page last updated on October 28, 2009
Flag of Costa Rica
Location of Costa Rica
 
Map of Costa Rica
Introduction ::Costa Rica
Although explored by the Spanish early in the 16th century, initial attempts at colonizing Costa Rica proved unsuccessful due to a combination of factors, including: disease from mosquito-infested swamps, brutal heat, resistance by natives, and pirate raids. It was not until 1563 that a permanent settlement of Cartago was established in the cooler, fertile central highlands. The area remained a colony for some two and a half centuries. In 1821, Costa Rica became one of several Central American provinces that jointly declared their independence from Spain. Two years later it joined the United Provinces of Central America, but this federation disintegrated in 1838, at which time Costa Rica proclaimed its sovereignty and independence. Since the late 19th century, only two brief periods of violence have marred the country's democratic development. Although it still maintains a large agricultural sector, Costa Rica has expanded its economy to include strong technology and tourism industries. The standard of living is relatively high. Land ownership is widespread. In January 2008, Costa Rica assumed a nonpermanent seat on the UN Security Council for the 2008-09 term.
Geography ::Costa Rica
Central America, bordering both the Caribbean Sea and the North Pacific Ocean, between Nicaragua and Panama
10 00 N, 84 00 W
total: 51,100 sq km
country comparison to the world: 129
land: 51,060 sq km
water: 40 sq km
note: includes Isla del Coco
slightly smaller than West Virginia
total: 639 km
border countries: Nicaragua 309 km, Panama 330 km
1,290 km
territorial sea: 12 nm
exclusive economic zone: 200 nm
continental shelf: 200 nm
tropical and subtropical; dry season (December to April); rainy season (May to November); cooler in highlands
coastal plains separated by rugged mountains including over 100 volcanic cones, of which several are major volcanoes
lowest point: Pacific Ocean 0 m
highest point: Cerro Chirripo 3,810 m
hydropower
arable land: 4.4%
permanent crops: 5.87%
other: 89.73% (2005)
1,080 sq km (2003)
112.4 cu km (2000)
total: 2.68 cu km/yr (29%/17%/53%)
per capita: 619 cu m/yr (2000)
occasional earthquakes, hurricanes along Atlantic coast; frequent flooding of lowlands at onset of rainy season and landslides; active volcanoes
deforestation and land use change, largely a result of the clearing of land for cattle ranching and agriculture; soil erosion; coastal marine pollution; fisheries protection; solid waste management; air pollution
party to: Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Endangered Species, Environmental Modification, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Marine Dumping, Ozone Layer Protection, Wetlands, Whaling
signed, but not ratified: Marine Life Conservation
four volcanoes, two of them active, rise near the capital of San Jose in the center of the country; one of the volcanoes, Irazu, erupted destructively in 1963-65
People ::Costa Rica
4,253,877 (July 2009 est.)
country comparison to the world: 123
0-14 years: 26.7% (male 581,916/female 555,216)
15-64 years: 67.1% (male 1,443,606/female 1,411,168)
65 years and over: 6.2% (male 120,969/female 141,002) (2009 est.)
total: 27.5 years
male: 27.1 years
female: 28 years (2009 est.)
1.356% (2009 est.)
country comparison to the world: 100
17.43 births/1,000 population (2009 est.)
country comparison to the world: 118
4.34 deaths/1,000 population (July 2009 est.)
country comparison to the world: 205
0.47 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2009 est.)
country comparison to the world: 65
urban population: 63% of total population (2008)
rate of urbanization: 2.3% annual rate of change (2005-10 est.)
at birth: 1.05 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.05 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 1.02 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.86 male(s)/female
total population: 1.02 male(s)/female (2009 est.)
total: 8.77 deaths/1,000 live births
country comparison to the world: 160
male: 9.66 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 7.83 deaths/1,000 live births (2009 est.)
total population: 77.58 years
country comparison to the world: 54
male: 74.96 years
female: 80.34 years (2009 est.)
