fact that more than one million tourists visit Costa Rica each year
does not happen by chance. Our country, located in Central America,
is an isthmus where life seems to have created its roots. Covering
only 0.03% of the surface of our planet, Costa Rica has approximately
6% of the world's biodiversity.
In addition, Costa
Rica is characterized by an impressive scenic beauty, consolidated system
of protected areas, social and political stability, high educational levels,
and efficient infrastructure and services. All these characteristics you
can find in a territory of only 51 thousand square kilometers, surrounded
by both the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans, only three to four hours away
from each other by land or 45 minutes by air.
The country's strategic position, in
the heart of the western hemisphere, the Government's positive attitude
towards foreign investment, its infrastructure, access to international
markets, and labor quality and cost, make Costa Rica an ideal place to
establish commercial operations.
Heritage and Culture
Costa Rican culture is in many ways a reflection of its racial diversity.
The predominant influence has long been European, which is reflected in
everything from the official language -- Spanish -- to the architecture
of the country’s churches and other historic buildings. The indigenous
influence is less visible, but can be found in everything from the tortillas
that make part of a typical Costa Rican meal, to the handmade ceramics
sold at roadside stands.
An important aspect of Costa Rica’s cultural legacy
is their love for peace and democracy. The Ticos like to stand out that
their nation is the exception in Latin America, where military dictatorships
have long dominated politics.
They take pride in having more than one hundred years of
democratic tradition, and almost half a century without an army. The army
was abolished in 1948, and the money the country saves by not expending
in military issues is invested in improving the Costa Ricans’ standard
of living, which has fostered a culture of social peace that makes it
such a pleasant place to visit.
The Ticos, as Costa Ricans are commonly known, are famous for their hospitality,
and are quite happy to live up to their reputation. They are well-educated
and hard working people, who are quick with a handshake and a smile. They
are well aware of the special land they have, and most likely they will
help foreigners when they get lost, even explaining things that might
seem bizarre to foreigners, and making their stay as enjoyable as possible.
Geography and Climate
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 mountain ranges extending the entire length of the
country. There are several active volcanoes (Arenal Volcano, Irazu Volcano,
Rincon de la Vieja Volcano and Turrialba Volcano) and the country’s
highest mountain (Chirripo Hill) 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 specialist
kayakers and rafters from all over the world.
Costa Rica’s year round climate is pleasant with naturally occurring
breezes, cooling down most of the coastal areas. Temperatures in the highlands
and mountains are not so cold, especially during day, producing an "eternal
spring" feeling. The average annual temperatures range from 31.7°C
(89°F) on the coast to 16.7°C (62°F) inland. The rainy or
green season lasts from May to December with noticeably drier days during
the rest of the year.
The Ticos, as Costa Ricans are commonly
known, are a mixing of races. Though most of the country’s 3.3 million
inhabitants descend from Spanish immigrants, many families originated
in other parts of Europe, Asia, Africa and, indeed, Central America.
You may be surprised by the number of fair-skinned people
you’ll see in the country, especially in the Central Valley.
In the lowlands, more people are mestizos -that is mixture of European
and Indigenous blood- whereas most along the Caribbean coast belong to
an African lineage, and much of the Talamanca Mountain Range is inhabited
by full-blooded Indians of various tribes.
Health and Education
The Costa Rican government has long dedicated a significant
portion of its national budget to education and other social services,
a policy whose result has been a healthy and educated populace. The country
has a literacy rate and average life expectancy that are much closer to
those of Western European nations than most Latin American countries.
Costa Rica has had a socialized medical system for nearly half a century,
and while schools and clinics are found throughout the country, the Central
Valley has several public universities and dozens of private universities.
Travelers are more likely to encounter more educated people,
and don’t have to worry about most of the diseases they would expect
to encounter in a tropical country.
Tap water is safe to drink almost everywhere in the
country, but bottled beverages are recommended in rural areas. For those
few travelers that do become sick or injured while in Costa Rica, there
are hospitals and private clinics in San Jose provide a level of care
comparable to that found in the United States, and for considerably less
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