Costa lies to the south of Nicaragua and north of Panama, in Central America. The Caribbean Sea borders to the east, and the Pacific Ocean forms the western edge.
Costa Rica is a tropical country that lies almost entirely between 8 and 11 degrees north latitude, which means that much of what you imagine about a Costa Rica vacation is true: dense rainforests, palm tree-lined beaches, warm weather and comfortable waters.
There are two distinct seasons, rainy and dry. The rainy season begins in May and lasts into November, and the dry season starts at the end of November through the end of April.
However, in spite of the two generally distinct seasons, Costa Rica’s varied topography makes for a wide variety of microclimates. You’ll find some marked differences between regions. For example, during the Central Valley’s rainy season, you’ll find the Caribbean coast to be relatively dry. In fact, when the Central Valley and the rest of Costa Rica are in the middle of the dry season, the Caribbean is actually quite rainy. You’ll also find that some microclimates don’t obey the wet/dry paradigm. Still, as a generally rule, you’ll find it helpful.
Daytime temps in the Central Valley, where San José is located, range from 60 to 85 degrees F, which leads many to call the capital’s climate “eternal spring.” Evenings can get chilly and Tour Costa Rica recommends a sweater or light jacket.
In the rainy season, sunny mornings are typically followed up by cloudy mid-day and an afternoon shower, usually clearing up in time to go out in the evening.
Due to its small size and varied topography, you can see an incredible variety of habitats and microclimates even during a short Costa Rica vacation. The coastal lowlands are generally flat and hot, meeting up with the mountains in the middle of the country. Costa Rica has three main mountain ranges: the Central Volcanic Range, the Tilarán Volcanic Mountain Range, and the Talamanca Mountain Range. The Tilarán Range in the north part of Costa Rica holds some spectacular volcanoes, and the Talamanca Range in the south rises up to 3820 meters (12,530 feets) above sea level at Cerro Chirripó. Four active volcanoes (Arenal Volcano, Irazú Volcano, Rincón de la Vieja Volcano and Poás Volcano) are scattered throughout the volcanic ranges.
The country has a long coastline both on the Pacific and Caribbean. The Caribbean coast measures 212 kilometers (131 miles) and is generally straight. The Pacific coast runs 1,016 kilometers (630 miles) and is very irregular, with many inlets, bays and coves, giving this coast a varied and incredibly beautiful terrain. Several of Costa Rica’s Pacific beaches are considered among the most beautiful in the world.
Additionally, many rivers tumble from the highlands to the sea, making for some excellent rafting and kayaking options. Tour Costa Rica runs tours on several of the most scenic and popular rivers.
The country is divided into seven provinces, which are Alajuela, Cartago, Guanacaste, Heredia, Limón, Puntarenas, and San José.
Costa Rica is Central America’s oldest democracy. The three branches of government are the Executive branch, which consists of the president, two vice presidents and cabinet; the Legislative branch, which is a popularly elected assembly of 57 deputies; and the Judicial branch, which consists of civil, criminal, appellate and constitutional courts. The current president is Mr. Oscar Arias , 1987 Nobel Peace Prize.
Voter turnout is very high in Costa Rica, routinely topping 80% in presidential elections, giving the country one of the highest rates in the world. The political strife that has plagued the rest of Latin America during the last 50 years has not been a factor in Costa Rica, and you won’t have to worry about unrest during your Costa Rica vacation.
This peace is due, in part, to the fact that the government has taken strong measures to reduce poverty. These programs have met measurable success. The government-owned water, electricity, and telecommunications industries have managed to provide basic services to nearly everyone throughout the country, easily giving Costa Rica the most advanced infrastructure in Central America.
