Costa Rica is a small Central American country of 19,730 square miles (51,100 sq kilometers), about the size of New Hampshire, New Jersey and Rhode Island combined (about 2,000 sq km smaller than the province of Nova Scotia). It is bordered by the Pacific Ocean on the West and the Caribbean on the East; Nicaragua to the North, and Panamá to the South. Crossing from one coast to the other takes about six/seven hours by land; traveling overland from the northern to southern border takes about 10-11 hours on the Interamerican Highway.
The almost two million tourists — and the many thousands of medical tourists from the United States, Canada and Europe — who visit Costa Rica each year do so for good reason. Costa Rica is a fantastically gorgeous country which offers some of the worlds top beaches; the majestic, active Arenal volcano; lush, exotic, fantasy-green rain and cloud forests, and a seemingly never-ending range of tropical animal and plant life. There are also first-class hotels, excellent dining and all kinds of wonderful things to see and do.
Along with its unparalleled and impressive scenic beauty reinforced by a consolidated system of protected wildlife areas and eco-businesses. The Costa Rica government is socially and politically stable, has excellent medical and public health facilities and schools at all levels, and is blessed with an expanding, modern communications, transportation and services infrastructure.
Costa Rica is one of the biologically wealthiest nations in the world. The country’s varied natural environments include lowland rainforests, coral reefs, sultry swamps and lush cloud forests. Each is home to a wealth of animal life. This treasure trove of tropical flora and fauna is exemplified by the more than 9,000 different kinds of flowering plants, approximately 850 species of birds – more than are found in the United States and Canada combined – 205 species of mammals, 376 reptile and amphibian species and about 10 percent of the world’s butterfly species. Costa Rica has 20 national parks, eight wildlife refuges, a national archaeological monument, 26 protected forest areas, nine forest reserves, seven wildlife sanctuaries, and a national forest. Protected areas total 27% of the country’s territory. Because of its commitment to preserving the environment, in 1992 Costa Rica was made the world headquarters of the ‘Earth Council’ and recently was elected to host the first medical tourism conference.
Costa Rica’s natural wealth appears boundless:
- 130 species of freshwater fish
- 160 species of amphibians
- 208 species of mammals
- 220 species of reptiles
- 850 species of birds
- 1,000 species of butterflies
- 1,200 varieties of orchids
- 9,000 species of plants
- Natural canal systems through jungles
- Cloud forests
- Coral reefs
- Deciduous forests
- Elevations from sea level to 12,529 feet
- Mangrove swamps
- Rain forests
- Tropical dry forests
- Volcanoes (112 craters)
- White, black and pink shell beaches on both coasts
- Extensive river networks
- And a whole lot more!
With a valid passport and a round-trip or continuing ticket, citizens of the United States, Canada, Germany, Spain, France, Italy and other European countries can enter Costa Rica for a period of 90 days.
Costa Rica is a tropical country located between 8 and 11 degrees north of the Equator. There are two well defined seasons: the rainy season or winter (invierno), and the dry season or summer (verano), with basically one main difference between them: rainfall averages. The Dry Season runs from December to April, and the Rainy Season from May to November. Seasonal changes do not bring significant changes in temperatures, although nights may be cooler in some areas during the rainy season. Mornings will usually be sunny all year round. When it rains, temperatures will drop slightly, mostly because of the humidity and winds.
Costa Rica has a very good health care system. Its health care system is considered one of the three best in Latin America, and was ranked even higher than the United States, according to the World Health Organization. Many doctors practicing in Costa Rica have taken advanced training or have studied abroad, primarily in the United States. Costa Rica’s health care system, modeled after the Canadian system, includes both public and private care providers. Universal accessibility to public health care is guaranteed.
Costa Rica is truly one of the world’s most delightful and most exciting tropical vacation destinations and a leader in eco-tourism. There are not only tropical rainforests and beautiful beaches but also some surprises – active volcanoes and windswept mountain tops. Although Costa Rica is a small country, a large variety of tropical habitats are found within it – and they are protected by the best developed conservation program in Latin America. There is no shortage of beaches. Some have been developed for tourism while others are remote and rarely visited. Wherever you stay, you are likely to find a preserved area within driving distance where you will find monkeys near the beaches.
Adventurous travelers can snorkel on tropical reefs, surf some of the best breaks in Central America, or enjoy some of the most thrilling white water rafting anywhere in the tropics. Costa Rica’s saltwater fishing is among the world’s best all year round, and freshwater anglers will find the rivers and lakes extremely rewarding. The transportation system is inexpensive and covers the whole country, so Costa Rica is both one of the most beautiful and one of the easiest tropical countries to travel in.
Costa Ricans, or ‘Ticos’, are happy, friendly, gracious people. One of the best travel tips in Costa Rica is ‘Just Smile’. Their common greeting is ‘Pura Vida!’ (‘Pure Life’, or better still, ‘Life is Good’). There is little abject poverty and a thriving but slowly declining middle class. The 96 percent literacy rate is the highest in Latin America. Primary education (Grades 1 through 6) is free and compulsory for all. Life expectancy is about the same as in the U.S.: 76 years for men, 81 years for women.