Costa Rica is a small country located in Central America. It is bordered by Panama to the south, Nicaragua to the north, the Atlantic Ocean (Caribbean Sea) to the east, and the Pacific Ocean to the west. Costa Rica literally means "rich coast", and was named under the original erroneous impression by the Spanish that the land would be rich in precious metals. The name is now more commonly attributed to describe the country's rich cultural and biological diversity. Attracting sunworshippers and birdwatchers alike, Costa Rica is often referred to as a peaceful country, and its species richness, beaches, natural beauty, and surfing have made it a popular tourist destination.

The country formed through a combination of volcanic activity and sedimentation, resulting in inland mountain chains and coastal plains. The area of the country is about 51,100 square kilometers, or 19,653 square miles (a little smaller than West Virginia).

The population of Costa Rica is roughly 4.6 million, according to a 2009 United Nations estimate, with a majority of people concentrated in the metropolitan areas surrounding the capital city, San Jose, in the Central Valley. The official language is Spanish, though tourism and education have promoted a more widespread use of English as a second language. The official and most widespread religion is Roman Catholic, and many of the religion's holidays are observed nationally. The official currency, the "colón", is named after Christopher Columbus (in Spanish Cristobal Colón), who arrived on Costa Rican soil in 1502, during his fourth and final voyage to the Americas.

The political system in Costa Rica is a democratic republic, with a government body constituted by three branches: Executive, Legislative, and Judicial. The nation gained its independence from Spain on September 15th, 1821. However, the news of independence, traveling by horse, did not reach Costa Rica from Guatemala until mid-October.


In February 2010, Costa Rica's popular vote elected Laura Chinchilla Miranda (National Liberation Party) to be the nation's first female president. Previous president, Oscar Arias Sanchez, was the recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1987 (during his first presidential term) for his efforts in ending civil wars in other nearby Central American countries in the 1980s. Costa Rica's military was abolished in 1948 by President Jose Figueres Ferrer. The abolition was introduced the following year, into the Constitution of 1949.

Costa Rica is well known for its biodiversity. According to the National Biodiversity Institute of Costa Rica (INBio), although the country covers only about 0.04% of the Earth's land, this small area contains about 4% of the world's estimated species in existence. It contains more than 9000 species of vascular plants, and over 300,000 identified species of insects (it is estimated that 220 species of butterflies inhabit Corcovado National Park alone). About 25% of the area of Costa Rica is protected through national parks, wildlife refuges, and private and public tourism and research areas. Several microclimates throughout the country allow for different ecological regions, including tropical rain forests, tropical dry forests, cloud forests, and volcanic tundra, to name a few.
Iguana Punta Uva