 400 types of birds and more than 100 species of mammals
can be found there.
Over 840 species of birds have been identified in Costa Rica. As is
the case in much of Central America, the avian species in Costa Rica
are a mix of North and South American species. The country's abundant
fruit trees, many of which bear fruit year round, are hugely important
to the birds, some of whom survive on diets that consist only of one
or two types of fruit. Some of the country's most notable avian
species include the resplendent quetzal, scarlet macaw, three-wattled
bellbird, bare-necked umbrellabird, and the keel-billed toucan.
Instituto Nacional de Biodiversidad
Instituto Nacional de Biodiversidad is allowed to collect
royalties on any biological discoveries of medical importance. Costa
Rica is a center of biological diversity for reptiles and amphibians,
including the world's fastest running lizard, the spiny-tailed iguana
Further information: List of rivers of Costa Rica
Intel microprocessor facility in
Costa Rica that was, at one time,
responsible for 20% of Costa Rican exports and 5% of the country's
Main article: Economy of Costa Rica
The country has been considered economically stable with moderate
inflation, estimated at 2.6% in 2017, and moderately high growth
in GDP, which increased from US$41.3 billion in 2011 to US$52.6
billion in 2015. The estimated GDP for 2017 is US$61.5 billion and
the estimated GDP per capita (purchasing power parity) is
US$12,382. The growing debt and budget deficit are the country's
That is a primary reason why the major credit rating agencies –
Standard & Poor's,
Moody's and Fitch – have downgraded Costa
Rica’s risk ratings. For example,
Moody's Investors Service in early
2017 reduced the rating to Ba2 from Ba1, with a negative outlook due
to the "rising government debt burden and persistently high fiscal
deficit, which was 5.2% of GDP in 2016" and the "lack of political
consensus to implement measures to reduce the fiscal deficit [which]
will result in further pressure on the government's debt ratios".
The country is currently debating major fiscal reform legislation to
cut the budget deficits and stop the growth in debt, one of the
highest in Latin America.
Many foreign companies (manufacturing and services) operate in Costa
Rica's Free Trade Zones (FTZ) where they benefit from investment and
tax incentives. Well over half of that type of investment has come
from the U.S. According to the government, the zones supported
over 82 thousand direct jobs and 43 thousand indirect jobs in
2015. Companies with facilities in the America Free Zone in
Heredia, for example, include Intel, Dell, HP, Bayer, Bosch, DHL, IBM
and Okay Industries.
Of the GDP, 5.5% is generated by agriculture, 18.6% by industry and
75.9% by services.(2016) Agriculture employs 12.9% of the labor
force, industry 18.57%, services 69.02% (2016) For the region, its
unemployment level is moderately high (8.2% in 2016, according to the
IMF). Although 20.5% of the population lives below the poverty
Costa Rica has one of the highest standards of living
in Central America.
High quality health care is provided by the government at low cost to
the users. Housing is also very affordable.
Costa Rica is
recognized in Latin America for the quality of its educational system.
Because of its educational system,
Costa Rica has one of the highest
literacy rates in Latin America, 97%. General Basic Education is
mandatory and provided without cost to the user. A US government
report confirms that the country has "historically placed a high
priority on education and the creation of a skilled work force" but
notes that the high school drop-out rate is increasing. As well, Costa
Rica would benefit from more courses in languages such as English,
Portuguese, Mandarin and French and also in Science, Technology,
Engineering and Math (STEM).
Debt and deficit issues
International Monetary Fund
International Monetary Fund stated in June 2017 that annual growth
in the economy was just over 4% and that the financial system was
sound. The IMF expressed concern however, about increasing
deficits and public debt as well as the heavy dollarization of bank
assets and liabilities. Costa Rica's public debt is problematic,
especially as a percentage of the GDP, increasing from 29.8% in 2011
to 40.8% in 2015. Of the proposed 2017 budget (US$15.9 billion),
debt payments account for one-third of the total and a full 46% of the
budget will require financing. That will increase the deficit and the
debt owed to foreign entities. The value of the Costa Rican colone
per US$1 was 526.46₡ on March 27, 2015. At the end of July 2017, the
value was 563₡. 
A 2017 study by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and
Development warned that reducing the foreign debt must be a very high
priority for the government. Other fiscal reforms were also
recommended to moderate the budget deficit. The IMF also
recommended debt reduction, with specific suggestions.
