Costa Rica Facts

COSTA RICA in brief.

With an area of 51,100 square kilometers (31, 690 square miles), it borders  with Nicaragua on the North, Panama on the southeast, the Pacific Ocean on the  west and southwest, and the Atlantic on the East.

Costa Rica has population of approx. 4 million people, 1 percent is indigenous population, 3 percent are black, 1 percent is Asian, 1 percent is of other races, and an overwhelming 94 percent of the country is white descent (including  Mestizos). Anyone born in the country is affectionately referred to as a Tico.

Costa Rica has not had an army since 1948, which accounts in great part for  its well-known reputation of peace. Costa Rica’s basically secure income relies  mainly on tourism, agriculture (coffee, bananas, etc.) and electronics exports.  Costa Rica’s literacy rate is 95.7%. The high level education of the country’s workforce and its peaceful climate, have brought in a lot of foreign  investment.

Costa Rica’s government is organized as a democratic republic with seven provinces: San Jose, Alajuela, Heredia, Guanacaste, Cartago, Limon and  Puntarenas. Here you will find beautiful beaches of various colors of sand, both  on the Pacific Ocean and Caribbean Sea. Majestic mountains covered with  rainforests or cloud forests are a wonderful place to explore, and study their vast collection of flora and fauna that is incomparable to any in the world. The weather is ideal for outdoor activities both in the dry and rainy seasons.

Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve: ( 10,500 hectares /  25,945.5 acres)

Monteverde is a private non-profit reserve administered by the Tropical  Science Center. It is called a cloud forest rather than a rainforest because of  its altitude: the clouds go through the forest. A cloud forest is a highland forest characterized by nearly 100% humidity throughout the year.

One of the most important features of Monteverde Cloud forest is the abundance of wildlife and vegetation. Competition for growing space is so intense that trunks and branches are almost entirely covered with a variety of epiphytes, lichens, liverworts, bryophytes and mosses. In this reserve there are 2,500 species of plants. There are 100 species of mammals, including 5 species  of cats, over 400 species of birds.

The area is acclaimed as one of the most outstanding wildlife refuge in The  New World Tropics.

The Arenal National Park ( 12,141 hectares / 30,000 acres)

The Arenal National Park created in 1991, is located on Costa Rica’s central northern plains. The Arenal Volcano is the only active volcano in Costa Rica. It  stands 1,657 meters ( 5,435 feet) high above the eastern shores of Lake Arenal. Its conical shape typical of a strato volcano is made of successive layers of  eruptions, rocks, ashes and lava. The most recent eruptive period began with a major explosive eruption in 1968, after 400 years of being dormant. The  land-locked national park is also the home of Costa Rica’s largest artificial  lake, which lies west of the volcano. The majestic lake Arenal was enlarged to  three times its original size to form a 33 square mile basin that feeds the hydroelectric dam, which produces 70% of Costa Rica’s electricity. Under the water of the lake, lies the abandoned town of Arenal.

Tenorio  National Park ( 12,867 hectare /31,794 acres)

The Tenorio National Park created in 1976 is located in the northern pacific region of the country. It covers 31,794 acres. The national park was created to  protect the Tenorio Volacno, which stands at 1,916 meters ( 6,322 feet). The volcano is assumed to be dormant, with no eruptions in recent history. The Park is well known for its steep trails. Primary cloud forest and rainforest covers the park, which abounds with flora and fauna species in multiple life zones,  innumerable rivers and waterfalls.


Central America, bordering both the Caribbean Sea and the North Pacific Ocean, between Nicaragua and Panama

Geographic coordinates:

10 00 N, 84 00 W


total: 51,100 sq km
land: 50,660 sq km
water: 440 sq km
note: includes Isla del Coco

Area - comparative:

slightly smaller than  West Virginia

Land boundaries:

total: 639 km
border countries: Nicaragua 309 km, Panama 330 km


1,290 km

Maritime claims:

territorial  sea: 12 nm
exclusive economic zone: 200 nm
continental  shelf: 200 nm


tropical and subtropical; dry season (December to April); rainy season (May to November); cooler in highlands


coastal plains separated by rugged mountains including over 100 volcanic cones, of which  several are major volcanoes

Elevation extremes:

lowest point: Pacific Ocean 0 m
highest point: Cerro Chirripo 3,810 m

Natural resources:


Land use:

arable land: 4.41%
permanent crops: 5.88%
other: 89.71% (2001)

Irrigated land:

1,260 sq km (1998  est.)

Natural hazards:

occasional earthquakes, hurricanes along Atlantic coast; frequent flooding of lowlands at onset of rainy season and landslides; active volcanoes

Environment - current issues:

deforestation and  land use change, largely a result of the clearing of land for cattle ranching  and agriculture; soil erosion; coastal marine pollution; fisheries protection;  solid waste management; air pollution

Environment - international agreements:

party to: Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Endangered Species, Environmental Modification, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Marine Dumping, Ozone Layer Protection, Wetlands, Whaling
signed,  but not ratified: Marine Life Conservation

Geography - note:

four volcanoes, two  of them active, rise near the capital of San Jose in the center of the country; one of the volcanoes, Irazu, erupted destructively in 1963-65

The Ticos


4,016,173 (July 2005 est.)

Age structure:

0-14 years: 28.9% (male 593,540/female 566,361)
15-64 years: 65.5% (male 1,330,481/female 1,300,664)
65 years and over: 5.6% (male  104,564/female 120,563) (2005 est.)

Median age:

total: 26.03 years
male: 25.59 years
female: 26.5 years (2005 est.)

Population growth rate:

1.48% (2005 est.)

Birth rate:

18.6 births/1,000 population (2005 est.)

Death rate:

4.33 deaths/1,000 population (2005 est.)

Net migration rate:

0.5 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2005 est.)

Sex ratio:

at birth: 1.05  male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.05 male(s)/female
15-64  years: 1.02 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.87 male(s)/female
total population: 1.02 male(s)/female (2005 est.)

Infant mortality rate:

total: 9.95 deaths/1,000 live  births
male: 10.85 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 9 deaths/1,000 live births (2005 est.)

Life expectancy at birth:

total population: 76.84 years
male: 74.26 years
female: 79.55 years (2005 est.)

Total fertility rate:

2.28 children born/woman (2005 est.)


noun: Costa Rican(s)
adjective: Costa Rican

Ethnic groups:

white (including mestizo) 94%, black 3%, Amerindian 1%, Chinese 1%, other 1%


Roman Catholic 76.3%,  Evangelical 13.7%, Jehovah's Witnesses 1.3%, other Protestant 0.7%, other 4.8%, none 3.2%


Spanish (official),  English


definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 96%
male: 95.9% female: 96.1% (2003 est.)

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