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An overview of Costa Rica

Costa Rica is a small tropical country located in Central America bordered to the north with Nicaragua and on the south with Panamá, to the east the Caribbean Sea and into the west with the Pacific Ocean. Due to its privileged location in the middle of two oceans it serves as a natural bridge between North America and South America becoming a biological Corridor for the natural species.

Costa Rica has an area of 51,000 km² loaded with pure nature, flora, fauna, culture and history in such a small territory. There are 112 volcanoes in which 6 of them are active. Our highest peak is mountain Chirripo that has an altitude of 3820 m above sea level.

Costa Rica is divided into 7 Provinces: Alajuela, Cartago, Guanacaste, Heredia, Limon, Puntarenas and San Jose. The provinces are divided into cantons, which are divided into districts. The capital is San Jose and is located in the central valley.

There is varied climates in Costa Rica, despite being a small country traveling from one destination to another you could find different microclimates depending on each region.

Costa Rica throughout history

Costa Rica was discovered by the Spanish sailor Christopher Columbus on September 18, 1502 during his fourth voyage to America giving it the name of Veragua. During his discovery, he found gold and discovered natural wealth which identifies our country and changed the name to Costa Rica (Rich Coast). The fame given by the Spanish discover of the existence of gold in Costa Rica spark the interest of other sailors to come to the country in search of the mineral, poorly interpreting the term which Columbus refereed to, since the name was given by its enormous biological diversity.

Costa Rica was conquered in the name of the Spanish crown and for three centuries was under the control of the Spanish. Until September 15, 1821 Costa Rica is declared independent state of the Spanish colony.

During this period, important facts are given as the signing of the pact of Concordia, which states that the provinces of Costa Rica is in absolute freedom and exclusive possession of their rights to constitute a new form of Government and to be independent or a Federate States or power that wants to join under the precise system of absolute independence of the Spanish Government and anyone else who is not American. It also established the first constitution of the Country; The First Civil War In the year 1823, culminating with the addition of Costa Rica In the Central America Federal Republic.

The foundation of the Republic of Costa Rica was given in the year 1848. Doctor José María Castro Madriz was founder and first President of the Republic of Costa Rica during 1847-1849 and 1866-1868.he is considered to be the teacher of Costa Rican Democracy and was declared worthy of the homeland on October 2, 1947.

Coffee is a forerunner for national economic development

The first existing record of the introduction of this so called the golden bean dates in the year 1791 when the Panamanian merchant Agustín De Gana send to José Vázquez Téllez, at that time Spanish Governor of Costa Rica 2 pounds of coffee to perform a test for the development of the grain in Costa Rica territory.

From 1808 the President Governor Tomás de Acosta decided to promote the coffee crop in the fertile soil in the volcanic origin of Costa Rica.

In 1816, the priest Félix Velarde becomes the first grower of coffee, plotting a whole plot with seeds of coffee on his property. Before his death, the priest gave seeds to his neighbors with the desire to plant the seed.

The Open vision of coffee focus mainly in the area of San Jose. The first coffee plantation was 100 m north of the Metropolitan Cathedral, at the intersection of Central Avenue and Calle Zero. After the Declaration of Independence in 1821, the government had the idea of encouraging various policies that drove the coffee industry, including the granting of land for the planting of coffee to local farmers and the delivery of the coffee plants to all those interested in producing coffee.

The first exportation was October 12 1820, departed in Puntarenas going to Panama on a ship named¨Nuestra Señora¨ (Our Lady) which was the first big coffee exportation in national history.

The heads of state Juan Mora Fernández and Braulio Carrillo supported and promoted the coffee activity and visualized in the product that would generate a significant economic movement to boost the national economy.

Abolition of the army

In a democratic country, Costa Rica was the First Nation in the world to abolish its army on December 1, 1948, under the administration of the President José

Figueres Ferrer. Considering one of the most important and relevant Costa Rica history. Army funds were invested in the education of its people.

The constitution was established in 1949, the statutes for mandatory and free education. This historical fact symbolizes the political will to create a civil society without military, without having a armies has positioned Costa Rica as the most developed country in Central America, since the rest of the countries that comprise it have invested over the years millions of dollars in armory, military training and ammunition causing stagnation in local education and social development.

