Costa Rica Geography
The eclectic nature of Costa Rica geography is renowned worldwide. The tiny country covers roughly 51,000 square kilometers and boasts over 1200km of coastline on two oceans. Snugly tucked between Nicaragua and Panama, Costa Rica boasts eight separate ecological zones and over 500,000 species of wildlife; no mean feat for a country smaller than West Virginia.
The Republic of Costa Rica is divided roughly down the middle by an impressive mountain range which culminates in Cerro Chirripo at 3810m. The Atlantic side of the mountains is much wetter and slightly colder than its Pacific counterpart and is the home of lush tropical rainforests. The country is occasionally beset by earthquakes and Atlantic hurricanes and often experiences lowland flooding on the East coast during the onset of the rainy season.
The 3.7 million people that populate Costa Rica are extremely friendly and peaceful and enjoy an average lifespan 78 years for women and 73 for men. This is on par with the North American lifespan. Costa Ricans owe both their language and religion to their Spanish colonizers. 84% of the population is Roman Catholic but there is a large (14%) contingent of Evangelical Protestants as well. Spanish is both the official and predominant language and although English is becoming more widespread, at least a basic grasp of Spanish will make your trip a lot more enjoyable.
Costa Rica is divided into 7 provinces: Alajuela, Cartago, Guanacaste, Heredia, Limon, Puntarenas, San Jose. The national capital of San Jose is home to over half a million people and the large majority of the service industry that dominates the Costa Rican economy. Agriculture has declined in recent years as a major source of export but is still responsible for over 20% of the GDP. Commodities such as coffee, bananas, sugar, corn, rice, beans, potatoes, beef and timber are sold to the United States and neighbouring countries. Costa Ricans enjoy many social benefits such as universal health care, a state pension plan and an unemployment rate of less than 5%.
The Costa Rican railway is narrow-gauge and covers a mere 950 kilometers. There are nearly 40,000km of roads throughout the country but 80% of them are unpaved. A four-wheel drive vehicle is a necessity if you plan to do any amount of driving. There are also 155 airports but again, 80% do not have paved runways and cater only to small planes.