Interesting Facts about Costa Rica

These interesting facts about Costa Rica, a nature rich, biodiverse country in Central America, will hopefully fill a few knowledge gaps. Read them if you’re just plain curious about the country or if you have plans to visit.

As one of the few democracies in South America, Costa Rica is an unusual country. The Costa Rican government makes a strong effort to protect its biodiversity. One of the interesting facts about Costa Rica is that it moves funds to pay for nature reserve management collected from a fuel tax, car stamp duty, and energy fees. Even landowners are paid to preserve old-growth forests. They’re also paid to plant new trees – one of the good news stories in this part of the world.

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Setting for La Finca Rainforest Lodge
Setting for La Finca Rainforest Lodge in Costa Rica near Liberia

Interesting facts about Costa Rica regarding government and the capital city

Costa Rica’s government is a democratic Republic with a President as head of state. Rodrigo Chaves Robles has been the president since May 2022.

Costa Rica has a population of approximately 5.2 million, as of 2023. 

Costa Rica is made up of seven provinces including San Jose, Limon, Puntarenas, Guanacaste, Cartago, Heredia and Alajuela.

San Jose is the capital and the biggest city in the country. Approximately a third of the entire population of Costa Rica lives in the greater metropolitan area of San Jose. One of the interesting facts about Costa Rica is that it is considered to be one of the safest cities in all of Latin America.

One of the interesting facts about Costa Rica is that it does not have a military, but they still have border patrol and police. 

A capuchin monkey in Rincon de la Vieja National Park
A capuchin monkey in Rincon de la Vieja National Park

Interesting facts about Costa Rica and its people

The median age is 32.9 years and life expectancy at birth is 77 years, one of the highest in the world.

Costa Ricans call themselves Ticos (males) and Ticas (females). Tourists have a name too – Gringas for females and Gringos for males.

Did you know that 76% of the population is Roman Catholic? Other religions in Costa Rica include Evangelical, Protestant, and Jehovah’s Witnesses.

One of the interesting facts about Costa Rica is that literacy rates are very high. At age 15, 94.9% of the population can read and write.

Less than 1% of Costa Ricans are of indigenous ancestry. 

When a woman gets married in Costa Rica, they retain their maiden name.

The official language in Costa Rica is Spanish though there is a great deal of English spoken.

Fresh papaya offered from a friendly Costa Rican
Fresh papaya offered from a friendly Costa Rican

The physical geography in Costa Rica

Chirripo Mountain is the highest mountain in Costa Rica with an elevation of 3,820 m (12,533 feet). Snow has not fallen on the peak in over 100 years though hail has been reported.

The lowest point in the country is the caves of Barra Honda National Park, 790 feet below sea level. One of the caves called Fetid Cave is home to a colony of 5,000 bats. Only two of the 42 caves are accessible to the public.

Costa Rica enjoys tropical and sub-tropical weather. Dry season lasts from December to April and wet season runs from May to November.

Costa Rica has a total of 1,228 kilometres of coastline. Of that 212 kilometres are on the Caribbean Coast and 1,016 kilometres are on the Pacific Coast.

Lake Arenal is the largest landlocked body of water in Costa Rica. It’s got a depth of between 30 and 60 metres depending on the season.

Costa Rica has six active volcanoes and 61 dormant or extinct ones. Arenal is the most well known and most visited volcano. In 2010 it entered a resting phase. Other volcanoes worth seeing include Poas Volcano, Rincon de la Vieja Volcano, Tenorio Volcano, Turrialba Volcano and Irazu Volcano, the tallest volcano at 11,260 feet.

View into Nicaragua from the top of Miravalles Volcano
View into Nicaragua from the top of Miravalles Volcano
Interesting facts about Costa Rica - home to 6 active volcanoes
Arenal Volcano in Costa Rica

Interesting facts about nature in Costa Rica

Costa Rica plays host to over 5% of the world’s biodiversity despite having a landmass that takes up only 0.03% of the earth’s surface. The number of plant and animal species that can be seen in Costa Rica is truly incredible.

The National Bird of Costa Rica is the clay-coloured thrush. It’s common in lowland to mid-altitude area and it’s a species that is encountered in close association with people, much like our robins in Canada.

In theory you can see 1,000 species of butterflies, 850 species of birds, 34,000 insect species, 208 mammal species, 160 amphibian species, 220 reptile species, 9,000 species of plants, 1,200 orchid species and 130 species of freshwater fish.

The National Tree of Costa Rica is the Enterolobium cyclocarpum, otherwise known as Guanacaste. It’s a flowering tree and a member of the pea family.

Tours offered in Costa Rica have a big focus on nature and the outdoors. Popular tours include La Fortuna Waterfall along with an Arenal Volcano hike, a coffee experience tour, Tortuga Island from Jaco, ziplining, white water rafting and horseback riding adventures.

