Pura Vida - Pure Life - Vie Pure - Vita Pura - Pures Leben - Чистая Жизнь
Costa Rica General Info
In Pre-Columbian times the Native Americans in what is now Costa Rica were part of the Intermediate Area located between the Mesoamerican and Andean cultural regions. This has recently been redefined to include the Isthmo-Colombian area, defined by the presence of groups that spoke Chibchan languages. These groups are also believed to have created the Stone spheres of Costa Rica, between 200 BC and AD 1600.
The native people of the Mayans and Aztecs were conquered by Spain in the 16th century. Costa Rica was then the Southernmost province in the Spanish territory of New Spain. The provincial capital was in Cartago. After briefly joining the Mexican Empire of Agustin de Iturbide Costa Rica became a state in the United Provinces of Central America from 1823 to 1839. In 1824, the capital moved to San Jose. From the 1840s on, Costa Rica was an independent nation.
Costa Rica has avoided much of the violence that has plagued Central America. Since the late 19th century only two brief periods of violence have marred its democratic development. In 1949, Jose Figueres Ferrer abolished the army; and since then Costa Rica has been one of the few countries to operate within the democratic system without the assistance of a military.
Costa Rica (Spanish for "Rich Coast"), although still a largely agricultural country, has achieved a relatively high standard of living. Land ownership is widespread and tourism is a rapidly expanding industry.
Travel & Tourism
Maybe you have heard that 20 years ago the current president of Costa Rica won, in his first presidential period, the Noble Peace Prize, that Costa Rica is one of the few countries in the world that do not have an army and that we invest those resources in free education for our children, that we are a country that has decided to bet on a sustainable, ecological tourism, that favors conservation of the natural resources thinking of our future generation, both of Costa Ricans and tourists.
All of the above is only half of the truth, because it is not the only thing that sets us apart and that makes us proud of being Costa Ricans and telling the world that we are a "pura vida" country.
This small country with only 51,100 square kilometers has active volcanoes that can be seen safely at only 50 meters from their craters, two coasts with the most beautiful beaches, some with white sand, others with dark sand, but all surrounded by the most exuberant vegetation, where the forests that makes us keepers of 5% of the planet’s biodiversity starts; a biodiversity of both flora and fauna with many endemic species and the most admirable species on the planet.
With us you will be able to taste the best culinary specialties, accompanied by the finest beverages, within the heart of a tropical forest, because our small country lets you do that. Besides, you will be able to fly over treetops, go down the crystal clear waters of our rivers in 100% safe rafts in rafting and kayaking activities, see the coast and the forests, surf on the top of a wave, visit some of our national parks, which cover 26% of our territory, share experiences with Costa Rican families so you will be able to learn of our culture, identity, and values, all through activities of community rural tourism.
But the most important thing we have in Costa Rica is an honest smile to make you feel at home, to show you with our welcome that we are very happy to have you with us for a few days, and that we are certain that your stay in Costa Rica will be Pura Vida!
Welcome, enjoy our country, your country, and remember that we are working to make sure that in the future other visitors will be able to enjoy what you are enjoying today, reason why we take care of our natural resources through all possible means.
Important to Know
Located in the middle of the Americas between the Pacific and Caribbean coasts, Costa Rica is blessed with an ideal climate all year round. Visitors will find endless beaches in an unspoiled environment of lush vegetation and abundant wildlife. Did you know, for example, that 5% of all plant and animal species known to this planet can be found in Costa Rica? And, to top it all, one of the most friendly and open-minded peoples, affectionately called "Ticos", are certain to make your stay a memorable one.
Traveling to Costa Rica
Discover the real meaning of "pura vida" in Costa Rica, a diverse slice of Central American paradise. Picture verdant pastures and a lush rain forest alongside Costa Rica's largest, most breathtaking lake. A mighty volcano that still smolders and spurts. A sunny peninsula that beckons with soft sand beaches and gentle surf. And a country inhabited by some of the friendliest people on Earth. On knobby-tired bikes, we pedal over rugged terrain through several ecological zones, stopping for a break in a remote village or on an inviting beach. Come evenings, we settle in at a lake front villa and oceanside retreat where relaxation is easy.
