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79 Facts About Costa Rica Food, Attractions, Culture, Photos, Travelers and Expats

Rio Celeste waterfall, Tamarindo, Costa Rica
Rio Celeste waterfall, Tamarindo, Costa Rica

If you're curious about Costa Rica, this post will help. In this huge guide, you'll learn 79 facts about Costa Rica, including food, attractions, political structure, population, cities, and much more.

Thinking of visiting Costa Rica? Maybe retiring there? You'll need to get familiar with this lovely paradise before you go. We've put together 79 facts about Costa Rica to help introduce you to one of our favorite places in the world. These Costa Rica facts will get you started and hopefully help you have the best time you can while you're there.

Basic Facts About Costa Rica

1. What is Costa Rica’s Official Name?

Costa Rica is known to the international community as the “República de Costa Rica” or the Republic of Costa Rica. What does Costa Rica mean? Costa Rica is Spanish meaning “rich coast”.

2. What is Costa Rica’s Population?

Costa Rica has just over 4.9 million people with a slow but steady population increase.

3. Where is Costa Rica located?

Costa Rica is located in Central America on a small isthmus between Nicaragua (to the north) and Panama (to the South). Technically, it’s in North America although its culture is decidedly closer to South America.

4. What time is it in Costa Rica?

Costa Rica is in Central Standard Time (GMT-6), the same as Chicago. There is no daylight savings time there.

5. When does the sun set in Costa Rica?

In the winter, sunsets happen between 5:45 and 6:00 p.m. typically. As the summer comes, that natural day is lengthened, but because there’s no daylight savings time, there is less variation.

Sunset at Samara Beach, Guanacaste
Sunset at Samara Beach, Guanacaste

6. What are citizens of Costa Rica known as?

Citizens are known as Costa Ricans. Sometimes they call themselves “Ticos” after a tendency to add the suffix “tico” after many words (an affectionate way to call something cute or small). Women are “Ticas.”

7. What is the capital of Costa Rica?

The capital of Costa Rica is San Jose, a historic city that’s Costa Rica’s most populous.

8. What is the life expectancy in Costa Rica?

People have an average life expectancy of nearly 80 (79.83) years in this country. Must be the “pura vida.” Guanacaste is one of the five blue zones in the world which contributes to the high life expectancy

9. What religions are in Costa Rica?

The state religion is Catholicism, but the country has established religious freedom for all. There are a variety of Christian denominations popular in the country, and three percent belong to other religious traditions altogether.

10. Common misspellings of Costa Rica

It’s not nearly as common to see a misspelling of this country as it is some others, but you may see Cosda Rica every now and again. And you might also see it written incorrectly as one word: Costarica.

11. How to Pronounce Costa Rica

Facts about Costa Rica Travel

12. How's the weather in Costa Rica?

The weather in Costa Rica is lovely with plenty of sun and a warm temperature mostly year round. There are rainy times, and during big hurricane seasons, the weather can be unpredictable.

13. What is the best time to visit Costa Rica?

Mid-December to April is a great time to make a visit here. It’s the dry season, but the weather is still warm enough to take advantage of the long stretches of beach.

Unfortunately, this is also the peak tourist season. If you don’t mind a little rain, you can go during the off-season and have fewer crowds.

14. What is Costa Rica’s currency?

The national currency is the colón (₡), but they also take dollars in many of the tourists' districts. The exchange rate is highly favorable for those of you carrying dollars.

Costa Rican colones are very colorful and depict the natural treasures
Costa Rican colones

15. Do I need a power adapter when I visit Costa Rica?

Costa Rica uses the same power current as the United States, so if you’re from that country, you’re good to go.

16. What plugs are used in Costa Rica?

If you’re from the USA, you probably won’t need a plug adaptor either. Most plugs are two-pronged like older plugs in the US. If you have something with a three prong that’s important to you, you may need a single plug for that.

17. What are Costa Rica’s international airports?

There are two international airports.

  • Juan Santamaría Airport (SJO) in Alajuela, near San Jose,

  • Daniel Oduber Airport (LIR) in Liberia. Services the northwest region of Costa Rica.

