The Republic of Costa Rica is a sovereign nation, organized as a unitary presidential republic composed of 7 provinces. With a territory with a total area of 51 100 km², it borders Nicaragua to the north, the Caribbean Sea to the east, Panama to the southeast, and the Pacific Ocean to the west. As for the maritime borders, it borders Panama, Nicaragua, Colombia, and Ecuador.
Costa Rica has 5 137 000 inhabitants according to the latest demographic projection.
Its capital, political and economic center is San Jose and the other provinces are Alajuela, Heredia, Cartago, Limón, Puntarenas, and Guanacaste.
Costa Rica has had no army since it was abolished on December 1, 1948, and which was perpetuated in Article 12 of the Political Constitution of 1949. This same article contemplates the formation of an army either by continental agreement or for national defense, which will always be subordinated to the civil power. Since 1983, Costa Rica has had a Neutrality Law that inhibits it from participating in military conflicts in a perpetual, active, and unarmed manner. In 2014, the country approved a Peace Proclamation Law as a Human Right and Costa Rica as a Neutral Country, which establishes that the country must take a neutral position in international armed conflicts, and also obliges the State to include content that cultivates a culture of peace in its educational programs.
The Ministry of Public Security is responsible for the security of the country's citizens and is also in charge of defending national sovereignty if necessary. The Ministry of Public Security is divided into several Directorates: Public Force, National Coast Guard Service, Air Surveillance, Drug Control Police, National Police School, Weapons, Reserve, and Private Security Services. Costa Rica allocates 0.69 % of the Gross Domestic Product and 0.03 % of the national budget to national security.
Costa Rica has a tropical climate without large annual variations in temperature and with two well-defined seasons: the dry season, from the beginning of December to the end of April (also called summer), and the rainy season, from the beginning of May to the end of November (called winter).
However, the topography of the country is very varied, with the presence of mountains, valleys, and plains in a small area, which contributes to the existence of different and very heterogeneous climatic landscapes throughout the territory.
The length of the day is affected during the solstices and equinoxes. The mountainous structure of the country determines the origin of three great climatic regions with different characteristics: Atlantic, Pacific, and Central.
Costa Rica has a mixed economy, which has undergone a strong evolution from being an eminently agricultural country to a service economy. According to the World Economic Forum's Global Competitiveness Index, in 2018 Costa Rica ranked fourth among the best economies in Latin America and the Caribbean, behind Chile, Mexico, and Uruguay.
Tourism is the fastest growing industry and since the early 2000s has generated more foreign exchange than any of the main agricultural exports.
Also, of great importance are the traditional agricultural exports of bananas, sugar, cocoa, and pineapple, as well as flowers and mini vegetables in recent years.
The production of high-quality Costa Rican coffee and its exportation to the United States market where it is highly appreciated stands out.
There is a great idiomatic variety in the country because constitutionally the Spanish language is recognized as official, but due to the important growth that we have had in tourism, the population is more and more qualified to have second languages such as English, Mandarin, French, German, among others. This has opened an important door for our economy since the labor force is more and more qualified for different jobs at a national and international level.
The country's official religion is Catholic, which makes Costa Rica the only religious state in the Americas. It also recognizes freedom of worship.
Catholicism is the predominant religion among the population, a product of the Spanish heritage, and many Catholic religious traditions are still celebrated in the country today, such as Holy Week or the traditional pilgrimage on August 2 to Cartago to visit the Virgin of the Angels, patron saint of the nation.
But over time, we have realized that thanks to the freedom we have as citizens, more options have opened up according to the beliefs of each person, but where the most important thing is to base respect for the variety of existing religions.
The culture of Costa Rica is manifested as the mixture and synchronic cohesion of the diverse customs of its inhabitants originated in intense immigration, interculturality, and multicultural coexistence that the country has as a natural bridge and ethnic melting pot.
This unique and distinctive abundance, which is preserved at the family, local and national levels, allows us to define the roots of the Costa Rican being through all kinds of traditions, folklore, culinary uses, music, dances, beliefs, and superstitions, as well as a characteristic popular language.
