Over 25% of Costa Rica's territory is protected by the government's extensive national parks system. This creates a haven for countless species of flora and fauna, and offers visitors a wide array of activities and opportunities to partake of paradise… As you experience Costa Rica, you can go from surfing along the dry tropical forest of the Central Pacific, to dancing calypso music beside the exuberant Caribbean coast. You can hike misty cloud forests, discover majestic volcanoes, fly above the rainforest canopy, bathe under a waterfall, spot a family of monkeys, or simply relax as this wildlife wonderland unfolds right in front of your eyes.
In addition to the numerous tourist attractions offered by the country, there is also a large selection in terms of lodging accommodations. From five star resorts to small eco-lodges, Costa Rica has something to suit everybody's preferences and budget. Getting to the country is also easy. Most major airlines fly to Costa Rica from key cities in the United States, Canada, and Europe. Add Costa Rica's peaceful and friendly lifestyle into the mix and you get one of the most visited vacation spots in the world!
Official Language. Spanish (English is spoken as a second language in most tourist areas).
Electricity. The nationwide voltage is 110-v AC. However, a few remote areas use their own power source.
Water. The water is safe to drink in all areas of the country./
Time Zone. Costa Rica is on Central Standard Time (GMT -6), but does not observe daylight saving time.
Currency Exchange. The Colón is Costa Rica's official currency. Exchange rates fluctuate everyday and you may exchange your money at banks and hotel front desks throughout the country. US dollars are accepted at most tourist destinations, excluding some small villages.
Credit Cards. Most major credit cards are accepted all through the country, but some smaller businesses will only accept local currency.
Climate. As a tropical country, Costa Rica only experiences two seasons: dry and rainy. The dry season goes from December until April and the rainy season goes from May to November. During the rainy season rain can be expected in the afternoons; yet, the mornings are usually sunny. Costa Rica's year round average temperature is 22° C (72° F). On the coastal areas, it can get as high as 27°C (81°F) and in high altitude it can decrease down to 15°C (57°F).
Clothing. If you are visiting the beach, pack light clothes, sandals, sunblock, sunglasses, and a hat. Bring a light sweater or jacket for your visits to some volcanoes and forests. Finally, make sure you have comfortable shoes and at least one pair of long pants also, bring your raincoat if you have one!
Communications. You will find reliable telephone service all over Costa Rica; however, many cell phone service providers do not offer coverage in the country. Internet access is widely spread and cable TV services offer plenty of international channels. For international calls, dial (00) followed by your country code, area code, and telephone number.
Hospitals. Health care services in Costa Rica uphold high sanitary standards and first class hospitals are found throughout San José and other largely populated areas.
International Airports.Costa Rica has two main international airports, the Juan Santamaría International Airport, located 20 minutes from San José in the Central Valley and the Daniel Oduber Quirós International Airport, located in Liberia, Guanacaste. At Gray Line, we offer you airport shuttle services from both of these airports to your hotel.
Entry Requirements. Foreign visitors require a valid passport to enter the country. US, Canadian, and most European citizens do not require a visa; however, check visa requirements with a Costa Rican embassy near you before traveling.
Customs. You can bring up to 500 cigarettes and three liters of wine or spirits duty free.
Departure Tax. A US$26.00 airport departure tax is charged to everyone leaving the country. You may use cash or a Visa credit card to pay for it at the airport or at a Gray Line counter.
Taxes. Sales tax in Costa Rica is 13%.
Tipping. In Costa Rica, a 10% service tax is included in your restaurant bills, so you are not expected to tip. Taxi drivers are not tipped either. For most tourist services, tip is not included but there is no standard in terms of how much you should give.
Business Hours. Government offices are open Monday to Friday from 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Commercial offices, stores, and other businesses are open Monday to Friday from 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. Stores are also open Saturday and Sunday until noon. Banks are open Monday to Friday from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. Some private banks offer their services until 7:00 p.m. and others, located inside shopping centers, are open on Saturdays.
Government. The Republic of Costa Rica is one of the oldest democracies in the Americas, and the only country in the world without an army. Presidential elections are held every four years.
Population. Costa Rica has a population of 4 million people and over 50% of them live in the Central Valley. Per capita annual carbon dioxide emission is 1.2 metric tons (USA: 19.9). Costa Rica has a large middle class, relatively high standard of living, high literacy rate (96%) and life expectancy at birth similar to most industrialized nations (78 years).
Religion. Costa Rica's official religion is Catholicism, but freedom of worship is respected.
