About Costa Rica

THE HISTORY OF COSTA RICA

Christopher Columbus first discovered Costa Rica during his final voyage in 1502. It is unclear whether Columbus or the conquistador Gill Gonzalez Davila gave Costa Rica its most appropriate name. Costa Rica translates to ‘rich coast’.
On September 15, 1821 after the final Spanish defeat in the Mexican War of Independence, Costa Rica declared its independence from Spain along with most other Central American provinces. Soon after, Costa Rica became a province of the Federal Republic of Central America, which exercised a very loose authority over its constituent provinces. In 1824 Costa Rica declared San Jose as its capital; and although this declaration caused rivalry with the old capital, Cartago, Costa Rica remained largely at peace in comparison to its neighbors. In 1838 Costa Rica formally proclaimed itself sovereign.
Costa Rica is world renowned for its greater peace and political stability. Shortly after a disputed presidential election in 1948, Jose Figueres Ferrer lead an armed uprising formally known as the Costa Rican Civil War. The rebels were victorious and Figueres became a national hero. They soon formed a government that abolished the military altogether, completely dissolving its armed forces. A democratically elected assembly drafted a new constitution and Figueres won the first democratic election held in 1953. 13 presidential elections have taken place since then, all widely regarded as peaceful and transparent.

COSTA RICA’S GOVERNMENT

Costa Rica is a Democratic republic with a strong system of constitutional checks and balances. It is stated in the constitution that all citizens are guaranteed equality before the law, the right to own property, the right of petition and assembly, freedom of speech and the right of habeas corpus.  Government is divided into independent executive, legislative and judicial branches. The executive branch is composed of the president, two vice presidents and a cabinet. The legislature, or National Assembly, is composed of 57 members (diputados) elected by proportional representation. National elections are held once every four years on the first Sunday of February. The president and legislative assembly-members can only serve one 4-year term. The president also serves as the head of state and head of government. The country’s current president, Laura Chinchilla Miranda was elected in 2010 and is the country’s first woman president.

COSTA RICA’S ECONOMY

The economy of Costa Rica is very stable and depends largely on agriculture, tourism, and manufacturing. Other major industries include food processing, textiles and clothing, construction materials, and plastic products. As a result of the nation’s stability, Costa Rica is the most developed country in Central America and its citizens enjoy a higher quality of living.

The country was known primarily as an exporter of bananas and coffee, but now their exports include electronics, pharmaceuticals, and software development. The country still exports coffee, pineapples, bananas, sugar, corn, rice, beans, and beef. Its imports include raw materials, consumer goods, capital equipment, and petroleum.

About 99% of all its electrical energy is from clean sources, particularly hydropower.

The country’s GDP is about $58.6 billion and while GDP per capita is $11,900. The GDP growth is 4.8% and inflation is 4.5%.The currency is the Costa Rican colon (CRC) or colones for plural.

With a population of 4,636,348, the country has a declining poverty rate of 16% and the unemployment rate is at 6.5%. The majority of the population is well educated, with the literacy rate of 95%, and as a result has become an attractive investing location. Companies such as Intel Corporation and Procter & Gamble have established facilities.  In 2006, Intel’s facility contributed 20% of the country’s exports and 4.9% of GDP.

TOURISM IN COSTA RICA

Tourism in Costa Rica is one of the economy’s fastest growing sectors, contributing to $1.92 billion a year. With numerous activities to take part in such as wildlife watching, trekking, canopy tours, water sports, and adrenaline sports, its no wonder Costa Rica has become a popular destination for many travelers and the most visited country in Central America.

Its main attractions are definitely the lush national parks and seemingly endless amount of coastline. In 1970, the National Park System was created to protect much of the forests and wildlife from deforestation and exploitation. Now, encompassing over 25% of the country’s land, the national parks and reserves receive over 1 million visitors annually. The country is comprised of 27 national parks, 58 wildlife refuges, 32 protected areas, 15 wetlands/mangroves, 11 forest reserves, and 8 biological reserves. There are also 25 other areas that remain protected throughout the country. The most visited parks include Manuel Antonio, Tortuguero, Cahuita and the volcano parks of Poas, Arenal, and Irazu.

With nearly 300 beaches, Costa Rica extends 762 miles along the Pacific and Caribbean coastline. Known for its warm waters year-round, Costa Rica is a haven for water-activity enthusiasts. Some popular activities include scuba diving, snorkeling, kayaking, surfing, fishing and sailing. Some popular beaches are Manuel Antonio, Playa Dominical, Montezuma, Tortuguero, Playa Tamarindo, Corcovado, Mal Pais, Jaco, and Tambor.

Badge with flag of Costa Rica