We're always looking for ways to make better. Have an idea? See something that needs fixing? Let us know!


Although explored by the Spanish early in the 16th century, initial attempts at colonizing Costa Rica proved unsuccessful due to a combination of factors, including: disease from mosquito-infested swamps, brutal heat, resistance by natives, and pirate raids. It was not until 1563 that a permanent settlement of Cartago was established in the cooler, fertile central highlands. The area remained a colony for some two and a half centuries. In 1821, Costa Rica became one of several Central American provinces that jointly declared their independence from Spain. Two years later it joined the United Provinces of Central America, but this federation disintegrated in 1838, at which time Costa Rica proclaimed its sovereignty and independence. Since the late 19th century, only two brief periods of violence have marred... See More



 Central America, bordering both the Caribbean Sea and the North Pacific Ocean, between Nicaragua and Panama

Geographic Coordinates:

 10 00 N, 84 00 W


 Total: 51,100 sq km
Land: 51,060 sq km
Water: 40 sq km

Note: includes Isla del Coco

Area - Comparative:

 Slightly smaller than West Virginia

Land Boundaries:

 Total: 639 km
Border countries: Nicaragua 309 km, Panama 330 km


 1,290 km (Rank: 74)

Maritime Claims:

 Territorial sea: 12 nm
Exclusive economic zone: 200 nm
Continental shelf: 200 nm


 Tropical and subtropical; dry season (December to April); rainy season (May to November); cooler in highlands


 Coastal plains separated by rugged mountains including over 100 volcanic cones, of which several are major volcanoes

Elevation Extremes:

 Lowest point: Pacific Ocean 0 m
Highest point: Cerro Chirripo 3,810 m

Natural Resources:


Land Use:

 Arable land: 4.4%
Permanent crops: 5.87%
Other: 89.73% (2005)

Irrigated Land:

 1,080 sq km (2008)

Total Renewable Water Resources:

 112.4 cu km (2000)

Freshwater Withdrawal:

 Total: 2.68 cu km/yr (29%/17%/53%)
Per capita: 619 cu m/yr (2000)

Natural Hazards:

 Occasional earthquakes, hurricanes along Atlantic coast; frequent flooding of lowlands at onset of rainy season and landslides; active volcanoes

Volcanism: Arenal (elev. 1,670 m), which erupted in 2010, is the most active volcano in Costa Rica; a 1968 eruption destroyed the town of Tabacon; Irazu (elev. 3,432 m), situated just east of San Jose, has the potential to spew ash over the capital city as it did between 1963 and 1965; other historically active volcanoes include Miravalles, Poas, Rincon de la Vieja, and Turrialba

Environment - Current Issues:

 Deforestation and land use change, largely a result of the clearing of land for cattle ranching and agriculture; soil erosion; coastal marine pollution; fisheries protection; solid waste management; air pollution

Environment - International Agreements:

 Party to: Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Endangered Species, Environmental Modification, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Marine Dumping, Ozone Layer Protection, Wetlands, Whaling

Signed, but not ratified: Marine Life Conservation

Geography - Note:

 Four volcanoes, two of them active, rise near the capital of San Jose in the center of the country; one of the volcanoes, Irazu, erupted destructively in 1963-65

Back to the Top



 Noun: Costa Rican(s)
Adjective: Costa Rican

Ethnic Groups:

 White (including mestizo) 94%, black 3%, Amerindian 1%, Chinese 1%, other 1%


 Spanish (official), English


 Roman Catholic 76.3%, Evangelical 13.7%, Jehovah's Witnesses 1.3%, other Protestant 0.7%, other 4.8%, none 3.2%


 4,576,562 (July 2011 est.)

Age Structure:

 0-14 years: 24.6% (male 574,876/female 549,664)
15-64 years: 69.1% (male 1,588,940/female 1,571,573)
65 years and over: 6.4% (male 135,017/female 156,492) (2011 est.)

Median Age:

 Total: 28.8 years
Male: 28.4 years
Female: 29.2 years (2011 est.)

Population Growth Rate:

 1.308% (2011 est.)

Birth Rate:

 16.54 births/1,000 population (2011 est.)

Death Rate:

 4.33 deaths/1,000 population (July 2011 est.)

Net Migration Rate:

 0.87 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2011 est.)


 Urban population: 64% of total population (2010)
Rate of urbanization: 2.1% annual rate of change (2010-15 est.)

Major Cities - Population:

 SAN JOSE (capital) 1.416 million (2009)

Sex Ratio:

 At birth: 1.05 male(s)/female
Under 15 years: 1.05 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 1.01 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.86 male(s)/female
Total population: 1.01 male(s)/female (2011 est.)