2.14 children born/woman (2009 est.)
country comparison to the world: 120
0.4% (2007 est.)
country comparison to the world: 84
9,700 (2007 est.)
country comparison to the world: 106
fewer than 200 (2007 est.)
country comparison to the world: 123
degree of risk: intermediate
food or waterborne diseases: bacterial diarrhea
vectorborne diseases: dengue fever (2009)
noun: Costa Rican(s)
adjective: Costa Rican
white (including mestizo) 94%, black 3%, Amerindian 1%, Chinese 1%, other 1%
Roman Catholic 76.3%, Evangelical 13.7%, Jehovah's Witnesses 1.3%, other Protestant 0.7%, other 4.8%, none 3.2%
Spanish (official), English
definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 94.9%
male: 94.7%
female: 95.1% (2000 census)
total: 12 years
male: 12 years
female: 12 years (2005)
4.9% of GDP (2004)
country comparison to the world: 76
Government ::Costa Rica
conventional long form: Republic of Costa Rica
conventional short form: Costa Rica
local long form: Republica de Costa Rica
local short form: Costa Rica
democratic republic
name: San Jose
geographic coordinates: 9 56 N, 84 05 W
time difference: UTC-6 (1 hour behind Washington, DC during Standard Time)
7 provinces (provincias, singular - provincia); Alajuela, Cartago, Guanacaste, Heredia, Limon, Puntarenas, San Jose
15 September 1821 (from Spain)
Independence Day, 15 September (1821)
7 November 1949
based on Spanish civil law system; judicial review of legislative acts in the Supreme Court; has accepted compulsory ICJ jurisdiction
18 years of age; universal and compulsory
chief of state: President Oscar ARIAS Sanchez (since 8 May 2006); First Vice President (vacant); Second Vice President (vacant); note - the president is both the chief of state and head of government
head of government: President Oscar ARIAS Sanchez (since 8 May 2006); First Vice President (vacant); Second Vice President (vacant)
cabinet: Cabinet selected by the president
elections: president and vice presidents elected on the same ticket by popular vote for a single four-year term; election last held 5 February 2006 (next to be held in February 2010)
election results: Oscar ARIAS Sanchez elected president; percent of vote - Oscar ARIAS Sanchez (PLN) 40.9%; Otton SOLIS (PAC) 39.8%, Otto GUEVARA Guth (PML) 8%, Ricardo TOLEDO (PUSC) 3%
unicameral Legislative Assembly or Asamblea Legislativa (57 seats; members are elected by direct, popular vote to serve four-year terms)
elections: last held 5 February 2006 (next to be held in February 2010)
election results: percent of vote by party - NA; seats by party - PLN 25, PAC 17, PML 6, PUSC 5, PASE 1, PFA 1, PRN 1, PUN 1; note - as of 1 January 2009: seats by party - PLN 25, PAC 16, PML 5, PUSC 5, PASE 1, PFA 1, PRN 1, independent 3
Supreme Court or Corte Suprema (22 justices are elected for renewable eight-year terms by the Legislative Assembly)
Authentic Member from Heredia [Jose SALAS]; Citizen Action Party or PAC [Epsy CAMPBELL Barr]; Costa Rican Renovation Party or PRC [Gerardo Justo OROZCO Alvarez]; Democratic Force Party or PFD [Marco NUNEZ Gonzalez]; General Union Party or PUGEN [Carlos Alberto FERNANDEZ Vega]; Homeland First or PP [Juan Jose VARGAS Fallas]; Independent Worker Party or PIO [Jose Alberto CUBERO Carmona]; Libertarian Movement Party or PML [Otto GUEVARA Guth]; National Christian Alliance Party or ANC [Juan Carlos CHAVEZ Mora]; National Integration Party or PIN [Walter MUNOZ Cespedes]; National Liberation Party or PLN [Francisco Antonio PACHECO Fernandez]; National Patriotic Party or PPN [Daniel Enrique REYNOLDS Vargas]; National Restoration Party or PRN [Fabio Enrique DELGADO Hernandez]; National Union Party or PUN [Arturo ACOSTA Mora]; Nationalist Democratic Alliance or ADN [Jose Miguel VILLALOBOS Umana]; Patriotic Union or UP [Jose Miguel CORRALES Bolanos]; Social Christian Unity Party or PUSC [Luis FISHMAN Zonzinski]; Union for Change Party or UPC [Antonio ALVAREZ Desanti]; United Leftist Coalition or IU [Humberto VARGAS Carbonel]
