Explore the Heart of Central America: Costa Rica
Right at the heart of Central America lies Costa Rica, a country of spectacular natural beauty and rich and fascinating culture.
Keep reading to learn a little bit about the history of this beautiful country, its modern-day situation, cultural features, and things to do, and places to visit while there.
I’m also including everything you need to know before traveling to Costa Rica.
A Brief History of Costa Rica
In pre-Columbian times, the indigenous peoples that populated the territory that forms modern-day Costa Rica belonged to the Intermediate Area. This means that they weren’t part of any of the two main indigenous cultures of the time: the Mesoamerican and Andean cultures.
By the time Christopher Columbus stepped on the Costa Rican grounds in 1502, the region was populated by different tribes of farmers. Columbus baptized it as Costa Rica because he thought the area was filled with precious metals (Costa Rica means “rich coast”). Then, a slow but steady process of colonization started.
When in 1821, Central America broke away from Spain, Costa Rica joined a Central American federation that didn’t last long. By 1824, Costa Rica was its own, independent country.
After a brief but bloody civil war in 1948, Costa Rica decided to abolish its army, becoming one of the first nations in the world to take such a progressive measure. Nowadays, Costa Rica is one of the most developed countries in Central America, with a stable democracy and a booming tourism industry.
Where Is Costa Rica Located?
Costa Rica is located in the heart of Central America, bordering to the north with Nicaragua and to the south with Panama. Its western shoreline is washed by the waters of the Pacific Ocean, while the eastern coast opens up to the warm waters of the Caribbean Sea.
Modern Costa Rica
These days, the Costa Rica population reaches the 5 million mark. The country extends over an area of 51,060 sq km, and Costa Rica currency is the colón.
Costa Rica’s capital city is San José, with about 2 million people living in the metropolitan area. It’s a country highly educated by the standards of the region and ranks fifth among Latin American countries in the Human Development Index.
The flag of Costa Rica adopted in 1906, consists of five horizontal bands of blue, white, double-width red, white and blue from top to bottom. It includes Costa Rica’s coat of arms set in the red band off-center to the left.
Costa Rica Culture 101
Costa Rica is a country rich in history and culture, with many unique features but also shared cultural elements with other Latin American countries.
Let’s dig a bit deeper into the culture of this beautiful country.
As in most Latin American countries, with the main exception of Brazil, the official language of Costa Rica is Spanish. However, it also recognizes indigenous languages such as Mekatelyu, Bribri, and Patois.
Costa Rica is the only nation in the Americas that has Catholicism as its state religion. Around 52% of its population are Catholics, 25% Protestants, 17% Agnostics, and there are small communities of Muslims, Buddhists, and Jewish.
Costa Rican cuisine is diverse and delicious. It uses a lot of black beans and rice, as well as many corn-based dishes such as tamales.
Gallo Pinto is Costa Rica’s national dish and it really is one of the most exquisite breakfasts you will ever try. It’s prepared with black beans, rice with onions and cilantro, and served with fried eggs, tortillas, and sour cream.
Places to Visit and Things To Do in Costa Rica
It’s time to introduce you to the most interesting places and must-do activities in Costa Rica.
Tabacón Hot Springs
These popular hot springs offer the possibility of soaking in thermal waters and swimming in these natural pools. The landscape is spectacular, as the lush vegetation of the surrounding mountains provides an amazing contrast to the heated, mineralized waters of the Tabacón Hot Springs.
You can stay at the Tabacón Thermal Resort or just buy a day pass to enjoy these gorgeous natural swimming pools.
Standing at more than 5,000 feet high, the Arenal Volcano is one of the most active volcanoes in the world. Visit the Arenal Observatory Lodge to discover the wonders of this spectacular volcano. Then you can also hike the park’s trails and enjoy the beautiful nature of the area.
Monteverde Cloud Forest Biological Reserve
This biological reserve is nothing short of extraordinary. It’s a natural oasis of over 400 species of birds, over 100 mammals, and more than 2,500 types of plants. The natural qualities of the cloud forest itself make it a place of unparalleled natural beauty.
Besides the natural wonders, you can engage in ecotourism activities such as walking through hanging bridges and “flying” on zip lines that take you across the cloud forest at high speed. When I think of Costa Rica, this is the kind of activity I see myself doing.
If you’re coming to Costa Rica, you have to visit San José if for anything else, because that’s where most international flights to Costa Rica land. But also, this is a colonial city with a rich past and stylish architecture.
If you’re a soccer fan, you need to visit the Estadio Nacional de Costa Rica, which has seen some classic Mexico vs Costa Rica matches.
If you love white sand beaches and are a scuba diving enthusiast, the Catalinas Islands are for you. The islands are located off the Nicoya Peninsula, and they’re famous for their rich marine biodiversity that includes sharks, rays, turtles, and pilot whales.
Things To Know Before Traveling to Costa Rica
I’m sure that by now you’re ready to book a flight and visit this amazing country, but first, consider these few things to know before traveling to Costa Rica.
Costa Rica Entry Requirements
Tourists from all the countries in the world can travel to Costa Rica by air, land, and sea, as long as they comply with the following requirements:
- Vaccinated travelers with a last dose administered at least 14 days before departure.
- Every visitor must fill a Costa Rica Health Pass.
- Travelers from some countries require a visa to visit Costa Rica, make sure before traveling what’s your own country’s situation on this.
However, it’s always a good idea to follow Costa Rica’s news closely before your trip and to keep up to date on the entry requirements.
Flights to Costa Rica
In recent years, Costa Rica has become an international ecotourism hotspot and as such, it has a well-connected airport receiving flights from a wide variety of countries including:
- Canada (Air Canada, Air Transat, WestJet)
- Colombia (Avianca)
- France (Air France)
- Germany (Condor, Lufthansa)
- Mexico (Aeromexico)
- Netherlands (KLM)
- Panama (Copa)
- Spain (Iberia, Iberojet)
- Switzerland (Edelweiss)
- United Kingdom (TUI Fly, British Airways)
- United States (United Airlines, Spirit, Southwest, Frontier Airlines, Delta, Alaska Airlines)
- Venezuela (Albatros Airlines)
Visit Costa Rica and Practice Your Spanish!
Costa Rica is a country of extraordinary natural beauty, educated people, and a rich and colorful culture. Visit Costa Rica, discover what makes this country so unique, and practice your Spanish with the locals.
Learning Spanish makes traveling to Costa Rica and the rest of the Spanish-speaking countries of Latin America much easier. The possibility of engaging in open conversations with the locals allows you to focus on enjoying the experience and not on dealing with communication issues.
Sign up for a free class and prepare for your trip to Costa Rica. We have been providing reliable service to Spanish learners for more than 10 years, we offer flexible scheduling, and tailored Spanish packages.
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