18. What languages are spoken in Costa Rica?

Costa Rica’s official language is Spanish.

There are a variety of indigenous languages in the country as well as an older form of English in some districts. Overall, most people speak Spanish, and all official business is conducted in Spanish.

19. How many tourists visit Costa Rica every year?

The country is very popular with tourists, seeing 2,665,000 visitors (2015). Costa Rica is the most visited country in Central America, with 26.4% of all visitors. Tourism is heavily weighted during the peak dry season.

20. What are Costa Rica’s most famous landmarks?

Although the entire country is full of beauty, there are a few must-see attractions if you spend any time here:

  • Monteverde Cloud Forest: Beautiful nature walks with trails and hanging bridges, but bring warmer clothes for the elevation.

  • Arenal Volcano: This live volcano offers scenic views and good hiking.

  • Coffee Tours: Visit the site where your favorite beverage gets its start.

  • Dominical: Backpacking never looked so good with sand trails, beaches, and lots of atmosphere.

  • Pre-Columbian Gold Museum: History buffs will appreciate this collection of treasure plus some art.

  • Manuel Antonio National Park: The premier outdoor destination for anyone in Costa Rica.

Monteverde rainforest cloudforest, Costa Rica
Monteverde rainforest, Costa Rica

21. Is Costa Rica a safe place to visit?

Costa Rica is a very safe country with a lot of money and time spent making sure tourists return each year. Be smart about your things and pay attention to your surroundings just like you would in any country, but overall Costa Rica is very safe.

22. What are Costa Rica’s 10 best beaches?

It’s hard to narrow down beaches here, but our top picks are:

  • Manuel Antonio Beach

  • Tamarindo Beach, Guanacaste

  • Conchal Beach, Guanacaste

  • Flamingo Beach, Guanacaste

  • Nacascolo Beach, Papagayo Peninsula (ultra exclusive)

  • Dominical Beach, South Pacific

  • Montezuma Beach, Nicoya Peninsula

  • Samara Beach, Nicoya Peninsula (great for families!)

  • San Juanillo Beach, Nicoya Peninsula

  • Manzanillo Beach, Southern Caribbean Coast

Playa Samara, Guanacaste, Costa Rica
Playa Samara, Guanacaste, Costa Rica

23. What are the most famous events in Costa Rica?

There are a lot of events in this country known for tourism and Pure Life mentalities.

Here are some of the most popular events – you might want to plan around these. If you aren't interested to see them – they can make travel more difficult. There will be more tourists and it will be harder to find hotels and transport.

  • Saint Days of Santa Cruz, January 15 week

  • Dia de San Isidro Labrador, March 15 week

  • International Festival of the Arts, March 15 week

  • Semana Santa, varies

  • The Day of the Blessed Virgin of Los Angeles, August 2nd

  • Limon Carnival, October

  • Light Festival of San Jose, second Saturday of December

Geography of Costa Rica

24. How large is Costa Rica?

Costa Rica comprises 19,730 square miles (51,100 sq. km) of land along the isthmus of Central America.

25. What World Heritage sites are in Costa Rica?

Four World Heritage sites are located in the country, including 3 natural and 1 cultural.

  • The Area de Conservacion Guanacaste

  • Cocos Island National Park

  • Pre Columbian Chiefdom Settlements

  • La Amistad National Park

26. What is Costa Rica’s largest city?

San Jose, the capital, is by far the largest city with a population of 339,581 (2017). It also sees the most tourists each year.

27. What are Costa Rica’s major cities?

After San Jose, Puerto Limon has the distinction of both size and culture. Most other cities in Costa Rica revolve around the tourism placements of outdoor spots.

  • San Jose (335,007)

  • Puerto Limon (63,081)

  • San Francisco (55,923)

  • Alajuela (47,494)

  • Liberia (45,380)

  • Pariso (39,702)

  • Puntarenas (35,650)

The National Theatre of Costa Rica is Costa Rica's national theatre, located in the central section of San José.
National Theater Of Costa Rica in San José

28. How many provinces in Costa Rica?

Costa Rica is divided into seven provinces.

