The era of great discoveries gave the Old World, and indeed the whole world, two huge new continents, and Christopher Columbus forever went down in history as the discoverer of America. On his fourth and last campaign, on September 18, 1502, he landed on the land that is known to us today as the amazing country of Costa Rica. Let’s talk about its magnificence in more detail.
Where is Costa Rica located?
Costa Rica is located in Central America, just in the center of that isthmus that connects two huge continents. It has a common northern border with Nicaragua, and a common border with the Republic of Panama in the southeast. The Caribbean Sea washes the entire eastern part of the country, and the western coast and southern edge are washed by the waters of the Pacific Ocean. The total coastline of Costa Rica is 1290 kilometers and is replete with beaches.
Introduction to Costa Rica
Translated from Spanish, «Costa Rica» means «rich coast» — it is assumed that rich deposits of gold and silver were expected to be found here, but, alas. But the name has taken root and loudly attracts tourists to spend their holidays here. Costa Rica is a very small country in terms of area, it occupies only 51.1 thousand square meters. km, but this is not the smallest state in the region. But in terms of living standards and development, Costa Rica is second only to Panama, its more “advanced” neighbor. By the way, according to a survey of the International Happiness Index, the Republic of Costa Rica was recognized as the happiest country in 2012.
The capital of Costa Rica is the city of San Jose, the other largest cities are Cartago, Limón and Alajuela. By the way, the state includes 589 thousand square meters. km of territorial waters and Cocos Island. The official language in Costa Rica is Spanish, but many of the city’s residents and residents of the coast are also fluent in English.
The currency of Costa Rica is the Costa Rican colón, which is subdivided into 100 centimos.
Population of Costa Rica
Interestingly, Costa Rica today is practically a “white” country, unlike all of its neighbors. The reason is simple: during the capture and development of the territory of Central America, the local indigenous population of the 15th century — the Uetars — were completely exterminated. Historically, slaves were practically not brought here, and the descendants of runaway slaves who independently settled on the coast are very few in number. Thus, about 70% of the total population are descendants of Europeans, and the remaining 30% are mestizos, mulattos, Indians, blacks, Asians and other ethno-racial groups.
According to the official 2010 census, the total population was 4.5 million people, and in 2014 — already 4,825,144 inhabitants. Costa Rica is a country with good natural population growth. By the way, the population is almost completely literate — 95%, and life expectancy in comfortable Costa Rica averages 77.5 years. Local residents — tiko — well-mannered, friendly and very hospitable people.
Religion in Costa Rica
The state religion of the country historically is Catholicism. But according to statistics, true believers and practicing Catholics make up only about 42.7% of the total population of the country. 24.1% identify themselves as Protestants and 26.9% as agnostics and non-believers. About 1.7% of all citizens identify themselves with other religions — these are Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Jews.
The official Church is part of the state and is partially financed from the state treasury, although there are more and more opponents of this state of affairs. In schools in Costa Rica, religious subjects are an official subject, this is an important difference from other countries in North America.
Political system of Costa Rica
Costa Rica is a presidential republic where the president is elected in a general open election for the next four years. The country’s Legislative Assembly is also elected for four years from all five active parties, it includes 57 legitimate members.
Administratively, Costa Rica is divided into seven provinces: Alajuela, Cartago, Guanacaste, Limón, Puntarenas, Heredia and San José. Additionally, all provinces are subdivided into cantons, there are 81 in total, which are already governed by mayors. The office of mayor is also elective by local residents for a term of four years.
Weather in Costa Rica
The climate in Costa Rica is subequatorial, but the location features and rugged terrain form a large number of climatic and weather variations. The east coast and mountain slopes are irrigated by abundant rainfall, often up to 3000 mm per year, brought from the north and east by the trade winds. The weather here is rainy, but very hot.
The lowlands and the middle part of the country are distinguished by stable year-round temperatures: about +23 in January, and +25 degrees in July. But the coast, washed by the waters of the Pacific Ocean, is much drier: the so-called «winter season» lasts almost four months and is not accompanied by any precipitation. Tourists come to Costa Rica for vacation all year round, because there are no unpleasant temperature changes and dangerous rainy seasons.
Nature and features of geography
Costa Rica can be considered the best natural park on Earth, because about 2/3 of the entire territory is covered with real tropical forests, where an excellent species diversity of wildlife is preserved. Of the rare and valuable species of trees, ebony, red and balsa can be noted.
The largest national park in Costa Rica, La Amistad, has been operating since 1979, where you can get to know the local nature better. And in total, 74 reserves are organized in the country, both in the mountains and on the coast of the ocean. Everything is here: underwater and mountain caves, more magnificent waterfalls, volcanoes, mountain valleys and rivers. In the country, 27% of all territories are protected.
Mountain ranges cross the entire country from north to south, forming between them the Central Plateau — the concentration of most fertile soils, where the bulk of the entire population of Costa Rica lives. Most of the country’s mountains are of volcanic origin. The most famous volcano is Arenal — it is still active and periodically erupts lava. The highest volcano is the Irazu volcano, its height is 3432 meters above sea level. There are also lakes in the country of Costa Rica, the largest is Lake Arenal.
Sights of Costa Rica
The people of Costa Rica are very proud of their history, culture and national heritage. In the country, the trends of the Aztec culture, the Chibra culture and the Gran Nicoya culture have been preserved. Of the important and particularly interesting sights of Costa Rica, it is worth noting:
Of the interesting objects of architecture, it is worth paying attention to the National Theater and the football stadium in San Jose.
