Home > General Information

About Costa Rica

Local Highlights, Culture, Travel Information, Tourism

First, For Those Wishing to Travel to Costa Rica:

(Selected Travel Tips From "Travel Guide to Costa Rica" by Hunter Publishing)

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.

SAN 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.

MONEY:

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.

PEOPLE:

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.

EDUCATION:

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.

RELIGION:

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.

MAJOR CITIES:

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.

WEATHER:

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.

ENTRY REQUIREMENTS:

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.

ELECTRICITY:

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.

TIME ZONES:

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.

HEALTH:

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.

THINGS TO BUY:

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.

SAFETY AND CRIME:

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.

DRIVING OR RENTING A CAR:

Rental cars are expensive, but a good way to see Costa Rica outside of San José. You should buy all the insurance offered - and then some. Drivers in Costa Rica are maniacs - worse than Bostonians - and, for a non-confrontational people, very aggressive behind the wheel. Combine that with unpredictable road conditions and there can be "awkward" moments. Drive very cautiously. In rainy season, make sure that you rent a four-wheel-drive auto. Think mass transit, or private transfers, buses are a good alternative and very reasonably priced, and ADOBE RENT A CAR rents cars with a chauffeur.

COSTA RICA'S PARKS:

Much of the country is set aside forever into protected National Parks, wildlife refuges and nature reserves.

COSTA RICA SURFING!:

The inside secret is now out, mainstream and popular. Surfing in Costa Rica is Great! Those that discovered it years ago and camped out on the beach, are returning now, older, and renting beachfront homes on popular surf beaches to catch a warm water wave!

COSTA RICA GOLF:

Yes, Costa Rica is becoming a golfing destination! Costa Rica has six, 18 hole golf courses, with more under construction and in the planning phase. Luxurious, 5 Star, First Class accommodations are available for individuals, groups or incentive tours and trips.





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
Population 3,500,000
Size 19,730 square miles
Quality of Life Excellent,(good weather,
friendly people, affordable)
Official Language Spanish (English is widely spoken )
Political System Democracy
Currency Colón
Investment Climate Good-many opportunities
Per capita income $3,700
Official Religion Catholicism
Foreign Population
(U.S., Canadian and European) Over 50,000
Longevity 77.49 is almost as high the U.S.
Literacy 95%
Time Central Standard (U.S.)
Major Industries: Tourism & Agriculture
Costa Rica Business






The Last Paradise On Earth?

Paradise!Certainly, Costa Rica is the ultimate paradise. This small state of 50,000 square kilometers between the Caribbean Sea and Pacific Ocean has about the same size as Switzerland. Eco-tourists and retirees praise it a lot for its abundance of fauna, flora, and many varities of trees. The country has no military, no nuclear power plants, almost no illiteracy, lots of culture and no winter - thanks to its openness and friendliness toward foreigners and a thousand other reasons, Costa Rica is the ideal country for people who want to retire from an active professional or business life and become a resident.

Less Bananas, More Chips!

Theater Costa Rica is the most politically stable and the richest country in Latin America. Profound changes are taking place right at this moment. The government still controls highway construction and maintenance, traffic, telecommunications, electricity and water services. Nevertheless, there are strong signs of liberalization by the current government. The traditional pillars of the export industry (such as coffee, bananas and beef) become less important little by little. Costa Rica is positioning itself as an important and ideal location for  hi-tech companies. Not only an excellent educational system (with German, English and American schools and several specialized universities), and a favorable tax system, but also the country's several duty-free zones play an important role in this process of transformation. They offer sound reasons to companies like the Swiss Schmiedheiny Group, Mercedes Benz, Intel and Microsoft to move to the "Silicon Valley of Latin America". Competent computer engineers offer their services here to foreign customers for a much lower salary than these companies would have to pay at home. Still, Costa Rica is mainly an agricultural country, but compared to other Latin American nations, it boosts much higher living standards. Forty percent of the country's territory is utilized for agriculture, chiefly coffee and bananas. Other important crops are organic vegetables, fruits, cacao, sugar cane, corn, rice, sorghum, beans, potatoes, pineapples, tobacco, cotton, and sisal hemp. The fishing industry, on the other hand, plays a rather subordinate role. Despite the great variety of mineral wealth (bauxite, copper, zinc, led, and manganese) only gold, silver and sea salt are being exploited. Electricity is produced by hydroelectric plants and is partly exported.