Costa Rica Ecotourism and Nature
More than a quarter of Costa Rica's land has been set aside in some capacity or other by human beings to protect it from the potential exploitation and ravages of other human beings. No other country in the world even comes close to such a statistic. Over twenty-seven percent of Costa Rica is designated as national park, biological reserve, wildlife refuge or some other category of protected area, both private and public.
Amazing numbers define Costa Rica's ecology: somewhere between 500,000 and a million total species of flora and fauna; hundreds of thousands, perhaps even a million species of insects; 2,000 species of orchids; 208 species of mammals; 850 species of birds; endless thousands of species of moths and butterflies. In a space that occupies less than three ten-thousands of the earth's surface are 5 percent of all of the plant and animal species on the planet.
Some developed for tourism while others are remote and rarely visited. Costa Rica's charm is embodied in its forests, its unpredictable volcanoes, its endless shores and its underwater marvels. If you haven't walked at least one of its jungle trails, you can't claim to have visited Costa Rica, for therein lies the essence of the country, its inner meaning, its vibrant skien of life woven between its enchanting shorelines to cover its craggy mountain chains. You can't reach out and hold it but there's something there, so that, once you've felt it, you'll never really leave Costa Rica behind, no matter where your body goes.
Costa Rica has something for everyone. From hiking in rainforests and mountains, relaxing on beaches, to snorkeling through tropical reefs and surfing some of the best waves in Central America, Costa Rica is a natural wonderland. With both a Pacific and Caribbean coast, there are plenty of beaches in Costa Rica.
Costa Rica Activities and Sports
In the midst of one of the richest biodiversities in the world, Costa Rica has endless possibilities for everyone. Become one with nature within the numerous national parks and biological reserves; feel the power of the earth as you come upon the land of volcanoes; come alive with the possibilities of adventure the different regions have to offer; and remember the beginnings as you get lost in your own piece of paradise.
Costa Rica is a land blessed by Mother Nature. Within its 52,100 square kilometers is found a territory of contrasting overtones, ranging from the eccentric beauties of the tropical dry forest to the lush exuberances of the tropical rain forest.
Thanks to its geography, climate and biodiversity, Costa Rica is a paradise for ecotourism and all types of adventures. No matter the destination, emotion and spectacular sights are sure to abound.
In the northwest region of Guanacaste, the tropical dry forest dominates, while in the South Pacific and the Caribbean regions, the flora and fauna typical of tropical rain forest habitats are prevalent. In both ecosystems, enjoyable hikes, bird watching and mountain biking are just some of the available eco-tourist activities.
Costa Rica Geographical Division
Costa Rica is a small yet diverse country and its regions are intentionally divided a bit obscure because of the countries diverse landscape. Guanacaste in the Northern Pacific is one of Costa Rica most popular regions and is known for its dry hot weather that is great for raising cattle; because of this cowboys have existed in Costa Rica for decades. In the recent years the beaches have been a focal point. Some beautiful resorts are popping up throughout the region. For good reason too as the beaches are long and beautiful.
Alajuela and Heredia contain much of Costa Rica's cloud forests and many of the active volcanoes in the country. They are also known for their beautiful coffee plantations that make the hills glow a beautiful green. The Caribbean coast is a favorite for the more adventurous traveler as the white water rafting is world know here as well as the Sportfishing on the northern coast of Limon. Puntarenas is a surfers and beach lovers paradise. The Pacific coast line is filled with deserted beaches and countless surf breaks that are yet to be discovered. San Jose and Cartago make up Costa Rica's Central Valley where most of the population resides. Here there are countless 'fincas' or farms and ranches that spot the country side.
Costa Rica Protected Areas
Considered one of the most biodiverse regions in the world, Costa Rica's main attraction is its incredible wealth of flora and fauna. Within its borders, an exceptional park system represents thirteen per cent of the national territory.
As a reflection of a strong commitment to preservation, Costa Rica boasts twenty national parks, eight biological reserves, and a wealth of other protected areas that have captivated ecotourists for decades.
The definition of a protected area adopted by IUCN is:
An area of land and/or sea especially dedicated to the protection and maintenance of biological diversity, and of natural and associated cultural resources, and managed through legal or other effective means
Although all protected areas meet the general purposes contained in this definition, in practice the precise purposes for which protected areas are managed differ greatly.