Things to Do in Costa Rica
Perhaps the most important entertainment, in addition to exploring the sights and parks of Costa Rica, is diving and surfing in the main resorts of the country. The world’s largest uninhabited island, Cocos, is especially suitable for these purposes. The water in its water area is crystal clear and transparent, and the coastal bottom, at some distance from the beaches, is decorated with intricate corals. Diving schools also offer dive options near the islands of Negritos and Los Pajaros.
Do not forget about relaxing on the beaches with snow-white, golden, silver and even black sand on the Pacific coast. Of particular note is Playa Grande beach, where sea turtles live, and Playa Flamingo, where excellent sea and underwater fishing is organized. But the beaches of the city of Jaco are famous for their active and rich nightlife.
In addition to the above, in Costa Rica, tourists are happy to visit nightclubs and discos, go on excursions to museums and theaters, and also celebrate local magnificent holidays and festivals, such as the Dance Festival, the feast of the Body of the Lord, the eve of Penance Day and others.
Hotels in Costa Rica
In Costa Rica, you will find a variety of hotels of various classes: from luxurious five- and four-star hotels of world level and standard to modest motels and simple bungalows. Of course, the most luxurious hotels are built in the capital of Costa Rica, San José, and in coastal resorts. Of the whole mass, it is worth noting Spa & Gardens, Nayara Hotel, Zephyr Palace, as well as hotels of world chains — Holiday Inn, Hilton, InterContinental Hotels Group. The cost of living per day will cost you approximately $240.
From hotels of the middle price segment and budget hostels, we can recommend such establishments as Pension de la Cuesta B&B and Hotel Santo Tomas, where the price of daily accommodation, depending on the room, varies from $20 to 50, or the modest Hostel Casa Colon, where you can modestly stay overnight for $13-20.
Costa Rica Restaurants
The national cuisine is very popular among tourists in the country. At first glance, it is quite simple: rice, fish, meat, beans and fruits are its basis. But all the piquancy of any dish lies in the special spicy sauces served with each dish, as well as in a fragrant cup of coffee, which is rightfully considered one of the best in the world. Also, you can easily find establishments with European, Chinese, Latin American cuisine, etc. Among the most popular are places such as Terruño y Actitud Buenos Aires, Victoria’s Gourmet Italian Restaurant, L’Olivo, Luna de Plata and some others.
What to bring?
Costa Rica is not considered a country with an abundance of boutiques and branded stores, but you will find a lot of shops and colorful markets with local products and handmade souvenirs at a nice price. In addition to shopping centers and spontaneous markets in San Jose, the cities of Limón, Cartago and Orosi are famous for their interesting shops and stalls. First of all, tourists buy T-shirts, bags, hammocks, wood jewelry and jewelry, ceramics and glassware, corals and semi-precious stones. Stamps depicting butterflies, flowers and birds are very popular among philatelists.
Do not forget about local coffee, rum and coffee liqueur, herbs and spices, tea, wine. Remember how valuable animal life is, and do not buy products made from tortoise shell, jaguar fur and skins, raw corals. In addition, the sale of these products in Costa Rica is prohibited, and you cannot officially export them through customs.
Costa Rica Security
We can safely say that Costa Rica is a safe country. Of course, if you behave adequately and reasonably, do not provoke or insult local residents. And you can also encounter petty thieves and scammers offering services of dubious quality here. Sharks are found in places off the Atlantic coast.
Be careful and look under your feet, because in small towns, road pits and sewers are often simply not repaired in time and are not even covered or fenced off. As for vaccinations, no special vaccinations are required to visit Costa Rica. However, remember that in Costa Rica there is a law that every person must carry an identity card with him, since every policeman has the right to ask you for it at any time.
Adult citizens, i.e. persons over the age of 18 are allowed to import duty-free:
- cigarettes up to 400 pieces;
- tobacco up to 500 grams;
- strong alcohol up to 3 liters per person;
- medicines for personal consumption with a prescription from a doctor.
The import and export of currency is not limited, it is prohibited to import any fruits, vegetables and plants, flowers and meat products, any medicines without a prescription, drugs and psychotropic substances, pornography and weapons without the permission of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of the country. It is prohibited to export cultural and archaeological values, antiques, birds and animals, as well as their stuffed animals and skins.
How to get to Costa Rica?
There are no direct flights from Russia and the countries of the former USSR, you will have to make a transfer in Europe, the USA or Cuba. From Nicaragua, Costa Rica has a ferry service, which is very convenient for tourists. Also with its border neighbors (Nicaragua and Panama) there is a regular bus service.
When planning a trip to Costa Rica, it is necessary to obtain a visa for all citizens of Russia, Ukraine and other CIS countries if your visit will exceed 30 days. It is issued quite simply, all formalities fit into 1-3 business days. Moreover, if your passport contains a mark on a Schengen visa or you have a valid visa to visit the United States or Canada, then you are officially allowed to stay visa-free in Costa Rica for 30 days. Since 2016, citizens of the Russian Federation do not need a visa to visit Costa Rica.
Transport in Costa Rica
In the Republic of Costa Rica, today there are more than ten operating airports that also operate mandatory domestic flights through the SANSA airline. The terrain, the abundance of volcanoes, incl. operating, and a seismically active zone do not allow the development of rail transport, so the main means of transportation is the bus.
City transport is also represented by shuttle buses, and in large cities a taxi service is well developed, where each car is equipped with a meter. If your driving experience is more than two years, you have a credit card and an international driver’s license, then you can rent a car to move around the country on your own. Just pay attention that even on intercity routes there is practically no marking.