Costa Rica Travel Information

Photo Costa Rica is a Central American success story: since the late 19th century, only two brief periods of violence have marred its democratic development. Although still a largely agricultural country, it has expanded its economy to include strong technology and tourism sectors. The standard of living is relatively high. Land ownership is widespread.

PEOPLE

Unlike many of their Central American neighbors, present-day Costa Ricans are largely of European rather than mestizo descent; Spain was the primary country of origin. However, an estimated 10% to 15% of the population is Nicaraguan, of fairly recent arrival and primarily of mestizo origin.

HISTORY

In 1502, on his fourth and last voyage to the New World, Christopher Columbus made the first European landfall in the area. Settlement of Costa Rica began in 1522. For nearly three centuries, Spain administered the region as part of the Captaincy General of Guatemala under a military governor. The Spanish optimistically called the country "Rich Coast." Finding little gold or other valuable minerals in Costa Rica, however, the Spanish turned to agriculture.

ECONOMY

After four years of slow economic growth, the Costa Rican economy grew at a healthy 5.6% in 2003, with growth estimates exceeding 4% for 2004. Compared with its Central American neighbors, Costa Rica has achieved a high standard of living, with a per capita income of about U.S. $4,200, and an unemployment rate of 6.7%.

U.S.-COSTA RICAN RELATIONS

The United States and Costa Rica have a history of close and friendly relations based on respect for democratic government, human freedoms, free trade, and other shared values. The country consistently supports the U.S. in international fora, especially in the areas of democracy and human rights. Costa Rica joined the Coalition for the Immediate Disarmament of Iraq, despite significant domestic opposition, and co-sponsored the Resolution on Cuba at the 60th session of the UN Commission on Human Rights.

Important: Travel to Costa Rica may require a travel visa. Whether a visa is required for travel depends on citizenship and purpose of journey. Please be sure to review Travisa's Costa Rica visa instructions for details. Visa instructions for other countries are available on our do I need a visa page.

Country Statistics

Full country name: Republic of Costa Rica
Capital city: San Jose
Area: 51,100 sq km
Population: 4,636,348
Ethnic groups: white
Languages: Spanish
Religions: Roman Catholic 76.3%, Evangelical 13.7%, Jehovah's Witnesses 1.3%, other Protestant 0.7%, other 4.8%, none 3.2%
Government: democratic republic
Chief of State: President Laura CHINCHILLA Miranda
Head of Government: President Laura CHINCHILLA Miranda
GDP: 55.02 billion
GDP per captia: 11,900
Annual growth rate: 4.2%
Inflation: 4.9%
Agriculture: bananas, pineapples, coffee, melons, ornamental plants, sugar, corn, rice, beans, potatoes
Major industries: microprocessors, food processing, medical equipment, textiles and clothing, construction materials, fertilizer, plastic products
Natural resources: hydropower
Location: Central America, bordering both the Caribbean Sea and the North Pacific Ocean, between Nicaragua and Panama
Trade Partners - exports: US 30.4%, China 11.3%, Netherlands 10.9%, UK 9.6%, Mexico 8.5%
Trade Partners - imports: US 43%, Mexico 7%, China 6.2%, Japan 6%