In early August 2017, President
Luis Guillermo Solís
Luis Guillermo Solís admitted that
the country was facing a "liquidity crisis" and promised that a higher
VAT tax and higher income tax rates were being considered by his
government. Such steps are essential,
Luis Guillermo Solís
Luis Guillermo Solís told the
nation, because it was facing difficulties in paying its obligations
and guaranteeing the provision of services." Solís explained that
the Treasury will prioritize payments on the public debt first, then
salaries, and then pensions. The subsequent priorities include
transfers to institutions “according to their social urgency.” All
other payments will be made only if funds are available.
Trade and foreign investment
Costa Rica has free trade agreements with many countries, including
the US. There are no significant trade barriers that would affect
imports and the country has been lowering its tariffs in accordance
with other Central American countries. The country's Free Trade
Zones provide incentives for manufacturing and service industries to
operate in Costa Rica. In 2015, the zones supported over 82 thousand
direct jobs and 43 thousand indirect jobs in 2015 and average wages in
the FTZ were 1.8 times greater than the average for private enterprise
work in the rest of the country. In 2016,
Amazon.com for example,
had some 3,500 employees in
Costa Rica and planned to increase that by
1,500 in 2017, making it an important employer.
The central location provides access to American markets and direct
ocean access to Europe and Asia. The most important exports in 2015
(in order of dollar value) were medical instruments, bananas, tropical
fruits, integrated circuits and orthopedic appliances. Total
imports in that year were US$15 billion. The most significant products
imported in 2015 (in order of dollar value) were refined petroleum,
automobiles, packaged medications, broadcasting equipment and
computers. The total exports were US$12.6 billion for a trade deficit
of US$2.39 billion in 2015.
A coffee plantation in the
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 and pineapples especially, but also other crops,
Coffee production played a key role in Costa
Rica's history and in 2006, was the third cash crop export. As a
Costa Rica now provides under 1% of the world’s
coffee production. In 2015, the value of coffee exports was
US$305.9 million, a small part of the total agricultural exports of
Coffee production increased by 13.7% percent in
2015-16, declined by 17.5% in 2016-17, but was expected to increase by
about 15% in the subsequent year.
Costa Rica has developed a system of payments for environmental
Costa Rica has a tax on water pollution to
penalize businesses and homeowners that dump sewage, agricultural
chemicals, and other pollutants into waterways. In May 2007, the
Costa Rican government announced its intentions to become 100% carbon
neutral by 2021. By 2015, 93 percent of the country's electricity
came from renewable sources. In 2016, the country produced 98% of
its electricity from renewable sources and ran completely on renewable
sources for 110 continuous days.
In 1996, the Forest Law was enacted to provide direct financial
incentives to landowners for the provision of environmental
services. This helped reorient the forestry sector away from
commercial timber production and the resulting deforestation, and
helped create awareness of the services it provides for the economy
and society (i.e., carbon fixation, hydrological services such as
producing fresh drinking water, biodiversity protection, and provision
of scenic beauty).
A 2016 report by the U.S. government report identifies other
Costa Rica as it works to expand its economy by
working with companies from the US (and probably from other
countries). The major concerns identified were as follows:
The ports, roads, railways and water delivery systems would benefit
from major upgrading, a concern voiced by other reports too.
Attempts by China to invest in upgrading such aspects were "stalled by
bureaucratic and legal concerns".
The bureaucracy is "often slow and cumbersome".
Poás Volcano Crater is one of the country's main tourist attractions.
Costa Rica stands as the most visited nation in the Central American
region, with 2.9 million foreign visitors in 2016, up 10% from
2015. In 2015, the tourism sector was responsible for 5.8% of the
country's GDP, or $3.4 billion. The lead country of origin to
Costa Rica in 2016 was the United States with 1,000,000
visitors, followed by Europe with 434,884 arrivals. According to
Costa Rica Vacations, once tourists arrive in the country, 22% go to
Tamarindo, 18% go to Arenal, 17% pass through Liberia (where the
Daniel Oduber Quiros International Airport is located), 16% go to San
José, the country’s capital (also passing through Juan Santamaria
Airport), while 18% chose Manuel Antonio and 7% Monteverde.
By 2004, tourism was generating more revenue and foreign exchange than
bananas and coffee combined. In 2016, the World Travel &
Tourism Council's estimates indicated a direct contribution to the GDP
of 5.1% and 110,000 direct jobs in Costa Rica; the total number of
jobs indirectly supported by tourism was 271,000.
