Articles on Costa Rica

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Articles on Costa Rica

General Information on Costa Rica

Costa Rica From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

República de Costa Rica Republic of Costa Rica

Capital San José 9°56'N 84°5'W Largest city San José Official language(s) Spanish Independence From Spain Date 15 September 1821

Costa Rica, officially the Republic of Costa Rica (Spanish: Costa Rica or República de Costa Rica, IPA: [re'pußlika ðe 'kosta 'rika]), is a country in Central America, bordered by Nicaragua to the north, Panama to the south-southeast, the Pacific Ocean to the west and south, and the Caribbean Sea to the east. Costa Rica was the first country in the world to constitutionally abolish its army.


In 2005, Costa Rica had an estimated population of 4,016,173 persons. The majority of people in Costa Rica are descended from Spanish settlers. In contrast to its neighboring populations, little mixing of the Spanish settlers and the indigenous populations occurred. Therefore, a vast majority of Costa Ricans are either of Spanish or to a lesser extent of mixed meztizo heritage. In addition, there are significant numbers of Costa Ricans of Italian, German, Jewish, and Polish descent. Together, European and Meztizos descendants make up a full 94% of the population. 3% of the population is of black African descent also known as Afro-Latin Americans, and a few are of English-speaking descendants of 19th-century black Jamaican immigrant workers. Another 1% is composed of ethnic Chinese.

As of today, the indigenous population numbers less than 1%, or around 29,000 individuals. In Guanacaste Province, a significant portion of the population descends from a mix of local Amerindians, Africans and Spaniards. There is also a small expatriate community of American and Canadian retirees.


The locals refer to themselves as tico or tica (female). "Tico" comes from the locally popular usage of "tico" diminutive suffixes (eg. 'momentico' instead of 'momentito'). The tico ideal is that of a very friendly, helpful, laid back, unhurried, educated and environmentally aware people, with little worry for deadlines or the "normal" stresses of United States life. Visitors from the United States are often referred to as gringos, which is virtually always congenial in nature. The phrase "Pura Vida" (literally pure life) is a motto ubiquitous in Costa Rica. It encapsulates the pervading ideology of living in peace in a calm, unflustered manner, appreciating a life surrounded by nature and family and friends.

Some folk might use maje or mae (sort of "man", actually maje means "dumb") to refer to each other although this might be slightly insulting to other folk.

Costa Rican traditions and culture tend to retain a strong degree of Spanish influence. Their spoken accent is rather closer to certain areas of Colombia than its Central American counterparts. Costa Rica boasts a varied history. Costa Rica was the point where the Mesoamerican and South American native cultures met. The northwest of the country, Nicoya, was the southernmost point of Nahuatl cultural influence when the Spanish conquerors (conquistadores) came in the 16th century. The center and southern portions of the country had Chibcha influences. However, the indigenous people have influenced modern Costa Rican culture to a relatively small degree, as most of the Indians died from disease and mistreatment by the Spaniards. The Atlantic coast, meanwhile, was populated with African slaves in the 17th and 18th centuries, although most Caribbean Costa Ricans of African ascent descend from Jamaican workers brought in during the 19th century to work in the construction of railways connecting the urban populations of the Central Plateau to the port of Limon on the Caribbean coast. During the 19th century Chinese and Italian immigrants came to the country to work on the construction of the railroad system as well.

NOTE: If you want a more details on the country, try the CIA World Fact book: Costa Rica This site features a map and brief descriptions of geography, economy, government, and people.

Tipping in Costa Rica

Tipping In Costa Rica: TIPS ON TIPPING BY MICHAEL S. KAYE President, Costa Rica Expeditions

There are more differences of opinion about tipping than just about any other topic in the travel industry. Should they be included or not? Should specific amounts be recommended to guests?

So, by popular demand. . .we’ll see if we’re damned if we do, damned if we don’t. Of course tipping is entirely up to you. Level of service, whether or not you feel comfortable giving tips, and your budget are all important factors.

