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Costa Rica Overview

Based on our customer requests, we have provided the following information to help answer the most common questions about Costa Rica and to help provide you with a resource center about the most beautiful country in the world. We will be periodically updating this page with new information so be sure to check back often.


Costa Rica is a Central American success story: since the late 19th century, only two brief periods of violence have marred its democratic development (most recent in the 1940’s) and its peaceful way of life. Although still a largely agricultural country, it has expanded its economy to include strong technology and tourism sectors. The standard of living is relatively high and land ownership is widespread. Costa Rica is dedicated to the well-being of its citizens and has no armed military (disbanded in the late 1940's). Costa Rica's current President, Laura Chinchilla, won the election in February 2010, becoming the first female president (presidenta) in all of Central America. She was from the same political party as previous president and Nobel Peace Prize winner, Oscar Arias (2006-2010). 

Costa Rica is increasingly becoming popular with tourists and foreigners due to its safety, low taxes, slower pace of living, beautiful beaches and the Constitutional right that foreigners can own fully titled property.



  • Central America, bordering both the Caribbean Sea and the North Pacific Ocean, between Nicaragua and Panama
  • Geographic Coordinates: 10 00 N, 84 00 W
  • Coastline: 801 miles
  • Climate: tropical and subtropical; dry season (December to April); rainy season (May to November); cooler in highlands
  • Elevation Extremes: Lowest Point: Pacific Ocean (0 ft); Highest point: Cerro Chirripo 12,500 ft (3,810 m)
  • Natural Resources: Hydropower
  • Land Use: 5.8% permanent crops, 4.4% arable land, 89.7% other

Note: four volcanoes, two of them active, rise near the capital of San Jose in the center of the country; one of the volcanoes, Irazu, erupted destructively in 1963-65


The People of Costa Rica
Population: 4,200,173 (2008 est.)

  • Age Structure:
    • 0-14 years: 28.9% (male 593,540/female 566,361)
    • 15-64 years: 65.5% (male 1,330,481/female 1,300,664)
    • 65 years and over: 5.6% (male 104,564/female 120,563) (2005 est.)
  • Median Age 26.03 years (male: 25.59 years, female: 26.5 years. 2005 est.)
  • Population Growth Rate: 1.48% (July 2005 est.)
  • Birth Rate: 18.6 births/1,000 population (2005 est.)
  • Death Rate: 4.3 deaths/1,000 population (2005 est.)

Gender ratio:

  • At birth: 1.05 male(s)/female
  • under 15 years: 1.05 male(s)/female
  • 15-64 years: 1.02 male(s)/female
  • 65 years and over: 0.87 male(s)/female
  • total population: 1.02 male(s)/female (2005 est.)

Infant Mortality Rate: 9.95 deaths/1,000 live births

Life Expectancy at Birth: Total population: 76.84 years (male: 74.3 years, female: 79.6 years 2005 est.)

  • Total fertility rate: 2.28 children born/woman
  • Ethnic Groups: white (including mestizo) 94%, black 3%, Amerindian 1%, Chinese 1%, other 1%
  • Religion: Roman Catholic 76.3%, Evangelical 13.7%, other 6.8%, none 3.2%
  • Languages: Spanish (official), English


  • Total population: 96%
  • male: 95.9%
  • female: 96.1%
  • Definition: age 15 and over can read and write (2003 est.)

Government of Costa Rica

  • Government type: Democratic republic
  • Independence: 15 September 1821 (from Spain)
  • Capital: San Jose
  • Administrative divisions: 7 provinces (provincias, singular - provincia); Alajuela, Cartago, Guanacaste, Heredia, Limon, Puntarenas, San Jose
  • Constitution: 7 November 1949
  • Legal System: based on Spanish civil law system; judicial review of legislative acts in the Supreme Court; has accepted compulsory ICJ jurisdiction

Executive Branch:

  • Chief of state: Presidenta Laura Chinchilla
  • Cabinet: Cabinet selected by the president
  • Elections: president and vice presidents elected on the same ticket by popular vote for four-year terms; election last held February 2006)

Legislative Branch:

  • Unicameral Legislative Assembly or Asamblea Legislativa (57 seats; members are elected by direct, popular vote to serve four-year terms)
  • Elections: last held February 2006)

Judicial Branch:

  • Supreme Court or Corte Suprema (22 justices are elected for eight-year terms by the Legislative Assembly)

The Economy of Costa Rica

Economic Overview:

  • Costa Rica's basically stable economy depends on tourism, agriculture, and electronics exports.
  • Poverty has been substantially reduced over the past 15 years, and a strong social safety net has been put into place.
  • Foreign investors remain attracted by the country's political stability and high education levels, and tourism continues to bring in foreign exchange. –
  • Costa Rica recently concluded negotiations to participate in the US-Central American Free Trade Agreement, which, if ratified by the Costa Rican Legislature, would result in economic reforms and an improved investment climate.
  • GDP: $38 billion (2004 est.)
  • GDP real growth rate: 3.9% (2004 est.)
  • GDP per capita: $9,600 (2004 est.)
  • GDP Composition by sector:
    • Agriculture: 8.5%
    • Industry: 29.7%
    • Services: 61.8% (2004 est.)
  • Labor force: 1.81 million
  • Labor force by occupation: agriculture 20%, industry 22%, services 58% (1999 est.)
  • Unemployment: 6.6% (2004 est.)
  • Major agricultural products: coffee, pineapples, bananas, sugar, corn, rice, beans, potatoes; beef; timber
  • Major industries: microprocessors, food processing, textiles and clothing, construction materials, fertilizer, plastic products

Electricity production by source:

  • Fossil fuel: 1.5%
  • Hydro: 81.9%
  • Nuclear: 0%
  • Other: 16.6% (2001)

Exports: $6.2 billion (2004 est.)

  • Export commodities: coffee, bananas, sugar; pineapples; textiles, electronic components, medical equipment
  • Export partners: US 46.9%, Netherlands 5.3%, Guatemala 4.4% (2004)

Imports: $7.8 billion (2004 est.)

  • Import partners: US 46.1%, Japan 5.9%, Mexico 5.1%, Brazil 4.2% (2004)

There is no regular military force in Costa Rica.