Rica (literally "Rich Coast"), officially the Republic
of Costa Rica (Spanish: Costa Rica or República de Costa
Rica, IPA: [re'pußlika ðe 'kosta 'rika]), is a Republic
in Central America, bordered by Nicaragua to the north, Panama to
the south-southeast, the Pacific Ocean to the west and south, and
the Caribbean Sea to the east. Costa Rica was the first country
in the world to constitutionally abolish its army.
On the Río Savegre, just below San Gerardo de Dota in the
Talamanca Mountains of Costa Rica.
Main article: Geography of Costa Rica
Costa Rica is located on the Central American isthmus, 10° North
of the equator and 84° West of the Prime Meridian. It borders
both the Caribbean Sea (to the east) and the North Pacific Ocean
(to the west), with a total of 1,290 kilometres (802 mi) of coastline
(212 km / 132 mi on the Caribbean coast and 1,016 km / 631 mi on
the Pacific). It is about the size of West Virginia and shares that
state's reputation for excellent whitewater kayaking/rafting opportunities.
Two of the country's most renowned rivers in that regard are the
Rio Pacuare and the Rio Reventazon located just east of San Jose
in the Central Highland region.
Costa Rica also borders Nicaragua to the north (309 km / 192 mi
of border) and Panama to the south-southeast (639 km / 397 mi of
border). In total, Costa Rica comprises 51,100 square kilometers
(19,730 sq. mi) plus 589.000 square kilometers of territorial waters.
The crater of Volcán Irazú, an active volcano near
Cartago, Costa Rica
The highest point in the country is Cerro Chirripó, with
3,810 metres (12,500 ft), and is the fifth highest peak in Central
America. The highest volcano in the country is the Irazú
Volcano (3,431 m / 11,257 ft). The largest lake in Costa Rica is
Costa Rica also comprises several islands. Cocos Island stands out
because of its distance from continental landmass (24 km² /
9.25 sq mi, 500 km or 300 mi from Puntarenas coast), but Calero
Island is the biggest island of the country (151.6 km² / 58.5
Costa Rica protects over 25% of its national territory within the
Protected Areas system. It also possesses the greatest density of
species in the world. 
Costa Rica is a democratic republic with a strong constitution.
Although there are claims that the country has had more than 115
years of uninterrupted democracy, their presidential
election history shows otherwise (see List of Presidents of Costa
Rica). Nonetheless, the country has had at least fifty-nine years
of uninterrupted democracy, which is by far the longest in Latin
America, making it one of the most stable countries
in the region. Costa Rica has avoided the violence that has plagued
Executive responsibilities are vested in a president, who is the
country's center of power. There also are two vice presidents as
well as a cabinet designated by the president. The president, vice
presidents, and fifty-seven Legislative Assembly delegates are elected
for four-year terms. A constitutional amendment approved in 1969
limited presidents and delegates to one term, although delegates
were allowed to run again for an Assembly seat after sitting out
In April 2003, the constitutional ban on presidential re-election
was reversed, allowing Óscar Arias (Nobel Peace Prize laureate,
1987) to run for President for a second term. In 2006, Óscar
Arias was re-elected in a tight and highly contested election, running
on a platform of promoting free trade. He took office on May 8,
2006. On June 16, 2006, he met Pope Benedict XVI at the Vatican.
Autonomous state agencies enjoy considerable operational independence;
they include the telecommunications and electrical power monopoly,
the nationalized commercial banks, the state insurance monopoly,
and the social security agency. Costa Rica has no military by constitution
but maintains domestic police forces for internal security. These
include the Guardia Civil and the Guardia Rural.
Other current political issues include security, crime, and the
limiting of large-scale emigration of people from Nicaragua.
Costa Rica is comprised of seven provinces, which in turn are divided
into 81 cantons ("cantón" in Spanish, plural "cantones"),
each directed by a mayor. Mayors are chosen democratically every
four years by each canton's people. There are no provincial legislatures.
1. Alajuela /2. Cartago /3. Guanacaste /4. Heredia /5. Limón
/6. Puntarenas /7. San José.
In recent times electronics, pharmaceuticals, financial outsourcing,
software development, and ecotourism have become the prime industries
in Costa Rica's economy. High levels of education among its residents
make the country an attractive investing location.
The economy has been expanding for Costa Rica in part because the
Government had implemented a seven-year plan of expansion in the
high tech industry. The central government offers tax exemptions
for those who are willing to invest in the country. Several global
high tech corporations have already started developing in the area
exporting goods including chip manufacturer Intel, pharmaceutical
company GlaxoSmithKline, and consumer products company Procter &
Gamble. Trade with South East Asia and Russia has boomed during
2004 and 2005, and the country is expected to obtain full Asia-Pacific
Economic Cooperation Forum (APEC) membership by 2007 (the country
became an observer in 2004).
