If you just bought your flights to Costa Rica, don’t forget to read up on some important facts about Costa Rica. It’s always good to know the basics about the country you’re visiting especially as there are many common misconceptions about Costa Rica.
Here are some important things to know about Costa Rica and interesting facts about the country.
This post has been updated in 2018.
Costa Rica Facts
Costa Rica is in the American Continent
This is one of the most common questions we get: Where is Costa Rica?
Costa Rica is not an island and it is part of the American continent. It is in Central America, bordered by Nicaragua to the north and Panama to the south. Costa Rica is not part of Puerto Rico nor is it a territory of the United States either. It is its own country, having declared independence from Spain on September 15, 1821.
“Costa Rica” means rich coast in Spanish
Cristóbal Colón (Christopher Columbus) named it that when he saw the beauty of the country.
Costa Rica is a little smaller than the Dominican Republic and about the same size of West Virginia
It is 51,100 sq km (19,653 sq miles) of land, 50,660 sq km (19,559 sq miles) of water. Costa Rica is just a tiny bit bigger than Denmark.
Costa Rica language: Spanish
The official language of Costa Rica is Spanish. Many Costa Ricans are bilingual since most of them work in tourism or customer service. English and French are offered starting in elementary school.
Costa Rica’s capital city is San Jose
It was the one of the first cities in the world to have electricity.
The current population of Costa Rica is about 5 million
There are also many foreigners who live here part time.
Costa Rica’s government is a Democratic Republic
Costa Rica abolished its army in 1948 after a civil war. They have not had an army since then, therefore all the money goes towards healthcare and education.
The current president as of April 2018 is Carlos Alvarado
He won on April 1, 2018 after no majority was declared in February. Costa Rica will elect the next president 2022. Presidents in Costa Rica cannot run two times in a row.
Roman Catholicism and Christianity are the predominant religions
The official currency of Costa Rican is the colon. The colon was named after Cristobal Colon, as the one who discovered the country.
Costa Rica time zone is UTC -6
Costa Rica does not participate in Daylight Savings Time. The sun rises and sets about 6 AM and 6 PM every day. It changes about 15 minutes throughout the year.
Costa Rica Country Code Is +506
It is a country code, Costa Rica doesn’t have area codes.
The nickname for a Costa Rican is “Tico” and “Tica”
It’s said that the nickname came from the fact that Costa Ricans tends to use “ito” or “ita” (meaning small), at the end of adjectives. For example, perrito (little dog), cosita (cute pet name), poquitito (teeny tiny bit), gordito (little fatty).
There are seven provinces in Costa Rica
Costa Rica has seven provinces. They are San Jose, Alajuela, Heredia, Cartago, Guanacaste, Puntarenas, and Limon. In those seven provinces are 81 cantons and 473 districts.
Costa Rica’s latitude and longitude is 8 to 12 N, 82 to 86 W
It’s very close to the equator so it’s hot tropical weather all year long. However, Costa Rica has around 26 micro-climates so you can find cold weather (around 60s F or 16 C) in the high elevation mountainous areas. You can read more about Costa Rica weather here.
Costa Rica has a universal health care system
It has an excellent health care system, providing a universal public service. There are also private services.
The average monthly salary is around $800 USD a month
Costa Rica goes by monthly salaries.
Costa Rica holds around 5% of the world’s biodiversity
And is .25% of the world’s land mass!
25% of the country is protected land
There are 26 national parks in Costa Rica, 10 biological reserves, 61 wildlife refugees, 31 protected zones.
Costa Rica has 4 UNESCO World Heritage Sites
The natural sites are Cocos Island, Area de Conservación Guanacaste and La Amistad International Park. The cultural site is the Stone Spheres of the Diquis.
The highest point is Cerro Chirripo at 3,810 m (12,500 feet)
Mount Chirripo is also a national park and many people hike to the summit.
The highest active volcano is Irazu
Lake Arenal is the biggest lake in Costa Rica and it is man made
Costa Rica doesn’t actually have many lakes surprisingly.
The main crops in Costa Rica are bananas, coffee, sugar cane, rice, pineapples and beef
Although quantity is not as much as other coyntries, Costa Rica produces some of the best quality coffee in the world.
Technological services is very strong in Costa Rica
Many international companies like Amazon, Dell and others have a customer service headquarter in Costa Rica. Lots of Costa Ricans who live in the city work in customer service. Companies choose Costa Rica because they say Costa Ricans have good English (not much of an accent) and their salaries are much cheaper than in North America.
The Costa Rica drinking age is 18
18 is also the age they can get their driver’s license.
Gambling and prostitution is legal in Costa Rica
This is one of the reasons why Costa Rica is so popular and why many Americans started traveling there decades ago. Many gambling companies also set up a headquarter or sportsbook.
Costa Rica became the first country in the American continent to ban recreational hunting in 2012
Only indigenous communities have permission to legally hunt.
The country is a leader in renewable energy and has over 300 days in 2017 of using only renewable energy.
It wants to become one of the first countries to ban single use plastic.
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If you’re interested in reading more about Costa Rica, check out Yeison’s perspective of Costa Rica as a Tico.