Country Costa Rica

Costa Rica

Costa Rica is a country of North America

with a surface area of 51,100 km² (density of 84.18 inhab./km²). The population of Costa Rica is 4,301,712 inhabitants in the last census.The capital of Costa Rica is the city of San José which has 309,672 inhabitants. The president of the unitary presidential constitutional republic is Laura Chinchilla.

Costa Rica

 “That work and peace live forever”

The Costa Rica or Republic of Costa Rica is a country located in Central America dividing of the borders with Nicaragua and Panama. The country is bordered by the Caribbean Sea in the east and by the Pacific Ocean in the west. The island Coconuts called “the island with the (French) Treasury” located at 550 kilometers off the continent is attached to Costa Rica.

To note: in French one speaks indifferently about Costa Ricans and Costa Rican even if etymologically, it would be necessary to choose “Costa Rican”.

List of current heads of state and government

President Carlos Alvarado Quesada

Country religion

Christian 95.8%
Agnostic 2.8%
Chinese Universalist 0.5%
Bahá'í 0.3%
Ethnoreligionist 0.2%
Atheist 0.2%

Costa Rica at a glance

 Constitutional republic

Capital: San José

Administrative divisions: 7 provinces divided into 81 cantons

Population: nearly 5 million inhabitants

Principal language: Spanish

Principal religion: Christianity

Current president: Luis Guillermo Solís

Currency: Colón (1 colón = 100 centimes)

Conversion into euro: 100 colón = 0.15 euro

Tourism: little particular restriction but vigilance is advised because of the facts of delinquency often related to the drug trafficking. It is also necessary to be protected from the punctures from mosquito.

A volcanic country

 Located at the center of the isthmus of Central America, Costa Rica stretches himself between the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea and enters nearly 1,300 kilometers of coasts.

The relief of the center of the country is formed by several cordilleras of volcanic origin. There are 116 volcanos including five in activity in Costa Rica. The tourists are numerous to climb the slopes of the Poás stratovolcano whose basin is occupied by an acid lake with the toxic sulphuretted vapors and whose crater measuring 1,320 meters in diameter is largest of the world. The Rincón volcano of Vieja is known for its fumaroles and its ponds of mud which testify to its activity while Irazú attracts by the major green of its acid lake. On the other hand, the Turrialba stratovolcano is interdict with the visitors because of the many eruptions recorded since 2010, after more than one century of sleep.

The cordillera of Talamanca is the highest chain of Central America and shelters the summit of the country, Cerro Chirripó, with 3,820 meter altitudes. The tormented relief of this solid mass was formed following an intense volcanic activity during the Eocene, followed by the movement of the tectonic plates (the Coconut plate located in the Pacific Ocean raised the Caribbean plate) and finally by the erosion of the tops during the glaciations of Pleistocene.

The climate changes according to the altitude and of the exposure of the cordillera. It is very wet on the slopes is while the western slopes benefit from one season dries from December to April.

These climatic differences explain the diversity of the biotopes including of the “forests of cloud” plunged in a permanent fog as well as forests of cane-apple bush and bamboos. Finally the paramó form the last zone of vegetation before the eternal snow. One counts there a specific flora including of grasses, the dwarf shrubs and the endemic plants in the Andes.

The mountainous part of Costa Rica has a diversified fauna and it is not rare to meet pumas, jaguars, monkeys, different rodent and batrachians as well as numerous species from birds of which the splendid Quetzal gleaming or the toucanet emerald. 

The cordilleras are bordered in the west and the east by plains which go down in the direction of the Pacific Ocean and from the Caribbean Sea. Many seaside resorts took seat along the beaches of the ocean which attract the surfers of the whole world.

Costa Rica benefits from a climate of the intertropical type divided into three geographical zones: lowlands with wet climate along the littoral, the central valley with moderate climate and cordilleras with mountainous climate above 1,500 meter altitudes.

The volcanic island Coconuts is uninhabited and is used as refuge with numerous species of marine birds. Its particularly wet climate allowed the installation of a luxuriant tropical forest which shelters endemic animals. In order to preserve this corner of paradise as well as the coral reefs and the marine animal-life (dolphins, whales, false orcs, hammerheads…), a national park was created, in particular prohibiting the fishing season in the protected areas. This one was registered on the list of the world heritage of UNESCO.

Tourism on the island and the scuba diving are subjected to strict controls.

The origin of the settlement of Costa Rica

At present, it is estimated that Costa Rica was discovered by hominids in the neighborhoods of 12,000 before our era. The country was then crossed by North-American tribes on the way for South America. Some of them settle in the country and live agriculture from 4,000 before JC.

Gradually, structured and hierarchical small firms emergent, influenced at the same time by the North-American and South American cultures.

The Guayabo civilisation

During the first millennium before our era, a civilization develops around Guayabo, in the center of the country. The site was discovered at the beginning of the 19th century but it was victim of plunderers because of the little of interest on behalf of the government and the total lack of protection.

