Red-eyed tree frogs live in Costa Rica and other Central American countries.
Photograph by Jeffrey Mcgraw, Dreamstime
A majestic waterfall graces the landscape on Cocos Island off Costa Rica.
Photograph by Ethan Daniels, Shutterstock
Local fruit is for sale at a market in San Jose, Costa Rica.
Photograph by Ian Cumming, Photo Library
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OFFICIAL NAME: Republic of Costa Rica
FORM OF GOVERNMENT: Democratic Republic
CAPITAL: San José
OFFICIAL LANGUAGES: Spanish, English
MONEY: Costa Rican colon
AREA: 19,729 square miles (51,100 square kilometers)
Costa Rican Flag
Map of Costa Rica
Costa Rica is small country in Central America. It is bordered by Nicaragua to the north and Panama to the south. The Caribbean Sea is to the east and the Pacific Ocean is to the west. Costa Rica is slightly smaller than the state of West Virginia.
There are two major mountain ranges in the country: the Cordillera Volcanica and the Cordillera de Talamanca. As in many other Central American countries, Costa Rica suffers from occasional volcanic eruptions and earthquakes.
PEOPLE & CULTURE
Family is very important in Costa Rica. Children often live with their families until they are married. Leisure is treasured above work in Costa Rica. While work is necessary to earn a living, Ticos, as Costa Ricans call themselves, believe people should enjoy their lives.
Indigenous languages are spoken in communities such as the Bribri, the language of the people of the Talamanca region. And English is often spoken as a second language.
There are many festivals and holidays around religious events, including Holy Week and Christmas.
Futbol, or soccer, is by far the most popular sport in Costa Rica. Even small towns have a soccer team.
Costa Rica is committed to preserving the beauty and diversity of the country through the development of national parks. One fifth of the country is covered in forests.
The Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve is the largest cloud forest in Central America. Costa Rica is home to over 2,000 species of trees and 9,000 different kinds of flowering plants.
Tropical dry forests remain dry until the rainy season begins in April or May. These forests burst into bloom when the rains arrive. The tropical rain forests are humid and hot year-round. The heavy rains encourage thick plant growth from the treetop canopy to the forest floor, including fungi, molds, ferns, and vines. Palm trees and mangroves are prevalent along the coastal areas.
There are over 200 species of reptiles, the majority of which are snakes. There are many brightly colored toads and frogs, including the poison arrow frog. The country is also home to hundreds of mammals including bats, and insects, such as vibrant butterflies and leaf-cutter ants.
Birdwatchers may get a glimpse of the endangered colorful quetzal bird, blue-footed boobies, scarlet macaw, and toucans. The national flower is the orchid. There are over 1,200 species of orchids in Costa Rica.
Costa Rican Colon,
Photograph by Peter Scott, Dreamstime
Every four years, Costa Ricans elect a president, vice president and members of the Legislative Assembly. There are three branches of government: Executive, legislative, and judicial. A woman, President Laura Chinchilla Miranda, was elected president in May 2010.
The Spanish came to Costa Rica and colonized the area in 1561. It was a Spanish colony for about 250 years. In 1821, Costa Rica declared independence from Spain, jointly with several other Central American countries. Women and people of African descent gained the right to vote in 1949.