About Costa Rica
Local Highlights, Culture,
Travel Information, Tourism
WHEN TO VISIT:
The high season in Costa Rica, December through April, is the dry season. The rainy season, which lasts from May to November, usually sees sunny mornings, with rain showers in late afternoon and evening. Secondary roads can become rutted during those months, and four-wheeldrive vehicles are strongly recommended. Overall, the climate is tropical, with an average temperature of 72°F (22°C). It can be much hotter along the coastal areas of the country, and much cooler in the mountains.
JOSE – GATEWAY TO COSTA RICA:
Most people still enter Costa Rica through the nearby Juan Santamaria international airport, and at least stay overnight in this prosperous and most populated city in Costa Rica. Follow the above link for information on how to get around San Jose, what to see, where to stay, culture, tours and more.
TOURISM IN THE ECONOMY:
In the past, agricultural exports, like bananas, have been the staple of the Costa Rican economy. However, tourism has always played an ever increasing role, and now it has become the dominant economic force. Ecotourism travel is the most preferred for expansion because it will provide a sustainable resource for tourism for generations of Costa Ricans to come. Costa Ricans love to show off their country, and sincerely welcome all travelers and vacationers.
Costa Rican currency is the colon (co-LOAN). It floats daily against the dollar and can be exchanged at banks and change booths. American dollars and major credit cards are acceptable almost everywhere, except in small business establishments or hotels and restaurants in remote locations. Travelers’ checks are not exchanged as favorably as cash. If you pay by credit card, a small surcharge is sometimes added. ATMs are available in most cities and towns with bank offices.
The population of Costa Rica is now approximately 4,000,000 people, which includes 40,000 natives who belong to eight different cultural groups. The official language is Spanish, but many of the people speak some English, a required course in all schools. Costa Ricans are affectionately known as Ticos (TEA-coes) – and you would be hard pressed to find a more friendly and welcoming culture.
Costa Rica’s constitution requires 6% of its Gross Domestic Product be dedicated to education – and as a result it has a higher literacy rate (95%) than the United States. Some post offices have computers for general use, and high speed Internet connections are also available there. Costa Rica also imports students from overseas who come to the Spanish-language schools that abound throughout the country. Also, now available are TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) Courses for adults wishing to travel and work in foreign countires.
Catholicism is the dominant religion, as it is in most of Latin America. Consequently, nearly all major holidays are religious in nature. The government and popular culture is secular, though still conservative.
San José, population one million, is the capital and cultural heart of Costa Rica. Other major cities (by population) are: Alajuela, Cartago, Heredia, Liberia, Limón and Puntarenas.
Costa Rica is a tropical country with two seasons – dry and wet. Temperature in the Central Valley is spring-like all year long. It’s colder at higher altitudes in the mountains and hotter in the lowlands and along the shore.
To enter the country you now must have a valid passport. Some countries now require your passport to be valid for at least 6 more months in order to leave your country to come here. Check with you embassy and / or airline.
The voltage throughout the country is 110, the same as in North America. However, three-prong outlets are scarce, so bring along an adapter if you need one. Travelers with appliances set for 220 will need an adapter that changes the voltage and allows for use of a different plug.
Costa Rica is on Central Standard Time, six hours behind Greenwich Mean Time and one hour behind EST in the States. It does not currently use daylight saving time, although the idea has been considered.
No shots are required, but we always suggest having a Hepatitis Ashot as a precaution. The water in the major cities of Costa Rica is safe and most hotels and restaurants offer purified tap water. You might prefer to drink bottled water (agua purificada) or seltzer (agua mineral) to be sure. Costa Rica has excellent, low-cost medical care and well-qualified practitioners. Many North Americans come to Costa Rica for cosmetic surgery or dental work.
SAFETY AND CRIME:
Costa Rica is a safe destination for 99% of its tourists, but it’s always a good idea to exercise caution whenever one travels. In general, the country has a low crime rate, but in recent years there have been increasing instances of tourists and expatriates being robbed, as well as several murders. In most cases, crimes are simple thievery – non-violent crimes of opportunity, so just exercise caution, as anywhere in the world. Additionally, most eco-adventures involve some sort of danger, so be sure to use less testosterone and more common sense when deciding on your level of participation in these activities.
THINGS TO BUY:
Choose from coffee and coffee-related products, reproduction pre-Columbian jewelry, craftily carved wooden boxes, attractive Chorotegan pottery, leather goods, hand-painted art (on bird feathers), guitars and other musical instruments or painted oxcarts. There’s also an abundant selection of clothes and crafts imported from Panama, Ecuador and Guatemala available.
COSTA RICA’S PARKS:
Much of the country is set aside forever into protected National Parks, wildlife refuges and nature reserves.
Costa Rica Highlights / General Information
Costa Rica occupies a territory of around 20,000 square miles in the southern part of Central America, and includes several small islands mostly on the Pacific side. It is much like the state of Florida with two long coastlines. The country is only about 200 miles long and 70 miles wide at the narrowest part.
Costa Rica’s three mountain ranges create five geographically diverse areas. The Northern Central Plains, the Northwest Peninsula, the Tropical Lowlands on the Pacific and Caribbean coasts and the Central Valley where 70 percent of the population reside. They make up the seven provinces of Alajuela, Cartago, Guanacaste, Heredia, Puntarenas, Limón and San José.
Costa Rica is often compared to Switzerland and Hawaii because of its mountains and forests. Unlike many areas of Mexico, Central and South America, Costa Rica remains beautiful and warm year-round. This is partly because it borders the Pacific Ocean on the west, the Atlantic Ocean on the east, and has a string of towering volcanoes on the Central Plateau. Combine all this and you have a unique tropical paradise with 11 climatic zones.
COSTA RICA GENERAL INFORMATION
Capital San José
Size 19,730 square miles
Quality of Life Excellent,(good weather,
friendly people, affordable)
Official Language Spanish (English is widely spoken )
Political System Democracy
Investment Climate Good-many opportunities
Per capita income $3,700
Official Religion Catholicism
(U.S., Canadian and European) Over 50,000
Longevity 77.49 is almost as high the U.S.
Time Central Standard (U.S.)
Major Industries: Tourism & Agriculture