  • San Jose

  • Heredia

  • Alajuela

  • Cartago

  • Puntarenas

  • Guanacaste

  • Limon

Most share the same name as their capital city.

29. What is the highest elevation in Costa Rica?

Mount Chirripo has the highest elevation at 12,536 feet. It’s located in the Chirripo National Park.

30. Does Costa Rica have a lot of mountains?

Costa Rica has quite a few mountains in many of the natural parks of the country.

Some have active volcanoes, and one is the highest point in the country and the fifth highest in Central America.

31. How many islands in Costa Rica?

Costa Rica does have a few islands off its coast with one of the most famous being Tortuga. It offers the chance to see hatching turtles during certain times of the year.

In all, there are 33 islands with many open to public exploration. Here are some of the main islands and island groups in Costa Rica.

  • Tortuga Islands

  • Utiva Islands

  • Cabuya Island

  • Murcielagos / Bat Islands

  • Catalina Islands

  • San Lucas Island

  • Cocos Island: Located 342 mi (550 km) from Costa Rica mainland. The entire island is a national park, with no permanent inhabitants. Jurassic Park's “Isla Nublar” is modeled after this remote island.

  • Caño Island

The entirety of Cocos Island has been designated a Costa Rican National Park and has no permanent inhabitants
Cocs Island, Isla del Coco, Costa Rica

32. What are the top 10 famous places in Costa Rica?

Costa Rica is known for its beautiful views, and the list of famous points reflects that reputation.

  • Manuel Antonio National Park

  • Poas Volcano National Park

  • La Fortuna Waterfall

  • Monteverde Cloud Forest

  • Corcovado National Park

  • Guanacaste Beaches

  • Santa Teresa Village

  • Tortuguero National Park

  • Arenal Volcano

  • Cocos Island

33. How many national parks in Costa Rica?

There are 28 national parks in total. 3 are UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

Here are five that are a must see:

  • Monteverde Cloud Reserve

  • Tortuguero National Park

  • Arenal Volcano Park

  • Manuel Antonio National Park

  • Ballena Marine National Park

Politics of Costa Rica

34. What type of government does Costa Rica have?

Costa Rica has a presidential, representative democratic republic. It has a stable and independent government with three branches and elected officials. It gained independence in 1821.

35. How stable is the current government?

The government and country are highly stable with peaceful transfers of power. Elections are relatively peaceful, and the area is very safe for tourists and visitors.

36. How many national political parties are in Costa Rica?

There are 9 active national political parties in Costa Rica.

Traditionally, Costa Rica has two dominant political parties with a few fringe parties (like many democratic countries). Recently, more power has funneled into these newer parties leading some to think that the two party system is on its way out.

Business in Costa Rica

37. What is Costa Rica’s largest export?

Costa Rica is an agricultural economy with one of its main exports being bananas. Coffee comes in close. It’s also an exporter of medical equipment.

Bananas, main export product for Costa Rica
Bananas, main export product for Costa Rica

38. What are Costa Rica’s major exports?

In addition to bananas and coffee, other exports include citrus fruits, sugar, rice, and ornamental plants. The country also has manufacturing exports including microprocessors, construction materials, and medical equipment.

39. What is the minimum wage in Costa Rica?

It increased slightly in 2018 to just over 6,000 Costa Rican colon per month. Minimum wages are calculated based on monthly salary rather than by the hour.

40. Who are Costa Rica’s major trading partners?

Costa Rica’s major trading partners include the United States and surrounding countries.

It also has a healthy relationship with China, Belgium, and the Netherlands. The fertile farmlands attract a lot of foreign investment making it a good option for most countries seeking to import foods unavailable within their borders.

Food in Costa Rica

41. What food is most popular in Costa Rica?

Gallo Pinto is one of the most famous dishes in the country. It’s made with rice and beans and eaten practically everywhere. And this is served with large varieties of chicken, fish, and spices.

