For a long time Costa Rica has been a hidden treasure among vacationers, business travelers, and peace loving people. Today, the secret of Costa Rica is out and the country is now one of the most sought after destinations in Latin American. This beautiful small country has a variety of ecosystems with waterfalls, primary forests, volcanoes, rivers and beaches regarded for many as one of the best countries in the world for its environmental awareness. Costa Rica's real estate boom, living conditions, safe business environment, geographic position and high literacy rate make it now one of the most desirable place to coe and stay.
Costa Rica is located in Central America, known as the tropics, between Nicaragua to the north and Panama to the south. Its territorial extension is 50.660 square kilometers, and the distance between the two oceans, in its most narrow point, is of only 119 kilometers. Costa Rica has a distance between the Ocean Pacific and the Caribbean Sea of some 200 miles. Rugged highlands are found throughout most of the country, ranging from approximately 1.000 to 2.000 meters (3.000 to 6.000 feet above sea level). The Guanacaste Mountain Range, Central Mountain Range, and Talamanca Mountain Range are the main ranges extending the entire length of the country. There are several active volcanoes (Arenal, Irazu, Rincon de la Vieja, Poas and Turrialba) and the country's highest mountain is Cerro Chirripo with a height of 3.819 m/12.530 ft. The country has a relatively long coastline in both the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, as well as a number of rivers and streams that attract kayakers and rafters from all over the world. The territorial division of Costa Rica includes 7 provinces: San Jose, which is the capital, Alajuela, Cartago, Heredia, Guanacaste, Puntarenas and Limon.
Costa Rica is a paradise with daily temperatures from around 70 to 80 degrees F., housing 5 per cent of the world's animal species and more birds and butterflies than the entire United States. In general, the climate in Costa Rica is very pleasant even more during the dry season that extends from December to April but also during the rainy season, which runs from May to November. During the rainy season rain can be expected in the afternoons, on the other hand the mornings are usually sunny. It is a tropical climate with an average temperature of 22 degrees C. (72 degrees F.) that increases considerably in the coastal areas. The changes in temperature are constant and due to the short distances in this relatively small country, they can all be experienced in just one day. Due to factors such as the geographical location, the weather conditions, the formation of mountain chains, mountains, and valleys, this country experiences different micro climates that give a home to different types of vegetation.
The following climates in the country can be categorized in the following regions:
• The high and cold region: With an elevation of 3.000 to 3.100 meters in altitude with temperatures of 0 degrees C.
• The hot region: The elevation is above 1.500 meters in altitude, with temperatures between 14 and 18 degrees C.
• The humid tropical region: The elevation is up to 1.100 meters in altitude with temperatures between 25 and 26 degrees C.
• The tropical region: Pertaining to the dry season, with temperatures between 26 and 27 degrees C.
• The inter-mountainous valley region with an elevation between 1.000 and 1.100 meters in altitude which is a characteristic of the central valley, with temperatures that range from 14 to 18 degrees C.
Due to the weather characteristics and the topography of the country, different types of forests can be appreciated: the cloudy forest, the rain forest, the dry forest, and the transition forest. The climate in general is tropical rain influenced by the winds and ocean breeze.
Brief historical Review
When Christopher Columbus arrived to Costa Rica in the year 1502, there were four indigenous tribes in the areas: the Caribbean in the East coast and the Borucas; the Chibchas and the Diquis in the Southwest. Some years later, the Spanish conquerors tried to colonize the country and they founded the city of Cartago, which was the capital of the country until the year 1823. After being part of Mexico for about 2 years, Costa Rica achieved its independence in the year 1821. Except for a time of military dictatorship under Tomás Guardia Gutiérrez during the years 1870 - 1882, Costa Rica has become one of the most stable democratic republics in Latin America and from the year 1949 the country does not have an army. Not in vain, Costa Rica is considered as one of the most stable countries in Latin America.
Costa Rica exercises one of the oldest and most stable democracies in Latin America alongside their vocation towards dialogue and pacifist resolutions, circumstance that lead the country to abolish the army in 1948.
