Costa Rica

 

History of Costa Rica

Costa Rica Flag
Flag

The first natives in Costa Rica were hunters and gatherers. A small sedentary culture also developed simultaneously. During the Pre-Columbian Period, Costa Rica served as an "Intermediate Region" between Mesoamerican and Andean native cultures.

Christopher Columbus made landfall in Costa Rica in 1502. Soon after, the indigenous people were conquered and Costa Rica was incorporated into the Captaincy General of Guatemala as a province of New Spain. During the colonial period, Costa Rica remained sparsely developed and impoverished.

Following Mexican War of Independence (1810-1821) Costa Rica became part of the independent Mexican Empire in 1821, and subsequently the Federal Republic of Central America in 1823, before gaining full independence in 1838. Its economy struggled due to lack of connections with European suppliers. In 1856, Costa Rica resisted American settlers from mounting a take over of the government. After 1869, Costa Rica became a democracy, and after the Costa Rican Civil War in 1948, the government drafted a new constitution, guaranteeing universal suffrage and the dismantling of the military. Today, Costa Rica is a democracy that relies on technology and eco-tourism for its economy.

Government

Costa Rica Map Costa Rica Map - Click for larger view

Costa Rica is located on the Central American isthmus, lying between latitudes 8° and 12° N and longitudes 82° and 86°W. It has a total of 1,290 kilometers (800 mi) of coastline, 212km (132 mi) on the Caribbean coast and 1,016km (631 mi) on the Pacific.

Costa Rica also borders Nicaragua to the north (309 km or 192 mi of border) and Panama to the south-southeast (639km or 397 mi of border). In total, Costa Rica comprises 51,100 square kilometers (19,700 sq mi) plus 589 square kilometers (227 sq mi) of territorial waters.

The highest point in the country is Cerro Chirripó, at 3,819 meters (12,530 ft); it is the fifth highest peak in Central America. The highest volcano in the country is the Irazú Volcano (3,431m or 11,257 ft). The largest lake in Costa Rica is Lake Arenal.

Costa Rica also comprises several islands. Cocos Island (24 square kilometers / 9.3 square miles) stands out because of its distance from the continental landmass, 480km (300 mi) from Puntarenas, but Calero Island is the largest island of the country (151.6 square kilometers / 58.5 square miles). Near 25% of Costa Rica's national territory is protected by SINAC (the National System of Conservation Areas), which oversees all of the country's protected areas.

Language

The primary language spoken in Costa Rica is Costa Rican Spanish. Some native languages are still spoken in indigenous reservations. The most numerically important are the Bribri, Maléku, Cabécar and Ngäbere languages, some of which have several thousand speakers in Costa Rica – others a few hundred. Some languages, such as Teribe and Boruca, have fewer than a thousand speakers. A Creole-English language, Jamaican patois (also known as Mekatelyu), is spoken along the Caribbean coast. About 10.7% of Costa Rica's adult population (18 or older) also speaks English, 0.7% French, and 0.3% speaks Portuguese or German as a second language.

Culture

Costa Rica was the point where the Mesoamerican and South American native cultures met. The northwest of the country, the Nicoya peninsula, was the southernmost point of Nahuatl cultural influence when the Spanish conquerors (conquistadores) came in the 16th century. The central and southern portions of the country had Chibcha influences. The Atlantic coast, meanwhile, was populated with African workers during the 17th and 18th centuries.

Costa Rican cuisine is a blend of Native American, Spanish, African and many other cuisine origins. Dishes such as the very traditional tamale and many others made of corn are the most representative of its indigenous inhabitants, and similar to other neighboring Mesoamerican countries. Spaniards brought many new ingredients to the country from other lands, especially spices and domestic animals. And later in the 19th century, the African flavor lent its presence with influence from other Caribbean mixed flavors. This is how Costa Rican cuisine today is very varied, with every new ethnic group who had recently become part of the country's population influencing the country's cuisine.

As a result of the immigration of Spaniards, their 16th-century Spanish culture and its evolution marked everyday life and culture until today, with Spanish language and the Catholic religion as primary influences.

The Department of Culture, Youth, and Sports is in charge of the promotion and coordination of cultural life. The work of the department is divided into Direction of Culture, Visual Arts, Scenic Arts, Music, Patrimony and the System of Libraries. Permanent programs, such as the National Symphony Orchestra of Costa Rica and the Youth Symphony Orchestra, are conjunctions of two areas of work: Culture and Youth.

Dance-oriented genres, such as soca, salsa, bachata, merengue, cumbia and Costa Rican swing are enjoyed increasingly by older rather than younger people. The guitar is popular, especially as an accompaniment to folk dances; however, the marimba was made the national instrument.

"Pura Vida" is the most recognizable phrase attached to Costa Ricans, and it reflects the Costa Rican way of life. Often, people walking down the streets, or buying food at shops say hello by saying "Pura Vida", which means pure life, or good life. It can be phrased as a question or as an acknowledgement of one's presence. A recommended response to "How are you?" would be "Pura Vida".

