Costa Rica covers 51,100 sq. km and is about nine times smaller than the UK. It borders both the Caribbean Sea and the North Pacific Ocean. The coastal plains are low, contrasting with the tall volcanic mountain ranges that lie between them. The country’s highest peak, Cerro Chirripó, has an altitude of 3,819 m. Costa Rica has two neighbours: Nicaragua to the north and Panama to the south. A large part of Costa Rica has been declared a protected reserve for good reason. Despite having been colonized by Spain, it was largely left to develop on its own due to its lack of treasures such as gold. For such a relatively small country, it is enormously diverse biologically and includes 200 species of mammals, 350 species of reptiles and amphibians, 850 bird species, 10.000 different plants and some 40.000 types of insect. Costa Rica has rainforests, cloud forests, active volcanoes, savannahs, mangrove forests, high mountains, palm beaches and coral reefs. Costa Rica is relatively sparsely populated and counts just four million inhabitants. Most economic, cultural and political activities are confined to the capital, San José. The city is in the central highlands, surrounded by ever-present volcanoes. But as soon as you leave San José, you feel as if you are travelling back in time surrounded by peace and nature. The eastern part of Costa Rica is mainly known for its banana plantations yet also houses the world’s most important turtle breading grounds in the Tortuguero National Park. The west side boasts the most stunning beaches and a chain of idyllic bays.
Flora and fauna
Costa Rica’s flora and fauna is abundant. The region is characterized by large differences in climate. A mountain range, consisting mainly of volcanoes, divides the country in two. The western coastal area has special flora, mainly semi-tropical rainforests due to the rainy season here. These largely unaffected forests are still home for special animal species such as poison-arrow frogs, jaguars and white-faced capuchin monkeys. The mountain chain is completely different, mainly rain and cloud forest. A notable example is the Monteverde Cloud Forest, home to the magnificent quetzal, a bird honoured by the Maya’s. An extraordinary number of hummingbird species are seen here to. The eastern lowland was once a tropical jungle, but has become a plantation area. There are many beautiful spots, where howler monkeys wake you up in the morning. A special feature in this region is the Tortuguero National Park, where between July and October, green turtles come ashore in great numbers (arribadas) to lay their eggs.