The political system is represented by three powers: The Executive Power, the Legislative Power and the Judicial Power. The Tribunal Supreme Court of Elections is considered the fourth power of the Republic. Every four years national elections are carried out. Among other positions of popular representation, the President of the Republic is elected through direct representation by secret ballot.
Costa Rica has been distinguished for the important efforts that different governments have made throughout the years in order to make public education the best system in the country. There are nearly 6.147 schools and more than 50 universities.
The first formal education institution to be established was the University of Costa Rica, which was the only formal educational center up until the year 1971, when the Technological Institute of Costa Rica was founded.
Later on, in 1973, the National University of Heredia (UNA) was created, as well as the Distance Education University (UNED) established in 1977. The first private institution known as the Autonomous University of Central America (UACA) was created in 1979 which set the example in 1986 for a large number of other private universities to open their doors in Costa Rica.
Taking in consideration that Costa Rica is not a big country, it manages to position itself among the countries with the highest public health care development in the Latin-American region.
The Costa Rican Social Security Service (CCSS) is a public service institution that has accomplished important goals regarding health issues, including pensions and social security. This institution offers coverage and integral health services through two types of insurance:
- General coverage insurance, with a service that covers 100% of the country.
- Contributing coverage insurance, with an 86.80% of the population.
Costa Rica is the country in Latin America with the highest life expectancy rate at 77.75 years of age; it is also one of the countries with the lowest infancy mortality rate: 10.82%. Costa Rica is also very advanced in issues regarding prenatal prevention and control.
The local and international bank services are available in state as well as private institutions. The banking hours are from 8:00 AM to 4:00 PM. The evening bank services are often available starting from the 12:00 PM until the 7:00 PM. Most credit cards, like Visa, Master Card, American Express and Dinners Club are widely accepted in commercial and tourist places. Some small business, especially in the rural areas, accept cash only in the form of local currency. The official currency of Costa Rica is the colon; however US dollars are widely accepted. Traveler's checks in US dollars are also a very good alternative. To exchange traveler`s checks, the bank will require your I.D. like the passport. If you want to travel with cash, it is best to do so in US dollars, but make sure that the bills are in good condition and try not to bring US $100 bills, because most of the Costa Ricans do not accept them. You will be able to exchange them in any bank. For more information about the local exchange rate, you may visit the web site //www.bccr.fi.cr/indicadores_economicos_/
Coffee was the most important source of income for the country and Costa Rica produces one of the best coffees in the World. However, in recent years "non- traditional" products have been taking priority. In order of importance, Banana is the second exporting product for Costa Rican economy and there are large plantations, especially in the Atlantic side of the country. There are also other important products like pineapple, sugar, orange, rice and ornamental plants.
Although the base of the national economy is still agriculture, tourism continues to earn more importance as a source of revenue for the country in the last years and it continues to do so, becoming the main foreign currency of the country, creating new sources for employment, favoring the biodiversity conservation that exists in the country.
Airports and Transportation
Juan Santamaria International Airport is Costa Rica`s main International Airport. It is located in Alajuela, only 15 to 20 minutes away from San Jose. The Daniel Oduber Quiros International Airport, located in Liberia, Guanacaste, (in the north Pacific region of the country) and the Tobias Bolaños Airport located in Pavas, San Jose, for local and domestic flights. There are also landing fields for domestic flights situated in different parts of the country such as: Limon, Tortuguero, La Fortuna, Tamarindo, Samara, Tambor, Quepos, Palmar Norte, Golfito, and San Vito. There are bus services to just about every town and city in Costa Rica, and high-quality buses servicing the main tourist destinations. Taxis are also plentiful and inexpensive, and in San Jose they are required to operate with meters for most trips. The quickest way to get around is to fly and several domestic airlines offer daily flights to most of the popular tourist destinations. There are also plenty of car rental agencies, most of which rent four-wheel-drive vehicles.