Destination Information Costa Rica

Your stay abroad in Costa Rica

General information

Costa Rica

Are you interested in a unique trip to see the rainforest, sea, volcanoes and a wide variety of different animals? Then colourful Costa Rica is just the place for you.


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Geography

Geography Costa Rica

Costa Rica is a country in southern Central America. It borders Nicaragua in the north, Panama to the south, the Pacific Ocean to the west and the Caribbean to the east. In total, Costa Rica has approximately 1300 km of coastline to see.

Costa Rica can be divided into five or six topographical regions. The American Cordillera is a chain of volcanic mountain ranges which runs from North to South almost all the way through the country. The northern segment of the Cordillera is called the Cordillera de Guanacasete. The central segment is known as the Cordillera Central, while the southern segment goes by the name of the Cordillera de Talamanca. Irazú is the country’s highest volcano at 3432 m. Other popular volcanoes include Turrialba, Poás and Arenal. At 3920 m, the country’s highest mountain is Chirripó Grande in the southern Cordillera de Talamanca. The Monteverde nature reserve is located near Lake Arenal, which lies at the base of the Arenal Volcano and is the largest lake in Costa Rica.

The central highlands are known as Valle Central, and are home to the capital San José and the cities of Alajuela, Heredia and Cartago. This area is the seat of the country’s national government and its main economic region, and is also home to 60% of the population.

The Caribbean coast to the east is shaped by enormous banana plantations and meandering river systems. The Pacific Coast to the west is home to tropical rainforest and evergreen rain forests.

The Nicoya Peninsula to the northwest has a relatively dry climate, and is dominated by tropical dry forests, volcanoes and meadowlands.

The southernmost region in Costa Rica is the rainforest and its tropical beaches. This region also contains Costa Rica’s highest mountain pass, Cerro de la Muerte.

 

Geomorphology/Geology

In geological terms, Costa Rica is a relatively young country that formed during the subduction of the Cocos plate under the Caribbean plate in the Middle America Trench. As a consequence, various volcanic islands were formed that collided due to a constant plate movement. Nowadays earthquakes can occur due to this plate movement and there are several active volcanoes, of which the Arenal is the youngest in Costa Rica. Its last eruption was in 1968 and it is still growing a few meters every year.


Flora & fauna

Flora and Fauna

Costa Rica's nature is marked by a great biodiversity with numerous palms, creepers, orchids as well as mosses and several colorful bromeliads. The tropical country is also home to about 860 species of birds of which six are endemic. Moreover mammals like sloths, howler monkeys and spider monkeys live in different habitats as well as numerous reptiles and amphibians. In addition to that, also a great variety of butterflies lives in Costa Rica.


Climate

Climate in Costa Rica

Costa Rica is located within the tropical zone and its climate varies from the Pacific west coast to the Caribbean east coast. Divided by the Cordillera the climate on the Pacific coast changes from a rainy to a dry season, whereas on the Caribbean coast, rain and humidity may occur during the whole year. The rainy season in western Costa Rica is between May and November.


Social geography

Social Geography

Population

The majority of Costa Rica's round about 4.7 million inhabitants live in the central valley in the vicinity of the capital city San José. Most of the Ticos and Ticas, as the Nicaraguans named Costa Rica’s inhabitants, are Mestizos with Spanish descent.

Language

The official language spoken in Costa Rica is Spanish.

Economy

Besides Panama, Costa Rica is one of the most politically and economically stable states in Central America with tourism and export of electronic devices as driving economic forces. Even though the influence of agriculture on the country’s export decreased in the last years, bananas, pineapples and coffee are still important export goods for Costa Rica.

Political situation and safety

Since 1949 Costa Rica is a presidential republic that is divided in seven provinces. The country is member of the UN, UNESCO, FAO and WHO.

In general the readiness to use violence is relatively high and you should be careful especially in San José, Quepos, Moin, Limón and around the beaches of Guanacaste. Moreover you should keep an eye on your valuables and avoid walking around in the dark alone (after 6pm).

Religion

In Costa Rica the official religion is Roman Catholic. Of all Christian inhabitants in Costa Rica (~90%) about 80% are Roman Catholics and 15% are Protestants. Freedom of religion is guaranteed by the Constitution.


Tipps

Travel Tipps and Trivia

Time zone

UTC -06:00

Currency

Costa Rica's currency is called Colones (1 Colon = 100 Centimos), but also the US-Dollar is broadly accepted in the country. For current exchange rates see www.währungsrechner.de.

Units

In Costa Rica metric units are used.

Electricity

As the voltage is 110 V and 60 Hz and the plugs may vary from your home country, you should be prepared to bring an adapter.

Transportation

  • Bus: In Costa Rica the bus system is well developed and allows passengers to get around the country in a relatively cheap way. The broad range of bus companies and bus stations in bigger cities might be confusing though.
  • Taxi: A way more comfortable but also more expensive alternative are Taxis. Before you get in, you should negotiate about the price.
  • Rental cars: This might be the most expensive alternative to get around the country but also the easiest one. Especially in the rainy season when streets may be covered with mud and potholes, a rental car with four-wheel drive enables you to travel independently and as individually as you want.

National holidays

  • January 1: New Year's Day
  • April 11: Juan Santamaría Day
  • May 1: Labour Day
  • July 25: Guanacaste Day (the Annexation of Guanacaste)
  • August 2: Virgin of Los Angeles (Day of the Patron Saint of Costa Rica)
  • August 15: Mother’s Day
  • September 15: Independence Day
  • October 12: Día de las Culturas
  • December 25: Christmas Day
  • Movable Holidays: Good Friday, Easter Monday

Dos and Don’ts

Do

  • Try to learn some Spanish as preparation.
  • Bring sunscreen and insect repellant.
  • Respect nature and its inhabitants.

Don’t:

  • Christmas and Easter are holidays, shops will be closed.
  • Do not go to the beach without a bathing suit (no nudist beaches).
  • Do not get into a taxi without a price negotiation.

Highlights Must-see places in Costa Rica

Our top recommendations for you

Highlights

Highlights

Along Costa Rica's beautiful Pacific and Caribbean coast you can find numerous locations and beaches to relax and recover. One example is Isla del Cocos near Costa Rica´s Pacific coast where you can explore the Nationalpark (since 1978) with its lush biodiversity, experience underwater adventures or simply enjoy the beauty of the local beaches.

For some more action you can visit Monteverde and explore the mysteries of the cloud forest on hiking tours or zip-lining through the treetops. Moreover there are numerous possibilities to do wild water rafting in different rivers. For more information see http://www.monteverdeinfo.com/.

Another highlight in Costa Rica is the Parque National Tortuguero where you can book a canoe ride through the Park's conducts to experience the unique biodiversity at close range. Due to its position on the east coast, it is also a highlight for sea turtle lovers, as the Caribbean beach is approached by various species in their nesting season. For more information see http://www.tortugueroinfo.com/spa/info_tortuguero.htm.

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