For the fiscal year 2005, the country showed a government deficit
of 2.1%, internal revenue increased an 18%, exports increased a
12.8% and the number of visiting tourists increased a 19%, reaching
1.5 million people. Revised economic figures released by the Central
Bank indicate that economic growth stood at 5%, nevertheless the
country faced high inflation (14%) and a trade deficit of 5.2%.
For 2006 the economy is expected to grow a 6.8%
The unit of currency is the colón (CRC), which trades around
518  to the U.S. dollar; currently about 675 to the euro. On
October 16, 2006, a new currency exchange system was introduced,
allowing the value of the CRC colón to float between two
bands as done previously by Chile. The idea is that by doing so
the Central Bank will be able to better tackle inflation and discourage
the use of US dollars. Since that time, the value of the colon against
the dollar has stabilized.
Costa Rica's location provides easy access to American markets as
it has the same time zone as the central part of the United States
and direct ocean access to Europe and Asia.
With a $1.7-billion-a-year tourism industry, Costa Rica stands as
the most visited nation in the region. Eco-tourism is extremely
popular with many tourist visiting the many protected areas around
the country. Sex tourism has become a popular form of tourism and
has been gaining popularity in Costa Rica where it already amounts
for 10% of the billion dollar tourism industry. Costa Rica has
been hailed as a national destination for sex tourists, this
is largely due to legal prostitution.
Costa Rica is an active member of the United Nations and the Organization
of American States. Costa Rica holds a seat on the Inter-American
Court of Human Rights and on the United Nations University of Peace
and many other international organizations related to human rights
Costa Rica's main foreign policy objective is to foster human rights
and sustainable development as a way to secure stability and growth.
Costa Rica is also a member of the International Criminal Court,
without a Bilateral Immunity Agreement of protection for the US-military
(as covered under Article 98).
On June 1, 2007, Costa Rica broke ties with the Republic of China
in Taiwan, switching to the People's Republic of China in mainland
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. Over 25% of Costa
Rica is composed of protected forests and reserves.
One national park that is internationally-renowned among ecologists
for its biodiversity (including big cats and tapirs) and where visitors
can expect to see an abundance of wildlife is the Corcovado National
Tortuguero National Park – the name Tortuguero can be translated
as "Full of turtles" – is home to spider, howler
and white-throated Capuchin monkeys, the three-toed sloth, 320 species
of birds (including eight species of parrots), a variety of reptiles,
but is mostly recognized for the annual nesting of the endangered
green turtle and is considered the most important nesting site for
this species. Giant leatherback, hawksbill, and loggerhead turtles
also nest here.
The Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve hosts two thousand plant species,[citation
needed] including numerous orchids. Over four hundred types of birds
can be found here, and over one hundred species of mammals. As a
whole, around eight hundred species of birds have been identified
in Costa Rica. The Instituto Nacional de Biodiversidad (INBIO) is
allowed to collect royalties on any biological discoveries of medical
2005, Costa Rica had an estimated population of 4.43 million people.
The majority of Costa Ricans are in large part descendants of Spanish
settlers. There are significant numbers of Costa Ricans of Italian,
German, Jewish, and Polish descent. This group is closely followed
by a large (and sometimes interchangeable) number of Mestizos. Together,
Mestizos and European descendants make up a full 94% of the population.
Just under 3% of the population is of black African descent, the
majority of which are English-speaking descendants of nineteenth
century black Jamaican immigrant workers. 1% is composed of ethnic
Chinese and another 1% is "other".
As of today, the indigenous population numbers around 1%, or over
40,000 individuals. In the Guanacaste Province a significant portion
of the population descends from a mix of local Amerindians, Africans
and Spaniards. There is also an expatriate community of people of
all ages from the United States, Canada, Germany, Netherlands, Britain,
and other countries, especially in the Central Valley city of Escazu.
Post-war Italian immigrants founded the Zona Sur town of San Vito
de Coto Brus in southern Puntarenas, near the border with Panama.[citation
Costa Rica hosts many refugees, mainly from Colombia and Nicaragua.
As a result, an estimated 10% to 15% of the Costa Rican population
is made up of Nicaraguans, most of whom migrate for seasonal
work opportunities and then return to their country. There is also
a growing number of Peruvian refugees. Moreover, Costa Rica took
in lots of refugees from a range of other Latin American countries
fleeing civil wars and dictatorships during the 1970s and 80s -
notably from Chile and Argentina.
is the predominant religion in Costa Rica, and Roman Catholicism
is the official state religion as guaranteed by the Constitution
of 1949. Some 92% of Costa Ricans are Christian  and like many
other parts of Latin America, Protestant denominations have been
experiencing rapid growth. However, three in four Costa Ricans still
adhere to Roman Catholicism.
Due to small but recent immigration from Asia, the Middle East,
and other places, other religions have grown, the most popular being
Buddhism (due to an increasing Chinese community of 40,000), and
smaller numbers of Jewish, Muslim, and Hindu adherents.