While much of Costa Rica has been stripped of its forests, the country has managed to protect a larger proportion of its land than any other country in the world. In 1970 there came a growing acknowledgment that something unique and lovely was vanishing, and a systematic effort was begun to save what was left of the wilderness. That year, the Costa Ricans formed a national park system that has won worldwide admiration. Costa Rican law declared inviolate 10.27 percent of a land once compared to Eden; an additional 17 percent is legally set aside as forest reserves, "buffer zones", wildlife refuges, and Indian reserves.
Throughout the country representative sections of all the major habitats and ecosystems are protected for tomorrow's generations. The National Conservation Areas System (SINAC) protects more than 186 areas, including 32 national parks, 12 biological reserves, 13 forest reserves, and 51 wildlife refuges.
Besides providing Costa Ricans and foreign travelers with the privilege of admiring and studying the wonders of nature, the national parks and reserves protect the soil and watersheds and harbor an estimated 75 percent of all Costa Rica's species of flora and fauna, including species that have all but disappeared in neighboring countries.
With over 615 wildlife species per 10,000 sq km, Costa Rica sits atop of the list as the most bio-diverse region of the world. Home to an incredible plethora of exotic and tropical flora and fauna, this tiny Latin American country is the habitat of 12 key ecological zones. With an estimated 5% of the world's biodiversity found here, it is no wonder that Costa Rica is often referred to as "the living Eden" by many scientists and naturalists from all across the globe.
In an effort to preserve much of Costa Rica's natural beauty and surroundings, 25% of the country's land has been set aside and turned into protective parks and reserves so as to safeguard the beautiful and lush environs from deforestation and logging. To date Costa Rica has 26 national parks, 58 wildlife refuges, 32 protected zones, 15 wetland areas/mangroves, 11 forest reserves and 8 biological reserves, as well as 12 other conservation regions that protect the distinctive and diverse natural habitats found throughout the country.
The great diversity of flora and fauna found throughout the country is one of the reasons why national parks in Costa Rica cover such a great area: many species are unique to one single area and can't be found anywhere else. In Costa Rica, park systems strives to protect more than 221 mammal species, 150 amphibians, 215 reptiles, 830 bird species, 366000 species of arthropods and 1080 species of fresh and saltwater fish. Hand in hand with animal protection goes the conservation of vegetation as part of the habitat conservation.
The national park system protects almost all existing vegetation macro types like forested savannah, scrub, paramos, flooded forest, deciduous woodland, evergreen forests, umbrophilic forest, mangroves, swamps, herbaceous swamps, cloud forests and the marine ecosystems such as coral reefs, marshes and sandy beaches. Among the approximately 10 000 species of identified vascular plants that are protected, roughly 1600 are orchids: about 4% of the world's species. More National Park information is available all over the country for anyone who would like to go deeper about Costa Rica parks, or you can also have our travel advisors arrange a visit to any National Park in Costa Rica.
Deciduous forests, mangrove swamps, rainforests, herbaceous swamps, cloud forests, riparian forests, swamp forests and coral reefs are just some of the many habitats that are protected by the national parks and reserves of Costa Rica. Areas of geological and geophysical interests, such as active volcanoes, hot springs, caves and relict mountains as the result of plate tectonics setting; areas of historic and archaeological interest, such as battlefields and pre-Columbian settlements; areas of scenic beauty, such as beaches and waterfalls; and areas of conservational importance, such as islands where the brown pelican and magnificent frigatebird nest, or enclaves with the last remaining stands of Mesoamerican dry forest, or beaches where huge sea turtles flock, all fall under the protection of the national parks and reserves in Costa Rica.
For the past 20 years, Costa Rica has established itself as one of the world's premier ecotourism vacation destinations, this is related to the country's deep set commitment to the conservation of the national flora and fauna and geographically significant sites like volcanoes and coral reefs and specially Costa Rica's national park reserves. Travel and explore these areas in an ecological tour of the world renowned Costa Rica National Parks. In a national park, vacation gets a complete other meaning. These areas include wildlife refuges and forest reserves; some of these areas are privately owned, like the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve, or are government operated, like the Manuel Antonio National Park.
Travel through the 107 units of national parks and reserves that are spread through the country and roughly divided into 11 conservation areas. In addition, all mangroves in Costa Rica are also protected and belong to the state. The United Nations has recognized these efforts and graced Costa Rica National Park treasures with 3 official World Heritage Convention entries: The Guanacaste Conservation Area, the Talamanca Range-La Amistad International Park, and Coco's Island National Park. By this convention, these areas are considered of "outstanding universal value", as they are part of the heritage of all people and everyone has rights regarding their conservation. The Corcovado is currently being studied to be included in this list as well as the Reserve of the Biosphere by the by the United Nations Man and the Biosphere Program.
