Officially the Republic of Costa Rica, this small but attractive country lives up to its English translation, the Rich Coast.
Located in Central America and bordered by Nicaragua to the north, Panama to the south, the Pacific Ocean to the west and the Caribbean Sea to the east, Costa Rica packs a flavourful culture and a diverse ecology into its 51,100 square kilometres. The country is surprisingly accessible from both sides and a coast to coast journey by car takes approximately three hours.
Costa Rica is divided up into seven provinces and 81 cantons, populated by just over 4.25 million people. The dominant language is Spanish with a minority in indigenous reservations speaking a few native languages. 10% of the adult population is known to speak English.
Costa Rica boasts great cultural diversity which many of the early immigrants added to. Spanish arrived in the country during the 16th century, and Spanish remains the defining culture of everyday life today.
One notable common phrase among Ticos is "Pura Vida". The phrase reflects the people's outlook on life and means pure life or good life. "Pura Vida" can be used in place of "hello" or as an answer to "how are you?"
The Costa Rican cuisine is a delicious blend of Native American, Spanish, African and many other influences. The Spaniards introduced new ingredients into the country, especially spices and domestic animals, and the Africans also had a big influence on cuisine during the 19th century.
In terms of tourism, the east and the west offer differing attractions and activities. The Caribbean region stands out for a variety of aquatic ecosystems and beautiful black and white sand beaches. Active travellers will find plenty to do here with options such as surfing, hiking, snorkelling and sports fishing. The Pacific coast, equally beautiful, caters for city lovers with large tourist centres.
Costa Rica makes up only 0.25% of the world's landmass but has 5% of the world's biodiversity. With 25% of the land in protected national parks, there is plenty to see for nature lovers. Visit the cloud forest one day and an active volcano the next. Types of wildlife you will encounter in your journey will include: sea turtles, crocodiles, manatees, otters, sloths and the famous four Costa Rican monkey species. A couple of very famous national parks to visit are Corcovado National Park and the Tortuguero National Park.
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