Authentic Confederation of Democratic Workers or CATD (Communist Party affiliate); Chamber of Coffee Growers; Confederated Union of Workers or CUT (Communist Party affiliate); Costa Rican Confederation of Democratic Workers or CCTD (Liberation Party affiliate); Costa Rican Exporter's Chamber or CADEXCO; Costa Rican Solidarity Movement; Costa Rican Union of Private Sector Enterprises or UCCAEP [Rafael CARRILLO]; Federation of Public Service Workers or FTSP; National Association for Economic Development or ANFE; National Association of Educators or ANDE; National Association of Public and Private Employees or ANEP [Albino VARGAS]; Rerum Novarum or CTRN (PLN affiliate) [Gilbert BROWN]
BCIE, CACM, FAO, G-77, IADB, IAEA, IBRD, ICAO, ICC, ICCt, ICRM, IDA, IFAD, IFC, IFRCS, ILO, IMF, IMO, IMSO, Interpol, IOC, IOM, IPU, ISO, ITSO, ITU, ITUC, LAES, LAIA (observer), MIGA, NAM (observer), OAS, OPANAL, OPCW, PCA, RG, SICA, UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNHCR, UNIDO, Union Latina, UNWTO, UPU, WCL, WCO, WFTU, WHO, WIPO, WMO, WTO
chief of mission: Ambassador Luis DIEGO Escalante
chancery: 2114 S Street NW, Washington, DC 20008
telephone: [1] (202) 234-2945 or 2946
FAX: [1] (202) 265-4795
consulate(s) general: Atlanta, Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, New Orleans, New York, San Francisco, San Juan (Puerto Rico)
chief of mission: Ambassador Peter CIANCHETTE
embassy: Calle 120 Avenida O, Pavas, San Jose
mailing address: APO AA 34020
telephone: [506] 519-2000
FAX: [506] 519-2305
five horizontal bands of blue (top), white, red (double width), white, and blue, with the coat of arms in a white elliptical disk on the hoist side of the red band; above the coat of arms a light blue ribbon contains the words, AMERICA CENTRAL, and just below it near the top of the coat of arms is a white ribbon with the words, REPUBLICA COSTA RICA
Economy ::Costa Rica
Costa Rica's basically stable economy depends on tourism, agriculture, and electronics exports. Exports have become more diversified in the past 10 years due to the growth of the high-tech manufacturing sector, which is dominated by the microprocessor industry and the production of medical devices. Tourism continues to bring in foreign exchange, as Costa Rica's impressive biodiversity makes it a key destination for ecotourism. Foreign investors remain attracted by the country's political stability and relatively high education levels, as well as the fiscal incentives offered in the free-trade zones. Costa Rica has attracted one of the highest levels of foreign direct investment per capita in Latin America. Poverty has remained around 20% for nearly 20 years, and the strong social safety net that had been put into place by the government has eroded due to increased financial constraints on government expenditures. Immigration from Nicaragua has increasingly become a concern for the government. The estimated 300,000-500,000 Nicaraguans in Costa Rica legally and illegally are an important source of - mostly unskilled - labor, but also place heavy demands on the social welfare system. Under the ARIAS administration, the government has made strides in reducing internal and external debt - in 2007, Costa Rica had its first budget surplus in 50 years. Reducing inflation remains a difficult problem because of rising commodity import prices and labor market rigidities, though lower oil prices will decrease upward pressures. The Central Bank is moving towards a more flexible exchange rate system to focus on inflation targeting by 2010. The US-Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) entered into force on 1 January 2009, after significant delays within the Costa Rican legislature. Nevertheless, economic growth has slowed in 2009 as the global downturn reduced export demand and invesment inflows.
$48.32 billion (2008 est.)
country comparison to the world: 89
$47.05 billion (2007 est.)