More than a century ago, long before "Saving the Planet" became the fashion, the people of Costa Rica realized that uncontrolled development could easily wreck the precious and fragile beauty of their countyside. To save their small corner of the earth from destruction, Costa Ricans began marking boundaries around forests, wetlands and coast-side areas they felt should be preserved for all time, for the pleasure of all people. Their foresight and sacrifice created a jewel box of natural treasures. There are parks in Costa Rica where visitors tramp through rain forests which stand today as they stood a million years ago. There are beaches where people look down through seawater clean as window glass at fish the color of rainbows and turtles big as Volkswagens, almost.There are parks built around steaming, grumbling volcanoes, parks alive with bird songs, parks with white-water rivers running through them and parks where you sit and read a book. There are One hundred and twenty four national parks, biological reserves and wildlife refuges in Costa Rica. They cover 2,853,869 acres of land. They are home to 4% of the world's total flora and fauna. They take up no less than 25% of the nation's territory.
Costa Rican Volcanoes
Costa Rica is famous for its volcanoes: beauties such as Arenal Volcano, Poas Volcano or Irazu draw many visitors every year. It's hard to believe that with such a small area, Costa Rica is host to three hundred volcanic centers (they include active, dormant, and extinct), five of which are active. This does not necessarily mean that they spew molten magma all the time, but they may release ash, steam, and geyser-like ejections of water.
Most of Costa Rica's volcanoes are located in the northern part of the country, forming a sort of back bone. They are an important part of the Pacific Ring of Fire, which is an arc that starts in New Zealand, and goes north through Indonesia, the Philippines and Japan, through Alaska, turning south along North America, Central America, and South America, ending in Peru and Chile. Costa Rica sits right atop the "Pacific Ring Fire Circle." Most of the volcanoes are located in the Central Highlands where, people whizzing by in their automobiles, mistake them for hills.
When visiting a volcano in Costa Rica you do not have to limit yourself to merely touring the slopes and cones of these geological giants, although they do occupy most of your attention. The areas surrounding each volcano in Costa Rica have a lot to offer as far as activities and different natural features that might enhance your trip and provide a more fun filled and interesting vacation. In the nearby areas you will usually find lakes or rivers that are great for fishing as well as, in some cases, water sports of several types. For the more adventurous there are also many day tours to take. Endless hiking trails through rugged forests and mountains near the Costa Rica volcanoes, canopy tours and horse back riding are a few of the things that you can have great fun with.
The most popular are: Arenal with its near-perfectly shaped cone, beautiful adjoining lake, and nightly lava flows. Irazu, standing at 11,300 feet has a blue green lagoon in one of its craters, and on a clear day you can enjoy views of both the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans from the summit. Poas flaunts one of the widest craters in the world and has a beautiful nearby lake. Turrialba is densely vegetated and has three well-defined craters. Rincon de la Vieja, also known as the Colossus of Guanacaste has nine craters, and its surrounding areas are unvegetated and scarred by erosion.
The inactive Costa Rica volcanoes that you may want to visit include volcanoes Barva, Miravalles, and Orosi. You will have an ample array of choices when it comes to choosing the sites you wish to visit and explore. You can take advantage of the short distances within the country and visit several locations in just a few days, or you can select a base camp and go to several different sites from there. Just think about it, you can get to see up to eleven different Costa Rica volcanoes and their surroundings all in just a short time.
There are two volcanic mountain range systems in Costa Rica:
-Central Volcanic Range System
-Guanacaste Volcanic Range System
From Lava to Java
Mountains push up land in Costa Rica's interior. A O group of mountain chains the Guanacaste, the Tilarán, the Central, and the Talamanca ranges fences in the Central Valley. About 74 percent of the population lives on the Meseta Central, or Central Plateau, in the middle of the valley. Here lies the capital city of San José.
More than 100 volcanoes lurk in Costa Rica's mountain ranges. But only 7 still erupt. Small rumblings, followed by streams of lava, burst from Arenal Volcano every 5 to 200 minutes. At night the fiery lava dances like fireworks in the sky.
