Capital City: San José
Area: 51,100 km2 (19,730 millas2)
Costa Rica is a country located in Central America that has unlimited tourist potential and is ranked as one of the most visited international destinations. One of Costa Rica's main sources of income is tourism. Costa Rica is a democratic and peaceful country, and it has not had an army since the year 1948.
Although the country is small and it covers only 0.03 % of the surface of the globe, it proudly shelters a 6% of the existing biodiversity in the entire world. 25.58 % of the country is composed of conservation and natural protected territory.
Costa Rica is also an attractive country for investment and it offers great potential for the establishment of important multinational companies, thanks to the outstanding academic level of its population, as well as the high standard of modern services and social and political stability.
Costa Rican culture is in many ways a reflection of its racial diversity. The predominant influence has long been European, which is reflected in everything from the official language -- Spanish -- to the architecture of the country's churches and other historic buildings. The indigenous influence is less visible, but can be found in everything from the tortillas that make part of a typical Costa Rican meal, to the handmade ceramics sold at roadside stands.
An important aspect of Costa Rica's cultural legacy is their love for peace and democracy. The Ticos like to stand out that their nation is the exception in Latin America, where military dictatorships have long dominated politics.
They take pride in having more than one hundred years of democratic tradition, and almost half a century without an army. The army was abolished in 1948, and the money the country saves by not expending in military issues is invested in improving the Costa Ricans' standard of living, which has fostered a culture of social peace that makes it such a pleasant place to visit.
The Ticos, as Costa Ricans are commonly known, are famous for their hospitality, and are quite happy to live up to their reputation. They are well-educated and hard working people, who are quick with a handshake and a smile. They are well aware of the special land they have, and most likely they will help foreigners when they get lost, even explaining things that might seem bizarre to foreigners, and making their stay as enjoyable as possible.
People say the Ticos are their nation's greatest asset, and once you've experienced their friendliness and spontaneity, you'll have no doubt to that regard.
Costa Rica's richness also lies on the cultural diversity of our people. Throughout our history, the indigenous population of pre-Hispanic origins have been added movements of immigrants, which settled in these lands, making it their home. Populations of European origin, mainly Spaniards, persons of African and Asian ascendance, as well as people from different places of the American continent have interacted among them, enriching the cultural backgrounds in the process.
Currently, besides the predominant half-breed component, there are ethnical-national groups and colonies of immigrants recovering their particular cultural heritage: African descendants, Chinese, Hebrew, Lebanese, Italian, etc.; as well as the indigenous populations of the Bribri, Cabecar, Maleku, Teribe, Boruca, Ngöbe, Huetar, and Chorotega.
Costa Rica extends majestically from the Pacific Ocean to the Caribbean Sea, and its distance is barely 200 miles. Its land portion occupies only 20 thousand square miles.
If you travel throughout the provinces of Costa Rica, it's easy to notice that in no other place you shall find fields with so many variations in their landscape and climate as here.
Costa Rica is one of most highly valued tourist destinations in this planet. This small piece of land includes all of the necessary components to satisfy the taste of thousands of travelers visiting each year.
Costa Rica's territorial division includes 7 provinces, which are: San José, Alajuela, Cartago, Heredia, Guanacaste, Puntarenas, and Limón. Together they offer an attractive tourist destination, of almost limitless possibilities, that include extensive rainforests, volcanoes, rivers traveling through the mountains, beaches and natural resources safeguarded by an important organization of national parks and forest reserves.
San José is the country's most highly populated province. Located in the Central Plateau, it extends to the northeast, crossing the impressive mountains of the Central Mountain Range, which includes national parks, forest reserves, and fertile lands, with an abundance of coffee plantations.
Costa Rica's capital, San José, is in the Central Valley. It's an extensive plain, guarded by majestic volcanoes and green hills, honoring the natural richness that exists throughout the national territory.
Founded in the first half of the eighteenth century, San José is nowadays a city where visitors of the entire world converge; metropolis full of interesting places, faces, and colors reflecting the history of a population.
Its architecture is diverse, as may be the people walking its streets. In the north sector of the city you can find the most refined samples of urban development of the early last century. There are many houses and buildings of European inspiration, built with a profound Costa Rican sense of style.
Among the most representative places of the city, we can mention the National Theater, Costa Rica's pride, and historically, house to some of the best artists, national as well as foreign. Inaugurated in 1897, fruit of the determination of merchants, intellectuals and politicians, who were able to identify the importance an opera house could have, to present the best artistic productions in the world.
Nonetheless, a list of world class museums, parks, hotels, theaters, and historic buildings, are some other options to be discovered by the thousands of tourists visiting San José yearly.
Once in the city, visitors may choose among dozens of one-day tours to the most outstanding natural places, inside and out of the Central Valley, as well as having access to a great variety of sports adventures and activities for exploring.
With a territory of 2.656 km2 and a population of 75 000 inhabitants, Heredia is Costa Rica's smallest province, town appreciated for its colonial heritage and traditional architecture.