Weather and Climate

Costa Rica Climate

Because Costa Rica is located between eight and 12 degrees north of the Equator, the climate is Tropical year round. However, the country has many microclimates depending on elevation, rainfall, topography, and by the geography of each particular region.
Costa Rica's seasons are defined by how much rain falls during a particular period and not to the four seasons in the Northern Hemisphere. The year can be split into two periods, the dry season known to the residents as summer, and the rainy season, known locally as winter. The "summer" or dry season goes from December to April, and "winter" or rainy season goes from May to November, which almost coincides with the List of Atlantic hurricane seasons and during this time, it rains constantly in some regions.
The location receiving the most rain is the Caribbean slopes of the Central Cordillera mountains, with an annual rainfall of over 5000 mm. Humidity is also higher on the Caribbean side than on the Pacific side. The mean annual temperature on the coastal lowlands is around 27°C, 20°C in the main populated areas of the Central Cordillera, and below 10°C on the summits of the highest mountains.

 

Entry Requirements

Most visitors can get into Costa Rica without the need of a Visa and can stay in the country for 90 days. Costa Rica requires Indian citizens to be in possession of a valid visa when they arrive. However, people of ANY nationality holding valid US, Canada, Japan, South Korea or Schengen visas do not need a prior visa. The only conditions being that the visa must be valid for 3 months and should be stamped in your passport.

Costa Rica requires valid Yellow fever certificate if arriving from most neighboring countries. If such is not presented you would not be allowed to enter/board the flight. At Bogota airport - if you have certificate you can have it emailed to the airline and then proceed to the local vaccination authority for duplicate certificate to be issued free of charge. The critical part is to get the printed version on time. If you don't have certificate or cannot get it on time you will probably be approached by friendly police officers to arrange such for a fee. Keep in mind that the date of the vaccination should be at least 10 days prior entering the country from which you are flying.

Another way to get to Costa Rica that many people are unaware of is travelling by car and driving the Pan-American Highway that stretches from Alaska all the way to Southern Panama and passes right through Costa Rica.

As of November 2012 to cross the border you need to show a return ticket from Costa Rica. The ticket must be "from Costa Rica", so for example flights from Panama are not accepted, although you need to leave Costa Rica to get to Panama. At border crossing with Nicaragua there is a small Tica Bus office that sells tickets without fixed travel date.

Note that occasionally, immigration officials will stop buses that are travelling from cities near the border to check identification cards and passports. If you don't like carrying your actual passport on you, make sure you have a copy of your passport AND a copy of the stamp showing the date you entered Costa Rica to validate you haven't been in the country more than 3 months.

Public Holidays

Public Holidays Costa Rica 2015
New Year’s Day Thursday, 1 January 2015
Easter Sunday Sunday, April 05, 2015
Juan Santamaría's Day Saturday, April 11, 2015
Labour Day Friday, May 01, 2015
Guanacaste Day Saturday, July 25, 2015
Virgin of Los Angeles, Feast of Patroness of Costa Rica Sunday, August 02, 2015
Assumption Saturday, August 15, 2015
Mothers' Day Saturday, August 15, 2015
Independence Day Tuesday, September 15, 2015
Día de las Culturas Monday, October 12, 2015
Christmas Day Friday, 25 December 2015
   

Notes:

Banks, public offices, and most stores and businesses are closed on Costa Rican national holidays (días feriados).  Especially around Christmas and Easter large numbers of Ticos travel filling hotels and buses.  


Travel Advisory

There is no nationwide advisory in effect for Costa Rica. However, you should exercise a high degree of caution and be vigilant at all times due to increasing levels of violent crime.

The decision to travel is your responsibility. You are also responsible for your personal safety abroad. The purpose of this Travel Advice is to provide up-to-date information to enable you to make well-informed decisions. Decide your destination in advance and have a planned route of travel.

Take out comprehensive travel and medical insurance before you travel.

Accommodation
Hostel dorm beds are between $6 to 13 USD per day. Private rooms in hostels are usually around $25 USD. Hotels begin around $40 USD per night and go up from there. Click here for more information on Hotels and Resorts in Costa Rica.

Transportation
Public transportation here is cheap. Short trips (3 hours) are about $3 USD while longer trips are no more than $10 USD. There are a number of private coach operators who go directly between major cities and tourist attractions. Those buses are about triple the price of the local public bus.

Activities
Entrance in to most national parks is usually around $10 USD with discounts available for students. Canopy tours and day trips are around $45 USD. A two tank dive can be between $60 – 100 USD. Surfing is about $20 USD. Click here for more information on Tours and Activities in Costa Rica.

Food
By eating at local restaurants you can expect to pay around $1-3 USD for meals. These are a local favorite and will save you from paying tourist prices in other establishments. Typical meals like the traditional casado are $5 USD. Most restaurant meals will cost $7 USD or more. A very nice meal in a tourist area will cost around $12-20 USD. For cheap food, eat from the street vendors where snacks and light meals can cost as little as .50 cents.

Costa Rica the perfect place to spend your vacations in the tropics!