Gallo Pinto, "painted rooster"

42. What kind of food is traditional in Costa Rica?

Traditional foods use a base of rice or beans typically with fresh fruits on the side. Seafood is readily available, as is chicken and poultry, so many of the dishes rely on these ingredients to make a variety of dishes. Here are 8 traditional Costa Rican dishes:

  • Casado

  • Tamal

  • Arroz con Leche

  • Chifrijo

  • Flan

  • Gallo Pinto

  • Patacones

  • Olla de Carne

43. What can you eat and drink in Costa Rica?

There are plenty of things to try in Costa Rica with many of the dishes heralding back to both indigenous roots and European influence. There’s an abundance of seafood and fresh juices as well.

44. What is Costa Rica's national dish?

Food is hearty and tends to reflect generations of influence from both Europe and local people groups. Gallo Pinto is most everyone’s pick for the national dish of Costa Rica. It’s a mixture of rice and beans and made in nearly every province. It’s a hearty dish served warm and full of flavor. Rondon is made with whatever the cook has available and is a rustic style dish typical to the area.

45. What is a typical dinner in Costa Rica?

Typical dinners include rice or beans with protein sources from chicken or fish. Some straightforward meals may consist of only rice or beans with eggs or chicken.

The dishes use the same inspiration that many countries in the area have with both indigenous and European influence.

46. What is the most popular drink in Costa Rica?

Costa Rican refrescos, or fruit smoothies, are some of the most popular drinks because of the wealth of fresh fruit available.

Guaro is a sugar cane liquor usually served as a shot or sometimes in cocktails. Here's how to drink it like a local. Costa Rica also has local varieties of beer.

47. What do the locals eat for breakfast?

Rice and beans, Gallo Pinto, is a typical breakfast along with eggs. Some just have fresh fruit or fruit smoothies. Coffee is a must, and almost all the breakfast meals and drinks are decidedly unfussy.

48. What food and drink is Costa Rica famous for?

Fresh fruit is so prevalent in Costa Rica that many of their famous drinks use those fruits. Refrescos are some of the most famous beverages in the country. Also, sugar cane liquor is common. Rice and beans with fresh seafood or chicken make up a good portion of the meals. Costa Rican coffee is also a delicacy, with tropical undertones and a wonderful taste.

Bebida de sandia, a refreshing watermelon smoothy
Bebida de sandia, a refreshing watermelon smoothy

49. What fruit is Costa Rica famous for?

Costa Rica grows bananas as one of the largest exports, but they don’t stop there. Nearly all the tropical fruits have a home in the country, and it has extensive farmlands and orchards for them. What they’re really famous for is the juice made from this wealth of tropical fruits and coffee.

50. What can you not eat in Costa Rica?

There aren’t any famous food taboos in Costa Rica although they may look at you sideways if you ask for something like McDonald's. Some Catholic restaurants may observe traditional Lenten diets during that time, but you aren’t obligated to.

51. Can I drink the water in Costa Rica?

It’s safe to drink the water for the most part, especially in tourist districts. You’ll want to be more careful in rural and undeveloped parts of the country.

However, bottled water is readily available and recommended especially for long term stays.

You should also consider bringing a water filter. This LifeStraw Go Bottle filters any water you put in it.

Language in Costa Rica

52. What are the official languages in Costa Rica?

Spanish is the official language of the region with diplomatic languages including English as well. However, business and local affairs are conducted in Spanish. The country also has indigenous language protections for local languages.

53. What language are road signs in Costa Rica?

Signs are written in Spanish but use a good many pictures and symbols. If you’re planning to drive in the country, make sure you understand the signs.

Wildlife in Costa Rica

54. What animals live in Costa Rica?

Costa Rica is very diverse and home to 5% of the world's species.

Tapirs are some of the most famous sights along with colorful tropical birds and some larger predator cats. They also have a variety of species of monkey and are home to some of the best turtle viewings in the world. Costa Rica is also home to two potoo bird species: Northern and common potoos. You have to see the potoo to appreciate it. It is also home to the king vulture.

Northern potoo
Northern potoo

55. What is Costa Rica's national animal?

Costa Rica has two national animals. The national land animal is the white-tailed deer while the national water animal is the manatee. Both of these are peaceful creatures and reflect the gentle spirit of living in Costa Rica.

56. What dangerous animals are in Costa Rica?

There are several species of venomous spider in the area along with the Brazilian Wandering Spider. Bullet ants can deliver an ultra painful bite but aren’t deadly (though they may make you wish they were while dealing with the bite pain).

