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10 Interesting Facts

Last Updated: May 29, 2012

zarcero church gardens park
 - Costa Rica

One of the most popular vacation destinations in Central America, Costa Rica is celebrated for its vast biodiversity, magnificent landscapes and natural wonders.  Learn more about this unique country with these fascinating facts.

  • Today, Costa Ricans are largely of European descent and an estimated 10% of the country’s population is Nicaraguan. Local indigenous tribes – Boruca, Chorotega, Guaymi, Bribri, Kekoldi and Cabecar – account for a mere 1% of the total population. 
  • The government made education both free and mandatory for all Costa Rican citizens in 1869. Costa Rica's education system is rated one of the best in all of Latin America and the country boasts a 96% literacy rate.
  • Costa Rica’s 1949 constitution guarantees freedom of religion, though the official state religion is Roman Catholicism. More than 75% of the population identifies as Catholic, though only 45% practice their faith. Evangelical Christians are the second largest religious group in Costa Rica. 
  • The second smallest Latin American country at 19,730 square miles (the size of West Virginia), Costa Rica hosts an incredible 5% of the world’s biodiversity. From coast to coast, the country spans no more than 200 miles in length and just 70 miles at its narrowest section.
  • The Environmental Performance Index (EPI) ranked Costa Rica the world’s “5th Greenest Country” in 2012. In an attempt to go entirely carbon neutral by 2021, the country initiated an immense reforestation program to help offset emissions.
  • Costa Rica is one of the planet’s largest exporters of microchips. Often called the Silicon Valley of Latin America, the country is no longer a cash crop nation. Microchips, software development, and tourism are the chief industries in Costa Rica's economy. Industry giants Intel, IBM, and Microsoft have distribution facilities within the country.
  • The country draws international praise for its modern health care system, ranked 36th in the world by the World Health Organization (WHO). Costa Rica has one of the world’s highest life expectancy rates at 77 years. The Nicoya Peninsula is considered one of the world’s seven Blue Zones, where people live longer, happier lives.
  • Costa Rica is flush with natural resources and generates 78% of its own renewable energy by hydroelectric means, and an additional 18% by geothermal or wind power. The government has voted against actions that could damage its lands, such as oil drilling and open-pit mining, though both would reap financial rewards.  
  • Generally speaking, Costa Rica is a relatively homogenous society, but the Caribbean province of Limon is home to thousands of Afro-Costa Ricans who observe the culture and traditions of their Jamaican ancestors.
  • Since Costa Rica is located so close to the equator, the sun rises and sets at roughly the same time throughout the year. The sunrise occurs at around 5:30 a.m. and the sunset at 5:30 p.m. There is no Daylight Savings Time, and Costa Rica’s time zone is the equivalent to either Mountain or Central Standard Time.
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