Costa Rica at a Glance

General Facts


 

Location: Located in Central America, Costa Rica is bordered by Nicaragua to the north, Panama to the southeast, the Pacific Ocean to the west, and the Caribbean Sea to the east.

Size: Because of its diversity, Costa Rica seems larger than it is. From north to south or east to west, the country runs only 200 miles, with the shortest distance between oceans at 75 miles. With a total surface of 19,730 square miles, only El Salvador and Belize are smaller in Central America.

Capital City: San Jose

Population: Almost 5 million. In all provinces except Limon, 98% are whites and mestizos; in Limon 33% are African-American and 3% are Indians.

Language: Spanish is the official language. English is spoken in tourist areas.

Currency: Costa Rica’s unit of currency is the colon. Visa and Mastercard are widely accepted by hotels, stores, and merchants; American Express to a lesser extent. Many banks can exchange currency and most hotels can also exchange dollars.

Entry requirements: US, Canadian, and citizens of most European countries do not need visas for stays of less than 90 days.

Driver’s license: Visitors may drive with international licenses for up to 90 days during their visit.

Shopping: Most of what you see in hotels and souvenir stores will be non-traditional handicrafts largely intended for the tourist market. Only a handful of indigenous crafts-pottery, hand-woven textiles and musical instruments made on a small scale can be found in stores and museums. Leatherwork and coffee are popular.

Weather: In general, altitude determines the climate. That said, Costa Rica is a tropical country with two distinctive seasons: The dry season, which runs from November through April and the rainy season from May through October. The rainy season is popularly known as the “green season” and is preferred by photographers and whitewater enthusiasts. Temperatures are in the low 70’s F in the highlands, generally hot in the lowlands, and very humid on the Caribbean side.

Electricity: 110-120V Local Time: UTC-6 hours (daylight saving time not applied)

Calling code: 506

Religion: Roman Catholicism is the official religion practiced by 60% of the population although freedom of religion is guaranteed by the constitution. Protestants follow with 20%

National Public Holidays:

Jan 1:  New Year’s Day.

Apr 11: Battle of Rivas / Juan Santamaria Day

Holy Week

May 1: Labor Day

June: Corpus Christi (exact date varies)

Jul 25: Guanacaste Annexation

Aug 2: Virgin of Los Angeles (Costa Rica’s Patron Saint, “La Negrita”)

Aug 15: Mother’s Day

Sep 15: Independence Day

Oct 12: Columbus Day

November 2: All Soul’s Day

Dec 8: Immaculate Conception

Dec 25: Christmas Day

 

Local Festivals:

Late February: Fiesta of the Diablitos (San Isidro del General)

Held south of San Isidro del General in the Boruca Indian Village of Rey Curre, it is a recreation of the fight between Indians (diablitos) and Spaniards (a bull), where colorful wooden masks and costumes create the scene, dances, and fireworks.

Second Sunday of March: Oxcart Driver’s Day (San Antonio de Escazu)

Held in San Antonio de Escazu, this picturesque festival features a colorful parade of oxcarts, games, and the blessing of the animals and crops by local priests.

Saturday closest to July 16: Virgin of the Sea (Puntarenas)

Held in the town of Puntarenas, celebrations focus around the colorful regatta of decorated fishing boats and yachts in the Nicoya Gulf carrying Puntarenas’ Patron Saint, the Virgin of Mt. Carmel. Festivities also include special masses, parades, concerts, dances, sports events, and fireworks.