A pioneer of ecotourism,
Costa Rica draws many tourists to its
extensive series of national parks and other protected areas. In
the 2011 Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Index,
Costa Rica ranked
44th in the world and second among Latin American countries after
Mexico in 2011. By the time of the 2017 report, the country had
reached 38th place, slightly behind Panama. The Ethical Traveler
group's ten countries on their 2017 list of The World’s Ten Best
Ethical Destinations includes Costa Rica. The country scored highest
in environmental protection among the winners.
Main article: Politics of Costa Rica
Provinces of Costa Rica
Main article: Administrative divisions of Costa Rica
Costa Rica is composed of seven provinces, which in turn are divided
into 81 cantons (Spanish: cantón, plural cantones), each of which is
directed by a mayor. Mayors are chosen democratically every four years
by each canton. There are no provincial legislatures. The cantons are
further divided into 473 districts (distritos). The provinces are:
Main article: Foreign relations of Costa Rica
The extent of Costa Rica's western
EEZ in the Pacific
Barack Obama and
Laura Chinchilla with Costa Rican children in San
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. It is also a member of many other international organizations
related to human rights and democracy, such as the Community of
Democracies. A main foreign policy objective of
Costa Rica is to
foster human rights and sustainable development as a way to secure
stability and growth.
Costa Rica is a member of the International Criminal Court, without a
Bilateral Immunity Agreement
Bilateral Immunity Agreement of protection for the United States
military (as covered under Article 98).
Costa Rica is an observer of
the Organisation internationale de la Francophonie.
On September 10, 1961, some months after
Fidel Castro declared
socialist state, Costa Rican President
Mario Echandi ended diplomatic
Cuba through Executive Decree Number 2. This freeze
lasted 47 years until President
Óscar Arias Sánchez re-established
normal relations on 18 March 2009, saying, "If we have been able to
turn the page with regimes as profoundly different to our reality as
occurred with the USSR or, more recently, with the Republic of China,
how would we not do it with a country that is geographically and
culturally much nearer to Costa Rica?" Arias announced that both
countries would exchange ambassadors.
Costa Rica has a long-term disagreement with
Nicaragua over the San
Juan River, which defines the border between the two countries, and
Costa Rica's rights of navigation on the river. In 2010, there
was also a dispute around Isla Calero, and the impact of Nicaraguan
dredging of the river in that area.
On July 14, 2009, the
International Court of Justice
International Court of Justice in the Hague
upheld Costa Rica's navigation rights for commercial purposes to
subsistence fishing on their side of the river. An 1858 treaty
extended navigation rights to Costa Rica, but
passenger travel and fishing were part of the deal; the court ruled
Costa Ricans on the river were not required to have Nicaraguan tourist
cards or visas as
Nicaragua argued, but, in a nod to the Nicaraguans,
ruled that Costa Rican boats and passengers must stop at the first and
last Nicaraguan port along their route. They must also have an
identity document or passport.
Nicaragua can also impose timetables on
Costa Rican traffic.
Nicaragua may require Costa Rican boats to
display the flag of Nicaragua, but may not charge them for departure
clearance from its ports. These were all specific items of contention
brought to the court in the 2005 filing.
On June 1, 2007,
Costa Rica broke diplomatic ties with Taiwan,
switching recognition to the People's Republic of China. Costa Rica
was the first of the Central American nations to do so. President
Óscar Arias Sánchez admitted the action was a response to economic
exigency. In response, the PRC built a new, $100 million,
state-of-the-art football stadium in Parque la Sabana, in the province
of San José. Approximately 600 Chinese engineers and laborers took
part in this project, and it was inaugurated in March 2011, with a
match between the national teams of
Costa Rica and China.
Costa Rica finished a term on the
United Nations Security Council,
having been elected for a nonrenewable, two-year term in the 2007
election. Its term expired on December 31, 2009; this was Costa Rica's
third time on the Security Council. Elayne Whyte Gómez is the
Permanent Representative of
Costa Rica to the UN Office at Geneva
(2017) and President of the
United Nations Conference to Negotiate a
Legally Binding Instrument to Prohibit Nuclear Weapons.
Main article: Demographics of Costa Rica
Costa Rican Censuses
The 2011 census counted a population of 4.3 million people
distributed among the following groups: 83.6% whites or mestizos, 6.7%
mulattoes, 2.4% Native American, 1.1% black or Afro-Caribbean; the
census showed 1.1% as Other, 2.9% (141,304 people) as None, and 2.2%
(107,196 people) as unspecified. By 2016, the UN estimation for the
population was around 4.9 million.