There is a Jewish synagogue, the B'nei Israel Congregation, in San
Jose, near La Sabana Park. Several homes in the neighborhood east
of La Sabana Park are festooned with Stars of David and other recognizable
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has seen modest
growth in Costa Rica in the last forty years and has built one of
only two temples in Central America in the San Antonio de Belen
region of Heredia.
The English language Free Baptist Church along the main highway
in Limon conducts services in the Mekatelyu creole dialect.
only official language is Spanish. There are two main accents native
to Costa Rica, the standard Costa Rican and the Nicoyan. The Nicoyan
accent is very similar to the standard Nicaraguan accent due, in
part, to its annexation from Nicaragua in 1824. A notable Costa
Rican pronunciation difference includes a soft initial and double
[r] phoneme that is not trilled as in most of the Spanish speaking
Jamaican immigrants in the 19th Century brought with them a dialect
of English that has evolved into the Mekatelyu creole dialect.
Roman Catholicism is the official state religion, only that church's
marriages are legally recognized by the government. Any persons
wishing to wed outside of the Catholic church must hire a lawyer
who will perform and then register their civil wedding for them.
Costa Ricans often refer to themselves as tico (masculine) or tica
(feminine). "Tico" comes from the popular local usage
of "tico" and "tica" as diminutive suffixes
(e.g., "momentico" instead of "momentito").[citation
needed] Visitors from the United States are often referred to as
gringos, which is virtually always congenial in nature.[citation
needed] The phrase "Pura Vida" (literally "Pure Life")
is a ubiquitous motto in Costa Rica. It encapsulates the pervading
ideology of living in peace in a calm, uncluttered manner, appreciating
a life surrounded by nature and family and friends.
Some might use mae a contraction of "maje" (mae means
"guy/dude") to refer to each other, although
this might be perceived as slightly insulting to those of an older
generation as maje was a synonym for "tonto" (stupid,
moronic). Costa Rican traditions and culture tend to retain a strong
degree of Spanish influence. Their spoken accent is rather different
than its Central American counterparts. "-ito" or "-ita"
are added to many words to make them sound more polite and courteous.[citation
Costa Rica boasts a varied history. Costa Rica was the point where
the Mesoamerican and South American native cultures met. The northwest
of the country, the Nicoya peninsula, was the southernmost point
of Nahuatl cultural influence when the Spanish conquerors (conquistadores)
came in the sixteenth century. The center and southern portions
of the country had Chibcha influences. However, the indigenous people
have influenced modern Costa Rican culture to a relatively small
degree, as most of the Indians died from disease and mistreatment
by the Spaniards.
The Atlantic coast, meanwhile, was populated with African workers
during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Most afro Costa
Ricans, however, derive from nineteenth-century Jamaican workers,
brought in to work on the construction of railroads between the
urban populations of the Central Plateau and the port of Limon on
the Caribbean coast. Italian and Chinese immigrants also arrived
at this time to work on the railroad construction.
Though the music of Costa Rica has achieved little international
credit, Costa Rican popular music genres include: an indigenous
calypso scene which is distinct from the more widely-known Trinidadian
calypso sound audience that supports nightclubs in cities like San
José. American and British rock and roll and pop are popular
and common among the youth (especially urban youth) while dance-oriented
genres like soca, salsa, merengue, cumbia and Tex-Mex have an appeal
among the somewhat older audience.
The literacy rate in Costa Rica is of 96% (CIA World Factbook, February
2007), one of the highest in Latin America. Elementary and high
schools are found throughout the country in practically every community.
Universal public education is guaranteed in the Constitution. Primary
education is obligatory, and both preschool and high school are
free. There are both state and private universities.
There are only a few schools in Costa Rica that go beyond the 11th
grade. Those schools that finish at 11th grade receive a Costa Rican
Bachillerato Diploma accredited by the Costa Rican Ministry of Education.
Schools that offer classes to the 12th grade offer either the International
Baccalaureate Diploma, accredited by the IBO in Geneva, Switzerland,
the German Abitur or the USA High School Diploma, accredited by
the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS).[citation
Costa Rica is also home to the Instituto Centroamericano de Administracion
de Empresas (INCAE), originally founded in 1964 in Managua, Nicaragua
with the support of the United States government and other Central
American countries. The institution expanded into Costa Rica
with the Sandinista Revolution in the 1980s in Nicaragua, the institution
maintains a close affiliation with Harvard University, as it had
played a part in its foundation. The campus is the second of two
that the school has, the first being built in Managua, Nicaragua.
According to a study done by America Economia INCAE ranked as the
number one business school in Latin America for 2 consecutive years
(2004, 2005)  and ranked within the top ten business schools
in international rankings by The Wall Street Journal. 
República de Costa Rica
Republic of Costa Rica