It should be waited until 1968 so that it is truly studied by the Public University of the Republic of Costa Rica. Today Guayabo became a national monument and the zone is strictly protected.

A part only of the site was excavated but it already revealed many buildings separated by roadways paved as well as the existence from a sophisticated hydrographic system including aqueducts, drains and water tanks and which are still in operating condition. The inhabitants of Guayabo have a perfect command of engraving on stone, goldsmithery and the pottery.

This civilization which was most important of Costa Rica pre-Colombian is extinct brutally towards 1,400 after JC for a still unknown reason.

At that time, several scattered tribes occupy the country. They develop cities of the urban type and have in particular in common a religion polytheist, the practice of slavery, funerary rites and human sacrifices. They are regularly devoted to inter-tribal wars in order to annex new territories.

Situation on arrival of Europeans

The day before the arrival of Europeans, the Chorotega tribe probably originating in Mexico and arrival in Costa Rica at the 9th century develops an important culture in the North-West of the country, the tribe of Huetar living of hunting, the fishing season and of agriculture north occupies and part of the peaceful littoral, Bribri and Kékölki are installed along the Caribbean Sea and finally Brunkas originating in Colombia occupies the south of the littoral of the Pacific. This last group is at the origin of the megalithic whole of the “Mow Bolas”, several hundreds of spheres carved in the gabbro, a magmatic plutonic rock formed by the cooling of the magma. It is very difficult to date these sculptures which can measure until 2 meters in diameter and which were probably carried out with the whole beginning of our era. So assumptions of most serious with most eccentric were put forth, these spheres keep all their mystery today.

The arrival of the Spanish

It is with the whole beginning of the 16th century, to be precise in 1502 that Christophe Colomb unloads in Costa Rica, in the area of Puerto Limón, on the coast of the Caribbean. The explorer surfs then towards the south and meets the Guaymi Indians in Panama. Dazzled by their gold ornaments, Colomb baptizes all the area “Costa Rica” meaning rich coast.

A few years later, two other explorers elected by the king of Spain, Aloso de Ojeda and Diego de Nicuesa unload in their turn in Panama and seize baptized territories “Terra Firme”, a term which will be used to indicate all the Spanish colony extending along the Pacific Ocean and Atlantic Ocean, Caribbean Sea.

Terra Firme is divided into two part, Ojeda obtains News-Andalusia corresponding to part of Venezuela, Brazil and of Guyana while Nicuesa obtains the province of Veragua including part of the Central America and Colombia.

This attempt at colonization fails quickly in front of the opposition of the Indians who attack the Spanishs and burn their own harvests in order to push back and starve the colonists.

Moreover, the colonists revolt against Nicuesa considered to be too authoritative and especially too miserly and oblige it from to go away. Vasco Nuñez de Balboa appointed additional governor of Veragua of new territories and thus reached the Pacific Coast of the Panamanian isthmus.

In 1513, the province is renamed “Castille d'Or” by the king Ferdinand II and Pedro Arias de Avila takes his functions of governor the following year. Nuñez de Balboa is prisoner under sentence of death for usurpation and carried out in 1519.

In 1522, forwarding begin again in particular to Costa Rica but no true colony manages to be established before 1561 when Juan de Cavallón and, later, Juan Vásquez de Coronado settle in the area of the Irazú mount and found the Cartago capital. This city is still today the religious capital of the country.

Fine strategist, Coronado manages to alleviate most of the Indian population.

Costa Rica is entirely conquered by the Spanish in the neighborhoods of 1580.

Very quickly, Spain ignores the Costa Rica who does not conceal goldmines and the rare colonists who settle there are obliged to work the ground to survive but do not manage to found great agricultural domains. The Indians and the Spanish have statutes and a standard of living equivalents and live according to a model of semi-autonomy.

The Federal republic of Central America

In 1824, Costa Rica, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua and, later, Los Violas which formed the “general Harbor office of Guatemala” gather to found the Federal republic of Central America.

The general Harbor office of Guatemala founded in 1540 gathered part of the American colonies of Spain. The first movements claiming independence occur in El Salvador in 1811. Quickly, the Creoles who take as a model the United States of America manage to raise the people against Spain. The provinces proclaim independent the ones after the others to form the Plain Provinces of Central America in order to counter the ambitions of Mexico which wishes to annex these new States. Only Chiapas accepts its annexation.

However, the agreement is not with go and of the wars burst between the states but also within those, between the partisans of the federation and those which wish to see its dissolution.

Finally, the Republic is dissolved in 1839.

The independence of Costa Rica

 The Costa Rica who had withdrawn himself from the Federal republic in 1838 knows a beautiful economic advancement thanks to the construction of the railroad and development of the banana and coffee plantations.

