Costa Rica is 51,100 square kilometers (19,714 square miles). This makes it just a bit smaller than West Virginia, or, for a trickier to grasp comparison: 58% of the greater metropolitan area of Los Angeles.
The population is roughly 5,000,000. Costa Rica may be small, but it is the land bridge between North and South America. It sits between the Caribbean and the Pacific, and mountain ranges through the center decide which ocean the rains will wash out to.
Perfect destination for adventurers
While a tiny country geographically, ecologically Costa Rica is almost too good to believe. It has more species of mammals and birds than the continental United States and Canada combined, and unmatched flora that includes over 1,400 species of wild orchids alone. For the adventurer Costa Rica boasts world class rapids, unparalleled sport fishing on two coasts, surfing on legendary beach, point and river breaks, and perhaps most importantly, a world famous national park system waiting to be shown to you by boat, kayak, foot and horseback.
Temperatures in Costa Rica vary from below freezing at night at high altitudes to the high 80´s at sea level. In the cloud and rain forests, humidity often hovers around the 100% mark. The Central Valley (altitude 3,000 to 5,000 feet), which includes San Jose, is noted for its eternal spring-like weather with average temperatures in the high 60´s F.
A little more than the 25% of Costa Rica´s land has been designated as protected. These parks range from coastal rainforest in Tortuguero, to cloud forest in Monteverde, to mangrove on the Osa Peninsula and dry tropical forest in Guanacaste. All are unique environments, immensely high in biodiversity and fundamental to the health and beauty of the planet, and all have unique stories of development as protected areas, often in the face of commercial interests.
The story of how a country went from facing overwhelming deforestation to protecting a full quarter of their national land is one involving all the good elements of a Costa Rican yarn; strong national and foreign personalities, political stalemates and triumphs, plenty of heated discussion, a “fly by the seat of your pants” style of development and management and most of all a fierce patriotic love of the country’s natural beauty, coupled with the determination to protect it.
Costa Rica has had a stable democracy under a constitution since 1949. It is the longest running, and most stable, democracy in Central America.
During the formation of its democracy, Costa Rica enacted another change that has long distinguished it on the global stage; the abolition of its military, which the visionary architect of the constitution, President José Figueres, had declared “a threat to democracy.”
Even before this monumental act Costa Ricans had referred to themselves as a nation with “more teachers than soldiers.” Today, it is school children that march in parades, and not armed soldiers. In 1986, another remarkable Costa Rican leader, President Oscar Arias, would have school children plant trees across a secret airstrip being used as part of the CIA’s clandestine war against Nicaragua. Arias would later go on to win the Nobel Peace Prize for his role in furthering peace in Central America.
Costa Rica has long been touted as a country of equals, and many say it is a direct result of the country´s rugged geography and the independent small farmers it gave birth too.
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