A Glimpse at the World: Costa Rica

A beach near Manuel Antonio park in Costa Rica (Stephane Francis/Hemispheres Images)

Nestled between Nicaragua and Panama lies a tropical paradise of exceptional beauty. Costa Rica, or “Rich Coast” as it was dubbed by Christopher Columbus, is part of the Pacific “Rim of Fire” and is divided by a backbone of volcanoes and mountains, touching both the Pacific and Atlantic oceans.

This small country is one of the oldest democracies in the Americas and is noted for its friendliness and preoccupation with peace. The country practices a policy of active neutrality and has had no standing army for over 50 years; it has also earned two Nobel Peace Prize nominations.

Costa Rica is a popular destination, and is a hot spot for tourists and vacationers who want to enjoy sandy beaches and warm weather without breaking the bank. Tourism makes up a large portion of Costa Rica’s economy while the rest comes largely from exporting coffee and bananas, which make up 50% percent of the country’s exports.

The country’s native language is Spanish and 90% of the population is Roman Catholic.
Costa Rica is a country with great racial diversity, although the predominant influence has been European, hence the official language. If you ask a Costa Rican what the country’s greatest asset is, they will tell you that it is the people. “Ticos”, (the name Costa Ricans commonly use to refer to themselves) have a reputation for warm-heartedness and are quite happy to live up to the reputation.

An ecotourist navigates a kayak down the Rio Pacuare, near San Jose, Costa Rica. (Mayela Lopez/AFP)

The country has 20 natural parks and 8 biological reserves, as well as many protected areas, making it a favorite among ecotourism lovers and a model for conservation worldwide. Scientists claim that for its size Costa Rica has more species of life than any other terrestrial habitat in the world. This includes 200 species of Mammals, 100 of Amphibians, 200 of reptiles, 1000 of butterflies and 850 of birds—more birds than the entire North American continent.

Costa Rica is a fast developing country that balances its economic growth with preservation of its precious land. Tourists are welcomed with open arms, as it is tourism that has enabled Costa Rica to become a fast-evolving and economically stable country. If you ask a Costa Rican what the secret to life in Costa Rica is, you will almost undoubtedly get the response of “Pura Vida”, or pure life. That, in a coconut shell, sums up the Costa Rican experience.


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