Costa Rica The Facts

Costa Rica

Here you will find a brief snapshot of Costa Rica facts and statistics

The Basics

Location: Approximately 8° to 11° North and 84° West

Total Area: 51 100 sq km (19 730 sq mi)

Land Borders: Total 639 km, Nicaragua 309 km, Panama 330 km

Total Coastline: 1,290 km (802 mi), 212 km (132mi) on the Caribbean coast and 1,016 km (631mi) on the Pacific

Average Annual Rainfall: about 3,000 to 3,500 mm (120 to 140 inches)

Highest Point: Cerro Chirripó, at 3,820 m (12,500 ft)

Lowest Point: 0m, Sea Level

Population: 4 133 884 (July 2007), two thirds located in the Central Valley (Meseta Central)

Population Density: 85/km², 220/sq mi

Population Growth Rate: 1.412% (2007 estimate)

Capital City: San José since 1824 - population around 1,000,000

Location: 9 56° N, 84 05° W

Provinces: 1) Alajuela 2) Cartago 3) Guanacaste 4) Heredia 5) Limón 6) Puntarenas 7) San José

Ethnicities: Caucasian/Spanish including Mestizo (Native and Spanish mixed) 94%, Black 3%, Amerindian 1%, Chinese 1%, other 1%

Religions: Roman Catholic 76.3%, Evangelical 13.7%, Jehovah’s Witness 1.3%, Protestant 0.7%, other 4.8%, none 3.2%

Quality of Life

Life Expectancy: 77.21 years

Men: 74.61 years

Women: 79.94 years

Total Fertility Rate: 2.21 children per female

Literacy Rate: 94.7%

Poverty Rate: 18%

Sanitation Standards: 92% of homes have adequate sanitation, 97% have a potable water source.

Telephone Access: Main lines in use - 1.351 million, mobile lines in use - 1.444 million (2006)

Internet Access: Internet hosts available - 13,792, Internet users - 1.214 million

Airports: Total 151, 36 with a paved runway, 115 with unpaved runways

Roadways: Total 35,330 km, paved 8,621, unpaved 26,709 km (2004)

Waterways: 730 km can be navigated seasonally by a small craft (2007)

Railways: 278 km none of which are in use today.

Ports: Caldera (Puntarenas), Puerto Limon

Costa Rica Holidays

Holy Week (Easter Week) is by far the biggest holiday in Costa Rica. Many families use this time to go to the beach as it is also the last week before the school-year starts. On official holidays government offices are closed, banks are closed, public transportation is reduced, and some stores may also be closed.

Official Holidays

January 1st (New Years)

March 19 (St. Joseph's Day)

Thursday and Friday of Holy Week (Easter Week)

April 11 (Juan Santamari's Day)

May 1 (Labor Day)

June 29 (St. Peter and St. Paul Day)

July 25 (Annexation of the province of Guancaste)

August 2 (Virgin of Los Angeles's Day)

August 15 (Mother's Day)

September 15 (Independence Day)

October 12 (Discovery of America/Dia de la Raza)

December 8 (Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary)

December 24 and 25 (Christmas)

December 31 (New Year's Eve)

Political Facts

The World Bank describes Costa Rica as "one of the most stable and robust" democracies in Latin America.”

Government System: Democratic Republic- Presidential elections held every four years.

Head of Government: - President Oscar Arias Sanchez (Elected May 8, 2006 with 40.9% of the votes), First Vice President- Laura Chinchilla, Second Vice President- Vacant

Legislative Branch: Residences vote for members of a Legislative Assembly (Asamblea Legislativa) to represent their region for the full four year term. Percentage of seats by party- 25 PLN (National Liberation Party), 17 PAC (Citizen Action Party), 6 PML (Liberation Movement Party), 5 PUSC (Social Christian Unity Party), 4 other

Independence Day: September 15 (celebrating the independence of Mexico and Central America from Spain in 1821)

Sovereignty: In 1938 Costa Rica denounced the Federal Republic of Central America a.k.a. United Provinces of Central America and declared itself a sovereign country.

National Constitution: Signed on November 7, 1949

Business and Economics

The government has implemented a seven year plan for economic expansion. The goal is to increase investment of high-tech industries by offering incentives like tax exemptions. Proctor and Gamble and Intel are two companies that have already taken advantage of this potential. Trade with South-East Asia and Russia has increased and the country is expected to join APEC (Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Forum).

“A few years ago, the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency World Fact Book ranked Costa Rica as one of the five countries that stand ‘head and shoulders above all other nations worldwide in terms of the potential their real estate markets present property investors.’”

GDP/ PPP: US $8.77 billion (estimated in 2006)

GDP per capita: US $12,500

GDP percent by sector: Services 62.4%, Industry 28.9%, Agriculture 8.7%

Inflation rate: 11.5%, second only to Venezuela for inflation rates in all of Latin America.

Labour Force: 1.874 million excluding Nicaraguan immigrants

Unemployment Rate: 6.6% (2006)

Agriculture: Products include bananas, pineapple, coffee, melons, ornamental plants, sugar, corn, rice, beans, potatoes, beef, and timber.

Industries: Microprocessors, food processing, textiles and clothing, construction materials, fertilizer, and plastic products.

Exports: Totalled $8.238 billion in 2006

Imports: Totalled $10.84 billion in 2006

Tourism: An annual 1.7 billion dollar industry employing 10% of the labour force. In 2006 visitors increased by 19% and 35% more flights are scheduled to arrive in Costa Rica for the 2007/08 high season.

Eco Tourism and Environment

Costa Rica is the most popular destination for eco-tourism with 300,000 tourists visiting its national parks each year.

Certificate for Sustainable Tourism (CST)

This is a certification that the Costa Rican Tourism Institute (ICT) administers to those hotels that actively work on environmental and social sustainability. A “Leaf” system is used for rating businesses instead of the classic “Star” rating given to large scale and truly unsustainable establishments.

Four categories are considered in the rating:

  1. Biological/Physical: Protection of surrounding environments

  2. Services and Infrastructure: Product use and disposal, water and energy management

  3. Social-Economic Environment: Impact and benefit for local communities

  4. External Client: Teaching the visitors about responsible tourism and conservation

Environmental Issues

Despite the rapid increase in ecotourism, deforestation is still happening at an ALARMING rate of 4% per year, one of the fastest. The Guanacaste region is being built up so rapidly, mostly by resort owners that are not so eco-conscious, and the facilities needed to sustain the mass numbers of people are causing more development of natural terrain. The dry tropical forests of this region are now down to merely 1%! Also, some of these resorts are not taking necessary actions when treating waste and are subsequently polluting nearby waters.

Taking the time to investigate a hotel before you choose to invest your money is a wise choice that all travellers should make. Sometimes spending a little more means that you will be contributing to the right “cause” and helping us sustain the environment and the beautiful nature that we all love and need for Biophilia (Mental well-being that is satisfied in the presence of natural surroundings). Let us maintain awareness in our travels so future generations can also share in this enjoyment. Take Only Pictures... Leave only Footprints.