General Information Costa Rica
Costa Rica is a small country in Central America of 51,000 square kilometers, or, for those from the U.S., about the size of Vermont and New Hampshire combined. It has a population of approximately 4.7 million, a sizeable percentage (over 10%) of which is comprised of immigrants from other Latin American nations and from around the world. It is mountainous, with a great diversity of landscapes and climates in a small space. Although tropical, temperatures are mild and constant year-round, and cool at higher elevations. Costa Rica has coastlines on both the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea which can be visited in a single day, and is crossed by numerous rivers and streams fed by abundant rainfall. The Central Valley and the Pacific have distinct dry and rainy seasons (the dry season runs from December through April), while the Caribbeanslope experiences spells of rain and sunshine year-round. Costa Rica is famous for its biological diversity, much of which is protected and easily viewed in many national parks and wildlife reserves situated throughout the country. Costa Rica is bordered by Nicaragua to the north and Panama to the south.
Historically, Costa Rica is Latin America’s most stable democracy, and its population enjoys good health and long lives, and high levels of education. This is partly due to the fact that Costa Rica abolished its army in 1948 and dedicated those resources to schools and social development. Traditionally an agricultural country, in recent years Costa Rica’s economy has come to be increasingly based on high-tech manufacturing and service hubs established by international corporations, as well as on tourism. Nevertheless, farming is still an important part of the economy.
The levels of foreign investment in Costa Rica are among the highest per capita in Latin America, and in spite of the global economic crisis, the Costa Rican economy has continued to grow at a healthy rate. Fortunately, and mostly likely due to its relatively strong economy – which has enabled it to invest in security and an educated population –Costa Rica has not experienced the violence associated with the illegal drug trade that is devastating its northern Central American neighbors and Mexico.
Costa Rica as a nation has a strong commitment to the environment and sustainable development. Its extensive system of National Parks and reserves covers over 25% of its land area, and the country is presently working to implement a marine conservation strategy. Cost Rica generates around 90% of its electricity from renewable energy sources, mostly from hydroelectric dams, but also including wind and geothermal energy as well. The country has pledged to become the first carbon-neutral developing country by 2021.
The Happy Planet Index measures the extent to which countries deliver long, happy, lives for their residents, within environmental limits. The 2012 Happy Planet Index report ranks Costa Rica first among 151 countries evaluated.
The Southern Pacific Region
EcoRealtorsfocuses its efforts on the Southern Pacific region of Costa Rica, although it works in other parts of the country as well.
This region of the country is on the whole less developed than others, and contains a wide diversity of climates and ecosystems. The coast is warm and relatively wet, with a great deal of lush tropical forest that in many places reaches the water’s edge. The coastline is a picturesque series of long beaches, coves and rocky points, in many places fringed by coral reefs. National parks and other categories of natural reserves cover a significant portion of the coastline; these include Manuel Antonio, Corcovado and Piedras Blancas National Parks, the Ballena National Marine Park, the Isla delCaño Biological Reserve, and the TerrabaSierpe National Wetland, which contains the largest mangrove forest on the Pacific Coast of Central America. Corcovado National Park on the Osa Peninsula is especially spectacular, and is world-renowned for its extreme diversity of species of plants and animals. The Isla delCaño is an attraction for divers, and offers the possibility of seeing whales and large numbers of dolphins at close range. Throughout the Southern Pacific region, wildlife is abundant and easily observed.
In much of the region, hills rise quickly from a narrow coastal plain, offering spectacular views of the ocean and coastline. These hills harbormany small communities which enjoy cool mountain temperatures while situated only a short drive from the sea. Farther inland is a broad fertile valley, theValle del General, where most of Costa Rica’s pineapples are grown on large plantations. Beyond the valley, a massive mountain range, the Cordillera de Talamanca, rises sharply to heights of nearly 4,000 meters, or over 12,000 feet. The Cordillera contains Cerro Chirippo –Costa Rica’s highest peak, beautiful oak forests, and is the birthplace of many of the country’s most important rivers. TheCordillera is also home to numerous indigenous communities. Much of its higher elevations are included in La Amistad National Park, which is part of a bi-national conservation initiative shared with Panama.
The most important coastal communities of the Southern Pacific Zone are Quepos – the site of Manuel Antonio National Park, Dominical, Uvita, Golfito, Drake Bay and Puerto Jimenez. Significant inland communities are San Isidro in the Valle del General, which serves as the de facto capital of the southern zone, and the mountainous coffee-growing community of San Vito, established after World War II by a colony of Italian immigrants. Jaco, Quepos,Dominical and Uvita have attracted a large number of North Americans and Europeans who live in the area either part-time or year-round, whereas Puerto Jimenez and Drake Bay on thewilder and more remote Osa Peninsula farther south are magnets for the more adventurous. Recently, the hills surrounding Dominical and San Isidro have become a dynamic center for small sustainable communities.
Recreational opportunities in theSouthern Pacific zone include excellent surfing, whitewater rafting, fishing, hiking and bird watching, and, in general, appreciation of one of the Americas’ most beautiful and unspoiled natural areas.
The government has developed plans to build an international airport in the region, which has sparked a debate between its promoters, who believe that it will be a strong engine for economic development, and those who fear that such development will threaten the region’s delicate environment. A similar debate surrounds the construction of a large hydroelectric project on the Rio Térraba.