Size. Costa Rica is 51,100 square kilometers roughly the size of West Virginia.
Topography. Located between Nicaragua and Panama, Costa Rica is bordered by both the Caribbean Sea and the Pacific Ocean. A series of volcanic mountain chains run from the Nicaraguan border in the northwest to the Panamanian border in the southeast, splitting the country in half. The Central Valley is located in the middle of these mountain ranges and there are coastal lowlands on both sides of them.
National Holidays. January 1st New Years Day April 11th Juan Santamaría's Day (National Hero) Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter May 1st International Labor Day July 15th Annexation of Guanacaste Day August 2nd Angels' Virgin Day (Country's Patron) August 15th Mother's Day September 15th Independence Day October 12th Columbus Day December 25th Christmas Day
There are archaeological evidences that say that the arrivals of the first humans to Costa Rica were between 10000 and 7000 B.C. In Turrialba's valley quarry areas and some factories for making typical tools were found. The settlers from this period were nomadic bands, about 20 to 30 hunters and collectors members. Some animals that they hunt to eat still exist today.
From the development of the Meso-Americana cultures, the northwest side of the country fell little by little under the influence. The towns of the Intermediate Area included almost all the Costa Rican territory, Eastern half of Nicaragua, Panama, Colombia and the Ecuadorian Pacific, they all worked like a bridge between the Meso-Americans cultures and the Andean Area. Through them the technological interchange between both zones became possible; but it had a consequence among other things, the development of the metallurgy in Mexico and in Central America.
In 1502, the navigator Christopher Columbus, in his fourth and last travel to the New World, anchors in the city of Limon, specifically in Uvita Island. The beginnings of the establishments began in 1522. During this period, in Century XVI, the natives of the country were conquered by the Spanish. Costa Rica turn in the southern province of the Spanish territory, now called the New Spain. The capital of the province was located in Cartago. In 1513 Vasco Nuñez de Balboa discovered the Pacific Coast. Later the lake of Nicaragua was discovered by Gil Gonzalez Davila, towards the years 1560. This territory continued being explored by Juan de Cavallón and Juan Vázquez de Coronado. During the next three hundred years, Spain administers this ree were they found gold degion as part of the General Captain Post of Guatemala, under a military governor. With optimism, the Spaniards had called "Costa Rica" an important zonposits and other valued minerals in this territory. Although thinking these lands were not as richer as they to thought, compared with other provinces, they dedicate themselves especially to the agriculture. Independence
In 1821, Costa Rica joins Central American provinces in the statement of independence for Spain, the 15th of September. After a brief period, under the dominion of the Mexican Empire of Agustín de Iturbide, Costa Rica was part of the state in the United Provinces of Central America between 1823 and 1839. In 1824 the capital of the country was changed to San José, but it followed a period of rivalry with Cartago, old providence capital.
Although all the recently independent Republics formed a Federation, disputes of the country borders generated disagreements among them, adding to the region unstable conditions. The northern province ofGuanacaste was annexed freely to Costa Rica in 1824.
Under the command of Tomas Guardia Gutierrez (1870-1882), Costa Rica benefitted from great foreign investments in the railway routes and other public equipment. The arrival in the country of the United Fruit Company, allowed the development of the coastal plains in the South zone of the country, also in the railway routes, as well as increase of the infrastructures, simultaneously to the development, turned the country on a independent state dependent on the international markets and the foreign capitals. Years later, the country lived on an era of peaceful and democracy, that began in 1889, when the elections were considered, the first ones on being honest and free in the whole history of the country.
Costa Rica has avoided as far as possible, much of the violence that has plagued Central America. From the last years of Century XIX, only two single periods of strong violence have damage the democratic development. In 1917, Federico Tinoco Granados governed like a dictator for two years, after a coup.
In 1948 Jose Figueres Ferrer lead a raised armed for the Civil War of Costa Rica rise, the result of a presidential election vitiated of invalidity and fraud. The following year, Figueres himself abolished the army, and since then, Costa Rica has been one of the few countries in operating under the democratic system without the aid of an armed army.
The lost of 2000 soldiers in the 44 days of civil war was the bloodiest fact in the history of Costa Rica in the Century XX, but the Assembly create a constitution that guarantee the free elections with universal suffrage and the aim of the armed army.
Figueres became a national hero, gaining the first election under the new constitution in 1953. Since then, the country has carried out twelve elections, the last one of them in the 2006.
Costa Rica has reached a relative standard top of life. At the moment, the services, the electronic components and the tourism exceed to agriculture like the industries of faster expansion and the main currency sources.
