Costa Rica, Central America’s most stable country, is rich in pristine scenery and exotic wildlife. Its neutrality in foreign affairs is long-standing, but it has strong ties with the US.
Geography: Coastal plains of swamp and savanna rise to a fertile central plateau, which leads to a mountain range with active volcanic peaks.
Climate: Hot and humid in coastal regions. Temperate central uplands. High annual rainfall.
People and Society: Most people are mestizo, of partly Spanish origin. There is a black, English speaking minority and around 35,000 indigenous Amerindians. Plantation owners are the wealthiest group, while one in six people live in poverty. Nonetheless, living standards are high for the region, and education and healthcare provision is good.
The Economy: Stability has attracted multinationals. The main exports are bananas, pineapples, coffee, and beef, but all are vulnerable to fluctuating world prices. History of high inflation. Pioneer of eco-tourism. Pledged to be carbon neutral by 2021.
Insight: Costa Rica’s 1949 constitution bans a national army
Official Name: Republic of Costa Rica
Date of Formation: 1838
Capital: San José
Population: 4.58 million
Total Area: 19,730 sq. miles (51,100 sq. km)
Density: 232 people per sq. mile
Languages: Spanish*, English Creole, Bribri, Cabecar
Religions: Roman Catholic 76%, other (including Protestant) 24%
Ethnic Mix: Mestizo and European 96%, Black 2%, Chinese 1%, Amerindian 1%
Government: Presidential system
Currency: C.R. colón = 100 céntimos