The country must however cope with the ambitions of the American freebooters carried out by William Walker, an adventurer who tries to conquer the Latin America. Walker who already has with his credit the catch of Mexican territories and of Nicaragua of which he proclaims president must face the Costa Rican troops in 1856, first steps of the “National campaign of Costa Rica”. Undergoing heavy defeats, Walker goes on May 1st, 1857 and will be carried out three years later whereas it carried out a new forwarding against Honduras.

The victory of Costa Rica confirms his position of independent State extremely whereas the first democratic elections of the country are organized.

The “cafetaleros” which hold the large plantations of Costa Rica and which take more and more importance in the country manage to reverse President Flores and to replace it by Federico Tinoco who establishes a dictatorial mode of 1917 to 1919. It is the only true episode of authoritative policy which Costa Rica knew.

The economic crisis of 1929 as well as a catastrophic management of the country with in the chair Rafael Angel Calderon who carries out important social reforms but draws from the public funds lead the country to a short civil war but of a great violence opposing the government army and the troops raised by José Figueres Ferrer, in 1948.

José Figueres Ferrer will be elected with three recoveries chair of Costa Rica, in 1948, in 1953 and in 1970. He is founder of the Party National Release (PLN) which is still today one of the main parties of the country. To shoe adopts a liberal policy and grants in particular the right to vote to the women and to the black population. It also will remove completely the army of the country and will replace it by a “police” charged to maintain the order. This decision made it possible to Costa Rica to be called “Switzerland of the Central America”.

Since 2014, it is a member of the Party of Action Citizen, Luis Guillermo Solis Rivera who is president of Costa Rica.

Political life

Costa Rica is a multiparty republic whose president who is at the same time the Head of the State and the chief of the government is elected for one 4 years duration.

The legislative power is exerted by the National Assembly.

The judicial power is exerted by the Supreme Court of justice and the constitutional Room.

A stable economy

 The life in Costa Rica is easier than in the other countries of Central America in particular thanks to its social protection systems and of education which made it possible to reduce poverty considerably.

In spite of a slight decrease of its growth rate, the economy of Costa Rica is maintained and managed to diversify. The situation of the country also encourages the foreign investments.

The agriculture and exports of the agricultural products whose coffee and bananas as to a lesser extent sugar cane are important resources for the country.

However, Costa Rica managed to diversify in particular in the IT sector and electronics and that of tourism.

The meeting of two cultures

The total population of Costa Rica approaches the 5 million inhabitants. The majority of Costa Rican is of Spanish origin while the Aboriginal population represent less than 1% of the population. An important original Community in Nicaragua is also established in Costa Rica following the migratory wave of the Nicaraguans who fled their country during the guerrilla carried out by Augusto Sandino.

It should be noted that the country does not have an army.

More than 90% of the population of Costa Rica speak Costa Rican Spanish called “pachuco” or “Castilian” like mother tongue. This language differs slightly from classical Spanish. Some Amerindian languages are still spoken in the country.

Christianity is the most important religion from the country which counts 62% of Catholics and 25% E Protestant. However the Costa Rican ones are little practitioners.

The Costa Rican culture is influenced at the same time by the United States and the countries of South America, a consequence of its geographical position, true hyphen between the two worlds.

The gastronomy is not the strong point of the Costa Rica whose kitchen wants to be especially copier. The traditional dish gallo pinto containing rice and of black beans is proposed regularly with the menu and has a whole series of alternatives, accompanied by meat, egg, plantains….

Along the littoral, the dishes of grilled fishes or fried and the octopus salads are the meets preferred of the Costa Rican ones. The fruits and rice with the bed are about the only desserts proposed.

With the ray of drinks, the fruit juices and the coffee are the kings but the inhabitants do not scorn beer or glass of rum.


 A visa is not necessary for the stays of less than 90 days. It is however necessary to have a valid passport and to be in possession of a plane ticket return or to be able to justify resources covering the duration of the stay.

Costa Rica is a relatively sure destination but vigilance remains of setting because of the delinquency, the flights and the aggressions often related to drug. It is also necessary to show prudence during displacements, the very steep roads are often dangerous.

The bathe apart from the supervised zones can be dangerous because of the high tension currents along the coasts. The excursions in mountain must be done accompanied by a tested guide.

No vaccination is obligatory but it is however recommended to be in order of vaccines against the diphtheria-tetanus-poliomyelitis, the typhoid fever, the viral hepatitis and the rage like against rubella, the ear-pieces and measles for the children. It is necessary to be protected from the punctures of mosquito responsible for paludism, the dengue and Chikungunya.

Costa Rica is a country enchanter for the tourists in search of nature and of authenticity. Paradisiac beaches with the trekking in the cordilleras via the visit of the archaeological sites or the coffee plantations, the activities and the discoveries do not miss.

With the program of the sites to be missed under no pretext, let us note Cartago, the first capital of the country, the Gardens of the La Paz Cascade and its profusion of butterflies and of birds, excused them at the top of the volcanos and of course the beaches Samara and Santa Teresa, of the paradises for the amateurs of surfing.

Costa Rica flag

Costa Rica flag


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