Columbus landed in Costa Rica in 1501. It developed many of its principal of notably the minimal role of the Catholic Church in worldly matters and a relatively isolationist foreign policy under the rule of General Tomas Guardia between 1870 and 1882. Throughout the 20th century, Costa Rica has a steady growth in prosperity, with the exception of a civil war in 1948, followed by a disputed presidential election. Recently, President Oscar Arias Sanchez of the Partido de Liberacion Nacional (PLN), one of the most prominent figures was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1987 for bringing warring parties elsewhere in Central America to the negotiating table.
Costa Rica is one of the small nations comprising the isthmus of Central America. The country's borders are defined by Nicaragua to the North and Panama to the South. This meeting of land and water makes the region rich in ecological variety.
Costa Rica has an astonishing diversity of landscape. Its national parks are its greatest beauty. Partially in order to continue to encourage ecotourism, the Costa Rican authorities have set aside a large proportion of the country (about 26% of the total land area) as national parks. It has a dazzling variety of microclimates; flora and fauna, and nature lovers will not be disappointed.
Costa Rica is famous for its biological diversity and varying geography with two coasts, providing a large amount of remote beaches. It has the best-developed protection program in Latin America; the government protects one fourth of the country and 12% of the total area lies within one of the 25 National Parks found in Costa Rica. The protected areas consist of lazy sloths, caimans, sea turtles, butterflies, birds, reptiles and monkeys. Water rafting, fishing, diving, snorkeling and surfing are also offered.
Costa Rica is one of the safest countries in Central America as the political situation is even and the army was abolished in 1948. The people are peace loving and very friendly.
Costa Rica is a tropical country with several climatic zones. Most regions have a rainy season from May to November and a dry season from December to April. Annual rainfall averages 100 inches nationwide with some mountainous regions getting as much as 25 feet on exposed eastern slopes. Temperature is more a matter of elevation than location with a mean of around 72 degrees in the Central Valley, 82 degrees on the Atlantic coast and 89 degrees on the Pacific coast.
Citizens of the U.S., Canada and Panama may enter Costa Rica with a tourist card and one other piece of identification e.g. passport, driver's license or birth certificate. Tourist cards can be obtained in advance from any Costa Rican embassy or consulate and are valid for 30 days. Citizens of all other countries require a valid passport to enter Costa Rica.
Travelers arriving in Costa Rica can bring in 500 cigarettes or 500 grams of tobacco and three liters of wine or spirits Sanitary standards are high and the health system is excellent. During the past two wet seasons there have been several outbreaks of the mosquito-borne disease dengue but so far there have been no reported cases. No vaccinations are required to enter Costa Rica since epidemic diseases have been eradicated throughout the country.
Several private hospitals in San Jose offer emergency medical services to foreigners are reasonable prices: Clinica Biblica also has a 24-hour pharmacy. Costa Rica's Social Security system (the Caja) offers a medical insurance assistance program for foreigners needing emergency medical assistance.
Costa Rica has over 1,000 miles of simply gorgeous white-and-black sand beaches, plenty of sunshine, and more than its share of world-class sport fishing, snorkeling and surfing venues.
The most popular nature attractions include a litany of volcanoes, including Arenal Volcano, that almost-daily produces a spectacular show of lava, rock and stream; the active crater in the Poas Volcano; summit tours of the stunning Irazus Volcano; Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve; Osa Peninsula and the Corcovado National Park, and the Caribbean flora and fauna of the Tortuguero National Park.
The single most-visited place in Costa Rica is the capital city of San Jose; it serves as the main entry point into the country, and its mixture of traditional Spanish architecture, museums and theaters are first rate. Limon, on the Caribbean coastline, hosts cruise ships from around the world.