Costa Rica is a country located in Central America that has unlimited tourist potential and is ranked as one of the most visited international destinations. One of Costa Rica’s main sources of income is tourism. Costa Rica is a democratic and peaceful country, and it has not had an army since the year 1949.
Although the country is small and it covers only 0.03 % of the surface of the globe, it proudly shelters a 5% of the existing biodiversity in the entire world. 25.58 % of the country is composed of conservation and natural protected territory. While its territory of 19,652 square miles touches both the Caribbean Sea and the Pacific Ocean, the country is surprisingly accessible - one can travel from coast to coast in just three hours by car (or 45 minutes by plane).
COSTA RICA CULTURE
The richness of Costa Rica stems from the cultural diversity of its people. Throughout its history, waves of immigrants have added to the pre-Hispanic native populations, settling on this land and making it their home.
Presently, in addition to the majority Mestizo demographic, there are several colonial and national immigrant ethnicities that have restored their unique cultural heritage like African descendants, Chinese, Hebrews, Libanese, Italians, etc., as well as native people of Bribri, CabÃ©car, Maleku, Teribe, Boruca, NgÃ¶be, Huetar and Chorotega.
Costa Ricans are proud to have had more than a century of democratic tradition and more than 50 years without a military. This was abolished in 1948, and the money that the country saves from not having armed forces is invested in improving the quality of life of its citizens. This contributes to the social peace that makes Costa Rica a welcoming place to visit.
The Caribbean region of Costa Rica stands out for its variety of aquatic ecosystems and its beautiful white and black sand beaches, providing an ideal setting for activities such as sport fishing, snorkeling, and sun bathing. The Pacific coast concentrates big tourist centers and its beaches are very popular for surfing, for example Esterillos, Jaco, Hermosa, Boca Barranca.
Considered one of the most bio-diverse regions in the world, Costa Rica is divided in 20 natural parks, 8 biological reserves, and a series of protected areas that captivate ecotourism lovers. The variety of activities includes horseback riding, hiking mountainous paths in the cloud forests, and guided bird-watching tours.
TORTUGUERO NATIONAL PARK
There is a place in Costa Rica where the exuberance of natural wildlife and visitors become one and where the water is a giant mirror reflecting the lush foliage all around. Surrounded by a system of natural canals and lagoons running from southeast to northeast, Tortuguero National Park, located in the Northern Caribbean side, is without any doubt our little Amazonas. It is also one of the most important places in the world for the protection of the green turtle and home of other incredible species such as the manatee, the American crocodile and the Gaspar fish, which is considered a living fossil. Majestic birds such as the Great Blue Heron, the biggest heron in the country, and the Northern Jacana, very famous in the animal world because the female protects the territory while the male nests the eggs, populate and thrive in this rich environment. The birds are so diverse that they account for approximately half of the species found in Costa Rica and surpass the number of species found in all Europe. Herbal swamps, marshlands and ‘flooded’ forests are part of this array of diverse habitats.
But Tortuguero is not only about nature. Being on the Caribbean side, it is one of the larger regions of Afro-Caribbean culture in the country. The majority of its population has Jamaican origins and keeps their food, dances and traditions. Their dishes are mostly spicy and many include coconut, turning Tortuguero in a very interesting place to experience nature and culture.
ARENAL VOLCANO NATIONAL PARK
The Arenal Volcano is listed among the 10 most active volcanoes in the world and for a good reason: It regularly puts on a spectacle, showing off with strong rumbling sounds and occasional rock avalanches, as well as smoke, ash and lava eruptions that descend its slope at speeds reaching 70 kilometers per hour and temperatures reaching 1,000 degrees Celsius. Arenal Volcano´s last great eruption took place in 1968. Until then, it was assumed that the volcano was just another peak of the mountain range. The mountain and surrounding area were declared a national park in 1994. Thermal hot springs are now the area’s main attraction, most of which boast nearby trails and numerous lookout points.
LA AMISTAD NATIONAL PARK
La Amistad International Park (PILA) is not only the biggest natural park in Costa Rica with almost 200,000 hectares, but also the only bi-national park, created by the governments of Costa Rica and Panama in 1982. It could explain the name La Amistad, which means friendship in Spanish. The total extension of this amazing portion of protected land in both countries is nearly 400.000 hectares, which covers a great variety of humid, rain and cloud forests in the Pacific and Atlantic sides, as well as indigenous reserves.The Talamanca region, a big portion of the park, was a refuge in colonial times for indigenous people who were resilient from the Spanish colonizers’ repression. The isolation of the region, thanks to the difficult geographical conditions, allowed its inhabitants to safeguard most of their traditional ways of life and costumes.
The enormous cultural richness and extraordinary natural habitats, result of different altitudes, soil and microclimates, was the reason why the park was also designed Biosphere Reserve and World Heritage Site. Species in great danger of extinction such as the jaguar, the largest feline in the Americas and third largest world-wide, live in the park as well as a great variety of wildlife, which includes 400 species of birds, 263 species of amphibians and reptiles and 213 of mammals. Many other species are found only in this giant rainforest.
A DIVERS PARADISE
With a marine surface that is 10 times bigger than the terrestrial and an immense biodiversity, Costa Rica is the perfect place for diving fanatics. The majority of these places belong to wildlife protected areas around the country, such as the famous Cocos Island National Park, also a World Heritage Site. Costa Rica´s Pacific coast was even considered by Rodale´s Scuba Magazine as one of the top 5 destinations around the world for advanced scuba diving.
A SURFERS PARADISE
It seems like every surfer who visits the country agrees that Costa Rica it is one of the best places in the world to surf; not by chance the country is the third most popular destination for this sport after Hawaii and Indonesia. The reasons are simple: beaches with excellent year-round waves, pleasant weather, warm water, friendly people and reasonable prices.