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Costa Rica is located in Central America, between Nicaragua (North) and Panama (South), and between the Caribbean (East) and the Pacific Ocean (West). It also limits with Colombia and Ecuador, thanks to Coco’s Island – World’s Natural Heritage by UNESCO. It covers 51 100 square kilometers: that represents only 0,03% of the surface of our planet, but it holds approximately 6% of the world's biodiversity, making the country the world's most diverse, biologically speaking, per unity of measure. This is why over 25% of our country is protected in some type Conservation Area.
The Guanacaste mountain range, Central volcanic range, and the Talamanca mountain range form our main mountain systems that go from Northwest to Southeast (ranging from 1,000 to 4,000 meters above sea level) crossing over the entire country. Right in the middle of these mountain ranges is found the Central Valley, where around 60% of the population lives, and is where San José, and the other main cities are located. There are some active volcanoes (Volcán Arenal, Volcán Poás, Volcán Irazú, Volcán Rincón de la Vieja and Volcán Turrialba) and several mountains: the country's highest mountain is called Cerro Chirripó and it reaches a height of 3,819 meters above sea level (almost 13.000 feet).
Those highlands generate a number of rivers that flow down to the costs and make the country fertile enough to make agriculture one of its main economic activities. They also provide for a number of water sports and they are our source for electricity.
Costa Rica´s climate is pleasant with natural breezes cooling down most of the coastal areas. Temperatures in the highlands and the mountains are warm by day and brisk at night. Those conditions do not vary drastically all year long. The average temperatures range from 31.7°C (95°F) on the coast to 16.7°C (65°F) inland. The rainy season lasts from May to November.
In addition, Costa Rica posses an impressive scenic beauty, a consolidated system of protected areas, social and political stability, high educational levels, efficient infrastructure and services, and people who love Peace.Up
Basic Costa Rica Info:
Location on the map: Central America, between Nicaragua (N) and Panamá (SE)
Total Area: 51 100 km2 (almost 20.000 square miles)
Capital City: San José
Political Division: 7 Provinces San José, Alajuela, Heredia, Cartago, Guanacaste, Puntarenas and Limón
Population: Around 4 250 000 inhabitants
Language: Spanish. English is spoken throughout the entire country.
Currency: Colón. US dollars are widely accepted. The Euros are rarely exchanged. We suggest bringing US dollars in small bills, and not damaged. Credit cards are accepted in many places, especially VISA. We recommend not bringing traveler checks, since they are difficult to cash. Don’t carry much money in your pocket nor show it in public areas; keep all your receipts. You can check the exchange rate everyday in www.bccr.fi.cr
Government: Republic and Democracy since 1848. It became independent from Spain in 1821. Abolish the army in 1948, and it was declared Neutral in 1983
Holidays: 01/01, 11/Apr national hero, Eastern, 01/May Labor Day, 25/July annexation of the province of Guanacaste, 02/Aug. Our Lady the Virgen of Los Ángeles, 15/Aug. Mother´s Day, 15/Sep. Independence Day, 12/Oct. Christopher Columbus, and 25/Dec. Christmas Eve. During the Holy Week, most of the administration buildings, banks and stores remain close Thursday and Friday.
Official Hour : Costa Rica is located at GMT -6 (US Central Standard Time)
Duration of the flights: 2,5 hours from Miami, USA
Electrical power and Voltage: 110 V. Europeans have to bring bivoltage apparels and an adaptation for flat american terminal.
Tips: Are left at your discretion, but highly appreciated if you are satisfied with the service provided by the guide and driver of your expedition. In general, you can give an average between 3 US$ and 7 US$ per person per full day of service; and US$1 to US$2 for smaller services. Tipping with coins or change is not well accepted.
Public Services and health: Due to the high precipitation rates, most of the production of power is done with hydroelectric plants, that is why 98% of the population is covered with electricity, and potable water. Water is completely drinkable throughout the entire country, ice too. The social security system is among the best 40 in the world, there are hospitals in all the major cities, and at least a clinic in all the small towns. Diseases such as malaria were eradicated long time ago. No vaccination is required.
Cuisine and beverages: Most of the restaurants serve dishes based on chicken, fish or beef, the local specialty is the Casado: comes with rice, black beans, meat, salad or legumes, fried plantain, and sometimes eggs or avocado. There are a great variety of tropical fruit drinks such as soursop, blackberry, cas (Costa Rican guava), and maracuya (passion fruit). Good wine is imported, and at most restaurants a bottle will cost between US$15 and US$30. The bill in the restaurants will include the 13% sales tax and the 10% service tax, which is equivalent to the tip: we have a law that authorizes restaurants to charge it directly to the bill.
Safety and security tips: water and ice are potable, but if you feel safer we recommend carrying your own bottle of water when you are hiking or exploring the area. It is important to stay hydrated, though. Do not abuse the tropical beverages or fruits. Be sure to protect your belongings at all times, especially money, passport and air ticket; it’s better if you leave it in the safe box of your hotel and carry a copy of the documents. Remember to use sun block to protect your skin.
Optional activities: Some of our programs allow you to participate in optional activities. We recommend foreseeing an additional budget on consequence, to fully enjoy your expedition
Shopping and souvenirs: Of course, the famous Costa Rican coffee but also the Indian pottery, wooden handcraft made with precious woods such as rosewood or purple hearth. Also the reproductions of the traditional oxcart entirely hand painted, and of course the famous dark rum Centenario
Weather: 2 seasons are found, the dry season from December to April, and the rainy season from May to November (a.k.a. green season). Temperatures remain relatively the same all year long. The big changes in temperature are related to altitude. In Costa Rica one can find around 95 different microclimates. On the Central Valley including San José (900 to 1300 msnm), the temperatures are constant , and oscillate between 22°C y 25°C (upper 70´s °F). On the Caribbean coast, the humidity rates can be very high while on the Pacific slopes, in the region of Guanacaste, the weather, during the dry season, can rather be very dry. There is to remark that on the Northern region and the Caribbean slopes, the influence of the Trade Winds from the Northeast create hot masses of humid air that enter the country by these region, and when they reach to the mountain ranges, they rise and cool off turning into clouds that will return to the Northern and Caribbean planes, causing tropical showers all year long, That is the reason why the dry season is exclusive for the Pacific coast and the Central Valley. There are 12 different life zones and 5 transition zones, from which the main ecosystems are: The Tropical Lowland Rain Forest with its lush vegetation, The Cloud Forest and its montane landscapes, The Tropical Dry Forest on the north Pacific, the regions of Wetlands, and Mangroves, the beach vegetation, and the Sub alpine Tropical Wet Paramus over the tallest mountains in the country. If you want to learn more about Costa Rica’s weather, go to www.imn.ac.cr
Visas: to check the migratory requirements to travel from your country, visit www.migracion.go.cr