Costa Rica Today
With an approximately of 5 million inhabitants and a territory of 51.100 Kilometers, Costa Rica is located in Central America, strategically located like an union between North America and South America.
It has two important facing ports the Pacific Ocean and to the Atlantic Ocean, they have 6 hours of distance among them. It has a constitutional regime made up of three powers: Legislative, Executive and Judicial. Due to their enormous wealth of flora and fauna and to the environmental conscience of the population, 25% of the national territory has been declared like protected areas.
Costa Ricans know in the world as "Ticos", are entirely know mainly for the respect to the family union, for continuing using old customs and for making friends all over the country.
Tico is a colloquial term for a native of Costa Rica. A plural form is Ticos. There are two explanations for the use of this word. One of the, is because Tico is used as a diminutive suffix instead of using ito. The second explanation of the word tico is for making little the word "Hermanitico" which means a friendly and a respect word for calling each other.
The Costa Ricans are very proud of their history; they continue reviving old customs, like cooking on firewood stove, drinking coffee all afternoons and going to church on Sundays and many more. The personal appearance of every person is always clean and always good looking.
A cordial greeting as Buenos Dias (good morning) and Buenas Noches (good night) will always describe Costa Rica. Means will shake your hand and woman will kiss your cheek for saying hello or good bye. Costa Rica's official religion is the Roman Catholicism, although there is a freedom to practice any religion. Woman's are accepted nationally and equally professionals as men's. Most of them are house householders, so this means they are time fully workers.
ORIGIN AND GEOLOGIC CHARACTERISTICS OF COSTA RICA
Central America is characterized rather by the biodiversity that by the homogeneity, that is the predominant characteristic of this area because of the geographic situation. In addition it presents excellent characteristics, one double climate condition: the inter-oceanic and the inter-continental one.
Structurally the region extends from Mexico in the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, to the valley of Atrato in Colombia according to Dengo (1975). During this time the inter-oceanic channel of almost 3,000 kilometers separated North America from South America. For this one time, the Central America of the north was constituted by invasive and sedimentary rocks, because of the tectonic movements. At the end of this period and because of their movements it was actually formed, actually it is in the same form. When the Tertiary period finalized still exist a channel of approximately 300 km in length, which still separated the north of Nicaragua with the north of Colombia. In the south sector of Central America, during the Inferior Tertiary period and the Superior Cretaceous period, it appeared a chain of volcanic islands. In the Pliocene, three or four million years ago, the terrestrial bridge formed and consolidated. It separated the Pacific Ocean of the Atlantic Ocean and the North America with South America.
Thanks to the bridge condition, Central America allowed the animal and plant spreading as well as the migrations of human and the cultural interchange. The located mountainous systems in Guatemala, Honduras and in the north of Nicaragua, caused isolation, reason which the evolution of endemic species was favored and formed a barrier that prevented the diffusion. A clear example of this is the Pine tree which is not in the south of the Nicaraguan Lake.
To the south of Costa Rica is located the Mountain range of Talamanca, where we found oaks from North American mixed with origin South American coniferous. The combination of great variety of species from North America as well as from South America makes Central America, a privileged region for the wealth and the variety of flora and fauna, which is not found in any other part of the Western Hemisphere and which doesn't has a territory of this same extension.
During the Freezing's of the Pleistocene, the Straits of Bering was possibly frozen, which allowed the migrations from Asia to America. The first settlers, with a rudimentary culture were dedicating to the hunting, harvesting and fishing, extend all around the continent. Little by little they are going to develop two types of agriculture, one of them based on the tuber cultivation, like yucca, for the case of the Andean Region.
In the Mesoamerican area the crops were the corn and the beans. Thanks to this type of agriculture bloom three great civilizations in the American continent grew up: The Mayan, the Aztec in Mexico and Guatemala and the Inca in Peru.
GEOLOGIC HISTORY OF COSTA RICA
For more than 200 million years ago, began the geologic history of our country. For this period probably the continental masses were located in a position very similar to the actual.
As a product of separation of the American, European and African plate, as a result of the consequence of the cells action in convection with the magma. The Atlantic Ocean was created, whose origin must to with an extension zone, which covers from Iceland to the Antártida.
The Orogeny process (the process of mountain building and studied as a tectonic structural event) began with volcanic activities, accompanied by sprouting oceanic ridges and submarine crests. A result from this process is an archipelago oriented towards the east, and later on it would be known as the external arc, actually represented with a worn of series away from the mountain ranges, located in the Peninsula of Nicoya, Herradura Beach, Osa's Peninsula and in Punta Burica.