Maternal Mortality Rate:

 44 deaths/100,000 live births (2008)

Infant Mortality Rate:

 Total: 9.45 deaths/1,000 live births
Male: 10.3 deaths/1,000 live births
Female: 8.56 deaths/1,000 live births (2011 est.)

Life Expectancy At Birth:

 Total population: 77.72 years
Male: 75.1 years
Female: 80.46 years (2011 est.)

Total Fertility Rate:

 1.93 children born/woman (2011 est.)

Health Expenditures:

 10.5% of GDP (2009)

Physicians Density:

 1.32 physicians/1,000 population (2000)

Hospital Bed Density:

 1.2 beds/1,000 population (2008)

Drinking Water Source:

 Urban: 100% of population
Rural: 91% of population
Total: 97% of population
Urban: 0% of population
Rural: 9% of population
Total: 3% of population (2008)

Sanitation Facility Access:

 Urban: 95% of population
Rural: 96% of population
Total: 95% of population
Urban: 5% of population
Rural: 4% of population
Total: 5% of population (2008)

HIV/AIDS - Adult Prevalence Rate:

 0.3% (2009 est.)

HIV/AIDS - People Living With HIV/AIDS:

 9,800 (2009 est.)

HIV/AIDS - Deaths:

 Fewer than 500 (2009 est.)

Major Infectious Diseases:

 Degree of risk: intermediate
Food or waterborne diseases: bacterial diarrhea
Vectorborne diseases: dengue fever (2009)

Education Expenditures:

 6.3% of GDP (2009)


 Definition: age 15 and over can read and write
Total population: 94.9%
Male: 94.7%
Female: 95.1% (2000 census)

Average Years of Schooling:

 Total: 12 years
Male: 12 years
Female: 12 years (2005)

Unemployment, Youth Ages 15-24:

 Total: 11%
Male: 9.6%
Female: 13.4% (2008)

Back to the Top


Country Name:

 Conventional long form: Republic of Costa Rica
Conventional short form: Costa Rica
Local long form: Republica de Costa Rica
Local short form: Costa Rica

Government Type:

 Democratic republic


 Name: San Jose
Geographic coordinates: 9 56 N, 84 05 W
Time difference: UTC-6 (1 hour behind Washington, DC during Standard Time)

Administrative Divisions:

 7 provinces (provincias, singular - provincia); Alajuela, Cartago, Guanacaste, Heredia, Limon, Puntarenas, San Jose


 15 September 1821 (from Spain)

National Holiday:

 Independence Day, 15 September (1821)



Legal System:

 Civil law system based on Spanish civil code; judicial review of legislative acts in the Supreme Court

International Law Organization Participation:

 Accepts compulsory ICJ jurisdiction; accepts ICCt jurisdiction


 18 years of age; universal and compulsory

Executive Branch:

 Chief of state: President Laura CHINCHILLA Miranda (since 8 May 2010); First Vice President Alfio PIVA Mesen (since 8 May 2010); Second Vice President Luis LIBERMAN Ginsburg (since 8 May 2010); note - the president is both the chief of state and head of government

Head of government: President Laura CHINCHILLA Miranda (since 8 May 2010); First Vice President Alfio PIVA Mesen (since 8 May 2010); Second Vice President Luis LIBERMAN Ginsburg (since 8 May 2010)

Cabinet: Cabinet selected by the president

Elections: president and vice presidents elected on the same ticket by popular vote for a single four-year term; election last held on 7 February 2010 (next to be held in February 2014)

Election results: Laura CHINCHILLA Miranda elected president; percent of vote - Laura CHINCHILLA Miranda (PLN) 46.7%; Otton SOLIS (PAC) 25.1%, Otto GUEVARA Guth (ML) 20.8%

Legislative Branch:

 Unicameral Legislative Assembly or Asamblea Legislativa (57 seats; members elected by direct, popular vote to serve four-year terms)

Elections: last held on 7 February 2010 (next to be held in February 2014)

Election results: percent of vote by party - NA; seats by party - PLN 23, PAC 10, ML 9, PUSC 6, PASE 4, other 5

Judicial Branch:

 Supreme Court or Corte Suprema (22 justices are elected for renewable eight-year terms by the Legislative Assembly)

Political Parties and Leaders:

