COSTA RICA INFORMATION
Welcome to Costa Rica!
Costa Rica is unique in having more of its territory protected in national parks, biological reserves, and wildlife refuges than any other nation on earth. A dozen distinct eco-systems, all within less than a day’s drive of each other, contain tremendous tropical biodiversity. With friendly people, an exceptionally good infrastructure for a developing nation, and great beaches too, isn’t it time that you discovered all we have to offer?
Costa Rica is a small mountainous country on the narrow Central American isthmus. It’s only a day’s drive from its northern border with Nicaragua to neighboring Panama in the south, and one could cross from ocean to ocean in only a few hours. But why hurry? There’s just too much to see and do in between. Located in the Central Standard Time Zone, Costa Rica does not observe daylight savings time.
The climate is idyllic. In the lowlands – which are dry in the Pacific northwest and humid elsewhere – daytime temperatures range in the eighties to nineties F° (high twenties to mid-twenties C°) at middle elevations. The mercury can fall as low as the forties and fifties F° (five to mid teens C°) at the top of the mountains. Night time frost is an uncommon occurrence on the highest peaks. Within each elevational range, temperatures remain relatively constant year-round.
Rainfall, on the other hand, is subject to annual and regional patterns. The northwest has a fairly well-defined dry season (“verano” or summer) from November to April. The dry season is a month or two shorter along the southern Pacific coast. July also tends to be a dry month on the Pacific slope. Welcome rains during the balance of the year bring about a general greening and refreshing of the countryside. Rains usually come in afternoon cloudbursts, leaving the mornings sunny and the nights sky filled with stars. This period is called “invierno” (winter or rainy season) or “temporada verde” (green season). Rainfall on the Caribbean slope is more evenly distributed throughout the year, with marked dry periods in May-June and again in September-October.
Each year, Costa Ricans welcome thousands of visitors to share the peaceful beauty and natural treasures of their country where tropical nature has reached its greatest expression.
National parks and reserves are open to the public at government established fees. Private reserves set their own entrance rates.
An impressive 22,647 miles (36,447 km.) of roads plus well-developed nature trail systems give easy access to every habitat and all but the most remote areas. You can drive to the very edge of a volcanic crater, through the heart of a mountain jungle, take an aerial tram ride in the rainforest canopy and soak up sun on a deserted beach, all on the same day.
Costa Ricans have preserved this invaluable biodiversity in protected areas covering fully one quarter of the land and organized into major units called Conservation Arias. No other country in the world has so much actively protected area per capita. Costa Rica is often cited as a model for conservation in harmony with community development and economic growth.
Costa Rica’s nine active volcanoes vividly remind visitors of the awesome power contained by the earth’s thin mantle. At Irazù Volcano, it is easy to see why School Celebration in Costa Rica Neil Armstrong said that its desolate landscape looks like the surface of the moon. Anyone peering into Poás mammoth crater with its boiling, sulfurous lake, is reminded just how tenuous is man’s supposed dominion over the world.
Arenal, most active and no doubt the most studied of all Costa Rica’s volcanoes, booms and rumbles with an unnerving consistency and its nocturnal pyrotechnics strike awe in the hearts of thousands of observers. On the lower slopes of Rincón de la Vieja, the power is vented in boiling mud pots, hissing puddles and thermal streams.
The non-volcanic Talamancas are ruggedly beautiful and contain two of the nation’s tallest peaks. The Inter-American highway, crossing the 11,453 ft. (3,491 m.) Cerro de la Muerte, reaches over 9,843 feet (3,000 m.), passing through highland forests of Costa Rican Oak and the only road-accessible “páremo” vegetation in the country.
To see evidence of the glacier that topped 12,533 ft. (3,820 m.) at Chirripó during the last ice age requires a 9 hour hike and cold weather camping. But it’s definitely worth the effort.
Cloud Forest: The forests on the upper slopes of Costa Rica’s mountains and volcanoes are frequently draped in mist and clouds. Algae, mosses and lichens get a foothold on the constantly wet surfaces, providing places for orchids, bromeliads, ferns and innumerable other plants to cling to. So prolific is these “epiphytic” growth in the cloud forest that bare branches are virtually non-existent. Sometimes harsh conditions such as prevailing winds and supersaturated soils cause the forest to be stunted – like the elfin forest at Monteverde’s continental divide or the gnarly, dwarf woods at the summit of Poás Volcano.
The cloud forest captures the imagination of even the most cynical among us. It emanates a sense of ancient and enduring life. Of peace. Sitting quietly overhead, its long feathery tail swaying gently in the breeze, is a scarlet and emerald bird that seems to embody the spirit of the cloud forest. Aptly named, the Resplendent Quetzal is considered by many to be the most beautiful bird in the world.
Rain Forest: In the foothills and lowlands of both slopes, Costa Rica’s rainforests harbor thousands of known life forms and thousands more yet to be described. They are among the last strongholds of biodiversity on earth. Resonating with the songs of birds at dawn, the rainforest is quiet in the heart of the day, its stillness punctuated by the insect-like call of poison dart frogs, the rasping of cicadas or the whistled notes of wrens and antbirds.
Costa Rica is blessed with tremendous biodiversity and the lush radiance of its rich tropical settings.
Flora and Fauna: This tropical country, dotted with mountains and volcanoes, boasts a tremendous variety of biodiversity, from lush rain and cloud forests to mountain pastures and large plantations. More than 1,000 varieties of orchids can be found here, including La Guaria Morada, the national flower. Costa Rica’s fabulous fauna includes the jaguar, puma, and agouti, the Atlantic green turtle, three species of monkey, the American crocodile, caiman and the two and three-toed sloth, just to name a few. More than 845 species of birds are found in Costa Rica.
Costa Rica’s richness also lies on the cultural diversity of our people. Throughout our history, to 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, Spanish mainly, 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 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.
Like they say at the Arenas del Mar hotel in Manuel Antonio, for some, food is fuel. For us, it’s the best way to spend a memorable evening. Enjoy the beach for fresh lunches, live music and seafood feasts. Gourmets, gourmands, and hungry adventurers alike, book a table at Mirador Restaurant for world-class food and vistas to match. Everything tastes better in paradise! Fortunately, a wave of local and international chefs at the helm of popular restaurants have been introducing new cuisines and reimagining traditional recipes in Costa Rica. Whether you’re at a casual beach stand or an upscale, white-tablecloth affair, fresh, uniquely Central American ingredients are always at the forefront.
Costa Rica’s culinary scene is constantly growing and expanding, offering a wide variety of cuisine from typical Costa Rican to International Fine Dining and Funky Fusion.
The official language is Spanish in Costa Rica. Most people speak English. You can also find people who speak German, French and Italian.
Knowledge of the basics hello (Hola) and thanks (Gracias) goes a long way. Try to learn a few phrases and numbers before you come. English is spoken in most areas where tourism exist.