One of the 1000 species of butterflies in Costa Rica
One of the 1000 species of butterflies in Costa Rica
One of the hundred's of snake species in Costa Rica
Can you spot the snake? One of the hundred’s of snake species in Costa Rica
Not the national bird but beautiful magpie jays
Not the national bird but beautiful magpie jays

Facts about protected areas and parks in Costa Rica

Over 25% of Costa Rica’s landmass is protected – one of the interesting and great facts about the country. There are 186 protected areas in total including 32 national parks, eight biological reserves, 13 forest reserves, and 51 wildlife refuges.

Corcovado National Park is located on the Osa Peninsula. It is home to 13 major ecosystems and as such is one of the world’s most biodiverse regions.

Manuel Antonio is another famous national park in Costa Rica. Be warned that it is closed on Mondays. It was named by Forbes Magazine as one of the world’s most beautiful parks.

I can also highly recommend a visit to Rincon de la Vieja National Park. Do the Cangreja waterfall hike – go for a swim and count on seeing lots of wildlife including monkeys and agoutis – one of the local delicacies – unfortunately.

Monteverde Cloud Forest
Monteverde Cloud Forest – Image by Jam Martel form Pixabay
Spider monkeys were way up in the tree so very hard to get good shots
Spider monkeys were way up in the tree so very hard to get good shots in Rincon de la Vieja National Park

Costa Rica food facts

Gallo Pinto is the national food of Costa Rica. It is a mixture of cooked onion, garlic, and bell peppers flavored with cumin and added to rice and beans. Eggs, sour cream, tortillas and hot sauce are on the side.

Other staples include black beans and rice along with chicken and meat. You can count on lots of tropical fruits.

By law, only Arabica varieties of coffee can be grown in Costa Rica. It’s the 13th-largest producer of coffee in the world. About 90% of their coffee is exported. Small farmer’s are important in Costa Rica.

Did you know almost 90% of all the coffee producers cultivate less than 12 acres? Don’t forget to pick up a bag or two of coffee when you leave Coast Rica. There is lots for sale in the airports.

Interesting facts about Costa Rica - black beans and rice are traditional foods
Black beans and rice – traditional food in Costa Rica – Photo credit: Jo Beyers
Taking a Costa-Rican cooking lesson
Taking a Costa-Rican cooking lesson

Soccer and surfing is big

Soccer is the most popular sport in Costa Rica. They are the only team from Central America to play in five FIFA world cups.

Surfing is a close second in popularity with availability on both the Atlantic and Pacific coasts. Volleyball, golf, sport fishing, and cycling are other popular sports.

Random interesting Costa Rica facts

You must ante up $US 29 airport departure tax to leave the country. It can be paid in an equivalent amount of colones. You’ll save money by paying cash as there is a surcharge to use your credit card.

Costa Rica’s main exports include coffee, bananas, sugar, textiles, electronic components and electricity. When it comes to bananas, Costa Rica is second only to Ecuador for exports.

Costa Rica provides universal health care to citizens and permanent residents. The only major infectious diseases in the country include dengue fever and bacterial diarrhea. When John catapulted off his mountain bike into a pot hole, we both found the doctors to be helpful, good at listening and reasonably priced.

Cocoa plants grown on the property protected from the strong rays of the sun
Cocoa plants grown at La Anita Rainforest Ranch – and protected from the strong rays of the sun

Costa Rica’s currency is called the Colon. It’s divided into 100 centimos. Currently $Cdn 1 is equal to 429 colons, not exactly an easily divisible number. If you’re traveling with US dollars, you’re in luck as they are widely accepted. 

Pura Vida is the national slogan in Costa Rica. Simply translated it means simple life or pure life but it’s much more than that in Costa Rica. It’s also the way the people of Costa Rica live. They tend to focus on what they have, rather than what they don’t have. They embrace the simple life and dwell less on the negative.

Over 1.7 million people visit Costa Rica every year and tourism is now the primary source of income. One of the interesting Costa Rica facts is that the bulk of tourists are from Canada and the United States. 

If you want to listen to the national anthem in Costa Rica tune in to a daily 7 AM airing on most of the radio stations. Now that’s a way to wake up!

Did you know that most of Costa Rica’s energy comes from renewable sources? They are trying to be carbon neutral by 2050 – which is way ahead of the rest of the world.

Beautiful beaches are but one reason to visit Costa Rica
Beautiful beaches are but one of many reasons to visit Costa Rica

Do you have any interesting facts about Costa Rica to add to this list?

If you’re interested in visiting Costa Rica, check out the Visit Costa Rica website for detailed information.

Click on the photo to bookmark to your Pinterest boards.

