Our country, located in Central America, is an isthmus where life seems to have created its roots. Covering only 0.03% of the surface of our planet, Costa Rica has approximately 6% of the world's biodiversity.
In addition, Costa Rica is characterized by impressive scenic beauty, a consolidated system of protected areas, social and political stability, high educational levels, and efficient infrastructure and services. All of this offered in a territory of only 51 thousand square kilometers, (appriximately the size of West Virginia) surrounded by both the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans, at a distance from each other of only four hours by land or 75 minutes by air.
The country's strategic position, in the heart of the western hemisphere, the Government's positive attitude towards foreign investment and tourism, its infrastructure, access to international markets, and the quality and cost of its workforce, make Costa Rica an ideal place to enjoy your next vacations.
Rugged highlands are found throughout most of the country, they range from approximately 1,000 to 2,000 meters (3,000 to 6,000 feet above sea level). The Cordillera de Guanacaste, Cordillera Central, and Cordillera de Talamanca are the principal mountain ranges extending the length of the country. There are several active volcanoes (Volcán Arenal, Volcán Irazú, Volcán Rincón de la Vieja and Volcán Turrialba) and the country's highest mountain (Cerro Chirripó) which reaches a height of 3,819 m/12,530 ft. The country has a relatively long coastline in both the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, as well as a number of rivers and streams that attract expert kayakers and rafters.
Costa Rica 's year round climate is pleasant with naturally occurring breezes cooling down most of the coastal areas. Temperatures in the highlands and the mountains are warm by day and brisk at night giving an 'eternal spring' feeling. The average annual temperatures range from 31.7ºC (89ºF) on the coast to 16.7ºC (62ºF) inland. The rainy, or green, season lasts from May to November with noticeably drier days during the rest of the year.
Ticos, as Costa Ricans are commonly known, are a fairly mixed bunch. Though the majority of the country's 4 million inhabitants are the descendants of Spanish immigrants, many families originated from other parts of Europe, Asia, Africa and, of course, Central America.
In the Costa Rican system of government there are three branches of government: Executive, which consists of the president, two vice presidents and cabinet; the Legislative Assembly, with 57 individually elected deputies; and, the Judicial Branch, which consists of civil, criminal, appellate and constitutional courts. The President and members of the Legislative Assembly are elected for four-year terms and the president can't run for reelection.
Our current President is Dr. Oscar Arias (Nobel Peace Prize Winner).
The Costa Rican government has long dedicated a significant portion of its national budget to education and other social services; a policy that has resulted in a healthy and educated populace. The country has a literacy rate and average life expectancy that are much closer to those of Western European nations than most Latin American countries. Costa Rica has had a socialized medical system for nearly half a century, and while schools and clinics are found throughout the country, the Central Valley has several public universities and dozens of private universities.
Travelers are more likely to encounter more educated people, and don't have to worry about most of the diseases they would expect to encounter in a tropical country.
Tap water is safe to drink in most of the country, but bottled beverages are recommended in rural areas. For those few travelers that do become sick or injured while in Costa Rica, there are hospitals and private clinics in San Jose that offer a level of care comparable to what they would expect at home, and for considerably less money.
There is an ample selection of state owned and privately held banks in San Jose, and throughout the country. The official currency of Costa Rica is the colon, however US dollars are widely accepted. US dollars and traveler's checks can be changed in banks and hotels. Most major credit cards are widely accepted, and cash advances can be obtained at banks around the country and a variety of places throughout San Jose.
Government offices are generally open from 8 am to 4 pm, while banks close anytime between 3:00 and 6:00 pm . Most shops are open from 9:00 am to 6:00 pm.
You don't have to drive very far in Costa Rica -- past the coffee, pastures, bananas and other crops -- to realize that agriculture is the basis of its economy. Coffee has historically been the country's most important crop, and Costa Rica continues to produce some of the finest coffee in the world. However in recent years less traditional crops have been playing an increasingly important economic role. Bananas are the second most important export crop, then pineapples, sugar, oranges, rice, hardwoods and ornamental plants, as well as raising cattle for beef and dairy products.
Though agriculture remains the basis of the national economy, tourism has earned more than any single export crop during the last few years, and the tourism industry continues to grow providing new employment opportunities, and stimulating the conservation of our complex biodiversity.
Though government offices and most banks close on national holidays, this causes little inconvenience to travelers, since money and traveler's checks can be changed at most hotels. We recommend that you do not change money on the street.
There are days when hardly anything will be open, such as Christmas, New Year's and often a couple of days preceding, and during Holy Week from Wednesday to Easter Sunday.
Some holidays can be attractive for travelers, such as the last week of the year, when there are parades and many other activities in San Jose and throughout the country. On July 25 every year (the annexation of the province of Guanacaste), the main towns in this northwest province are overflowing with revelry and folklore. Carnival, which is celebrated in the Caribbean port of Limon during the week of October 12, is another colorful affair.
Delta Airlines, American Airlines, Continental, Northwest, U.S. Airways, Air Canada and Sky Services offer direct flights from Atlanta, Miami, Dallas, Houston, Minneapolis, Charlotte and Toronto to Guanacaste several times per week.
A valid passport is required to enter Costa Rica. The Costa Rican government has recently made changes to their entry requirements and now require a valid passport for all U.S. and Canadian Citizens. In many metropolitan cities you can receive a passport within 48 hours if you have an airline ticket.
The loss or theft of a Passport should be reported to the local police and your country’s Embassy in Costa Rica. Tourists should carry a copy of their passport data page and leave the actual passport in the hotel safe or your room safe.
Not all persons wishing to travel to Costa Rica need a Visa. Your need for a Visa depends on your nationality, the purpose of the visit, and the length of your stay. Visa exemptions and requirements depend on current agreements and treaties that Costa Rica has with other nations.
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