Costa Rica (/ˌkɒstə ˈriːkə/ (listen); Spanish: [ˈkosta ˈrika]; literally “Rich Coast”), officially the Republic of Costa Rica (Spanish: República de Costa Rica), is a country in Central America, bordered by Nicaragua to the north, the Caribbean Sea to the northeast, Panama to the southeast, the Pacific Ocean to the southwest, and Ecuador to the south of Cocos Island.
Costa Rica was facing a market liquidity crisis in 2017 due to a growing debt and budget deficit. By August 2017, the Treasury was having difficulty paying its obligations. Other challenges facing the country in its attempts to improve the economy by increasing foreign investment include a poor infrastructure and a need to improve public sector efficiency.
Costa Rica was sparsely inhabited by indigenous peoples before coming under Spanish rule in the 16th century.
Since then, Costa Rica has remained among the most stable, prosperous, and progressive[peacock term] nations in Latin America.
Main article: History of Costa Rica
A stone sphere created by the Diquis culture at the National Museum of Costa Rica.
Main article: Pre-Columbian history of Costa Rica
Agriculture became evident in the populations that lived in Costa Rica about 5,000 years ago.
Another important factor behind Costa Rica’s poverty was the lack of a significant indigenous population available for encomienda (forced labor), which meant most of the Costa Rican settlers had to work on their own land, preventing the establishment of large haciendas (plantations).
See also: Free State of Costa Rica and First Costa Rican Republic
Like the rest of Central America, Costa Rica never fought for independence from Spain.
Coffee production remained Costa Rica’s principal source of wealth well into the 20th century, creating a wealthy class of growers, the so-called Coffee Barons. The revenue helped to modernize the country.
As a result, bananas came to rival coffee as the principal Costa Rican export, while foreign-owned corporations (including the United Fruit Company later) began to hold a major role in the national economy and eventually became a symbol of the exploitative export economy. The major labor dispute between the peasants and the United Fruit Company (The Great Banana Strike) was a major event in the country’s history and was an important step that would eventually lead to the formation of effective trade unions in Costa Rica, as the company was required to sign a collective agreement with its workers in 1938.
Main articles: Geography of Costa Rica and List of earthquakes in Costa Rica
There are 14 known volcanoes in Costa Rica, and six of them have been active in the last 75 years. The country has also experienced at least ten earthquakes of magnitude 5.7 or higher (3 of magnitude 7.0 or higher) in the last century.
Costa Rica also comprises several islands.
Over 25% of Costa Rica’s national territory is protected by SINAC (the National System of Conservation Areas), which oversees all of the country’s protected areas.
hideClimate data for Costa Rica
Further information: Wildlife of Costa Rica
While the country has only about 0.03% of the world’s landmass, it contains 5% of the world’s biodiversity. Around 25% of the country’s land area is in protected national parks and protected areas, the largest percentage of protected areas in the world (developing world average 13%, developed world average 8%). Costa Rica has successfully managed to diminish deforestation from some of the worst rates in the world from 1973 to 1989, to almost zero by 2005.
One national park, the Corcovado National Park, is internationally renowned among ecologists for its biodiversity (including big cats and tapirs) and is where visitors can expect to see an abundance of wildlife. Corcovado is the one park in Costa Rica where all four Costa Rican monkey species can be found. These include the white-headed capuchin, the mantled howler, the endangered Geoffroy’s spider monkey, and the Central American squirrel monkey, found only on the Pacific coast of Costa Rica and a small part of Panama, and considered endangered until 2008, when its status was upgraded to vulnerable.
Over 840 species of birds have been identified in Costa Rica.
As is the case in much of Central America, the avian species in Costa Rica are a mix of North and South American species.
Further information: List of rivers of Costa Rica
An Intel microprocessor facility in Costa Rica that was, at one time, responsible for 20% of Costa Rican exports and 5% of the country’s GDP.
Main article: Economy of Costa Rica
Many foreign companies (manufacturing and services) operate in Costa Rica’s Free Trade Zones (FTZ) where they benefit from investment and tax incentives. Well over half of that type of investment has come from the U.S. According to the government, the zones supported over 82 thousand direct jobs and 43 thousand indirect jobs in 2015. Companies with facilities in the America Free Zone in Heredia, for example, include Intel, Dell, HP, Bayer, Bosch, DHL, IBM and Okay Industries.