32 interesting facts about Costa Rica, a nature-rich, biodiverse country in Central America

  1. A very interesting fact about Costa Rica is the language. It is extremely different than other countries in America Latina. As Kristen Dick mention we are one of the happiest countries in the world and since 2014, one of the best soccer national teams in the world :).
    Thanks for sharing this great information about Costa Rica

  2. A very curious about Costa Rica is the development that has given the tourism of adventure. Nearby Turrialba, Sarapiqui and Arenal are havens for sports such as Canopy, Rafting and Hiking.

  3. I was just in Costa Rica recently! Absolutely loved the country.. especially all the wild critters and beautiful sunsets. Here’s a fact for you.. it’s by far the most expensive country to travel in Central America.. and worth it!

    1. @James I guess by Central American standards it would be expensive but after Calgary it all seems very reasonable. I do think they have a higher living standard than the other Central American countries.

  4. Hi I’m costarrican… and I should say it’s amazing to read all this about my loved land. Gallo Pinto is usually breakfast, but as good as is, we sometimes have it for diner. Actually, the real name is just “Pinto”, it is the most frequent streetdog name, this means “spotted”, so the rice and beans. The word “Gallo” means “a piece/portion/ a bunch of” but generally free of payment… “un gallito” haha we here in Costa Rica say things as they are little, with suffix -ito/-ita… that’s why we are called “ticos”, because of “chiquiticos”: little ones
    I’m glad you come… if you still are here for Christmas season, you have to come to San Joaquin de Flores, Heredia… streets, yeah streets, will be full of Christmas lights…
    So, enjoy your stay and welcome to paradise 😉

    1. @Esteban Thanks for your great comment. I’m learning a lot about Costa Rica. One more interesting fact I learned is that something like 14 of the 26 coffee connoisseurs in the world are from Costa Rica.

  5. Costa Rica is such a beautiful place – it is totally on my bucket list of places to visit! I love nature & beautiful scenery so it looks like a must-visit place.

  6. Leigh, that looks so beautiful. I have a friend who has travelled almost continually for about 55 years and although she’s been back to India around 20 times (obviously she loves it!), she says Costa Rica is her favourite country. I look forward to hearing about your trip. I hope you love it there too.
    Congratulations to your son and Grace.

    1. @Jane We arrived last night so the adventure starts today. We won’t be doing as much as normal – as it’s a trip for my son’s wedding but still hoping to see plenty of new country.

  7. Have a terrific trip to Costa Rica! (Not sure we’d be keen on the Gallo pinto though – it looks like it can’t decide whether it’s breakfast or dinner :-). Look forward to reading your posts…

  8. That is interesting about the coffee. Is there a reason other varieties (perhaps robusta) can’t be grown, are they worried about something?

  9. Costa Rica is one of the greatest destinations in the world. We’ve been there three times and have thoroughly enjoyed the people, the wildlife, and the scenery. One more interesting fact; It’s home to the world’s first carbon neutral airline, Nature Air. We flew them from Tortuguero to San Jose, Drake Bay, and Quepos. They are just great and you get a bird’s eye view of the countryside. Pura Vida!!!

  10. I thought about going here – but then my travel agent was not so keen about it and then my wife changed her mind — I don’t know – I kind of want to go here but at the same time I am not so sure – will watch the blog closely to determine if we should go or not

    1. @Marty I have been to Costa Rica once before and we had a great time from start to finish. We covered a lot of the country too. On this trip I fly into Liberia and will be checking out a whole other area so stay tuned for impressions 7 years after the last trip.

  11. Interestingly enough, your stunning photo is where my brother’s surf camp/b&b is! South of the whales tail, you’ll see 2 rivers. Just south of the second river is the gorgeous Playa La Colonia, or Playa Chaman as the locals call it. Check it out, it’s a hidden gem in the little town. Have an amazing time, I promise you’ll want to go back!

    1. Thanks for stopping by. My bags are packed and I am very excite to be going. My daughter is booked in to do a 3 day surf camp and I may give it a go. Looks like your brother lives in paradise.

  12. Gallo pinto looks delicious. Is the departure tax included in your airfare – I believe it was during our recent trip to Nicaragua. Have a fun, safe trip and congrats on your son’s upcoming wedding!

    1. @Lisa I have been once before and John and I both thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. I didn’t think I’d ever be going back though but really looking forward to it – especially as we will be visiting a part of the country I’ve never seen.

  13. Glenn and I have been to Costa Rica a few times and absolutely love it for many reasons… short: so diverse, so much to do, and so friendly. A little fact – “Costa Rica achieves a Happy Planet Index Score of 64.0 and ranks #1 of all the countries analysed.

    Enjoy your Costa Rican travels!!!!

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