Destination Spotlight: Costa Rica

3 02 2008

Costa Rica is high on the list of places to visit for many people due to it’s peaceful reputation, abundant wildlife, beautiful beaches, and amazing scenery. It is also one of the least expensive foreign countries to fly to from the United States, which makes it even better.  Located in Central America between Nicaragua and Panama, Costa Rica exists at the convergence of two continents and two huge bodies of water, making it a geographic bottleneck which produces great ecological diversity illustrated in the abundance of flora and fauna that awaits the traveler, including many endangered species. Howler monkeys, jaguars, pumas, poison dart frogs, toucans, tapirs, anteaters, sloths, macaws, turtles and crocodiles are just a few of the animals you may encounter during your visit to the pristine forests and tropical jungles. A true nature-lover’s paradise, Costa Rica has set 25% of its land aside as protected reserves, the highest percentage of any country in the world and an example to many of its neighbors who are struggling with land-use management. 6% of all the world’s known species can be found in Costa Rica, which represents just 0.03% of the world’s land- giving some idea of the rich diversity of flora and fauna in the country.

HISTORY: This region of Central America has been inhabited for over 10,000 years, proved by many artifacts left behind including most impressively dozens of perfectly shaped granite spheres, from the size of a baseball to a Volkswagen bus. The first European to set foot on Costa Rica was Christopher Columbus, who arrived in 1502 on his fourth and final journey to the Americas; however the name of “Rich Coast” was given by the Spanish explorer Gil Gonzalez Davila who was impressed by the gold bands worn in the noses and ears of the natives. Costa Rica has been a democratic nation since the 19th century and has the highest literacy rate in Latin America, 95%. Many of Costa Rica’s inhabitants are descendants of white European settlers, though there are African and indigenous peoples as well- some say over 90% of Costa Ricans have a little mestizo, or mixed blood. Today this vibrant cultural heritage comes through in the cuisine, communities, and way of life in the stable country which the traveler will appreciate as she journeys through the country. The main language spoken is Spanish and the currency is the colon.

GEOGRAPHY AND CLIMATE: Costa Rica has a wide range of geographic features as well. A string of mountains, offshoots of the Andes-Sierra Madre chain, form a backbone down the middle of the country from low hills in the north to high, rugged mountain in the south which offer incredible views of the diverse landscape. The eastern, Caribbean coast stretches for 132 miles and is known for its magnificent turtle habitats and heavy rainfall (300+ days a year), while the western, Pacific coastline is 780 miles long and boasts warmer weather and long, sandy beaches. There is no spring or fall in Costa Rica, just verano (summer) and invierno (winter), but the temperature often has a greater variance between night and day than between winter and summer! The average daily temperature is 80 degrees, the warmest months being March, April and May and the wettest months are September and October, and each season brings it’s own colorful flowers and plants.

HOW DO I GET TO COSTA RICA? Most flights will have one stop in the United States before continuing on to San Jose, Costa Rica’s capitol and economic center. From there, rent a car and head towards one of the many national parks or take a bus and hit the beach, or another option is to join a small group adventure tour that takes care of all of your accommodation and transportation and arranges activities for you.

posted by: Shilo