Personally, I love to tip (or not tip), depending on service. When I worked as a guide I loved to receive tips. I’ve tipped toll takers for giving me particularly careful, detailed directions. I’ve also left a penny in a full water glass after suffering through particularly surly service at a restaurant. I think of a tip as a statement.

If you don’t believe in tipping, don’t feel obligated. Nobody should expect a tip. Regarding Costa Rica Expeditions and our own hotel personnel, if you believe in tipping and do not feel that one of our people deserves a tip, we’d very much appreciate hearing from you.

We’d also appreciate hearing from you so that we can recognize extraordinary good work.

Restaurants are required by law to add 15% tax and 10% tip to the bill. As a general rule, Costa Ricans do not tip. I tip up to 10% depending on service.

Taxi cab drivers are not usually tipped unless extra service is provided.

Bellboys are often tipped a minimum of US $1.00 up to US $1.50 per bag, at check-in and check-out. Remember that the people that carry luggage at out-of-town places are bellboys too, even if they are not sporting the normal bellboy attire.

Chamber maids: are so often overlooked. I think they are among the most important people to tip. You may want to consider US$0.50 - $1.00 per night.

Transfer Guides, Service Guides, Corcovado Guides, Tortuguero Guides, & Monteverde Guides: average tip: US $3.00 per person per day. This tends to go up if the group size is less than 4 persons.

Naturalist Guides: average tip: US $10.00 per person per day. This tends to go up if the group size is less than 10 persons.

Divemasters: average tip $6.00 to $7.00 per person, per day. Discover scuba diving courses, average tip $10.00 per diver and full four day certification courses, average tip $25.00.

River Guides: average tip: US $5.00 per person per day. This tends to go up if there are less than 4 persons in the raft.

Drivers: are often overlooked. [Think about this: your life is in his/her hands]. If you tip anyone, tip the driver. Average tip: US $5.00 per person per day. This tends to go up if the group size is less than 4 persons.

Parks and Reserves of Costa Rica

Over a quarter of Costa Rica consists of protected areas that are composed of National Parks, National Reserves, Natural Refuges, Absolute National Reserves, Wildlife Refuges, Marine Sanctuaries, Conservation Areas and Biological Reserves. If you are looking for a place with unspoiled natural wonders, Costa Rica has it!

It was in 1970 that Costa Rica developed the National Parks System. Because of this, the parks and reserves are home to over 200 mammals, including six species of felines - jaguar, ocelot, margay, puma, jaguarundi and tiger cats. There are 857 species of bird, 11,000 insects and over 9,000 species of plants, including 1,200 beautiful verities of orchids and many trees.. Click on the selection below of almost 70 National Parks and Reserves to begin your adventure.

One of the most comprehensive articles on these parks is located at the 1-Costa Rica Links site.

Casinos of Costa Rica

Costa Rica has a variety of nightlife activities and a great number of Casinos around the country from which to choose. Try your luck at our legal gambling. Step up to the slots or card tables and play caribbean stud poker, mini bacarat, blackjack, canasta roulette, craps, rows of slot machines and video machines.

Below is a list of the casinos as of 2006. Some of these casinos have their own web sites which will give you additional information.