Of the GDP, 5.5% is generated by agriculture, 18.6% by industry and 75.9% by services.(2016) Agriculture employs 12.9% of the labor force, industry 18.57%, services 69.02% (2016) For the region, its unemployment level is moderately high (8.2% in 2016, according to the IMF). Although 20.5% of the population lives below the poverty line (2017), Costa Rica has one of the highest standards of living in Central America.
Costa Rica is recognized in Latin America for the quality of its educational system.
Because of its educational system, Costa Rica has one of the highest literacy rates in Latin America, 97%. General Basic Education is mandatory and provided without cost to the user. A US government report confirms that the country has “historically placed a high priority on education and the creation of a skilled work force” but notes that the high school drop-out rate is increasing.
Costa Rica has free trade agreements with many countries, including the US.
There are no significant trade barriers that would affect imports and the country has been lowering its tariffs in accordance with other Central American countries. The country’s Free Trade Zones provide incentives for manufacturing and service industries to operate in Costa Rica.
In 2015, the zones supported over 82 thousand direct jobs and 43 thousand indirect jobs in 2015 and average wages in the FTZ were 1.8 times greater than the average for private enterprise work in the rest of the country. In 2016, Amazon.com for example, had some 3,500 employees in Costa Rica and planned to increase that by 1,500 in 2017, making it an important employer.
Since 1999, tourism earns more foreign exchange than the combined exports of the country’s three main cash crops: bananas and pineapples especially, but also other crops, including coffee. Coffee production played a key role in Costa Rica’s history and in 2006, was the third cash crop export. As a small country, Costa Rica now provides under 1% of the world’s coffee production. In 2015, the value of coffee exports was US$305.9 million, a small part of the total agricultural exports of US$2.7 billion. Coffee production increased by 13.7% percent in 2015-16, declined by 17.5% in 2016–17, but was expected to increase by about 15% in the subsequent year.
Costa Rica has developed a system of payments for environmental services. Similarly, Costa Rica has a tax on water pollution to penalize businesses and homeowners that dump sewage, agricultural chemicals, and other pollutants into waterways. In May 2007, the Costa Rican government announced its intentions to become 100% carbon neutral by 2021. By 2015, 93 percent of the country’s electricity came from renewable sources. In 2016, the country produced 98% of its electricity from renewable sources and ran completely on renewable sources for 110 continuous days.
A 2016 report by the U.S. government report identifies other challenges facing Costa Rica as it works to expand its economy by working with companies from the US (and probably from other countries). The major concerns identified were as follows:
Main article: Tourism in Costa Rica
See also: List of airports in Costa Rica
Costa Rica is the most visited nation in the Central American region, with 2.9 million foreign visitors in 2016, up 10% from 2015. In 2015, the tourism sector was responsible for 5.8% of the country’s GDP, or $3.4 billion. In 2016, the highest number of tourists came from the United States, with 1,000,000 visitors, followed by Europe with 434,884 arrivals. According to Costa Rica Vacations, once tourists arrive in the country, 22% go to Tamarindo, 18% go to Arenal, 17% pass through Liberia (where the Daniel Oduber Quirós International Airport is located), 16% go to San José, the country’s capital (passing through Juan Santamaría International Airport), while 18% choose Manuel Antonio and 7% Monteverde.
A pioneer of ecotourism, Costa Rica draws many tourists to its extensive series of national parks and other protected areas. In the 2011 Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Index, Costa Rica ranked 44th in the world and second among Latin American countries after Mexico in 2011. By the time of the 2017 report, the country had reached 38th place, slightly behind Panama. The Ethical Traveler group’s ten countries on their 2017 list of The World’s Ten Best Ethical Destinations includes Costa Rica.
Main article: Politics of Costa Rica
Provinces of Costa Rica
Main article: Administrative divisions of Costa Rica
Main article: Foreign relations of Costa Rica
Costa Rica is an active member of the United Nations and the Organization of American States.