Other threats include bull sharks in some of the ocean spots and larger predator cats including pumas in the jungles. Alligators and crocodiles remain a threat both on land and in the water, so take precaution wherever you are.

Costa Rica is also home to the white-winged vampire bat, one of only a few venomous mammals.

57. Are there any deadly spiders in Costa Rica?

There are many, many spider species in Costa Rica, most of which are harmless.

Among those is one of the most deadly spiders in the world, the Brazilian Wandering Spider. If left untreated it can cause muscle paralysis and asphyxiation, leading to eventual death especially in children.

The good news is that quick treatment with anti-venom makes this scenario highly unlikely. With an excellent network of hospitals, you’ll find treatments easily. Take the necessary precautions, and you should be perfectly fine.

Plant Life in Costa Rica

58. What is Costa Rica national flower?

The national flower is an orchid known as the Guaria Morada, known for its brilliant purple hues and gorgeous shape. It grows native to the country and puts on excellent shows during its long blooming season (almost year-round).

Guaria Morada, "purple country girl", Costa Rica's national flower.
Guaria Morada, "purple country girl", Costa Rica's national flower

59. What types of vegetation are common in Costa Rica?

Much of Costa Rica’s vegetation is tropical, so there’s a wealth of flora species to see while you’re there.Wetlands give you vegetation typical to that area while the mountain ranges have a different view. The subtropical temperatures lend themselves to larger, more colorful flowers and abundant plant life.

60. What crops are grown in Costa Rica?

Costa Rica has fertile farmland and grows a wide variety of crops for export and the country’s own use. Bananas, citrus, and coffee are some of the most famous, but there are also staple crops such as sugar cane grown in the region. Costa Rica has a large export economy because of the fertile farmlands and crop varieties.

National Symbols of Costa Rica

61. What is the symbol of Costa Rica?

The national emblem uses a natural scene of volcanoes with the sea and a rising sun. It mimics Costa Rica’s vast natural resources and beautiful sites.

The unofficial symbol if Costa Rica is actually a motto “Pura Vida” which is a way of living that emphasizes the quality of life over the pursuit of material things. It’s something Costa Ricans lives by and strives to display in all aspects of the country.

62. What is the national tree of Costa Rica?

The Guanacaste (Enterolobium cyclocarpum) was chosen as the national tree. It grows a large, dome style canopy and is a striking variety of tree that symbolizes Costa Rican’s love of the outdoors.

63. What is Costa Rica's national bird?

The clay-colored thrush takes the top spot as Costa Rica’s national bird. It’s a simple bird in a land that boasts hundreds of tropical species, but it’s one of the most common species, known for its distinct call and people friendly attitude.

64. What is Costa Rica's national animal?

The country has two national animals, one for land and one for the sea.

  • Land: white-tailed deer

  • Sea: manatee

West Indian manatee in Costa Rica
West Indian manatee in Costa Rica

Together, these represent the friendly nature of Costa Rica and all its beauty in simplicity.

65. What is Costa Rica's national sport?

The national pastime is Soccer or “Futbol” as it’s called locally (and by most of the rest of the world). In 2014, the national team advanced to the quarterfinals of the World Cup entrenching the sport even further. Other sports include a lot of outdoor style sports such as hiking and surfing, taking full advantage of Costa Rica’s outdoor wealth.

Culture of Costa Rica

66. What are some of the different cultures in Costa Rica?

The majority of Costa Ricans identify as Catholic with a few other Christian traditions sprinkled in. The region retains many of the old influences of Europe from colonization and also boasts a variety of indigenous cultures.

The retention of indigenous language along with a long history of pre-Columbian influence makes this area a fascinating place for art, music, food, and other traditions.

67. What is the population of Costa Rica?

The population of Costa Rica reaches just under 5 million people with that number growing slowly but steadily. It’s ranked as one of the happiest places in the world, so it’s no wonder that number continues to rise.

68. Is Costa Rica's population increasing or decreasing?

The population continues to grow slowly but steadily year over year.