  • Casino Club Colonial,, C. 9 - 11, Av.1, San José, 2258-2807
  • Casino Hotel C.R. Morazán, C. 7, A. 1 - 3, San José, 2222-4622
  • Casino Hotel Royal Dutch, C. 4, A. 2, San José, 2222-1414
  • Casino Hotel Aurola Holdiay Inn, San José, 2233-9490
  • Casino Central, Calle 7 y 9, Avenida Central, San José, 2221-4994
  • Casino San José Palacio, La Uruca, San José, 2220-1310
  • Casino Concorde, Hotel Best Western, San José, 2232-7910
  • Casino Europa, Raddisson Hotel, San José, 2256-4949
  • Casino Club Dominio, Hotel Irazú, San José, 2232-7910
  • The Jungle Casino, Calle 7 y 9, Avenida Central, San José, 2221-4994
  • Casino Hotel del Rey, Calle 9, Avenida 1, San José, 2257-7800
  • Gran Hotel Costa Rica, Calle 3, Avenida Central y 2, San José, 2221-4000
  • Casino Meliá Confort, Sabana Norte, San José, 2232-8122
  • Casino Camino Real, Intercontinental, Escazú, 2289-7000
  • Casino Best Western Coco Verde, Playas del Coco, 2670-0491
  • Casino La Condesa, San Rafael de Heredia, 2267-6290
  • Casino Hotel Parador, Manuel Antonio, 2777-1414
  • Casino Divisamar, Manuel Antonio, 2777-0371
  • Casino la Condesa, San Rafael de Heredia, 2267-6000
  • Casino Hotel Cocal, Playa Jacó, 2643-3067
  • Casino Hotel Los Suenos Mariott, Playa Herradura, 2298-0000
  • Casino Flamingo Beach Resort, Playa Flamingo, 2654-4011
  • Casino Flamingo Bay Resort, Playa Flamingo, 2654-4350
  • Interesting Things To Do In Costa Rica

    Top 20 Must See Things to Do & See in Costa Rica.

    The guide below is from the "Travel Guide to Costa Rica" by Hunter Publishing. [to order the complete book, click here].

    This list is a guide to the best that Costa Rica has to offer. It’s not in any order, nor does it cover anywhere near all of the country’s attractions. But it should give you some food for thought in planning your vacation.

    1. Arenal Volcano National Park:

    Famous for its nighttime lava fireworks, Arenal Volcano towers above a lovely lake of the same name. The area has plenty of natural activities, eco-adventures, and the lake is particularly popular with fishermen and windsurfers. The thermal springs at nearby Tabacón Resort Hot Springs offer a refreshing dip any time of the day. The volcano itself rumbles frequently and, if not socked in by clouds, is very impressive and just a tad exciting. Suggested tours: Arenal by night; Arenal by mountain bike; Arenal Hot Springs.

    2. Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve:

    The 10,526-hectare/26,000-acre Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve, nestled in moisture-filled hanging clouds, provides a home to thousands of species of plants, animals and insects. It offers a unique opportunity to experience, up close, the beauty of nature unspoiled, the reason we all come to Costa Rica. If you can’t make it here, try the Los Angeles Cloud Forest or Tapantí-Macizo de la Muerte Cloud Forest.

    3. Manuel Antonio National Park:

    This is prime real estate. Manuel Antonio National Park has three white sandy connecting beaches and a forest filled with a variety of monkeys. It sits at the base of a mountain on a peninsula that eagerly stretches out to greet the Pacific Ocean beyond and boasts magnificent flora and fauna, as well as fantastic views both in and out of the park.

    4. Tortuguero National Park:

    Bordered by the Caribbean Sea, Tortuguero National Park contains an incredible network of navigable canals, and boats are the only way to get around. Mangrove forests that edge the canals are the place to look for wildlife. The park’s 37 km/23 miles of beaches are protected nesting grounds for the green sea turtle. In season (July to October), you can accompany a guide to the beaches at night and watch turtles lay their eggs. It is a memorable experience. Other seasons offer plenty of non-turtle related nature sightseeing.

    5. Canopy (Tree Top) Tours:

    Most of the rainforest’s life dwells in the canopy, high above ground. Consequently, there are a large number of “canopy tours” offered. Most are geared to having a wild ride rather than studying wildlife – but what fun it is. In the popular and ubiquitous versions you slide from tree platform to tree platform, safely attached in a harness, on a thick cable. It is thrilling to zip across the forest like a high-tech Tarzan, and kids love it.

    If you would like more cerebral and sedate fun, take the “Aerial Tram.” It offers a monkey’s view of the surrounding jungle at various levels in the canopy, while seated in a slow-moving cable car and accompanied by a naturalist guide. There is also a “SkyWalk” that features incredibly high wire bridges between trees and above deep gorges. Our favorite places to go in search of such thrills are “Kazm Cañon,” which offers rappelling and slides over the Río Colorado next to Rincón de la Vieja National Park; and the waterfalls near Manuel Antonio, where you can rappel down the falls. All of these types of activities are referred to as “canyoning.” WARNING: Many of these adventures contain an element of danger, so be selective.