A great number of adobe houses may be appreciated along the communities of Barva and Santo Domingo. The city of Heredia, best known as 'City of the Flowers', was founded in 1706, pursuant to an initiative of some 150 families dwelling there.
In Heredia you still find an important number of coffee plantations, many of which have been adapted to perform guided visits with tourists. It can be delightful to enjoy the captivating process of harvesting, drying, and roasting of coffee beans.
Among the natural wonders of the province of Heredia, we find Barva volcano, a formidable colossus located at the west part of Braulio Carrillo National Park, which rises 2.906 meters over sea level. The vegetation surrounding this sleeping giant is astonishing; an ideal place for bird watching, especially for those who dream with the magnificent quetzal.
On the other hand, Braulio Carrillo National Park represents the greatest natural richness near the Central Valley. A tropical rainforest, home to hundreds of plant and animal species.
The dense vegetation of the park safeguards many cascades and rivers, some of which are used in sports adventures. Sarapiquí River is another of the attractions of the province. This imposing river travels through dense vegetation, where birds are abundant. It has an ideal current for those who enjoy the rapids, with a moderate degree of difficulty.
The mountainous areas of Heredia, just before crossing the Central Mountain Range, are characterized by vast extensions of forest and fair climate. Many people choose these green and fresh sites to establish themselves, to live far away from the city crowds.
Generous and warm province, Guanacaste is known for its cattle ranching production and spectacular beaches. It is the driest region of Costa Rica, specially the coastal areas.
Guanacaste became part of Costa Rica in 1824; until then, it had remained an independent province. This territory certainly has a very important natural and cultural richness for Costa Rica's economy. Some of the best beach hotels in the world are found on the beaches of Guanacaste.
Guanacaste is well known for its beaches and the sun, which is exactly what visitors find along its coastline, with an abundance of hotels, cabins, and restaurants. Some are luxury ones, others more modest, but they all guarantee that guests have the perfect option for each budget.
Panamá Beach, in the north area of the province, is one of the good options for tourism. A quiet place with white sand and easy waters, invite you to enjoy a care-free weekend.
Coco's Beach features as one of the most popular spots, due to its night life and great number of visitors; and without having to travel much you can reach Flamingo Beach, an ideal place for those preferring a mix of good hotels and a quiet atmosphere.
There are also Ocotal and Hermosa beaches, among the favorite of Guanacaste's coast. Grande Beach is located further south, and along with Las Baulas National Park, is a sanctuary for thousands of leatherback turtles (baula) arriving to spawn in its coasts each year.
Tamarindo offers a blend of white-sand beaches and mangroves, sea birds and iguanas, making it a paradisiacal and perfect spot for those wishing to live in harmony with nature.
Many other beaches along the coast of Guanacaste will complete a matchless natural offer. Carrillo Beach, Ostional Beach, Manzanillo, and Coyote, are some of those destinations giving the greatest province of Costa Rica its reputation.
In Guanacaste you may enjoy delicious food, so characteristic of its people and that with the passage of time, became authentic traditional Costa Rican dishes. Santa Rosa National Park is located to the north of the province. It is a jewel of the tropical dry forest, counting with a remarkable biological inventory.
Likewise, embedded in the Guanacaste Mountain Range, are the Tenorio, Orosi, Miravalles, and Rincón de La Vieja volcanoes, the latter surrounded by the national park of the same name.
Guanacaste is undoubtedly a privileged land. Possessing a mixture of forests dry and rainy, warm beaches, extensive plains and an impressive volcanic range; a natural world expecting to be explored.
Known as the "Pearl of the Pacific", Puntarenas is the largest province of Costa Rica, with an area of 11.276 Km2. Its main attraction is its Pacific coastline, extending over more than 500 miles down to the Panamanian boarder.
This vast province offers a variety of beaches, national parks, and natural reserves of an extraordinary ecological importance, since it is a transition area between the dry tropical lands of Guanacaste and the green forests of the Central Pacific.
The Port of Caldera and the City of Puntarenas, receive hundreds of tourists daily, from countless cruise ships making shore on its coasts. Some of these ships are traveling with the Panama Canal as destination, which allows passengers to explore Costa Rica's inland, only to meet their cruise ship some days later at the port of Limón, in the Caribbean.
Carara's Biological Reserve constitutes one of the best showcases to the natural heritage of Puntarenas. This reserve includes an extension of 11.600 acres of forests and mangroves.
Today, only some portions of the reserve are available to tourists, but professional guides, who are allowed to explore some restricted areas, may be hired.
Manuel Antonio National Park is another destination of the province of Puntarenas. With its impressive white-sand beaches, blue waters of the Pacific and hundreds of hectares of rainforest, this park is one of the smallest in Costa Rica, but at the same time, one of the most highly visited.
Manuel Antonio is one of the few places in Costa Rica where the spider monkey (tití) still lives. Within the park you may also find over 100 species of mammals and an equal number of bird types.
Also belonging to Puntarenas, another feature is the Corcovado National Park -located south and constituting the habitat of important endemic species such as the gold frog as well as the Tárcoles River, whose margins are guarded by hundreds of American crocodiles.