An intense volcanic activity characterized this period and due to this, the erosion processes increased in the sedimentation of these areas. About sixty million years ago, during the Inferior and Average Eocene epoch(major division of the geologic timescale and the second epoch of the Paleocene period in the Cenozoic era.), almost disappeared the totality of the external arc, emerging lots of islands known as Guanarivas.
During Oligocene, 25 million years ago, these islands disappeared in the ocean and were covered by detritus material (death matter) as a consequence of the degradation and the later sedimentation.
Due to the intense volcanism it originated the Avocado Mountain and the mountain range of Talamanca. It starts an ascent and reaches the greater altitude of the internal arc. This volcanism would give later the origin to the Central Volcanic Mountain range and to the Mountain range of Guanacaste.
Thus, the conformation of the territory that Costa Rica occupies today has lasted approximately 8 to 10 million years, because the rise of the geologic structures occurs in a rate of 10 mm per year. MAIN GEOLOGIC STRUCTURES OF COSTA RICA The relief constitution is from the Northwest to the Southeast, with four mountainous chains: Guanacaste, Tilarán, Central Volcanic and Talamanca.
The Volcanic Mountain range of Guanacaste is formed by a row of volcanic cones. The Rincon de la Vieja and the Arenal volcano present volcanic activity. In the year 1968 the Arenal Volcano, started with a spectacular activity period, with lava emissions and ardent ash and clouds. In the south part of the Arenal Volcano was a small lake which they use to make a hydroelectric dam.
The Mountain range of Tilarán is constituted by volcanic rocks where gold seams have been found in some sectors like Abangares and Miramar.
The Central Volcanic Mountain range is formed by four volcanoes: Poás, Irazú, Barva and Turrialba. The Irazu volcano presented a great volcanic activity in the period between 1963 and 1965; at the moment it has some fumaroles, an area of thermal springs and gas vents with magma and hot igneous rocks Poás Volcano has had volcanic activity in different moments as well as some ash eruptions. A phenomenon that is actually affecting its surroundings is the acid rain, which constantly burns the crops of vegetables, strawberries and many more.
Structurally the Mountain range of Talamanca is an anticline, usually recognized by a sequence of rock layers that are progressively older toward the center of the fold, formed by marine sediments and volcanic rocks. It begins in the Central Valley and has a direction Northwest to Southeast.
Costa Rica has four million inhabitants. About half of them live around San Jose, in the Central Valley. Costa Ricans (ticos) come predominately from the mixture of European and indigenous heritage. Their physical characteristics remind of the Spanish, but a fair number show varied native features. Less than one percent of the population is full fledged Indian; most of it lives in reservations around the Talamanca Mountains.
The Caribbean region has a large percentage of African descendants, especially along the coast. Many of these individual's grandparents came from Jamaica to work on the construction of the railroad. Some Europeans have also settled in the Atlantic, fascinated by the easy-going life style. Foreigners are around a 1% of the total population. Lastly, there is also a minority with Chinese heritage spread fairly around the country.
The Costa Rican Constitution states that elementary school is free and obligatory. Around 70% of secondary education is provided by public high schools, the other 30% is provided by accredited private schools. Many national and international universities offer a variety of degrees in different majors: some even specialize in agriculture, international relations or in the environment. There are also some schools that offer a North-American or European style education from pre-kinder through high school.
Regions of Costa Rica
Central Valley is large and a fertile land surrounded by mountains. A 70 % of the country's population lives here. If you explore these highlands you will witness the different climates changes.
There are several volcanoes in the area that are visited by thousands of tourists each year, as well historical monuments in the capital city including theaters, museums and governmental institutions. Getting around the Great Metropolitan area is easy and accessible.
The Northern Lowlands are known for its picturesque villages that welcome many tourists throughout the year. It's a convenient location due to its proximity with the Arenal Volcano (about 6 km). There are several restaurants and bars in the area, as well as several tourist attractions like canopy, suspension bridges and hiking areas.
You can also visit La Fortuna Waterfall, which has a jump of 70 meters and several natural pools. There are amazing hot springs as well, for those looking for a more relaxing adventure.
Central Pacific extends through the Pacific Coast, from Guanacaste to the Panama border. The climate of the Central Pacific is not dry, therefore, heat and heaviness of moist in the air is easily sensed. Tourists may visit the United Fruit Company banana port, on their way to Manuel Antonio, in Quepos. There are several well priced hotels and cabins in the Quepos area as well.