In 2011, there were over 104,000 Native American or indigenous
inhabitants, representing 2.4% of the population. Most of them live in
secluded reservations, distributed among eight ethnic groups:
Quitirrisí (es) (in the Central Valley), Matambú or Chorotega
(Guanacaste), Maleku (northern Alajuela), Bribri (southern Atlantic),
Cabécar (Cordillera de Talamanca), [] (southern Costa Rica, along
the Panamá border), Boruca (southern Costa Rica) and
Térraba (es) (southern Costa Rica).
The population includes European
Costa Ricans (of European ancestry),
primarily of Spanish descent, with significant numbers of Italian,
German, English, Dutch, French, Irish, Portuguese, and Polish
families, as well a sizable Jewish community. The majority of the
Costa Ricans are Creole English-speaking descendants of 19th
century black Jamaican immigrant workers.
Costa Rican school children
The 2011 census classified 83.6% of the population as white or
Mestizo; the latter are persons of combined European and Amerindian
Mulatto segment (mix of white and black) represented 6.7%
and indigenous people made up 2.4% of the population. Native and
European mixed blood populations are far less than in other Latin
American countries. Exceptions are Guanacaste, where almost half the
population is visibly mestizo, a legacy of the more pervasive unions
between Spanish colonists and Chorotega Amerindians through several
generations, and Limón, where the vast majority of the Afro-Costa
Rican community lives.
Costa Rica hosts many refugees, mainly from
Colombia and Nicaragua. As
a result of that and illegal immigration, an estimated 10–15%
(400,000–600,000) of the Costa Rican population is made up of
Nicaraguans. Some Nicaraguans migrate for seasonal work
opportunities and then return to their country.
Costa Rica took in
many refugees from a range of other Latin American countries fleeing
civil wars and dictatorships during the 1970s and 1980s, notably from
Chile and Argentina, as well as people from
El Salvador who fled from
guerrillas and government death squads.
According to the World Bank, in 2010 about 489,200 immigrants lived in
the country, many from Nicaragua, Panama, El Salvador, Honduras,
Guatemala, and Belize, while 125,306
Costa Ricans live abroad in the
United States, Panama, Nicaragua, Spain, Mexico, Canada, Germany,
Venezuela, Dominican Republic, and Ecuador. The number of
migrants declined in later years but in 2015, there were some 420,000
immigrants in Costa Rica and the number of asylum seekers (mostly
from Honduras, El Salvador,
Guatemala and Nicaragua) rose to more than
110,000, a fivefold increase from 2012. In 2016, the country was
called a "magnet" for migrants from South and
Central America and
other countries who were hoping to reach the U.S.
Further information: List of cities in Costa Rica
Largest cities or towns in Costa Rica
333 980 (2015)
Religion in Costa Rica
Other religions (2.2%)
Main article: Religion in Costa Rica
Basílica de Nuestra Señora de los Ángeles (Basilica of Our Lady of
the Angels), during 2007 pilgrimage
Christianity is Costa Rica's predominant religion, with Roman
Catholicism being the official state religion according to the 1949
Constitution, which at the same time guarantees freedom of religion.
It is the only state in the
Americas which established Roman
Catholicism as its state religion; other such countries are
microstates in Europe: Liechtenstein, Monaco, the
Vatican City and
According to the most recent nationwide survey of religion, conducted
in 2007 by the University of Costa Rica, 70.5% of
Costa Ricans are
Roman Catholics (44.9% practicing Catholics), 13.8% are Evangelical
Protestants (almost all are practicing), 11.3% report that they do not
have a religion, and 4.3% belong to another religion. The rate of
secularism is high by Latin American standards.
Due to small, but continuous, immigration from Asia and the Middle
East, other religions have grown, the most popular being Buddhism,
with about 100,000 practitioners (over 2% of the population).
Most Buddhists are members of the
Han Chinese community of about
40,000 with some new local converts. There is also a small Muslim
community of about 500 families, or 0.001% of the population.
The Sinagoga Shaarei Zion synagogue is near La Sabana
Metropolitan Park in San José. Several homes in the neighborhood east
of the park display the
Star of David
Star of David and other Jewish symbols.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints claims more than
35,000 members, and has a temple in San José that served as a
regional worship center for Costa Rica. However, they represent
less than 1% of the population.