The healthiest climate of the world!

San Jose The Central Valley or plateau around San José has an altitude of 1,165 meters or 3,880 ft. Because of its location an almost constant temperature of 20ºC or 68ºF all year round, Costa Rica's climate is considered the healthiest climate of the world  according to a NASA research. Depending on the altitude and the region in which you are, you can find a great variety of micro-climates. Cool, wet and very green mountain ranges, where many dairy farmers have established themselves; rain forests and dry tropical forests; the wet Caribbean coast and the dry Pacific coast; and cloud forests. If you are looking for hundreds of pages of information on Costa Rica see the Complete Travel Guide to Costa Rica You can find almost everything! The highest-located hotel in Costa Rica, at 3000 m. or 9000 ft. of altitude, experiences frost almost every night. This large variety of climates is responsible for an incredible array of plants and animals -9,000 species of flowering plants, 1,200 of orchids, 850 of birds, 205 of mammals, and 376 of reptiles and amphibians. Click here for more information on climate, the current local weather, forecasts and weather maps.

Buying Real Estate In Costa Rica!

Post Office Buying and owning real estate in Costa Rica is possible with almost no limitations even for non-resident aliens. Special restrictions apply to a 50-meter coastline which is of public domain and a 150-meter coastline for which one needs a management plan. The real estate business in this country lacks any kind of education requirement or regulation as its agents here don't have to pass any tests and don't have to respect any code of ethics. Therefore, it is extremely important to get in touch with a so called Buyer's Agent. He ore she will safeguard the interests of the buyer exclusively.

Prices for real estate are very attractive. Small, nice houses with a pretty garden in a preferred neighborhood are available starting at $100,000. For extra expenses (real estate taxes, land taxes and stamp duties) add about 6% of the total investment. The closing fee for the lawyer is about 1.5%. It shouldn't be hard for an experienced Buyer's Agent to find safe investment properties which yield at least a 12% return.

The preferred locations!

YatchingImmigrants who stay in Costa Rica prefer the dry regions of the pacific coast and the mild districts of the central plateau around the capital city of San José. Dairy farmers who came from Switzerland, Italy, Austria and Germany settled in the higher and cooler areas of the mountains. Preferred residential districts in San José are Rohrmoser, Los Yoses and Cariari. The preferred suburbs are Escazú, Santa Ana and La Garita. Of all beaches the most famous and exclusives are Flamingo, Conchal and Herradura, because of their five-star hotels, luxury condos, big golf courses and marinas, and high-class residential subdivisions with any luxury imaginable. But along the country's 1,800-km. coastline you can find endless untouched beaches, not to mention the mountains. For US$100,000-200,000 one can buy farms of 100 acres or more.

How About Permanent Residency?

Church Permanent residency for retirees and other people who want to get out of the active business life is still available with almost no restrictions, even though things are changing and the process is more difficult. To get a better idea of what it would be like to live and retire in Costa Rica. There are different kinds of residency. One category is for retirees (pensionados) who receive a monthly income of at least US$1,000 from abroad. There's also one for the retirees called rentistas. They need a monthly pension of at least US$2,000 (coming from Costa Rica or through a bank deposit). Another one is for investors with US$200,000 of investment in the industry. Finally, there are company, student and refugee-visas, and residency for those with Costa Rican relatives.

More Facts About Costa Rica!

