Quick Facts

Costa Rica at a Glance

CAPITAL CITY

San Jose, the largest city, and located in the Central Valley.

POPULATION

4.2 million people (estimated as of July 2008)

AREA

51,100 square kilometers (19,730 square miles). Slightly smaller than the state of West Virginia.

Length is 464 km (288 mi), and width is 274 km (170 mi) with 1,290 km (805 mi) of coastline.

GOVERNMENT

Democratic Republic with popular elections every four years. No armed forces.

LANGUAGE

Spanish is the official language, but it is spoken with a characteristic accent that identifies the speaker as a Costa Rican. Many Costa Ricans, particularly in tourist areas, also speak English.

CURRENCY

The official currency is the Colon, named after Christopher Columbus (or “Cristobal Colon”). Currency exchanges can be carried out in most banks and hotels. Major credit cards are widely accepted.

RELIGION

The official religion is Roman Catholic but everyone is free to worship their chosen faith.

FOOD

Costa Rican cuisine offers a wide variety of choices ranging from the freshest tropical fruits and vegetables to exquisite seafood and indigenous dishes such as “gallo pinto” (or “spotted rooser”) consisting of rice lightly sautéed with beans and served with steak or eggs.

LITERACY RATE

About 95%

NATURAL HAZARDS

Occasional earthquakes; hurricanes along the Atlantic coast; possible flooding of lowlands and landslides at onset of rainy season; and active volcanoes in the Central Valley.