Costa Rica at a Glance
Among the most beautiful and peaceful countries in the world, politically stable Costa Rica disbanded its military over half a century ago and quickly became the cultural and artistic capital of Central America. Peace treaties with powerful allies enable Costa Rican leaders to save on military spending and provide unparalleled personal and political freedom for their citizens. "Ticos" (as Costa Ricans are affectionately known) gained world recognition in 1987 when President Oscar Arias was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for advancing Costa Rica's peaceful nature throughout the region. Visitors to this tropical paradise will find great beaches, spectacular scenery, abundant wildlife and friendly locals.
Charm and Sophistication
Each town and village has something special to offer the visitor, with some earning a national reputation for their accomplishments. Cartago is known for developing great teachers, while San Ramon is thought to produce the nation's best diplomats. Alajuela is known for creating talented poets. The loveliest women are said to come from Heredia and the sexiest guys are from the beach town of Quepos. Costa Rican men are generally thought to be less macho and the women more empowered than in nearby countries. Women gained the right to vote in 1949 and are a major part of the workforce today.
Agricultural exports, particularly coffee and bananas, have historically defined the nation, however, tourism is now the leading employer. Even more recently, a technological boom has been underway as international companies discover Costa Rica's young, well-educated population and low salaries. Multinational giants such as Intel have built facilities in the Central Valley, making chip technology the country's second largest industry. Coffee exports still rank an important third. Much of Costa Rica's coffee is grown high atop volcanic peaks and is considered by some connoisseurs to be the best in the world.
Quality of Life
Although Costa Rica is poor, strong social programs have prevented the intense poverty seen in neighboring countries. Even with a burgeoning middle class and pockets of extreme wealth, the country still borrows heavily. Government coffers are often strained and there has been a gradual devaluation of the colon, the local currency. Costa Rica enjoys a lower crime rate, better infant mortality rate, longer life expectancy and a higher literacy rate than the U.S. The tap water is safe to drink throughout the country and the food is fresh, delicious and abundant.
Most activities center around family life. Ticos are generous and readily share what they have with others. Almost everyone seems to be smiling and happy. Ticos dress nicely, eat out often, love to go out dancing and celebrate for any and every reason. Life is lived to its fullest in a pace that is extraordinarily relaxed.
Ecotourism and Adventure Travel
More than 25% of Costa Rica is protected in national parks and reserves, a figure unmatched by any other country. Manuel Antonio is the most popular national park with its spellbinding beaches, abundance of easily viewable wildlife and nearby fun-filled village of Quepos. Costa Rica is also home to the towering Chirripó Volcano. At 12,533 feet, Chirripó is the highest point in Central America.
Costa Rica is a natural wonderland of overlapping ecosystems that provide unprecedented biodiversity. Towering mountain peaks and hidden valleys line the center of the country, a virtual desert covers the northwest, tropical rivers rage throughout the interior and thick rainforests line both coasts.