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Costa Rica

Image by Zdeněk Macháček





Image by Juliana Barquero


Image by Fabio Fistarol


Image by Zdeněk Macháček


Image by Josué Barboza Navas




General Information

Image by Alexandra Tran

Costa Rica is a Democratic Republic, divided into 7 provinces. Neighbors are Nicaragua to the north, and Panama to the south. The Capital being San José, with a climate divided into two seasons: dry season and rainy season.

Costa Rica is a very mountainous country and most of the territory is formed by elevations between 900 and 1800 meters above sea level. There are four main mountain systems: the Guanacaste Volcanic mountain range, the Tilarán Minera mountain range, the Central Volcanic mountain range and the Talamanca mountain range, there are also four secondary mountain systems: Nicoya mountain ranges located in the Guanacaste province; Brunqueña row or Coastal row that runs through the province of Puntarenas parallel to the coast; and the Sierra de Osa, in the South Pacific, a series of mountains that extend to Panama, has heights between 600 and 1500 meters above sea level. The highest point in the country is the Chirripó hill (3820 masl), the fifth highest peak in Central America. The highest volcano is the Irazú volcano (3432 masl). The country has about 200 volcanoes, of which five are active: Irazú, Poás, Arenal, Rincón de la Vieja and Turrialba.

Costa Rica takes pride in its history and conservationism! An extensive effort in preserving the natural resources enclosed within 51,100 km2, and holding around 6% of the world’s biodiversity. Costa Rica began reversing deforestation in the 1990s, and they are moving towards using only renewable energy. One of the highlights of our nation, is the abolition of the military force back on December 1st, 1948, by the year 1949 the complete abolition was introduced in Article 12, of the Costa Rican Constitution. From here on the military budget was invested in education and health care. 

Not only does the country invest in green initiatives, but the culture has also been shaped around this idea of conservation and efforts in individual communities through activism. You will find nature, culture, and a tight correlation between a history of peace and the Pura Vida vibe!

Image by Christian Holzinger

History Overview


During the pre-Columbian era, presence of the Mesoamerican and Andean native cultures overlapped. More recently, pre-Columbian Costa Rica has also been described as part of the Isthmo-Colombian Area. The presence of hunters-gatherers can be dated back to 10.000 to 7.000 BCE, it's likely that two cultures co-existed together. Around 5.000 years later the development of agriculture with basics as roots and tubers, the exact process of transition from gatherers to agriculture is unknown, evidence of pottery, vases, platters and other tools can be found in 2.000 BCE. 

The origin of the name Costa Rica “rich coast” can be either attributed to Cristopher Columbus or Gil González Davila, who respectively arrived in Costa Rica in 1502 and 1522. The reason is believed to be the amount of gold jewellery worn by local tribes. During most of the colonial period Costa Rica belonged to the Captaincy General of Guatemala, nominally part of the Viceroyalty of New Spain. The distance from the captaincy,  the lack of resources such as gold, silver and indigenous population for encomienda (forced labour) made Costa Rica the poorest of the Spaniard colonies, this prevented the establishment of large plantations. Overlooked by the Spanish Crown, Costa Rica was left to develop on its own. The result was the development of a more egalitarian society, Costa Rica becoming a “rural democracy” with no oppression of mestizo or indigenous descendants.


Like the rest of Central America, Costa Rica gained independence on September 15 1821, after the defeat of the Spanish in the Mexican War of Independence (1810-1821). Upon independence two bands were formed, both with different political interests, the Imperialists, in favor joining the Mexican empire, defended by Cartago and Heredia cities. The cities of San Jose and Alajuela who wanted full independence.  After disagreements between the two bands, the first civil war took place. The Battle of Ochomogo took place in the Central Valley in 1823. The Republicans won the war, the city of Cartago lost its status as capital, to this day San Jose was chosen as the new capital. 


After the Federal Republic of Central America ceased to exist, Costa Rica formally proclaimed itself sovereign. Cutting ties from the rest of Central America and becoming fully independent.


The economic growth of the country has been widely based on the production of basic grains and products: tobacco, sugar and cacao were the primary exports. By the 1820´s coffee became the main production, this created a wealthy class of Coffee Barons, the revenue helped modernize the country. The main consumer of coffee was Britain, this pushed the construction of the railroad from San Jose to Limon port, U.S. businessman Minor C. Keith was hired to build the project which started in 1870, after many delays, disease and financial difficulties the project was completed by 1890 with the help of Jamaican, US convicts, Italians and Chinese immigrants. In exchange for the work the Costa Rican government granted Mr Keith large tracts of land and a lease on the train route, which he used to produce bananas and export them to the United States. Eventually bananas became the main product for exportation, opening the doors to exploitative companies as United Fruit Company, this lead to The Great Banana Strike, this major event in was an important step towards the formation of effective trade unions in Costa Rica, by 1938 the company was required to sign collective agreements with workers.