Volcanic lava and ash contain special ingredients that enrich the soil. Over hundreds of years, eruptions have laid down layer upon layer of valuable earth, turning the Central Valley into rich farmland. Many Costa Ricans make their living growing coffee and selling it to other countries. There's a good chance that the java, or coffee, your mom had for breakfast this morning started with a Costa Rican volcano!
Costa Rican Beaches
It's no coincidence that Costa Rica means Rich Coast in Spanish. Mother Nature has endowed the country with a virtual treasure trove of beaches, each one of which has its own special charms. Those coastal jewels range from sheltered coves where a crescent of white sand separates the verdure of the rainforest from the oceans aquamarine waters, to long beaches washed by frothy surf and lined with lanky coconut palms.
Within that variety and natural exuberance are the ingredients needed to fulfill every traveler's tropical fantasy.
Countless stretches of sun-swathed sand await you on Costa Rica's 762 miles of sinuous coastline, spread between the Pacific and Caribbean. Most of those beaches are backed by forests that contain a myriad of rare flora and fauna, while submerged off some lie such marine wonders and intricate coral formations and kaleidoscopes of brightly colored tropical fish. And in addition to their own attractions, many of those beaches can serve as your base for such varied activities as white water river rafting, horseback riding, deep sea fishing, skin diving and other outdoor adventures.
Perhaps more important, Costa Rica's beaches provide the prefect conditions for doing absolutely nothing, which is an essential part of any vacation. Such natural attributes as soft ocean breezes, impeccable blue skies, rustling palm fronds, warm sand and the rhythmic crashing of the surf combine with amenities like cool beverages, tropical music, fresh fruit and an abundance of seafood, elevating leisure to the level of a science.
The nation's tradition of hospitality is complemented by a modern transportation system and a cornucopia of coastal accommodations to ensure comfortable beach vacations for all. Costa Rica's beach selection is simply mind boggling, certainly more than you could visit in several vacations.
Costa Rica is an absolute paradise in matters of beaches. The coastline has a length of over 1800 km with a never-ending variety of beaches for any possible taste. There are rocky and stony beaches, sandy beaches with white, gray, bluish black, tan, and pink colored sand. From the Pacific to the Caribbean, Costa Rica offers an almost infinite number of beaches for tourist enjoyment. Come to surf, swim, snorkel, scuba dive, or just relax in the warm, tropical sun.
Costa Rica Art and Culture
Costa Rican culture is in many ways a reflection of its racial diversity. The predominant influence has long been European, which is reflected in everything from the official language (Spanish) to the architecture of the country's churches and other historic buildings. The indigenous influence is less visible, but can be found in everything from the tortillas that make part of a typical Costa Rican meal, to the handmade ceramics sold at roadside stands.
An important aspect of Costa Rica's cultural legacy is their love for peace and democracy. The Ticos like to stand out that their nation is the exception in Latin America, where military dictatorships have long dominated politics. They take pride in having more than one hundred years of democratic tradition, and almost half a century without an army. The army was abolished in 1948, and the money the country saves by not expending in military issues is invested in improving the Costa Ricans' standard of living, which has fostered a culture of social peace that makes it such a pleasant place to visit.
"Ticos," as Costa Ricans are generally known, are a mixture of cultures. Even though many Costa Ricans are descendants of Spanish immigrants, these exists a great variety of ethnic influences in this small country. most people are mestizo, a mixture of European and indigenous roots. On the Caribbean coast, an important part of the populations has African roots.
The figure of the sabanero, the Spanish cowboy, is typical of Guanacaste, and nearly 2 percent of the national population come from indigenous groups, including Cabecar, Bribri, Boruca or Brunca, Teribe, Guaymí or Ngabe, Huetar, Chorotega and Maleku. These cultures offer a spectacular array of traditions, customs, celebrations, cuisine and art.
Costa Rica People and Society
An important aspect of the Costa Rica's cultural heritage is their love of peace and democracy. Ticos like to point out that their nation is the exception in Latin America, where military dictatorships long dominated politics.
They can boast of having more than one hundred years of democratic tradition, and almost half a century without an army. The army was abolished in 1948, and the money the country saves by not having a military is invested in improving the standard of living for Costa Ricans, which has fostered the social harmony that makes it such a pleasant country to visit.
Visit Costa Rica, it will be a big unforgettable experience.