Main article: Languages of Costa Rica
The primary language spoken in
Costa Rica is Spanish, which features
characteristics distinct to the country, a form of Central American
Costa Rica is a linguistically diverse country and home to at
least five living local indigenous languages spoken by the descendants
of pre-Columbian peoples: Maléku, Cabécar, Bribri, Guaymí, and
Of native languages still spoken, primarily in indigenous
reservations, the most numerically important are the Bribri, Maléku,
Cabécar and Ngäbere languages; some of these have several thousand
Costa Rica while others have a few hundred. Some
languages, such as Teribe and Boruca, have fewer than a thousand
speakers. The Buglere language and the closely related Guaymí are
spoken by some in southeast Puntarenas.
A Creole-English language, Jamaican patois (also known as Mekatelyu),
is an English-based Creole language spoken by the Afro-Carib
immigrants who have settled primarily in
Limón Province along the
About 10.7% of Costa Rica's adult population (18 or older) also speaks
English, 0.7% French, and 0.3% speaks Portuguese or German as a second
Costa Rican breakfast with gallo pinto
Las Carretas (oxcarts) are a national symbol.
Main article: Culture of Costa Rica
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 16th century.
The central and southern portions of the country had Chibcha
influences. The Atlantic coast, meanwhile, was populated with African
workers during the 17th and 18th centuries.
As a result of the immigration of Spaniards, their 16th-century
Spanish culture and its evolution marked everyday life and culture
until today, with
Spanish language and the Catholic religion as
The Department of Culture, Youth, and Sports is in charge of the
promotion and coordination of cultural life. The work of the
department is divided into Direction of Culture, Visual Arts, Scenic
Arts, Music, Patrimony and the System of Libraries. Permanent
programs, such as the National Symphony Orchestra of
Costa Rica and
the Youth Symphony Orchestra, are conjunctions of two areas of work:
Culture and Youth.
Dance-oriented genres, such as soca, salsa, bachata, merengue, cumbia
and Costa Rican swing are enjoyed increasingly by older rather than
younger people. The guitar is popular, especially as an accompaniment
to folk dances; however, the marimba was made the national instrument.
In November 2017,
National Geographic magazine named
Costa Rica as the
happiest country in the world. The article included this summary:
Costa Ricans enjoy the pleasure of living daily life to the fullest
in a place that mitigates stress and maximizes joy". It is not
surprising then that one of the most recognizable phrases among
"Ticos" is "Pura Vida", pure life in a literal translation. It
reflects the inhabitant's philosophy of life, denoting a simple
life, free of stress, a positive, relaxed feeling. The expression
is used in various contexts in conversation. Often, people
walking down the streets, or buying food at shops say hello by saying
Pura Vida. It can be phrased as a question or as an acknowledgement of
one's presence. A recommended response to "How are you?" would be
"Pura Vida." In that usage, it might be translated as "awesome",
indicating that all is very well. When used as a question, the
connotation would be "everything is going well?" or "how are
Costa Rica rates 12th on the 2017
Happy Planet Index
Happy Planet Index in the World
Happiness Report by the UN but the country is said to be the
happiest in Latin America. Reasons include the high level of social
services, the caring nature of its inhabitants, long life expectancy
and relatively low corruption.
Further information: Costa Rican cuisine
Costa Rican cuisine
Costa Rican cuisine is a blend of Native American, Spanish, African
and many other cuisine origins. Dishes such as the very traditional
tamale and many others made of corn are the most representative of its
indigenous inhabitants, and similar to other neighboring Mesoamerican
countries. Spaniards brought many new ingredients to the country from
other lands, especially spices and domestic animals. And later in the
19th century, the African flavor lent its presence with influence from
other Caribbean mixed flavors. This is how
Costa Rican cuisine
Costa Rican cuisine today
is very varied, with every new ethnic group who had recently become
part of the country's population influencing the country's
Costa Rica at the Olympics
Costa Rica at the Olympics and
Association football in
Claudia Poll won Costa Rica's first Olympic gold medal in 1996.
Costa Rica entered the
Summer Olympics for the first time in 1936 with
Bernardo de la Guardia and the
Winter Olympics for the
first time in 1980 with the skier Arturo Kinch. All four of Costa
Rica's Olympic medals were won by the sisters Silvia and Claudia Poll
in swimming, with Claudia winning the only gold medal in 1996.
Football is the most popular sport in Costa Rica. The national team
has played in four
FIFA World Cup
FIFA World Cup tournaments and reached the
quarter-finals for the first time in 2014. Its best
performance in the regional
CONCACAF Gold Cup
CONCACAF Gold Cup was runner-up in 2002.
