Costa Rica where to go and Information

History and places to see in Costa Rica

Costa Rica

Costa Rica

Costa Rica

Capital of Costa Rica: San José

Land Area: 31,752 miles

Population: Est. 4,000,000

Costa Rica History

Costa Rica, which is Spanish for Rich Coast, predates 10,000 B.C. and was mainly inhabited by the Chibcha, Carib, Diquis, and Boruca indigenous groups before Spanish colonization. On September 18, 1502, Christopher Columbus landed near present-day Puerto Limón where he claimed the territory for Spain. Much like the rest of the Americas, the history is rich with political and cultural strife.

  • In 1522, Gil González Dávila led an expedition through Costa Rica and ended near Golfo de Nicoya. He intended to search for gold and to convert indigenous tribes to the Catholic religion. Instead, he brought disease and hardships which were destructive to the entire tribes in the Americas.
  • In 1524, Francisco Fernández de Córdova built a settlement near Puntarenas.
  • In 1540, Costa Rica officially became a part of New Spain which was the vice-royalty of Spain’s colonial territory in the New World.
  • In 1561, Juan de Cavallon led the first colonization expedition in Costa Rica.
  • In 1808, coffee became the primary crop which established Costa Rica’s economy.
  • In 1823, Costa Rica gained its independence. It also joined Nicaragua, Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras as a part of Central America.
  • Between 1849 and 1859, Juan Rafael Mora defended Costa Rica against the invasion attempt of William Walker, an American, who had already invaded Nicaragua. In 1859, Mora was ousted and fled Costa Rica. In 1860, Mora tried to regain his power, but he failed and was put to death.
  • In 1874, banana cultivation became a primary resource for the economy.
  • Between 1919 and 1940, US invaded Costa Rica and paid USD 1.4 million for the island of
  • In 1948, a civil war erupted, and more than 2,000 people died.
  • In 1949, the government passed a new constitution that focused on civil rights. Programs like social security, a national banking system, voter rights, and the civil guard were introduced.
  • In 1978, the country suffered an economic downturn.
  • In 2007, CAFTA passed.
  • In 2009, Costa Rica re-established political ties with Cuba.
  • In 2010, the first female president, Laura Chinchilla, was elected.
  • By 2012, the tourism industry grossed nearly 2 billion a year.
  • In 2016, Costa Rican politicians began debating taxes, deficit, reform proposals, and economic issues that unnecessary government spending had contributed to bring about a change in their constitution.
  • In 2017, Tejiendo Desarrollo was enacted by the National System of Areas of Conservation and the Ministry of Environment to invest in the Costa Rican infrastructure in the Brunca Region including Marino Ballena National Park, Golfito, International Park La Amistad, Corcovado National Park, Wildlife Refuge, and Piedras Blancas National Park.


Costa Rica Geography

Costa Rica lies between Nicaragua and Panama. The area has 801.5 miles of coastline on the Pacific Ocean and 631 miles on the Caribbean Sea. There are several mountain ranges including the Cordillera Central, Cordillera de Talamanca, the Tilaran Mountain Range, Cordillera de Guanacaste, Cerros de Escazu. Mount Chirripo, in the Talamanca Range, is Costa Rica’s highest point at 12,450 feet above sea level. With the mountain ranges, forests, and beaches, it provides the perfect landscape for tourists and locals alike. Six regions affect the climate.

Costa Rica


  • Northern Pacific
  • Northern Plains
  • Central Valley
  • Central Pacific
  • Caribbean
  • Southern Pacific.

Costa Rica land formations include the lowlands, the highlands, and the central areas.


These geographic locations of the three primary land formations affect the Costa Rican weather patterns greatly. The warm year-round climate attracts tourists who want to experience the Costa Rican fauna, flora, and exotic culture.


  • Nicoya Peninsula and Guanacaste are forested lowlands that have warmer climates.
  • Caribbean Coast and Central Pacific have rainforests that are hot, and humid.
  • South Pacific and Northern Lowlands are hot, humid, and have rainforests.

Highlands / Northern Plains (Llanuras del Norte)

  • Central Highlands have cloud forests and have a moderate climate.
  • Central Valley has a mild climate and is chilly at night.

Central Valley (Central)

  • South Central has a mild climate year-round.

The average temperature in Costa Rica is in the seventies. There are two seasons; winter (Invierno) is wet, and summer (Verano) is dry. The wet season is from May to the first part of December, and the dry season is from December to April. The months that receive the most visitors include February, March, July, August, November, and December.

Costa Rica Tourism Facts

 An estimated 2.6 million people visit Costa Rica annually adding 600,000 tourism-related jobs to the local economy. Most tourists arrive by international flights from the United States and Europe. The local currency is Costa Rican colón, but locals accept US dollars and Euros. Spanish is the official language, but an estimated 10% speak English in larger tourist locations.

Costa Rica Popular Tourists Destinations

There are a variety of tourism opportunities found in Coast Rica throughout the year whether it be a sport, nature observation, or land or water activities including surfing, sports fishing, nature and wildlife expeditions, boating, golfing, windsurfing, snorkeling, and kayaking. The land formations include rainforests, waterfalls, hiking trails, hot springs, and beaches.

  • Surfing along the Caribbean coastline is better during the dry season while the wet season is more advantageous on the Pacific coast.
  • Sports fishing is a year-round sport, but Rainbow Trout, Tarpon, Sailfish, Tuna, Marlin, Wahoo, and Cubera Snapper are typical during the dry season. Expect the Black Snook during the late part of the wet season.
  • Wildlife observation includes whales, sea turtles, dolphins, reptiles, crocodiles, butterflies, exotic birds, and a host of other animals that live in Costa Rica’s rich bio-diverse environment.

Costa Rica National Parks and Reserves

            There are 25 national parks, eight reserves, 58 wildlife refuges, and 32 protected zones in Costa Rica.  The most visited parks include:

  • he most active volcano is in the Arenal Volcano National Park.
  • Barra Honda National Park has stunning limestone caves.
  • The Cahuita National Park offers tourists coral reefs and beaches.
  • The Guanacaste National Park has the most extensive tropical dry forest.
  • View into a volcano crater at Irazu Volcano National Park.
  • Observe leatherback turtles at Las Baulas National Marine Park.
  • Palo Verde National Park is prime for birdwatching.
  • Ostional Wildlife Refuge and Tortuguero are turtle nesting conservatories.
  • The Piedras Blancas National Park has a spectacular bio-diversified rainforest.
  • Poas Volcano National Park receives the most tourists.
  • Rincon de la Vieja National Park is a hot spring and mineral attraction.

 Costa Rica Theme Parks

Costa Rica Beaches

  • Jacó, Playa Grande, Playa Langosta, Playa Tamarindo, Playas del Coco, Matapalo, Playa Hermosa are some of the many beaches on the Pacific coastline.
  • Beaches on the Caribbean coastline of Costa Rica include Playa Negra, Playa Tortuguero, Playa Cocles, Playa Bonita, and Playa Manzanillo.

4 UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Costa Rica

  • The Talamanca Range-La Amistad Reserves and the La Amistad National Park was inducted in 1983.
  • The Cocos Island National Park was inducted in 1997.
  • The Area de Conservación Guanacaste was inducted in 1999.
  • The pre-Columbian Chiefdom Settlements with Stone Spheres of the Diquís was inducted in 2014.


To see the main travel series for Central America click here.