The North Pacific has some of the most beautiful beaches in the country.
The peninsula's highlights are Flamingo Beach, Playa Conchal, Playa Tamarindo, Black Beach and Playa Avellanas. In the southeastern side of the peninsula, Montezuma and Flamingo Beach are the most visited spots.
There are several luxurious homes and hotels in the area. It is a very quiet place with lots of sport fishing and surfing.
The Caribbean Coast is where the Caribbean Sea and the rainforest come together. There are several white sand beaches and transparent waters. Around a quarter of the Caribbean coast is protected.
This coast is less frequented than the Pacific due to its climate: while most days are usually sunny throughout the year, high humidity levels have been recorded (even during dry season), leading into lots of precipition.
Numerous indigenous communities inhabit the Caribbean Coast including the Cocles, Bribrís Talamanca and Cabécar, as well as a large Afro-Caribbean population.
The Souh Pacific is a fundamental part of Costa Rica's geography thanks to its rich maritime geography.
The Osa Peninsula and the Nicoya Peninsula are the two very important peninsulas in the region. Osa is located in the southern province of Puntarenas. Despite being a relatively small area of extension, there are a large number of tropical habitats: rain forests, coastal wetlands, mountain forests, among others.
This region is located in the famous Corcovado National Park, which constitutes the largest protected area of Costa Rica and, according to the National Geographic "the most biologically active area in the world."
There are many easy ways to get to and around Costa Rica. Citizens from Canada and United States need valid passports and they could stay for up to 90 days. Adults and children need separate individual passports.
Europeans require valid passports and only western Europeans need visas. Irish, Australians and New Zealanders have an initial permit to remain up to 30 days in the country.
In Central America, only Nicaraguans require a visa to enter Costa Rica, due to the high immigration of Nicaraguans. You can get to Costa Rica by air, land and sea.
More than one million people visited Costa Rica last year. Prices vary depending on the season. Tickets from United States or from Canada usually go around $400-800. From Europe are between $800-1000. Prices may fall during low season.
There are two international airports: 1- Juan Santamaria International Airport, in Alajuela. 2- Daniel Oduber International Airport, in Guanacaste.
Airlines from all around the world arrive to these airports. Local airlines have their own airport, Tobias Bolaños Airport in Rhomoser on the west side of the capital city. There are four local airlines providing services throughout the country:
1- SANSA. 2- Nature Air. 3- Paradise Air. 4- Aero Bell.
The Exit Taxes are $26 per person. It is highly recommended to get to the airport at least 2 ½ hours before your flight's departure time. Baggage weight is limited to 70 lbs (32 kg) per bag. LAND
Roads in Costa Rica are in poor conditions, however, the natural attractions and amazing landscapes throughout the country, is worth the 'rough' ride.
When you get to Costa Rica you will be able to remain in the country with your car for up to 3 months. If you'd like to stay in Costa Rica after 90 days, you may renew your visa and pay steep import duties.
RENTING A CAR
Renting can be expensive, depending on the season. Prices go around $45 per day and $300 a week for a simple car. If you want a 4WD, prices go up to $60 per day and $350- 800 per week.
Some of the options for renting a car in Costa Rica are: 1- Mapache Rent a Car 2- trifty Rent a Car 3- Dollar Rent a Car
4WD cars are strongly recommended. If you don't want to rent a car, you can get around by bus. The cheapest buses are the public ones, and can take you anywhere in the country, although private buses can do it for you in a more comfortable and faster way.
Taxis can also be found everywhere. Sometimes it's better to get a cab rather than walking around, especially during the night. It's important to make sure that they turn on the meter (known as "La Maria"), which will guarantee you the right fare.
It is important to know that illegal taxis are cheaper because they don't use the meter. These cabs are normal cars; they don't have a specific color as the regular red taxis do. Sea
Costa Rica is the perfect vacation destination. There are 4 ports in Costa Rica, one in the Caribbean side in Limon, in Puntarenas and in Caldera. More than 85.000 people visited these ports in the past few years.
All ports open from 8 am to 4 pm. 1- North Pacific port: It is in Playas del Coco. The usual waiting time is an hour. 2- Central Pacific: It is in the Hotel Los Sueños, in Puntarenas. These boats go to Caldera. 3-South Pacific: Is in Golfito. Immigration port, people must go through customs 4- Caribbean Coast: It is in Puerto Limon, there are no formal yacht facilities but people go through customs.
There are 3 commercial ports: 1- Pacific Coast 2- Golfito- southern Pacific Coast 3- Moin- north of Limon.