In this captivating article, we delve into the fascinating world of Costa Rica and explore its incredible flora, fauna, culture, climate, geography, and a hint of its history.
Discover the lush biodiversity that thrives in Costa Rica, from its vibrant tropical rainforests to its abundant wildlife, including the elusive sloths, dazzling birds, and diverse marine life. Uncover the unique cultural traditions and customs that shape the vibrant Costa Rican identity, and gain insights into the country’s rich history that dates back to ancient indigenous civilizations.
Explore the diverse climates and geographical wonders, from magnificent volcanoes to pristine beaches, as we take you on a virtual journey through this breathtaking country. Prepare to be amazed by the remarkable beauty and allure of Costa Rica as we unveil its most intriguing and awe-inspiring facts.
Costa Rica – land of extremes
Land of mountains and green valleys, sleeping and active volcanoes. Rainforests and cloud forests, dry areas and mangrove swamps are found as well as untouched beaches on the Atlantic and Caribbean coasts and high mountain regions. Cosmopolitan cities, sleepy villages and easily accessible national parks make the country unique.
Costa Rica forms the land bridge between North and South America. This geographical peculiarity makes Costa Rica one of the countries with the world’s greatest biodiversity of animals and plants in a small area.
850 species of birds, more than in Canada and the USA combined, approx. 1200 species of butterflies, 10% of all species found in the world, more than on the entire African continent, 237 species of mammals, including all 6 species of cats found on the American continent, 378 species of amphibians and reptiles and 130 species of freshwater fish. 12,000 known plant species, but not all of them have been fully recorded.
Democracy for 50 years, without a military and politically neutral, economically developed with good infrastructure and the highest standard of living in Central America.
The Ticos and Ticas are cosmopolitan, hospitable and helpful. Anyone who treats you with respect, kindness and understanding will be welcomed with open arms.
Numbers and Facts
|Republic of Costa Rica / República de Costa Rica
|Highest mountain > Chirripó 3820 m, total coastline approx. 1500 km
|Tropical to subtropical
|51.100 km², slightly smaller than Switzerland, about the size of the German state of Lower Saxony
|Ca. 5,154 Mill
|Catholic (76.3%), Protestant 13.7%, Jehovah’s Witnesses 1.3%, other Protestant (0.7%), other religions 4.8%, no religion 3.2%.
|Democratically elected presidential government
|Main sources of income
|Tourism, electronic industry, agriculture (coffee, bananas, sugar cane, pineapple)
|Environment & Nature conservation
|Around 25% of the land area is under state protection
A total of 25% of the country is protected within various protection categories. Thanks to the support of private reserves, this number continues to grow.
With a total area of 51,100 km² (0.03% of the total world area) and a sea area of 589,000 km², Costa Rica is one of the twenty most biodiverse countries in the world. Costa Rica’s geographical location, two coasts and mountain ranges, which provide many and varied microclimates, are just some of the reasons that can explain this biological diversity. This applies to both species and ecosystems. The more than 500,000 animal and plant species estimated to be found in this small territory represent approximately 4% of the world’s total species.
Few countries in the world have put as much effort into the environment as Costa Rica. The country has invested heavily to ensure the well-being of current and future generations. Evidence of this is the international recognition and the natural places. The following are recognized by UNESCO:
- Isla de Coco National Park
- La Amistad National Park
- Guanacaste Protection Zone
- La Amistad Cordillera Volcanica Central
- Agua y Paz
- Ox cart tradition
In addition, Costa Rica was awarded the World Engineering Heritage Site by the ASCE (American Society of Civil Engineers):
- National Monument in Guayabo
The awards mentioned above, 12 wetlands in Costa Rica covering a total of 569,742 hectares enjoy protection under the guidelines of the Ramsar Convention.
Biodiversity management is now the responsibility of the Ministry of Environment, Energy and Telecommunications in Costa Rica (MINAET) and, above all, the National System of Protected Areas (SINAC). SINAC also has responsibility for the sustainable conservation and promotion of biodiversity in Costa Rica.
In Costa Rica, folkloric celebrations and cultural events reflect the nation’s diverse ideologies and hopes, as well as the desires, concerns, and emotions of the Costa Rican people. They make us think about cultural diversity, assimilation, and the mixing of cultures. This finds expression in activities that are important to the community, such as the festivals celebrated by the indigenous population for sowing and harvesting.
Some of the events serve to open one of the buildings that are important to the community: a church, school or community hall. Others take place on specific dates of the year: to commemorate important civil and religious events, such as Independence Day, celebrations in honor of a patron saint, the Blessed Virgin or other saints. During these folk festivals, the mixing of cultures in Costa Rica can be observed particularly well and in a variety of ways: in the different styles of music or in the diverse selection at the food stalls. The processions and parades couldn’t be more different: oxcarts decorated with images of saints, adults and children in typical costumes, papier-mâché figures depicting devils and other horror figures and mythical creatures, fireworks and games in which courage and endurance can be demonstrated, and much more more.