$44.06 billion (2006 est.)
note: data are in 2008 US dollars
$29.83 billion (2008 est.)
2.7% (2008 est.)
country comparison to the world: 135
6.8% (2007 est.)
8.8% (2006 est.)
$11,500 (2008 est.)
country comparison to the world: 95
$11,400 (2007 est.)
$10,800 (2006 est.)
note: data are in 2008 US dollars
agriculture: 6.5%
industry: 25.9%
services: 67.6% (2008 est.)
2.06 million
country comparison to the world: 120
note: this official estimate excludes Nicaraguans living in Costa Rica (2008 est.)
agriculture: 14%
industry: 22%
services: 64% (2006 est.)
4.9% (2008 est.)
country comparison to the world: 59
4.6% (2007 est.)
16% (2006 est.)
lowest 10%: 1.5%
highest 10%: 35.5% (2005)
48 (2008)
country comparison to the world: 31
45.9 (1997)
24.3% of GDP (2008 est.)
country comparison to the world: 57
revenues: $4.6 billion
expenditures: $4.531 billion (2008 est.)
42.2% of GDP (2008 est.)
country comparison to the world: 50
58% of GDP (2004 est.)
13.4% (2008 est.)
country comparison to the world: 183
9.4% (2007 est.)
25% (31 December 2008)
country comparison to the world: 10
17% (31 December 2007)
NA% (31 December 2008)
country comparison to the world: 65
12.8% (31 December 2007)
$4.209 billion (31 December 2008)
country comparison to the world: 70
$4.504 billion (31 December 2007)
$3.143 billion (31 December 2008)
country comparison to the world: 96
$2.87 billion (31 December 2007)
$15.15 billion (31 December 2008)
country comparison to the world: 81
$12.91 billion (31 December 2007)
$NA (31 December 2008)
country comparison to the world: 98
$2.035 billion (31 December 2007)
$1.944 billion (31 December 2006)
bananas, pineapples, coffee, melons, ornamental plants, sugar, corn, rice, beans, potatoes; beef, poultry, dairy; timber
microprocessors, food processing, medical equipment, textiles and clothing, construction materials, fertilizer, plastic products
-1.1% (2008 est.)
country comparison to the world: 145
8.808 billion kWh (2007 est.)
country comparison to the world: 96
8.064 billion kWh (2007 est.)
country comparison to the world: 91
77.16 million kWh (2008 est.)
203.2 million kWh (2007 est.)
0 bbl/day (2008 est.)
country comparison to the world: 197
45,000 bbl/day (2008 est.)
country comparison to the world: 98
2,117 bbl/day (2007 est.)
country comparison to the world: 114
47,860 bbl/day (2007 est.)
country comparison to the world: 88
0 bbl
country comparison to the world: 195
0 cu m (2008 est.)
country comparison to the world: 195
0 cu m (2008 est.)
country comparison to the world: 196
0 cu m (2008)
country comparison to the world: 180
0 cu m (2008 est.)
country comparison to the world: 187
0 cu m (1 January 2009 est.)
country comparison to the world: 193
$-2.661 billion (2008 est.)
country comparison to the world: 143
$-1.578 billion (2007 est.)
$9.738 billion (2008 est.)
country comparison to the world: 88
$9.266 billion (2007 est.)
bananas, pineapples, coffee, melons, ornamental plants, sugar; seafood; electronic components, medical equipment
US 23.4%, China 13.4%, Netherlands 13%, Mexico 5.2%, UK 4.9% (2008)
$14.55 billion (2008 est.)
country comparison to the world: 83
$12.29 billion (2007 est.)
raw materials, consumer goods, capital equipment, petroleum, construction materials
US 43.3%, Venezuela 6.4%, Mexico 6%, Japan 5.4%, China 5.2%, Brazil 4.2% (2008)
$3.799 billion (31 December 2008 est.)
country comparison to the world: 89
$4.114 billion (31 December 2007 est.)