Cahuita Read here for detailed information and articles about Finances, Traditions, Arts and Crafts, Learning the Language, Legal Updates, Immigration, Health, the Wildlife of Costa Rica, Flora, Fauna, Survival Skills, Building Your Home and much more information.

You will find Costa Rica (Spanish for "Rich Coast") between Panama and Nicaragua in Central America. With 50,000 square kilometers, it is a little bigger than Switzerland. Ten percent of the country's 4 million inhabitants live in San José, and more than half of the population lives in the Central Valley around the capital in less than 20% of the total territory. Costa Rica is a founding member of the United Nations since 1945. It has a length of about 500 km. and a width of 150 km. There are several active volcanos here: Irazú, Poás, Rincón de la Vieja and Arenal, the most active of all with eruptions every 15 minutes. The highest mountain, Cerro Chirripó stands at 3,820 m. or about 12,000 ft. high. The coastline, with its three peninsulas (Osa, Nicoya, and Papagayo) has a length of 1,800 km. About one sixth of the country's territory has been set apart for national parks or wildlife refuges (that's more than half of the inhabitable territory of Switzerland). The country also includes famous Cocos Island, which lays 500 km off the Pacific coast. Eighty percent of the population is of Spanish origin. Most of the black and mulatto populations (7%) live in or around the harbor town of Limón on the Caribbean. About 40,000 Indigenous live mostly in isolated forests. Up to this date, some 250,000 foreigners live in Costa Rica.

More Teachers than Cops!

We believe that one of the main reasons Costa Rica is called the Switzerland of Central America is its educational system. Compulsory education exists since 1843. Costa Rica's high education levels - besides the absence of a military - are probably what make it the most politically stable country in Latin America.

The country of endless possibilities!

Costa Rica's industry mainly processes agricultural products. The production of other consumer goods is still just taking off. However, there are many business incentives to bridge these gaps. Many foreigners fall in love with tourist projects, especially those related to ecotourism. Many hotels are being built, bought and managed by foreigners. Tourism has developed into a very important source of foreign currency. The national economy is made up of services (58%), industry (26%), and agriculture (16%).

Finally A Few Tips!

Unfortunately, nothing is perfect in this world. You should not compare Costa Rica to Swiss perfectionism; life here is just different. You can enjoy endless beaches and endless natural wonders. But some beaches and other places can be dangerous and you should avoid them alone or visit them along with a group or a guide. A foreigner can be recognized almost immediately by his language or hair color. And just like anywhere else on this planet, there is never a shortage of people who think they should take advantage of this handicap. Many things are more expensive: lawyers, hotels, tours, admission tickets, services and even fruits on the market. It pays off to first ask or contact a trusted person.

Special Pre-Retirement Tour!

Papagayos Would you like to know how foreigners live in Costa Rica? How they are welcomed into this nation of peace and tranquility? How they can own land or run a business? How to best integrate into their new lifestyle? You can get a first hand glimpse into how others have settled into a new country for living or retiring. Visit residential areas, hospitals, supermarkets, and meet other foreigners. Attend an informational seminar to learn about retirement requirements, investment, banking, real estate, tax law, and government incentives (see the LEGAL UPDATES section about halfway down the page.) Meet with a residents' association. These reitirement tours have been especially designed to help you discover whether you want to be one of the thousands of foreigners that now call Costa Rica their "home". If you've been on vacation to Costa Rica before and have already made a decision to live her, or your company is relocating you to work in Costa Rica, this relocation service can help you throught the maze and confusion.

New!   San Jose, Costa Rica Facts, Tourism, Travel, Trip & Business  Information

Additonal Selected Resources:

INBio - a non-governmental, non-profit, research partnership
to promote Costa Rica's biological diversity through sustainable use.


Information & Travel Advisories from The United States Embassy in Costa Rica

Costa Rican  History - "Guanacaste Snapshots: Experiences in Rural Costa Rica"