Costa Rica should probably be named “Costas Ricas” because it really has two, quite different coastlines: one on the Pacific Ocean and the other on the Caribbean Sea. The Central Valley of the country’s interior contains the sprawling metropolis of San Jose as well as the country’s agricultural industry. On the higher elevations, the climate is delightful, coffee plantations abound, and the nation’s four semi-active volcanic peaks are found. Jungles and rainforests teeming with wildlife are found in the country’s northeast and southwest coastal areas.
The Republic of Costa Rica (the “Rich Coast”) is a country on the narrow isthmus between North and South America, bordered by Nicaragua on the north and Panama to the south. There are about 4.5 million Costa Ricans (or “Ticos”) about a million of whom live in the capital metropolis of San Jose.
Costa Rica is noted for its lovely beaches on both the Pacific and Caribbean coastlines. Both coasts are dotted with small ports, lovely towns and miles of sandy beach, as well as offshore reefs that attract an abundance of sea life as well as a playground for fishermen, snorkelers and divers.
More than a quarter of Costa Rica is set aside for environmental preservation. The interior of this long and narrow country is largely tropical rainforest, broken by several dramatic volcanic mountain peaks, several of which are still active. Tropical flora and fauna can be seen throughout the country, including iridescent hummingbirds, the quetzel, the national bird, several native species of monkeys and many other species. Nature travel and exploration is popular with many visitors.
But Costa Rica also appeals to the active traveler. In addition to the water-based activities of the coasts, there are tumbling whitewater rafting rivers, zip lines and mountain biking, and hiking on the rumbling volcanic peaks of the interior.
While the central capital city of San Jose does not boast a great deal of architectural or historic structures, there are cultural sites and economic and shopping outlets for visitors to explore.
Best of all, Costa Rica is a country that welcomes its visitors with open and friendly arms. Ex-pats love the country’s stability, accessibility and high standards of living. Whether you come for the beaches, the jungles or the people, you will find a modern, friendly country with plenty to offer.
The official language, Spanish, is spoken throughout the country, although English is also spoken in most of the tourist areas.
The currency is the Costa Rican colon. The U.S. dollar buys approximately 550 colon. U.S. dollars are widely accepted in Costa Rica.
The electrical system is the same as the United States (120 v AC, 60 hz). In some places, sockets do not include a grounding pin, so an adaptor might be necessary.
Internet connections and WiFi spots are found throughout the country. Most major hotels provide good accessibility.
Americans do not need a visa to enter Costa Rica. They must have a current valid passport and a return ticket to exit Costa Rica. Citizens of other nationalities do not need a tourist visa to enter Costa Rica if they have a tourist visa, a visa for crew or a business visa (multiple entry) from United States of America, Canada, Japan, Schengen Visa and/ or any country of the European Union.
Water supplies in most places are clean and bacteria-free, and outbreaks of serious infectious diseases such as cholera are rare. The only areas of Costa Rica where it’s best not to drink the tap water (or ice cubes, or drinks made with tap water) are the port cities of Limón and Puntarenas.
Costa Rica is in the Central Standard Time zone. The country does not observe daylight saving time.
Costa Rica's high season for tourism runs from late November to late April, which coincides almost perfectly with the chill of winter in the United States, Canada, and Great Britain, and includes Christmas, New Year's, Easter, and most school spring breaks. The high season is also the dry season.