Costa Rica

Corcovado National ParkCosta Rica, "rich coast" in Spanish, is located in Central America, bordered by Nicaragua to the north, Panama to the south, the Pacific Ocean to the west, and the Caribbean Sea to the east.

Costa Rica has become a popular nature travel destination, and its main competitive advantage is its well-established system of national parks and protected areas, covering around 23.4% of the country's land area, the largest in the world as a percentage of the country's territory, and home to a rich variety of flora and fauna, in a country that has only 0.03% of the world's landmass, but that is estimated to contain 5% of the world's biodiversity.

Costa Rica is known for its progressive environmental policies, being the only country to meet all five criteria established to measure environmental sustainability. It is ranked fifth in the world, and first among the Americas, in the 2012 Environmental Performance Index.

Costa Rica historically managed to stay away from the political turmoil and violence from which neighboring nations still suffer. The nation constitutionally abolished its army permanently in 1948. It has also managed to be the only Latin American country included in the list of the world's 22 oldest democracies, paying homage to its stance as a peaceful and politically stable nation.

General Information

  • Capital and largest city: San José
  • Official language: Spanish, although a large percentage speak English.
  • Population: 4,586,353 (2011 census)
  • Area: 51,100 km2.
  • Currency: Costa Rican colón (₡, CRC)
  • Country code: (506)
  • Time zone: CST (UTC−6).
  • Climate: Tropical with two seasons per year, dry season (December-April) and rainy (rest of the year).

Government

The politics of Costa Rica take place in a framework of a presidential representative democratic republic, with a multi-party system. Executive power is exercised by the president and his cabinet, and the President of Costa Rica is both the head of state and head of government. Legislative power is vested in the Legislative Assembly. The president and 57 Legislative Assembly deputies are elected for 4-year terms. The Judiciary operates independent of the executive and the legislature but remains involved in the political process. Costa Rica is a republic with a strong system of constitutional checks and balances.

On December 1, 1948, President José Figueres Ferrer of Costa Rica abolished the military of Costa Rica. In 1949, the abolition of the military was introduced in Article 12 of the Costa Rican Constitution. The budget previously dedicated to the military now is dedicated to security, education and culture.

Costa Rica is composed of seven provinces, which in turn are divided into 81 cantons, 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.


Geography

Costa Rica is located on the Central American isthmus. 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 waters.

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.

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, 300 mi (480 km) from Puntarenas, but Calero Island is the largest island of the country (151.6 square kilometres or 58.5 square miles). Over 25% of the country's national territory is protected by SINAC (the National System of Conservation Areas), which oversees all of the country's protected areas. Costa Rica also possesses the greatest density of species in the world.


Climate

Because 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, and the rainy season, known locally as winter. 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.


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. 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.

Costa Rica is one of the world's most popular destinations for eco-tourists because of its biodiversity. Both tropical plant and animal species abound. Some of the more impressive plants range from huge ficus trees with epiphytes abounding on their limbs to approximately 1500 different orchids. The animals are equally as impressive, whether it's a jaguar (the largest cat in the New World), the ever-elusive Margay, or the wonderful birds like the green or scarlet macaws (lapas in Costa Rican Spanish.) The amphibians are also quite impressive; the poison dart frogs with their bright colors are bound to catch your attention, or the giant cane toads.




Information for travelers

As in most of the countries, in order to visit Costa Rica, travelers must hold a valid passport, valid during the following 6 months from the entry date to Costa Rica. Traveler's are allowed for a 90 days stay, except in some cases. For more information check www.visitcostarica.com

Airports

There are two international airports in Costa Rica:

  • Juan Santamaría International Airport (SJO) is the largest and it is located in Alajuela, just 18 km (12 miles) from the capital San José. The airport is named after Juan Santamaría, Costa Rica's national hero because of his participation in the National Campaign of 1856-1857.
  • Daniel Oduber International Airport (LIR), also known as Liberia International Airport, is located in northwestern Costa Rica, in Liberia, province of Guanacaste. It is 217 km northwest of the capital San José. Its location, only a few miles from the closest beach, makes it an ideal gateway to some of the most spectacular and exclusive destinations in Costa Rica.

Tourism

Sun and beach

Costa Rica's location in the heart of Central America is a privileged spot. Its territory of 19,652 square miles touches both the Caribbean Sea and the Pacific Ocean. Travelers might drive from coast to coast in just three hours.

Costa Rica's beaches of beautiful white sand and crystalline waters are surrounded by forests and great natural diversity. They are also worldwide recognized for water sports such as diving, surfing or sport fishing. 




Adventure

Volcanoes, rain forests, beaches, mountains, waterfalls and rivers... Costa Rica is the perfect spot for adventurers looking for rafting, kayaking, horseback riding, bird watching, sport fishing, windsurfing, diving and surfing among others.


Ecotourism

Considered one of the most bio-diverse regions in the world, Costa Rica is divided in 20 natural parks, 8 biological reserves, and a series of protected areas that captivate ecotourism lovers. The variety of activities includes horseback riding, hiking mountainous paths in the cloud forests, and guided bird-watching tours.


Rural community tourism

Rural community tourism offers Costa Rica's essence while it has represented an important means of development for rural communities.Costa Rica's rural world is therefore kaleidoscopically unique as for assets, history, nature, talents, and hopes. This is the meaning of community rural tourism, an authentic tourist product impossible to imitate, an important tool for the development of the communities and the enhancement of the Costa Rican identity.

For more information please visit:

Costa Rican Association of Community Rural Tourism (ACTUAR)'s website


Medical tourism

Costa Rica is one of the most reliable and affordable countries for medical procedures. With high-quality doctors and dentists the number of medical tourists grows every year as well as the variety of offered procedures. The most sought procedures include dentistry, gynecology, preventive medicine orthopedics and plastic surgery, carried out in the country’s best hospitals and clinics, located mostly in the capital San José.


Cruises

Cruises have excellent conditions for disembarkation, in the Pacific as well as in the Caribbean coasts. Specialized operators and professional guides will be waiting to take tourists along the many available tours that will attract travelers to Costa Rica.


Honeymoon

Costa Rica offer's a great variety of options for couple's looking to spent this special moment of their lifes. From boutique hotels to big resorts, mountains or beaches, choices are yours. Come and enjoy Costa Rica's beauty and spend a perfect honeymoon in paradise.


Business travelers

Find in Costa Rica the proper environment for commercial success. The country has an excellent range of services and infrastructure, from five-star resorts to one-of-a-kind boutique hotels, venues for themed events and gourmet cuisine, consider Costa Rica as the ideal destination for congresses, seminars, meetings and conventions.

For more information visit the Costa Rica Convention Bureau's website.


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