The Inter-American Court of Human Rights and the United Nations University of Peace are based in Costa Rica.
Costa Rica has a long-term disagreement with Nicaragua over the San Juan River, which defines the border between the two countries, and Costa Rica’s rights of navigation on the river. In 2010, there was also a dispute around Isla Calero, and the impact of Nicaraguan dredging of the river in that area.
Costa Rica was the first of the Central American nations to do so.
Main article: Demographics of Costa Rica
Costa Rica took in many refugees from a range of other Latin American countries fleeing civil wars and dictatorships during the 1970s and 1980s, notably from Chile and Argentina, as well as people from El Salvador who fled from guerrillas and government death squads.
According to the World Bank, in 2010 about 489,200 immigrants lived in the country, many from Nicaragua, Panama, El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala, and Belize, while 125,306 Costa Ricans live abroad in the United States, Panama, Nicaragua, Spain, Mexico, Canada, Germany, Venezuela, Dominican Republic, and Ecuador. The number of migrants declined in later years but in 2015, there were some 420,000 immigrants in Costa Rica and the number of asylum seekers (mostly from Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala and Nicaragua) rose to more than 110,000, a fivefold increase from 2012. In 2016, the country was called a “magnet” for migrants from South and Central America and other countries who were hoping to reach the U.S.
Further information: Cantons of Costa Rica
Religion in Costa Rica
Main article: Religion in Costa Rica
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints claims more than 35,000 members, and has a temple in San José that served as a regional worship center for Costa Rica. However, they represent less than 1% of the population.
Main article: Languages of Costa Rica
The primary language spoken in Costa Rica is Spanish, which features characteristics distinct to the country, a form of Central American Spanish.
Costa Rica is a linguistically diverse country and home to at least five living local indigenous languages spoken by the descendants of pre-Columbian peoples: Maléku, Cabécar, Bribri, Guaymí, and Buglere.
Main article: Culture of Costa Rica
Costa Rica was the point where the Mesoamerican and South American native cultures met.
In November 2017, National Geographic magazine named Costa Rica as the happiest country in the world. The article included this summary: “Costa Ricans enjoy the pleasure of living daily life to the fullest in a place that mitigates stress and maximizes joy”. It is not surprising then that one of the most recognizable phrases among “Ticos” is “Pura Vida”, pure life in a literal translation.
Costa Rica rates 12th on the 2017 Happy Planet Index in the World Happiness Report by the UN but the country is said to be the happiest in Latin America.
Football is the most popular sport in Costa Rica.
Basketball is also a popular sport in Costa Rica even though the country’s national team has not yet qualified for a major international tournament such as the FIBA AmeriCup or the FIBA World Cup.
Main article: Education in Costa Rica
The University of Costa Rica has been awarded the title “Meritorious Institution of Costa Rican Education and Culture”.
Main article: Health care in Costa Rica
According to the UNDP, in 2010 the life expectancy at birth for Costa Ricans was 79.3 years. The Nicoya Peninsula is considered one of the Blue Zones in the world, where people commonly live active lives past the age of 100 years. The New Economics Foundation (NEF) ranked Costa Rica first in its 2009 Happy Planet Index, and once again in 2012.
The index measures the health and happiness they produce per unit of environmental input. According to NEF, Costa Rica’s lead is due to its very high life expectancy which is second highest in the Americas, and higher than the United States.
Costa Rica has been cited as Central America’s great health success story. Its healthcare system is ranked higher than that of the United States, despite having a fraction of its GDP. Prior to 1940, government hospitals and charities provided most health care.
Each health committee manages an area equivalent to one of the 83 administrative cantons of Costa Rica.
Costa Rica is among the Latin America countries that have become popular destinations for medical tourism. In 2006, Costa Rica received 150,000 foreigners that came for medical treatment. Costa Rica is particularly attractive to Americans due to geographic proximity, high quality of medical services, and lower medical costs.
Index of Costa Rica-related articles
Outline of Costa Rica
“In Costa Rica”.
“Costa Rica: Pioneering Sustainability”.
Costa Rica at Curlie
Wikimedia Atlas of Costa Rica