Costa Rica: The Pearl of Central America

Nestled comfortably in Central America between Nicaragua and Panama, the nation of Costa Rica is a popular tourist destination with over 2.9 million tourists visiting annually, mostly from the United States and Canada. Costa Rica is known for its stable, democratic form of government, equable climate, and highly educated population. The country also boasts a highly diversified economy which includes finance, corporate services, pharmaceuticals, and ecotourism. Many foreign companies have set up shop in Costa Rica to benefit from free trade zones that offer tax and investment credits. Because of its low cost of living and mild climate, Costa Rica also boasts a sizeable American expatriate community and English is widely spoken across the nation.

Prior to the arrival of the Spanish in 1522, Costa Rica was sparsely inhabited by indigenous tribes. Named “the rich coast” because the Spanish hoped to find gold there, it was remote from the main Spanish colonial centers in Mexico and the Andes. Due to this isolation, Costa Rica developed a self-reliant culture based on small-scale agriculture and handicrafts. In 1821 Costa Rica declared independence from Spain as part of the United Provinces of Central America. Following the dissolution of this union, it became a sovereign state in 1847. Costa Rica is well known for being one of the most stable, progressive and prosperous nations in Latin America. Following a brief military uprising in 1949, the Costa Rican army was abolished permanently. As a result, Costa Rica is one of the few nations in the world without a standing military force.

Costa Rica has very advanced environmental and conservation policies and was one of the first countries in the world to offer “ecotourism” vacations. The rugged mountainous terrain offers a variety of micro-climates ranging from humid and tropical near the coast to cool and chilly in the interior highlands. Costa Ricans generally divide the year into two seasons, a dry “summer” season that lasts from December to April and a wet “winter” season that goes from May to November. During the rainy season, it rains almost continuously in some regions, so you may want to plan your trip accordingly. The cool interior highlands also boast some of the best coffee growing regions in the world and Costa Rica is known for its mild and flavorful brews!

Costa Rica has the highest density of plant and animal species of any nation in the world, and almost 25% of the nation’s territory is protected as part of National Parks or Nature Preserves. capuchin monkeyBecause of its sound environmental protection policies, the Ethical Traveler group listed Costa Rica as one of its Ten Best Ethical Destinations in 2017. Many tourists are drawn to the country’s natural beauty and a rich array of wildlife. The Poas Volcano National Park is one of the country’s top tourist destinations; the 16,000-acre park includes the volcanic summit at an altitude of more than 8,900 feet. Poas VolcanoThe main crater is quite active with frequent small geysers and lava eruptions. The nearby Botos crater is known for its emerald green cold-water lake; this particular caldera has not erupted in over 7,500 years. The Poas Park also includes a variety of resplendent tropical bird species such as quetzals, hummingbirds, tanagers, flycatchers, and toucans, a veritable bird-watching paradise! However, frequent sulfur emissions and small eruptions have led to the park being closed for prolonged periods so make sure you check the current status before planning your trip.

A 2009 estimate shows that 47% of visitors to Costa Rica take part in ecotourism activities such as bird watching, kayaking, trekking, and visits to rural communities. The Bandera Azul program (Ecological Blue Flag) was implemented in 1996 and is intended to promote development while curbing some of the negative impacts of mass tourism. MacawThe program measures environmental quality of the beaches in terms of cleanliness of the water, waste management, environmental education and other factors. In 2009 just two beaches won the maximum of five stars under the program, Playa Blanca in Punta Leona and Playa Langosta in Santa Cruz. Costa Rica is, of course, known for its beaches of which there are dozens on both the Caribbean and Pacific sides of the country. No visit would be complete without taking in the surf, sun, and sand at one of these beautiful locales!

Another beautiful locale to consider during your trip to Costa Rica is Cocos Island, located some 342 miles off the Pacific coast of the mainland. The island covers a little more than 9 square miles and is basically rectangular in shape. The waters around Cocos Island are greatly enjoyed by scuba divers for their populations of hammerhead sharks, rays, dolphins and other larger marine animals. Cocos Island is covered with dense tropical rainforests and gets more than 270 inches of rain a year. The higher elevations are home to cloud forests which are unique in the eastern Pacific. Due to its isolation, the island has a high number of unique and unusual plant and animal species. Well worth the trip to explore this beautiful island!

Costa Rica also offers many cosmopolitan towns and small cities, the capital; San Jose is the largest of these with a population of about 350,000. San Jose is one of the safest cities in Latin America and boasts a number of theaters, museums, parks, and other urban amenities. There are also many restaurants serving traditional Costa Rican cuisine which usually consists of fried rice and black beans served with tortillas and a thin sour cream, often accompanied by a cabbage and tomato salad. Generally, Costa Rican food is not spicy, and there are many affordable eateries through-out the capital. Are you excited yet? If so contact Condor Tours and Travel and let us help you plan your Costa Rican vacation! Our trained experts have all the latest knowledge and information to help make your trip to Costa Rica one you will never forget! Email us at info@condortoursandtravel.com or visit our web page www.condortoursandtravel.com