Costa Rica facts – Before you depart, learn more about this spectacular tropic country
I’ve put some Costa Rica facts together on this page that you may find useful for your trip. I have to admit, when we left for our honeymoon, I didn’t quite research the country as much as I could have.
Knowing what I know now, I might have appreciated quite a bit more! (If that were possible!)
This list of Costa Rica facts begins with…
Location and geography
Where is Costa Rica located? It’s a Central American country, smack dab in between the countries of Nicaragua and Panama.
The Costa Rica geography boasts some of the most diverse landscapes anywhere in the world. One can travel from mountain peaks and volcanoes, through rain forests, and wind up at a breathtaking beach by sundown.
It’s about 1000 miles north of the equator, so the weather is consistently warm, and sometimes downright hot. As with any tropical country, there is a dry season and a rainy season. The rainy season typically extends from May to December.
Costa Rican currency and currency exchange
One of the Costa Rica facts you must have knowledge of is the currency of Costa Rica.
The Costa Rica currency is the colon. The exchange rate is about 500 colones (CRC) to 1 US dollar (USD), or about 680 CRC to 1 euro (EUR).
A 10,000 colones bill would be about the equivalent of a twenty-dollar US bill.
On our Costa Rica vacation, we found the simplest and easiest thing to do was to use our credit card for nearly everything I could. Hotels, restaurants, tours. Let the credit card company figure out the exchange rate.
That said, when you travel to Costa Rica you are going to need some Costa Rican money on hand for smaller things. Sure, most Ticos will be happy to take US dollars, but you’ll get change back in colones. I didn’t like doing that too often because I could never tell what “rate” I was getting.
For Costa Rica currency exchange, the best place to exchange cash is at banks. Banco Nacional or Banco de Costa Rica. You can also get cash through ATMs — either colones or US dollars — but hopefully you’ve checked beforehand what your bank’s fees are for doing so.
Major Costa Rica cities and the capital of San Jose
Continuing our topic of Costa Rica facts, let’s touch on the cities in Costa Rica.
The Costa Rica capital of San José is by far the largest, most cosmopolitan city in the country. You’ll find the weather quite enjoyable in this area of the country, as the Central Valley doesn’t experience some of the hot and humid conditions found in other regions.
As the transportation hub for the country, most visitors arrive and leave from the San José International Airport. Don’t treat the city as simply a waypoint though — it has a lot to offer!
For cultural attractions, you’ll want to explore the many museums within the city. The Central Market offers up a native shopping experience. There’s also a pedestrian mall in the heart of the city which is loaded with shops and places to eat.
There’s also a number of small parks in and around the city where you can take in the local culture. La Sabana is the largest, with a man-made lake stocked with fish.
|Arguably the most famous volcano in Costa Rica — Arenal.|
Alajuela is a common stop for most visitors to the country. Nearby is the famous Arenal Volcano, where if you’re lucky, at night you’ll be witness to a living, breathing, fire-spitting active volcano. Another popular stop are the hot springs in the area. We spent an afternoon and evening in Tabacón, and it was one of the most relaxing stops on our honeymoon.
Limón, on the Caribbean coast, is a popular port-of-call for cruise ships and a way point for popular attractions on this side of the country. To the north is Tortugeuro National Park, which is famous for the sea turtles which come up on the beach to lay their eggs.
If you’re a scuba diver or like to snorkel, make your way south to Cahuita National Park. This park is home to the largest coral reef in Costa Rica, and features white sand beaches and crystal clear blue waters.
Next on the list of Costa Rica facts…
Economy and cost of living
The Costa Rica economy was originally largely based on agriculture — coffee, bananas, pineapples. These exports still contribute to Costa Rica’s strong economy today.
|On the Cafe Britt Coffee Tour, we walked through a live coffee plantation. These are coffee beans growing on the tree.|
Among Costa Rica facts, most now know the country for it’s tourism industry. Ecotourism has been the real boon to the economy. It’s a huge industry, and for good reason.
There’s no other country like it in the world. There is a large number of gorgeous, protected national parks — more than quarter of the country is protected land. With 6% of the worlds plant and animal species, you’ll simply see more wildlife here than anywhere else in the world.
The Costa Rica cost of living, as it pertains to visitors and the prices they pay, is not necessarily “bargain basement”. Sure, you can get a $2-$3 meal in the local sodas (an informal cafe), but hotel and tour prices are priced for the tourist. You may not pay exorbitant amounts, but rates will not be what you consider “cheap”.
And during the dry season, or “high” season, expect to pay a premium over rainy season rates.
That said, we found prices on our honeymoon — and the final cost of our trip — to be very reasonable considering the incredible experiences we had.
Let’s continue the list of Costa Rica facts with…
A good way to get a feel for the country, its culture, and its concerns is to pick up some Costa Rica newspapers. Fortunately, with the internet, you don’t have to subscribe, you can just surf to the newspapers’ websites.
The Tico Times is an English weekly paper and website that keeps the tourist in mind, often publishing articles relating to the travel industry.
If you want current Costa Rican news, the main paper is La Nacion, but it’s in Spanish only. The same goes for the website — Spanish only. However, if you pipe the site through Google Translate, you will get a fairly good translation.
There are some online-only publications as well. Inside Costa Rica seems to publish news articles fairly frequently. The Costa Rica News is another slick online news site.
Famous people from Costa Rica
Curious about some of the famous people from Costa Rica? Besides historical figures and politicians that you may know from the news, the country is rich with famous authors, artists, athletes, and even astronauts!
I’ll be adding more Costa Rica facts over time, so be sure to subscribe to the site’s RSS feed for updates.