Introduction to Costa Rica
Meeting the Caribbean Sea to the east and the Pacific Ocean to the west is the magical natural wonderland of Costa Rica. The country is just 50,000 square kilometres in size yet boasts some of the world’s most impressive tropical coastal plains, mountains, active volcanoes and wildlife. That’s right, green tourism is Costa Rica’s big earner, boosting the economy and improving the lives of many of the Central American country’s almost 5 million inhabitants after years of colonial exploitation and a struggling commodity based economy (they’re still big exporters of bananas and coffee today).
Costa Rica is divided into 7 provinces, all ripe for discovery. San José in the Central Plateau features the country’s volcano-guarded metropolitan capital of the same name as well as the Central Mountain Range complete with national parks, forest reserves and an impressive pot of coffee reserves. On the east coast lies ‘Pearl of the Pacific’ beach gem and the largest province, Puntarenas.
There’s also ‘Land of the Mangoes’ and active volcanoes, Alajuela, near Nicaragua; a Caribbean paradise complete with dense jungles, imposing mountains and abundant wildlife in Limon; and Guanacaste, a cattle ranch-cum-sunny-beach tourism drawcard. While ecotourism is the country’s main game, there’s also colonial heritage and old-school architecture province Heredia as well as former capital Cartago, an ancient and traditional metropolis best known for its colonial art.
Native American inhabitants are believed to have been in Costa Rica 10,000 years ago, well before Christopher Columbus’ big discovery in the 1500s. Of course, large tourism numbers have had an impact on the environment, but such effects have been minimal, thanks to ‘green management’ plus protection efforts have benefited from the extra dollars. The country has enjoyed a century of undisturbed democratic rule and is the only country in Central America without an army, however there are incidences of serious crime here so have your wits about you.