Capital | San Jose
Population | 4,516,220 (July 2010 est.)
Area | 51,100 SQ KM
Official Language | Spanish
Holidays | Independence Day, 15 September (1821 – from Spain)
Currency | Costa Rican colones (CRC)
Time Zone | UTC -6
Best Time to Visit | December to April (the dry season)
Connecting with the Culture | Soaring across the jungle canopy on a flying fox at Monteverde. Spending time taking in the majestic rainforest at Parque Nacional Manuel Antonio. Learning to surf at Witch’s Rock. Shopping the various markets in San Jose. Visiting the Arenal volcano, followed by a soak in a hot spa. Taking a jeep and horseback along the route from Fortuna to Saint Elena.
Read | Costa Rica: A Travelers Literary Companion, 26 short stories that capture the heart of the country.
Listen | to Costa Rica: Calypso
Eat | la olla, a stew of potatoes, beef, onions, maize, beans and tomoatoes
Drink | coffee
In a Word | Pura vida (literally ‘pure life’ a national expression that sums up the desire to live the best and most pure existence)
Characteristics | rainforests; toucans and macaws; erupting volcanoes; soccer fans; foaming waterfalls; the aroma of coffee.
Surprises | A former president (Oscar Arias Sanchez) is the winner of a Nobel Peace Prize; there are great surfing beaches, but also many sharks. Since the late 19th century, only two brief periods of violence have marred the country's democratic development. Although it still maintains a large agricultural sector, Costa Rica has expanded its economy to include strong technology and tourism industries. The standard of living is relatively high. Land ownership is widespread.