Costa Rica at a Glance
San Jose, the largest city, and located in the Central Valley.
4.2 million people (estimated as of July 2008)
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.
Democratic Republic with popular elections every four years. No armed forces.
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.
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.
The official religion is Roman Catholic but everyone is free to worship their chosen faith.
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.
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.