May 25 2008

About Costa Rica: Fast Facts

Costa Rica is in Central America, bordered on the north by Nicaragua and on the south by Panama. To the east is the Caribbean coast and to the west is the Pacific Ocean. This small country measures just under 20,000 square miles and is in the Central Time Zone. The telephone area code for the entire country is (506), though to expand their capacity for phone numbers, they added an 8th digit to each telephone number.

Geographically, it is divided into seven provinces; the capital, San Jose, is located in the San Jose province. Costa Rica’s elevation ranges from sea level at the coasts, to up to 12,000 feet above sea level at Cerro Chirrapo. It’s a small country. Everything is close, including the mountains and the beaches. You can drive from one coast to the other in about 5 hours.

Economically, the main industries are tourism, food processing, construction materials, and microprocessors -– Intel and HP are among the major corporations doing business here. Costa Rica is a large producer of beef and timber-–some of the most beautiful exotic woods in the world.

In 1848, the First Lady, Pacifica Fernandez Oreamuno, designed the flag of Costa Rica. The flag was designed after the ideals of the French Revolution – freedom, equality, and brotherhood – and the colors of the French National Flag…Each color represents important aspects of Costa Rica: Blue means the sky, opportunities at reach, intellectual thinking, perseverance to accomplish a goal, infinite, eternity, and ideals of the religious and spiritual desires. White means clear thinking, happiness, wisdom, power and beauty of the sky, the driving force of initiatives to search for new endeavors, and the peace of Costa Rica. Red means the warmth of Costa Rican people, their love to live, their blood shed for freedom, and their generous attitude (taken from

Their currency is the colon, however the U.S. dollar is their second currency and is accepted in many places. At this time (April 2008), the exchange rate is about 500 colones to the dollar.  To track the daily rate, use the currency converter at the Central Bank of Costa Rica website.

Be sure to visit Costa Rica’s official tourism site for more information. If you would like to dig deeper, there is a wealth of information available in Costa Rica’s Twelfth State of the National Report on Sustainable Human Development (2005) [Note: the document is 80 .pdf pages and will take a few moments to load. You can skim the table of contents to read about your areas of interest.)

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