COSTA RICACosta Rica is located in Central America and borders Nicaragua, the Caribbean Sea, Panama and the Pacific Ocean. Its more than 5 million inhabitants speak Spanish and are descendants of Spaniards, Indians, Italians, Afro-Costa Ricans and Chinese. 60% of the population lives in the Central Valley.
Along the 1,700 km long coastline there are many beautiful beaches. The country is hilly, there are mountains and volcanoes above 3,500 m. The dry season (summer) lasts from December to April and the rainy season (winter) from May to November. There is huge biodiversity and various nature reserves.
Since 1821, Costa Rica has been independent from Spain. Colonial exports included coffee, sugar, cocoa and bananas. Since 1990, technology, financial services and tourism have been important industries too.
Tourism is the main source of income, with 45,000 hotel rooms and 130,000 employees. Costa Rica is popular with Americans, Canadians and Europeans looking for sun, sea, beaches, nature reserves, ecotourism and sports. Many tourists rent a car or 4×4 with rooftop tent to travel through the country.
In the capital San José, there are colonial buildings at Plaza de la Cultura. The Museo de Oro Precolombino (Gold Museum from before Columbus) and the Museo Nacional (National Museum) are definitely worth a visit. Uniquely, Costa Rica abolished its army in 1948. There is a Coast Guard and Narcotics Brigade.
Catarata del Toro, near the village of Bajos del Toro, is the highest waterfall in Costa Rica, and is 2 hours from San Jose. From a height of 90 metres, the waterfall plunges into the crater of an extinct volcano. A staircase with 375 steps leads to the foot of the waterfall.
Puerto Limón, on the Caribbean coast, is frequently visited by cruise ships. From here there are excursions to the Veragua Rainforest, to visit waterfalls, to hike or mountain bike, or to take the cable car and complete the canopy tour.
Sea turtles come to nest at Tortuguero, on the Caribbean coast.
Puerto Viejo, a village with a reggae atmosphere, is also located on the Caribbean coast. You can cycle past the beaches to Manzanillo and to a nature reserve.
Manuel Antonio Pacific Park is located on the Pacific Ocean.
Playa Samara is a 3 km long beach on the Pacific Ocean where it is safe to swim. Santa Teresa, in the south of Nicoya, is accessible by 4 x 4 and is still quiet.
In the cloud forests of Monteverde there are spectacular suspension bridges. Santa Elena Cloud Reserve is a little less crowded.
A traditional breakfast in Costa Rica is ‘gallo pinto’ (rice and beans with meat); well-known snacks include empanadas (sweet or savoury pastries) and several rice dishes. Italian cuisine is well represented, alongside international fast food.
The favourite music is salsa, merengue, reggae and international pop music. The marimba is an instrument of Indian origin and is combined with guitar, mandolin, accordion and piano.
Want to swim in two oceans and visit spectacular nature reserves? You can do it all in Costa Rica, the Rich Coast!