A Few What and Whys of Costa Rica (some random facts)

As we travel to new places we find ourselves asking two questions repetitively...why? and what? These two questions are the starting points to understanding so much about a country's culture, food and way of life. Below are a list of seemingly random facts about Costa Rica that we've found interesting, sometimes useless and generally helpful.


  • In 1502 Christopher Columbus became the first European to land on Costa Rican soil.
  • After their last civil war Costa Rica abolished its armed forces in 1949 and has no standing military; however, the country still maintains a small force to enforce laws and assist with foreign peacekeeping.


  • There are more than 121 volcanic formations in Costa Rica, and seven of them are active. Poas Volcano has the second widest crater in the world. 
  • Costa Rica is only slightly smaller than Lake Michigan. It has two coastlines and is technically an isthmus.
  • The country is divided into seven provinces (think of them as small states or counties). 


  • While Costa Rica takes up only .03% of the world’s land space, it possesses 4% of all known living species of flora and fauna. It is one of the top 20 countries with the greatest biodiversity in the world.
  • There are over 130 species of fish, 220 of reptiles, 1,000 butterflies (10% of the world’s butterflies are in Costa Rica!), 9,000 plants, 20,000 species of spiders and 34,000 species of insects! 
  • There are over 130 species of fish, 220 species of reptiles, and 9,000 species of plants.


  • The economy is primarily driven by ecotourism, technology and agriculture.
    • Ecotourism (tourism directed toward exotic, often threatened, natural environment) is big draw for visitors. You can see monkeys, sloth, parrots, and many other exotic animals in their natural habitats. Approximately 25% of the country has protected forests and reserves.  There are more than 100 different protected areas to visit.
    • Technology – Driven by tax incentives and a healthy pool of highly educated local workers, international tech companies like Intel, Acer, HP, Panasonic, Lucent, Siemens, Microsoft and many more have a presence in Costa Rica. If you are looking to move down here to work for one of them you may want to think twice. Costa Rican law protects the vast majority of those job for legal residents/citizen of Costa Rica.
    • Agriculture – Not surprisingly things grow well in Costa Rica’s tropical climate. Sizable exports include bananas (only Ecuador exports more), coffee, sugar, palm oil, dairy products, mangoes, and papayas 
  •  Costa Rica has a minimum wage structure. The average wage laborer makes around $15 US per day, the highest in Central America.


  • Like the rest of Central America the country does not observe daylight savings time. Depending on the time of year the country is either in the US Mountain or Central time zone.
  • Temperature remains constant (which is to say hot) throughout the year. But there are two seasons…rainy season (May-November) and dry season (December-April).  
  • Panama is farther north than Costa Rica (well at least parts of the country). The southern most point in Costa Rica is an uninhabited island called Cocos Island. It was actually used in shots for Jurassic Park. It is located farther south than the entire country of Panama.
  • The countryside is littered with small restaurants along the road and they all seem to have a big sign that says “Soda” out in front. In local terminology a soda is a small, informal restaurant.
  • The official national currency is the Colon but most businesses accept US dollars (and many sodas list prices in US dollars on their menus). One US Dollar is basically equivalent to 500 Colones. It can be shocking when you see your grocery bill at check out as 9,833. It’s okay, take a deep breath…it’s only $20.

REFERENCE - Thanks to the folks at RandomFacts.com who provided the basis for some of the facts in this post. For more information visit there list of 70 facts on Costa Rica found here

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