The National Symphony Orchestra of Costa Rica was founded in 1940 and is one of the most recognized orchestras in the Americas. This orchestra is the foundation of a commendable cultural project born at the beginning of the seventies as an initiative of the then Minister of Culture, which consisted of the creation of the Youth Symphony Orchestra.
Within the area of rock music, there are bands like Gandhi, Evolución, and Café con Leche. In this last one, the musician José Capmany Ulacia, considered the father of national rock, stands out.
Traditionally, tropical music occupies a privileged place in the tastes of Costa Ricans because of their love of dancing. The rhythms of salsa, merengue, and reggae are heard in many of the most unexpected corners of this country.
Among the local rhythms, the Creole swing stands out, a very popular dance in the country, and the music known as "chiqui-chiqui", which had its peak in the 1980s with musical groups such as Los Hicsos, Taboga, Sus Diamantes, La Banda, La Pandilla, Marfil, La Nota, Jaque Mate, Manantial, Papel y Lápiz, Pura Vida, Los Alegrísimos and others.
Gallo Pinto is considered the typical national dish.
The Costa Rican Creole gastronomy is a mestizo cuisine, with an intense tropical and Mediterranean character, that combines with the aboriginal culinary influence. Additionally, there is the strong gastronomic impact by the hundreds of immigrants that have arrived to the territory including Spaniards, Italians, Afro-Caribbean, Chinese, Germans, French, and Arabs, as well as from all parts of America.
Thus, the emblematic dishes of this great fusion of cuisine and of Costa Rican cuisine itself are the Gallo Pinto (popular breakfast that combines black or red beans and Asian rice introduced by the Spanish, with other European products such as sausages and dairy products, while its combination and preparation is the result of African cuisine), the Casado (traditional lunch where Eurasian rice is integrated with pre-Columbian beans and Italian pasta, accompanied by Andalusian picadillo, some type of meat to choose from, fried Afro-Caribbean banana and salad), Olla de Carne (direct inheritance of the Iberian rotten pot stew, with native vegetables such as tacaco), Picadillo (stews of Andalusian origin that mix meat, chorizo or chicken with vegetables, spices, and annatto), Empanadas (a kind of stuffed hand-pie, can be sweet or salty) and various rice dishes (with pork, with chicken, with seafood, paella, with palm hearts, with tuna, Cantonese, with almonds).
Christmas time is celebrated with the traditional tamales (indigenous dish of corn mixed with Mediterranean olives, European pork, and Asian rice), the leg of pork, the eggnog, the Christmas cake, the three Kings cake, and the panettone.
Desserts include the Cajetas (nougat based on milk, fruit, coffee, chocolate), cakes (dry, filled with fruit, three milks, traditional with dulce de leche), ice cream (sorbet, Neapolitan, snow, and various flavors), custards (chocolate, oatmeal, cornstarch), marzipan, rice pudding, bread pudding, ice-slush, and fruit salad.
Also, the most typical drinks of the country are the fruit-based drinks served cold, with water or milk. Costa Rican coffee, Aguadulce, milk chocolate, and as for alcoholic beverages, guaro, rum, beer, and mistelles are also extremely popular.
The official currency of Costa Rica is the Costa Rican colon, and the dollar is usually taken as the reference currency.
Therefore 1 dollar is equivalent to approximately 575 colons in Costa Rican currency.
The bills are 1,000 colones ($2) ("one red"), 2,000 colones ($4), 5,000 colones ($10) ("one toucan"), 10,000 colones ($20), 20,000 colones ($40) and 50,000 colones ($100).
Each bill references one of the six ecosystems that exist in the country and has illustrious Costa Rican personalities printed on the front. The bills are of different colors and, although they have the same height, their width is different to help people with vision problems.
In most of the tourist establishments, you will have no problem paying in dollars, in fact, in many places, prices are indicated directly in that currency, and you may receive colons as change.
You can use internationally recognized credit cards (mainly Visa, MasterCard, and American Express) in all tourist establishments, hotels, stores, and restaurants. But it is always necessary to carry some cash for payments for public transportation or in small restaurants.
Euros and dollars can be exchanged in the BCR (Bank of Costa Rica) or the BN (National Bank) and in most hotels too.