Climate and diversity

Costa Rica is the tropical country which has only two seasons, the rainy season runs from May to October and the dry season which occurs in November to April, the Caribbean coast has presence of rain throughout the year. Temperatures vary between each season. the main influence on the temperature is altitude. The capital of San Jose, which is located at 1150 m above sea level has a climate that the locals call the eternal spring, with an average high temperature of 26 Celsius. The coasts are much hotter, in the Caribbean the average temperature is 21 Celsius at night and more than 30

Celsius during the day with the presence of excessive moisture. The Pacific coast high temperature is above 30 Celsius throughout the year, the Climate of Costa Rica is considered the healthiest in the world according to the recent investigation by NASA.

Depending on the altitude in region in which it is found you can find microclimates, Fresh, and very green mountain range, where many dairy producers have been established.  There are rain forests and tropical dry forests; Caribbean coast, the dry pacific coast and cloud forest, this great variety of climates is responsible for an incredible variety of flora and fauna with more than 9000 species of plants, 1200 species of orchards, 850 bird species, 205 mammals and 376 different reptiles and amphibians.

Economy

The strong economy of Costa Rica is mainly based on the development of the ecological tourism, expectation of products such as coffee, bananas, pineapple and other non-traditional products, also for the export of electronic equipment positioning itself strongly in the development of microchips. The country significantly reduces poverty during 1858-1980 thanks to us a strong drive by the state of produce for the domestic market processes as well as the development of a strong social investment in education, health, electricity, telecommunications and water services. The Costa Rican economy is the 10th second Latin American economy in terms of gross domestic Products (GDP) after Uruguay and before panama. Tourism is the industry with the highest economic growth since it generates more currency then any of the main agricultural products of export.

Religion

Catholicism is a dominant religion, about 75% of the population is Catholic as it is in most Latin American countries, consequently almost all of the major holidays are religious in nature.  The government and popular culture are secular although conservative. Only 14% are Protestant and there are many other religious minority group which can be found.

Health

Water in major cities of Costa Rica is safe and clean, were most hotels and restaurants provides purified tap water. It is possible that it would be preferred to drink purified water or mineral water.Costa Rica has an excellent medical care of low-cost and well qualified professional.  Many Americans come to Costa Rica to practice cosmetic surgery or dental work. Concerning The vaccine against yellow fever the following link you’ll find all the required information from the world health Organization:  http://www.who.int/ topics/yellow_fever

For verification of the vaccine prior to entering the country will be required to carry and present the international vaccination certificate. In case of failure to comply with this requirement you run the risk of not being able to enter Costa Rica. It is also recommended to get vaccines against hepatitis A for long stays of four weeks or more. Costa Rica is ranked to the World Health Organization as low risk for Malaria zone concerns. We always recommend that our clients wear a long trousers, long sleeves and repellent against insects on the parts of the body that are exposed both day and night, which is when we must pay special attention to mosquitoes and insects in general.

Electricity

In Costa Rica voltage is 110 V the same as in the United States and Canada, however three prong plugs are very scarce so we recommend you to bring an adapter if you need to use some electrical equipment. Visitors with 220 V plugs will need an adapter that change the voltage and allow the use of a 110 V outlet.

Language

The official language of Costa Rica is Spanish since we were colonized by the Spanish kingdom, which is spoken by 99% of the population. In the south Caribbean of Costa Rica, where the Afro Caribbean cultures come to Costa Rica from Jamaica during the constitution of the railroad to the Atlantic, established and implemented the dialect called patois spoken in the region by the majority of the population. We also Have indigenous groups that have been maintained over the year, they speak their native language.

English is taught in all elementary school, French is taught in high school and recently Portuguese has been introduced in high schools thanks to the Ministry of education program. There are also private institutions that teach other languages which have wide acceptance with German, Italian and Mandarin

Culture

Costa Rica is made up of a variety of ethnic groups, there are clear records of the different ethnic groups, according to data carried out by the Costa Rican Government in the year of 2016, it indicates that of the 4,800.000 inhabitants, 4,000.000 are considered white or mestizo, 50.000 people were identified as black, 300.000 as mulattoes, 200.000 are Nicaraguan, 104.000 indigenous, 10.000 Chinese and 136.000 are North American and European residents who live mostly on the coast.