These cultural celebrations are more than just moments of entertainment; they support Costa Ricans’ sense of community, of shared citizenship, regardless of class, religion, gender or ethnicity.
The Costa Rican climate is tropical to subtropical and is strongly influenced by the altitude and the function of the Cordillera as a continental divide that divides the country into a constantly humid Atlantic region and an alternately humid Pacific region.
In principle, Costa Rica can be visited all year round, with a few restrictions! There are only two seasons: the so-called rainy season from around May to November and the dry season from around December to April. Even during the dry season, depending on the region you are visiting, it can rain for an hour or even for a whole day. During the rainy season you experience real “tropical downpours” for around 2 – 3 hours in the afternoon; the rest of the day is usually sunny. Heavier rainfall can be expected in October/November. On the Caribbean side the situation is roughly the opposite: June to October and January to March are relatively dry; precipitation is generally significantly higher in the Atlantic area of influence.
Flora and Fauna
The evergreen tropical rainforests of Costa Rica are characterized by giant trees that can grow up to 50 m high and form huge crowns, epiphytes and bromeliads that are particularly numerous in the mountain rainforests, species of heliconia and ginger, numerous species of orchids, philodendrons and creepers, as well as a great diversity of palm tree species.
The tropical dry forest impresses, especially in the dry period, with the variety of flowers on the deciduous trees. Savanna regions in Guanacaste are reminiscent of African landscapes.
In numbers: 220 species of mammals (of which around 100 species of bats contribute to the spread of numerous plant species), around 850 species of birds, around 220 reptiles and 165 species of amphibians. Of the approximately 360,000 species of insects, around 1,300 butterfly species alone have been discovered and classified. Among the mammals there are also various species of big cats such as puma and jaguar, ocelot, jaguarundi and many more. However, these are extremely shy and rarely observed.
howler monkeys, capuchins, spider monkeys and squirrel monkeys; Coatis, sloths, armadillos, agoutis and anteaters.
Costa Rica is an El Dorado for ornithologists: Of the approximately 850 bird species found, the following species are most common: tanagers, hummingbirds, toucans, parrot species and vultures, in coastal areas pelicans and frigate birds, on lake shores and river landscapes kingfishers, herons and spoonbills .
Amphibians & Reptiles
Commonly seen are iguanas, basilisks and geckos, caimans and American crocodiles, and numerous species of frogs such as tree climbers and poison dart frogs. The beaches of both coasts are visited by sea turtles to lay their eggs. More than 100 species of snakes are also native to Costa Rica, including the non-poisonous boa constrictor, numerous species of vipers but also poisonous representatives such as the lance viper, rattlesnakes and colorful coral snakes.
Colorful butterflies such as the blue morpho and the monarch butterfly can be found almost everywhere, as can an incredible variety of beetle species, including the Hercules beetle and rhinoceros beetle. Scorpions and tarantulas live hidden under stones, in holes in the ground or in rotting trees. The most annoying representatives of this species in the lower altitudes are mosquitoes and other biting flies.
Geography & History
Costa Rica is – in terms of geological history – a relatively young country. Together with the six other Central American states, it forms the land bridge between North and South America, which has only existed for around 3 million years, and is divided by four mountain ranges (Cordillera de Guanacaste, Cordillera Tilarán, Cordillera Central, Cordillera Talamanca). This created numerous climatic and living zones that created an enormous variety of different habitats in a very small space.
There is little historical evidence of Costa Rica from pre-Columbian times. Based on excavations at the Guayabo National Monument, attempts are currently being made to prove that the country’s early culture had similarities with the Mayan culture of other Central American countries.
Columbus discovered the country on his fourth voyage in 1502, and suspected rich gold deposits based on the gold jewelry of the indigenous people, hence the name “Costa Rica,” the rich coast. However, colonization failed for almost 60 years due to the inaccessibility of the densely forested and mountainous country and the resistance of the indigenous people.
For a long time, Costa Rica was a forgotten Spanish province because dreams of exploiting the gold deposits suspected there never came true. It was only in the 19th century that coffee, discovered as a fashionable drink in Europe, brought some prosperity to Costa Rica. The then president, Juan Rafael Mora, a former coffee farmer, also organized armed resistance against the invasion ambitions of the North American adventurer William Walker, whose “filibusters” were repulsed by Mora in a historic battle. Years of power struggles between the coffee barons finally resulted in the first democratic elections and a period of peace and unity. However, in the 1940s there was another civil war, from which the national liberation party emerged victorious. The country’s constitution, which is still valid today, also dates from this time, in which the army was abolished and the right to vote for women and blacks was enshrined.
Former President Oscar Arias received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1987 for his mediation efforts in the shattered neighboring countries. Oscar Arias was re-elected as president in February 2006 and was replaced by Laura Chinchilla in the presidential election in February 2010. Laura Chinchilla was the first woman to assume the presidency (2010-2014) since the founding of the Republic of Costa Rica in 1948.