$9.205 billion (31 December 2008)
country comparison to the world: 87
$8.416 billion (31 December 2007)
$18.96 billion (31 December 2008)
country comparison to the world: 63
$8.803 billion (31 December 2007 est.)
$532 million (31 December 2008 est.)
country comparison to the world: 74
$525.9 million (31 December 2007 est.)
Costa Rican colones (CRC) per US dollar - 530.41 (2008 est.), 519.53 (2007), 511.3 (2006), 477.79 (2005), 437.91 (2004)
Communications ::Costa Rica
1.438 million (2008)
country comparison to the world: 66
1.887 million (2008)
country comparison to the world: 122
general assessment: good domestic telephone service in terms of breadth of coverage; restricted cellular telephone service; state-run monopoly provider is struggling with the demand for new lines, resulting in long waiting times
domestic: point-to-point and point-to-multi-point microwave, fiber-optic, and coaxial cable link rural areas; Internet service is available
international: country code - 506; landing point for the Americas Region Caribbean Ring System (ARCOS-1) fiber-optic telecommunications submarine cable and the MAYA-1 submarine cable that provide links to South and Central America, parts of the Caribbean, and the US; connected to Central American Microwave System; satellite earth stations - 2 Intelsat (Atlantic Ocean) (2007)
AM 65, FM 51, shortwave 19 (2002)
20 (plus 43 repeaters) (2002)
.cr
34,066 (2009)
country comparison to the world: 89
1.46 million (2008)
country comparison to the world: 76
Transportation ::Costa Rica
151 (2009)
country comparison to the world: 36
total: 38
2,438 to 3,047 m: 2
1,524 to 2,437 m: 2
914 to 1,523 m: 22
under 914 m: 12 (2009)
total: 113
914 to 1,523 m: 19
under 914 m: 94 (2009)
refined products 796 km (2008)
total: 278 km
country comparison to the world: 124
narrow gauge: 278 km 1.067-m gauge
note: none of the railway network is in use (2008)
total: 35,330 km
country comparison to the world: 94
paved: 8,621 km
unpaved: 26,709 km (2004)
730 km (seasonally navigable by small craft) (2008)
country comparison to the world: 75
total: 1
country comparison to the world: 161
by type: passenger/cargo 1 (2008)
Caldera, Puerto Limon
Military ::Costa Rica
no regular military forces; Ministry of Public Security, Government, and Police (2009)
males age 16-49: 1,134,205
females age 16-49: 1,095,763 (2008 est.)
males age 16-49: 971,224
females age 16-49: 936,978 (2009 est.)
male: 40,698
female: 38,808 (2009 est.)
0.4% of GDP (2006)
country comparison to the world: 164
Transnational Issues ::Costa Rica
the ICJ has given Costa Rica until January 2008 to reply and Nicaragua until July 2008 to rejoin before rendering its decision on the navigation, security, and commercial rights of Costa Rican vessels on the Río San Juan over which Nicaragua retains sovereignty
refugees (country of origin): 9,699-11,500 (Colombia) (2007)
current situation: Costa Rica is a source, transit, and destination country for men, women, and children trafficked for the purposes of commercial sexual exploitation and forced labor; women and girls from neighboring states, Russia, Uzbekistan, and the Philippines are trafficked into the country for sexual exploitation; Costa Rica also serves as a transit point for victims trafficked to North America and Europe; the government identifies child sex tourism as a serious problem; men, women, and children are also trafficked within the country for forced labor in fishing and construction, and as domestic servants
tier rating: Tier 2 Watch List - Costa Rica is on the Tier 2 Watch List for its failure to provide evidence of increasing efforts to combat human trafficking, particularly in terms of its failure to improve its inadequate assistance to victims; while Costa Rican officials recognize human trafficking as a serious problem, the lack of a stronger response by the government is of concern (2008)
transshipment country for cocaine and heroin from South America; illicit production of cannabis in remote areas; domestic cocaine consumption, particularly crack cocaine, is rising; significant consumption of amphetamines; seizures of smuggled cash in Costa Rica and at the main border crossing to enter Costa Rica from Nicaragua have risen in recent years (2008)