Education and Medicine
The Costa Rican government abolished the military in 1948, and ever since the country has had a long tradition of good public education. “Instead of spending money on arms we spend it on education. We have an army of teachers in Costa Rica,” is a popular saying. With a literacy rate of 97% and the second-highest life expectancy in the hemisphere, Costa Rica has stood out for decades as a Latin American model for social programs. School is free and compulsory through high school (12th grade), and public universities are excellent and inexpensive. Costa Rica has enjoyed a socialized medical system for over 50 years, providing quality care without charge.
In general, during your Costa Rica vacation you won’t have to worry about most of the diseases that you might expect to encounter in a tropical country. Tap water is almost always safe to drink throughout the country; however, Tour Costa Rica recommends bottled water in rural areas.
If you should become ill or injured, hospitals and private clinics in San José provide a level of care comparable to that found in the United States, for a fraction of the cost.
Costa Rica has a stable economy based on tourism, agriculture, and electronics exports. Due to the country’s political stability and well-educated workforce, Costa Rica has attracted many foreign investors in recent years.
Tourism is the country’s main source of income, and once you’re here on your Costa Rica vacation, you’ll know why. Costa Rica’s excellent program of ecological conservation has become a model for the world, and attracts over a million visitors yearly. The government has worked in recent years to erect a strong tourism infrastructure, and many tour companies, such as Tour Costa Rica, have worked hard to build upon that base.
If tourism is the head of Costa Rica’s economy, coffee and bananas are the backbone. A short drive outside of any city in the highlands will reveal undulating fields of green coffee bushes, and in the lowlands you’ll find acres of banana farms. These two traditional exports still form an important part of Costa Rica’s economy and culture.
Other exports include microprocessors, textiles, pineapples, sugar, rice, beans, beef, and exotic flowers.
97.04% national electricity coverage.
99% urban potable water coverage (92% in rural areas).
933.63 internet user per 10,000 inhabitants.
Ports and airports.
Tourism in Costa Rica is growing at a 7.1% annual growth rate.
The hotel industry has been expanding at an annual rate of 4.5%.
Costa Rica receives more than 1.73 million tourists per year.
Visitors from USA represents a 48% of all tourists, 16% from Europe and 36% from other countries.
Costa Rica is well known for its high level of electrification (97.04%, 2005). Electricity supply is 110 V AC at 60 Hz (same used in the USA).
Banks and Money
The official currency is the colon. However, US dollars are readily accepted, although outside of hotels and tourist areas, usually only bills under$20 are accepted.
There is a wide selection of state-owned and private banks in Costa Rica. Many private banks, though, won’t change traveler’s checks, so you may have to go to the state banks (Banco Nacional, Banco de Costa Rica). Bring a copy of your passport. Tour Costa Rica does not recommend changing money in the street.
Costa Rica Facts
Area: 51,100 square kilometers (32,682 square miles), which is slightly smaller than West Virginia
Population: 4,401,849 (2006 est.). Official Religion: Catholic (with freedom of expression of other beliefs)
Official Language: Spanish; English widely understood in tourist areas and spoken in parts of the Caribbean coast
National Flower: Purple Guaria Orchid (Cattleya skinneri)
National Tree: Guanacaste (Enterolobium ciclocarpum)
National Bird: Yiguirro (Tudus grayi)
Business Hours (generally):
- Government Sector: 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday through Friday
- Private Sector: 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday through Friday
- National Banks: 8 a.m. to 3 p.m., Monday through Friday
- January 1: First day of the year
- April 11: Juan Santamaría Day
- Easter Week: Thursday and Good Friday May 1: International Labor Day
- September 15: Independence Day
- December 25: Christmas Day
Major Cities: San José, Alajuela, Heredia, Cartago, San Isidro del General, Cuidad Quesada, Liberia, Puntarenas, Limón.
Provinces: San José, Puntarenas, Alajuela, Heredia, Limón, Guanacaste, Cartago
Highest Peak: Cerro Chirripó, 3820 meters (12,530) above sea level.
Gross National Product per capita (1999): $3,500
Unemployment rate: 6.2%
Literacy rate: 97%
Life expectancy: 76.1 years
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