Despite being only the size of West Virginia, Costa Rica is one of the most diverse and naturally beautiful countries in the world. The territory spans 19,730 sq. miles (51,100 sq. kms) and has miles of both Caribbean and Pacific coastline. Costa Rica boats 12 different climate zones ranging from the tropical coastline to the highest point of Mt Chirripo at over 12,533 ft. Volcanoes, rain forests, cloud forests, rivers, lakes, and two oceans make Costa Rica a virtual paradise for anglers and nature lovers alike. With a stable democracy, strong economy, and high education standards Costa Rica is truly the gem of Central America.
Being located between the major Mayan cities to the north and the Incas to the south Costa Rica never had a large indigenous population. When Columbus arrived in 1502 he promptly labeled the country Costa Rica, which in Spanish means “rich coast”, and the name stuck. However due to a lack of interest by the Spanish (see: no indigenous population to enslave and no gold) Costa Rica was ignored for another 60 years until the first permanent Spanish settlement arrived in 1563.
Costa Rica remained a colony until 1821 when, along with seven other countries, it declared its independence from Spain. It became a republic in 1848 and since then has been a beacon of democracy and stability in Central America. Just two brief periods of violence dot Costa Rica’s past, a military dictatorship from 1917-1919 and their famed 44-day civil war in 1949. The victorious rebels, led by Jose Figueres Ferrer, abolished the army completely in 1949 and wrote new democratic constitution which has led to over a half a century of prosperity and stability.
Costa Rica’s rapidly growing population today stands at about 4.4 million people. Of that, the vast majority (over 83%) are classified as white or mestizo (European & indigenous descent). The remaining minorities include mulattos (6%), Afro-Caribbean (1%) and local indigenous groups (3%). Due to the stability and strong economy Costa Rica is also home to many immigrants from surrounding countries like Nicaragua, Panama, and Columbia.
Spanish is the native language of Costa Rica although indigenous tribes till speak their native languages and on the Caribbean Coast an English-French patois is spoken by locals. Costa Rica is officially a Roman Catholic country according to the 1949 constitution, and remains a predominantly Roman Catholic country today with over 70% of the population identifying themselves as such.
Costa Rica is an isthmus, bordered by Nicaragua to the north, Panama to the south, and the Pacific Ocean & Caribbean Sea to either side. The rough geographic coordinates are between 9 degrees north and 84 degrees west. From sea level to over 12,000 feet Costa Rica is as diverse as it is beautiful. It features dry rain forests, tropical rain forests, cloud forests, volcanoes, and over 800 miles of coastline between the Caribbean and Pacific.
With that in mind, the Caribbean Coast follows a totally different weather pattern than the Pacific Coast. They actually have two dry seasons, one from Feb-May and another from Sept-Oct, when it rains the most in other parts of the country. Costa Rica is also too far south for hurricanes, with the last recorded hurricane touching ground in the 1960s. We do get Pacific storms and affected by Caribbean weather patterns, but in general there is never a bad time to vacation to Costa Rica!