    6. Whitewater Rafting:

    Costa Rica is famous for its whitewater river raft trips through the rain forest. Rafting is one of the best ways to spend a day. You can even opt for an overnight trip with a stay in a riverside lodge deep in the rain forest. Our favorite ride is on the Pacuare River, where you are rushed through primary and secondary forests and an impressively deep gorge. The Class III and IV rapids will thrill experienced rafters. Safety-oriented professional guides provide a trip well suited for everyone from Grandma to Junior. Exciting, exhilarating, and intoxicating. Other regional rivers also offer challenging rides.

    7. Lankester Gardens:

    Wander along the 17 km/10.6 miles of trails that lead throughout the Lankester Gardens outside of Cartago. Among colorful open garden beds and a cool shady forest, enjoy the countless varieties of orchids, bromeliads, cacti and palms that are grown here for botanical study as well as your viewing. Guides are available.

    8. Birdwatching - In Search Of The Quetzal:

    Everyone heads to Monteverde to look for the quetzal, the colorful native bird that is an enduring symbol of freedom. If you’re going north, by all means keep an eye out. But we think the best chance to find the elusive quetzal is off the Inter-American Highway that connects San Isidro and Cartago. This highway crosses Costa Rica’s highest mountains along the Cerro de la Muerte and there are several lodges here that cater to birdwatchers. Practically all mountain nature lodges have guides for hire and offer the opportunity to stay and watch for quetzals. Nesting season for these magnificent birds is March through May, and that’s the best time for a sighting. But it is possible, if you’re lucky, to catch a glimpse of one any time of the year.

    9. Irazú Volcano National Park:

    The 11,260-foot-tall Irazú Volcano is the highest in Costa Rica and still considered active, even though its last major eruption was on March 19, 1963, the day that President John F. Kennedy arrived in Costa Rica. Today, a few puffs of steam and smoke are the most activity you’re likely to see. To get here you’ll cross a wide expanse of dark gray barren land resembling a moonscape. At the rim, the sight of the crater filled with pea-green sulfur-laden water – surrounded by a rugged rocky cliff face – leaves one breathless.

    10. Poás Volcano National Park:

    A long, panoramic, twisting road wends its way through fertile farmland and forest stands, leading up the mountainside to the Poás Volcano. Its crater, filled with turquoise water, is over a mile across and is said to be the second-largest active volcano crater in the world. Occasionally, the crater still boils and shoots steam geysers. Poás Volcano is situated in a protected national park of the same name that offers visitors an information center, a colorful slide show about the volcano, and is the starting point for several well-marked trails around the moonscape crater’s rim.

    11. Corcovado National Park:

    The Corcovado National Park is the largest tract of virgin rain forest in Costa Rica and covers more than half of the Osa Peninsula. Famous for its scarlet macaws and a multitude of other wildlife, it is a colorful must-see for adventure naturalists.

    12. Cahuita:

    Cahuita is laid back and friendly, a place to rest and rejuvenate during the day – and the hot spot for dancing at night. It contains two inviting beaches, one white and one black. Cahuita National Park offers it all – camping, biking, hiking, snorkeling, and more – and is guarded from the treetops by vociferous howler monkeys.

    Travel farther south to Puerto Viejo to find yet another inviting small beach town with an even more relaxed beat. With a large selection of accommodations and eateries, it makes a good base to cover the whole coast down to the Panamanian border. Worth all the time that you can afford.

    13. National Theater & Gold Museum:

    Right in the heart of San José, alongside the Plaza de la Cultura, is the imposing National Theater. Designed by Belgian architects and decorated by Italian artists, the 1,000-seat stone and metal structure offers performances by the world’s most famous of artists. Don’t miss seeing its fabulous gold gilt interior and be sure to have afternoon tea in the theater’s café. The Gold Museum is found below the Plaza de la Cultura, to the rear of the National Theater. You'll see 2,000 pre-Columbian gold artifacts.