Paulo Wanchope, a forward who played for three clubs in England's
Premier League in the late 1990s and early 2000s, is credited with
enhancing foreign recognition of Costa Rican football.[citation
Main article: Education in Costa Rica
The literacy rate in
Costa Rica is approximately 97 percent and
English is widely spoken primarily due to Costa Rica’s tourism
industry. When the army was abolished in 1949, it was said that
the "army would be replaced with an army of teachers". Universal
public education is guaranteed in the constitution; primary education
is obligatory, and both preschool and high school are free. Students
who finish 11th grade receive a Costa Rican Bachillerato Diploma
accredited by the Costa Rican Ministry of Education.
There are both state and private universities. The University of Costa
Rica has been awarded the title "Meritorious Institution of Costa
Rican Education and Culture".
A 2016 report by the U.S. government report identifies the current
challenges facing the education system, including the high dropout
rate among high school students. The country needs even more workers
who are fluent in English and languages such as Portuguese, Mandarin
and French. It would also benefit from more graduates in Science,
Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) programs, according to the
Main article: Health care in Costa Rica
According to the UNDP, in 2010 the life expectancy at birth for Costa
Ricans was 79.3 years. The
Nicoya Peninsula is considered one of
the Blue Zones in the world, where people commonly live active lives
past the age of 100 years. The New Economics Foundation
Costa Rica first in its 2009 Happy Planet Index, and once
again in 2012. The index measures the health and happiness they
produce per unit of environmental input. According to NEF,
Costa Rica's lead is due to its very high life expectancy which is
second highest in the Americas, and higher than the United States. The
country also experienced well-being higher than many richer nations
and a per capita ecological footprint one-third the size of the United
In 2002, there were 0.58 new general practitioner (medical)
consultations and 0.33 new specialist consultations per capita, and a
hospital admission rate of 8.1%. Preventive health care is also
successful. In 2002, 96% of Costa Rican women used some form of
contraception, and antenatal care services were provided to 87% of all
pregnant women. All children under one have access to well-baby
clinics, and the immunization coverage rate in 2002 was above 91% for
all antigens.
Costa Rica has a very low malaria
incidence of 48 per 100,000 in 2000 and no reported cases of measles
in 2002. The perinatal mortality rate dropped from 12.0 per 1000 in
1972 to 5.4 per 1000 in 2001.
Costa Rica has been cited in various journals as Central America's
great health success story. Its healthcare system is
ranked higher than that of the United States, despite having a
fraction of its GDP. Prior to 1940, government hospitals and
charities provided most health care. But since the 1941 creation of
the Social Insurance Administration (Caja Costarricense de Seguro
Social – CCSS),
Costa Rica has provided universal health care to its
wage-earning residents, with coverage extended to dependants over
time. In 1973, the CCSS took over administration of all 29 of the
country's public hospitals and all health care, also launching a Rural
Health Program (Programa de Salud Rural) for primary care to rural
areas, later extended to primary care services nationwide. In 1993,
laws were passed to enable elected health boards that represented
health consumers, social insurance representatives, employers, and
social organizations. By the year 2000, social health insurance
coverage was available to 82% of the Costa Rican population. Each
health committee manages an area equivalent to one of the 83
administrative cantons of Costa Rica. There is limited use of private,
for-profit services (around 14.4% of the national total health
expenditure). About 7% of GDP is allocated to the health sector, and
over 70% is government funded.
Primary health care facilities in
Costa Rica include health clinics,
with a general practitioner, nurse, clerk, pharmacist and a primary
health technician. In 2008, there were five specialty national
hospitals, three general national hospitals, seven regional hospitals,
13 peripheral hospitals, and 10 major clinics serving as referral
centers for primary care clinics, which also deliver biopsychosocial
services, family and community medical services and promotion and
prevention programs. Patients can choose private health care to avoid
waiting lists.
Costa Rica is among the Latin America countries that have become
popular destinations for medical tourism. In 2006, Costa
Rica received 150,000 foreigners that came for medical
Costa Rica is particularly attractive to
Americans due to geographic proximity, high quality of medical
services, and lower medical costs.
Since 2012, smoking in
Costa Rica is subject to some of the most
restrictive regulations in the world.
North America portal
Central America portal
Latin America portal
Costa Rica portal
Index of Costa Rica-related articles
Outline of Costa Rica
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