Its growth is due to a rising standard of living as well as the current expat preference for the area. Costa Rica actively encourages expats to settle down because it creates more opportunity for the local economy and helps with the standard of living.

69. How many immigrants live in Costa Rica?

Immigrants make up about 9% of the population with just under 400,000 living and working in the country. It’s a friendly country with a reasonable cost of living that attracts immigrants from all over.

70. Where do the immigrants in Costa Rica come from?

Many immigrants are fleeing violence from neighboring Nicaragua, but others are expats from Europe and the United States. It remains an excellent place for people to retire and for those seeking a quieter life away from some of the world’s noisiest metropolises.

Costa Rica Immigration and Expat Facts

71. What is the best place to live in Costa Rica?

If we’re honest, you could be happy just about anywhere in Costa Rica.

Here are 6 areas to start with:

  • Atenas: Small city living with beautiful weather and views.

  • Cartago: A safer, quieter big city with all the culture of a place like San Jose.

  • Tamarindo: Best for beach living with a small town vibe and plenty of tourism.

  • Heredia: With excellent schools, this could be one of the best places to live for expats with children.

  • Limon: Diversity, multiculturalism, and thriving culture.

  • Escazu: Best San Jose borough.

72. What are the requirements to live in Costa Rica?

How can I immigrate to Costa Rica? If you’re only a tourist, US citizens don’t require a visa to stay in the country for a few months. If you plan to stay long term, there are several visa options for you. Two residence programs allow you to remain in the country with proof of a certain amount of income (you won’t be eligible to work in Costa Rica). Another option is investing a certain amount of money into a Costa Rican business or school.

73. How do you become a citizen of Costa Rica?

Is it hard to become a citizen of Costa Rica? It’s not difficult to get citizenship provided you’re patient. There are residency requirements in place (seven years for most), and a clean criminal record are required.

If you happen to marry a citizen, that requirement is reduced to two years. If you’re from a Latin American country, you only have to wait five years. We recommend getting an attorney for residency or citizenship so that you know your application is done correctly.

74. Is it easy to get permanent residency in Costa Rica?

Costa Rica is very welcoming of immigrants and potential residents. For many foreign nationals, all you need is proof that you won’t have to work while you’re in Costa Rica and you can get a permanent resident visa.

You won’t be eligible for jobs, but you can stay in the country without having to leave every 90 days to return legally. It’s best to have an attorney who can navigate all the paperwork for you.

75. How long can I live in Costa Rica?

You can live in Costa Rica for as long as you want, provided you’ve gone through the proper channels to obtain permission.

Residency visas are not difficult, but there are a lot of avenues to go through and a lot of paperwork (in Spanish). Make sure you’ve gotten someone who knows what they’re doing.

76. How long can I stay in Costa Rica without a visa?

Many nationalities can stay in the country for up to 90 days with just proof that there’s an exit strategy.

The border may want to see that you’ve got a return ticket booked or some other way to leave, but most of the time, you’ve got three months once they’ve stamped your passport after you’ve arrived.

Costa Rica passport stamp
Costa Rica passport stamp

77. How can I work in Costa Rica?

It’s possible to obtain a work permit, but it’s not easy or quick. For many of you, it could take up to 90 days to be approved, and you’ll need a lawyer to wade through the paperwork to make sure it’s done correctly.

The first step would be to apply for temporary residency, so you’re already in the country to begin seeking employment sponsorship.

78. What percentage of Costa Rica are immigrants?

Nine percent of the population is immigrants, coming from a variety of locals. The economy, weather, and local sights make this a trendy place for expats to relocate, especially those looking to retire on a budget.

Costa Rica is friendly to those who immigrate regardless of reason.

79. How many expats are in Costa Rica?

There are around 50,000 expats just from North America alone living in the country.

Costa Rica allows you to buy property and start a business without citizenship or permanent residency although that permission does make it easier to stay in the country long term. If you do decide to join the expat community there, you’ll be given a thriving community.

Your Turn

And there you have it. Our set of facts about Costa Rica. Have a fact to add? Or maybe a question? Let us know in the comments!

About Bryan Haines: I'm a traveler and photographer. Learn more about me. I also blog about photography with a focus on GoPro cameras.

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