    14. Jade Museum:

    Eye-popping pre-Columbian jade, gold and stone art are featured at the Jade Museum, located at the top of the INS building in San José. In addition, frequently changing exhibitions of artists’ works will enhance your pleasure.

    15. Butterfly Farm & Insect Museum:

    The Butterfly Farm near Alajuela is Latin America’s first and largest exporter of farm-raised butterflies. All visitors get a guided two-hour tour, which fits in well with the Café Britt Coffee Tour during a day of sightseeing. There are now many smaller butterfly farm imitators, but one that’s impossible to imitate is Dr. Richard Whitten’s Jewels of the Rainforest Exhibit. Headquartered at the Hotel Chalet Tirol, his extensive collection of weird and wonderful insects, butterflies, bugs and beetles are artistically displayed and accompanied by educational videos, brochures and, if you’re lucky, the personal attention of Dr. Whitten or his charming Scottish wife (both accomplished organ players). Another biological attraction is InBio Park, a private project to categorize Costa Rica’s diverse insect and plant life, as well as educate and entertain visitors.

    16. Rincón de la Vieja Park:

    This park surrounds the flanks of the Rincón de la Vieja Volcano and its active crater. Many excellent hiking trails traverse this diverse landscape with its hot springs, geysers, mud pots, waterfalls, volcanic craters and a lake. This is a favorite destination for birdwatchers, offering fabulous views of the lowland pastures and rich wildlife. Hard to get here, but a fascinating place.

    17. Sarchí & Coffee Towns:

    If you like to shop, Sarchí is your town. Filled with handicraft stores and small factories, it is best known as the home of the colorfully hand-painted Costa Rican oxcarts (carretas), which can be purchased in all sizes (and shipped home). But the town also offers fine furniture and other wooden articles, as well as leather, metal and fabric creations. Enjoy an oxcart painting demonstration at the Plaza de la Artesania shopping mall, then later select from one of the many restaurants for dinner. When you’re shopped out, take a short side trip to nearby Zarcero. In the center of town you’ll enjoy the whimsical and photogenic topiary featuring animal figures from sculpted cypress. A long tunnel of connecting bushes that look like melted Hershey’s kisses, lead to an inviting red and white church beyond.

    18. Nature Lodges:

    Your cruise ship friends couldn’t imagine, spend at least a night in one of the many ecological nature lodges that offer rustic accommodations. You owe it to yourself to experience the diverse unspoiled countryside, away from the traffic and noise pollution of the cities and towns.

    19. Beaches, Rivers, Water Everywhere:

    A plethora of beaches await you on the Caribbean and Pacific Ocean coasts of Costa Rica. They come in a variety of colors with sands that run from white to black and textures ranging from powder soft to coarse and gritty. Public beaches, isolated beaches, great surfing beaches, laze-around beaches – whatever you prefer, it’s there. If sand between your toes is not your style, then swim, sail, whitewater rafting, kayak or windsurf on the many rivers and lakes between coasts. Or choose the ultimate way to relax – soak in hot springs then cool down beneath a waterfall.

    20. Fishing:

    A growing number of qualified operators offer competitive, world-class sport-fishing charters on both coasts. In the Pacific, marlin, sailfish, tuna, and dorado lure the enthusiastic angler. In the turquoise waters of the Caribbean, at the mouth of the Barra del Colorado in particular, tarpon and snook are yours for the catching (and releasing). The beautiful 35-km-long (22-mile) Arenal Lake contains freshwater rainbow bass (guapote). In their eagerness to get hooked, they will practically pull you into the water. In the mountains, a short drive from San José, you will find fishing locations for trout and other freshwater species. A fishing license is required for inland angling (except on private property). For detailed information, contact Costa Rica Outdoors Magazine at 506/282-6743 or by e-mail, [email protected].