Good food -especially seafood- as well as the well-known carnivals held each summer, and the warmth of its people, are some of the nice surprises expecting tourists visiting this province.
Also known as the Ancient Metropoli, Cartago was the capital of Costa Rica until 1823, when this title was transferred to the city of San José. It is a relatively small province, with barely 3.124 km2 and almost 35 000 inhabitants.
It is perhaps Costa Rica's most important area in matters of colonial art. The best example is the temple of Orosi, dating back to 1743, a historical jewel that was witness to the birth of a nation.
Cartago has a humid, tropical climate. Its mountain system is made up of two mountain ranges: the Central, is where we find the Irazú and Turrialba volcanoes. The Talamanca mountain range is the other great mountain formation of the province. The imposing Cerro Chirripó, the highest point in Costa Rica, is located here, at 3.600 meters over sea level.
Cartago is a land of traditions and religiosity. To the north we find the national monument of Guayabo, located on the outskirts of the town of Turrialba. In Guayabo, visitors may admire the enigmatic constructions, dating back to Pre-Colombian times. It's one of the largest archeological areas discovered in the country. Mounds, bridges, plazas and highways, as well as an aqueduct that is still working, are some of the remains of ancient cultures.
Pilgrimage to Our Lady of the Angels Basilica at the center of the city of Cartago is the most important religious activity of Costa Rica. Celebrated each August 2nd, here attend millions of people from all around the country.
Nevertheless, the main attraction of Cartago could be the Irazú volcano, a splendid giant which still remains active and that, with its five craters, gather thousands of tourists yearly.
It is the volcano found at highest altitude in the country, 3.432 meters over sea level. Several rivers nurturing the basins of others, like Chirripó, Reventazón, Sarapiquí, and Grande de Tárcoles are born here.
Is one of the most extensive provinces of Costa Rica, known as "The Land of Mangoes". Its territory spreads to the north, reaching the boundary with Nicaragua. Alajuela was founded in 1782 and gave birth to such famous historical characters like Juan Santamaría, the national hero that burned down the "Mesón de Rivas" in 1856.
This province has an enviable natural richness. Its uneven topography includes the rainforest and exuberant plains to the north. Visitors have a choice of the two most impressive, active volcanoes of the country: Arenal volcano, in the City of San Carlos and the Poás volcano, at the Central Volcanic Mountain Range.
Poás volcano is one of the most splendid volcanoes in Costa Rica, known for its beautiful landscape. Around it you may appreciate different habitats, from the cloud forest to areas of scarce vegetation, where species have become adapted to emissions of gas and the climatic factor characteristic of a volcano.
The Arenal volcano, on the other hand, with its beautiful conic silhouette, is one of the most active in the world. Its charm is enhanced at night, when the color of its eruptions and lava rivers can be fully appreciated. Many of the hotels offer a panoramic view of the volcano and its evening show.
During the last decades, Alajuela has become an obliged journey for those who love Costa Rica's natural richness.
The Caribbean province is a natural paradise, formed by a combination of dense jungles, imposing mountains, and paradisiacal beaches. Limón has the highest percentage of protected land in Costa Rica, as well as a wide variety of flora and fauna. Its vegetation is exuberant, as are the cultures meeting throughout the province.
The road to Limón from San José, crosses the majestic Braulio Carrillo National Park. At this point begins a beautiful journey to the lowlands of the Caribbean. A significant change in temperature and landscape can be experienced.
Perhaps the most exuberant region of Limón is Tortuguero National Park, at the north part of the province. A vast extension of protected land and the most important of the Atlantic coasts of the American continent for the spawning of the green turtle.
The city of Limón is the point of arrival for visitors. It is a port, which is essential in Costa Rica's economic life and the greatest living example of the multicultural meeting experienced in this region throughout history.
Traveling south, at an hour's distance, we find Cahuita, a typical Caribbean villa. This town has become "a must" for tourists, for it represents the essence of a culture, and the beauty of Cahuita National Park, which protects an important expanse of coral reefs.
The quiet waters in this spot, are a plus for those lovers of "snorkeling". The underwater scenery is marvelous, with a wide chain of coral reefs, composed of different types of coral and occupied by an immense variety of tropical fish.
Another important point in the Caribbean province is Puerto Viejo, barely 30 minutes from Cahuita. In this town you can breathe the profound respect for the cultural identity of its people. A combination of music, beaches and food, so characteristic of the place, are the elements attracting thousands of tourists year by year.
Along the coastal area, travelers find a good number of options for lodging. The vast majority of hotels and cabins are small and formed of traditional Bungalows, a very particular type of construction of the Caribbean.
Gandoca-Manzanillo National Wildlife Refuge is located just at the end of the coastline, almost at the border with Panama. This refuge protects almost 4500 hectares of beaches and sea, for the spawning of 4 species of turtles.
In Manzanillo you may rent kayaks and glide through the gentle mangroves in search of birds and reptiles characteristic of the area.
The province of Limón possesses a unique culture in Costa Rica, a way of life that may be fully appreciated during the traditional carnivals held each year, an experience of rhythms and euphoric and captivating colors.