Important recommendations before you travel

(Visa)

American, Canadian and European Citizens

IF you are an American citizen, Canadian or European visa during your visit to Costa Rica will not be required. It is very important to check your passport since it must have at least 6 months of validation or effect, this will be allowed to a maximum of a 3 month stay.

For some Latin American countries, Asian and Eastern Europe are required to get a visa to enter Costa Rica, in case of any doubt we recommend contacting the Embassy of Costa Rica in its country of origin.

Please take into consideration:

Costa Rica Wildlife Trails does not assume any responsibility in case of breaking with established access requirements. We also recommend to contact the Embassy of Costa Rica in their country if there is a doubt before traveling to Costa Rica.

It must be taken into account that it is necessary to get a visa if you have a scale in the United States. The information can be found on the following link: https://esta.cbp.dhs.gov/esta/application.html?execution=e1s1

Departure Taxes

Please take into account that leaving Costa Rica every National or Foreigner must pay a tax of US$29.00, payable in cash in local currency, US dollars or credit card. Some airlines include this category in their airline ticket, so we recommend to check with the issuer of your ticket if you have it included.

The sale will be quick and efficient at the airport, it is required to fill out a form that will be provided to you on the site.

Currency

The currency of Costa Rica is the Colon, its named after the Spanish navigator Christopher Columbus (Cristobal Colon) who was the discoverer of Costa Rica. The currency fluctuates daily against the Dollar, it can be exchanged in the banks and exchanged at the exchange booths, US Dollars   and major credit cards are accepted in most shops or stores, except in smaller shops or stores located in remote locations.

Travelers checks are not exchanged as favorable as cash. If you pay with credit card sometimes there’s a small surcharge added. ATMS are available in most cities and towns with bank offices.

The Euro are not yet very popular in Costa Rica, there very hard to exchange and to be accepted. In the bank, you will pay a much higher commission for changing Colones, it is better to use US Dollars and always have some change in Colones in your pocket. To access more information about this topic we provide the following link: http://www.xe.com/es/currencyconverter/

¿What you need to take to Costa Rica during your visit?

Below you will find a list of articles that will be of great help during your trip to

Costa Rica:

  • A hat or cap to protect yourself from the sun
  • Sunscreen
  • Insect repellent
  • Swimwear and beach towel
  • Sunglasses
  • A light jacket
  • Cellphone and charger
  • Comfortable walking shoes and sandals
  • Rain jacket or poncho
  • Light beach clothes (skirts, dresses, shorts and t-shirts).
  • Pants
  • Light formal wear for dinner at night
  • Personal medicines
  • Camera and spare battery
  • Credit card and Cash
  • Personal hygiene productsSmall additional backpack for expeditions
  • Passport up to date with more than 6 months
  • Vaccination certificate
  • Insurance or travel policy
  • Valid driver’s license

Recommendations for your safety

Please consider the following precautions during your trip, which are the same as in any trip around the world:

• Do not leave your luggage unattended or with a stranger at the airport, hotel or in public places.

• Keep your money in your inside pocket or a money belt bag designed for this purpose.

• Daily spending money could be carried in a handbag or front pocket.

• Credit cards and traveler’s checks are good tools when you travel.

• Carry a separate package with the following information: A copy of the pages of identification of your passport, the number of your credit cards, checks, bank accounts, airplane ticket and emergency phone number.

• Valuables should be left in the security box of the hotel.

• Deal with your tourism agent rather than strangers.

• In the late evening, we recommend that you take a taxi to your destination.

• If your wear a backpack put it in the front of you to avoid pocket picking

• To travel through the Capital don’t expose or show expensive equipment or striking jewelry since it will call the attention of criminals.

• Take the same precautions you would have when you visit any other country, but don’t let it diminish the enjoyment and the joy of your travel experience.

Tips when traveling in a rental car:

• Always take into consideration the recommendations of the hired car company.

• Do not leave valuables in your vehicle.

• Close all windows and doors in the vehicle, remember not to leave valuables in sight.

• Respect the speed limits.

• Do not drive under the influence of alcohol or other drugs (you will be exposed to severe penalties.)

• Never leave your car parked on the street, try to find a parking lot especially in the capital and remote places.

• Always check your fuel consumption.