 Accessibility Without Exclusion or PASE [Oscar Andres LOPEZ Arias]; Citizen Action Party or PAC [Alberto CANAS Escalante]; Costa Rican Renovation Party or PRC [Gerardo Justo OROZCO Alvarez]; Democratic Force Party or PFD [Marco GONZALEZ Nunez]; Frente Amplio [Jose MERINO del Rio]; Homeland First or PP (Patria Primero) [Juan Jose VARGAS Fallas]; Libertarian Movement Party or PML [Otto GUEVARA Guth]; National Democratic Alliance or ADN [Jose Miguel VILLALOBOS Umana]; National Integration Party or PIN [Walter MUNOZ Cespedes]; National Liberation Party or PLN [Francisco Antonio PACHECO Fernandez]; National Rescue Party or PRN [Fabio Enrique DELGADO Hernandez]; National Union Party or PUN [Arturo ACOSTA Mora]; Patriotic Alliance [Mariano FIGUERES Olsen]; Patriotic Union or UP [Jose Miguel CORRALES Bolanos]; Popular Vanguard [Trino BARRANTES Araya]; Social Christian Unity Party or PUSC [Luis FISHMAN Zonzinski]; Union for Change Party or UPC [Antonio ALVAREZ Desanti]

Political Pressure Groups and Leaders:

 Authentic Confederation of Democratic Workers or CATD (Communist Party affiliate); Chamber of Coffee Growers; Confederated Union of Workers or CUT (Communist Party affiliate); Costa Rican Confederation of Democratic Workers or CCTD (Liberation Party affiliate); Costa Rican Exporter's Chamber or CADEXCO; Costa Rican Solidarity Movement; Costa Rican Union of Private Sector Enterprises or UCCAEP [Rafael CARRILLO]; Federation of Public Service Workers or FTSP; National Association for Economic Development or ANFE; National Association of Educators or ANDE; National Association of Public and Private Employees or ANEP [Albino VARGAS]; Rerum Novarum or CTRN (PLN affiliate) [Gilbert BROWN]

International Organization Participation:


Diplomatic Representation in the US:

 Chief of mission: Ambassador Muni FIGUERES Boggs
Chancery: 2114 S Street NW, Washington, DC 20008
Telephone: [1] (202) 234-2945 or 2946
FAX: [1] (202) 265-4795
Consulate(s) general: Atlanta, Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, New Orleans, New York, San Francisco, San Juan (Puerto Rico)

Diplomatic Representation From the US:

 Chief of mission: Ambassador Anne Slaughter ANDREW
Embassy: Calle 120 Avenida O, Pavas, San Jose
Mailing address: APO AA 34020
Telephone: [506] 2519-2000
FAX: [506] 2519-2305

Flag Description:

 Five horizontal bands of blue (top), white, red (double width), white, and blue, with the coat of arms in a white elliptical disk toward the hoist side of the red band; Costa Rica retained the earlier blue-white-blue flag of Central America until 1848 when, in response to revolutionary activity in Europe, it was decided to incorporate the French colors into the national flag and a central red stripe was added; today the blue color is said to stand for the sky, opportunity, and perseverance, white denotes peace, happiness, and wisdom, while red represents the blood shed for freedom, as well as the generosity and vibrancy of the people

Note: somewhat resembles the flag of North Korea; similar to the flag of Thailand but with the blue and red colors reversed

National Symbols:

 Clay-colored robin known as Yiguirro

National Anthem:

 Name: "Himno Nacional de Costa Rica" (National Anthem of Costa Rica)
Lyrics/music: Jose Maria ZELEDON Brenes/Manuel Maria GUTIERREZ

Note: adopted 1949; the anthem's music was originally written for an 1853 welcome ceremony for diplomatic missions from the United States and United Kingdom; the lyrics were added in 1903

Back to the Top


Economy - Overview:

 Prior to the global economic crisis, Costa Rica enjoyed stable economic growth. The economy contracted 0.7% in 2009, but resumed growth at more than 3% in 2010. While the traditional agricultural exports of bananas, coffee, sugar, and beef are still the backbone of commodity export trade, a variety of industrial and specialized agricultural products have broadened export trade in recent years. High value added goods and services, including microchips, have further bolstered exports. Tourism continues to bring in foreign exchange, as Costa Rica's impressive biodiversity makes it a key destination for ecotourism. Foreign investors remain attracted by the country's political stability and relatively high education levels, as well as the fiscal incentives offered in the free-trade zones; and Costa Rica has attracted one of the highest levels of foreign direct investment per capita in Latin America. However, many business impediments, such as high levels of bureaucracy, difficulty of enforcing contracts, and weak investor protection, remain. Poverty has remained around 15-20% for nearly 20 years, and the strong social safety net that had been put into place by the government has eroded due to increased financial constraints on government expenditures. Unlike the rest of Central America, Costa Rica is not highly dependent on remittances as they only represent about 2% of GDP. Immigration from Nicaragua has increasingly become a concern for the government. The estimated 300,000-500,000 Nicaraguans in Costa Rica legally and illegally are an important source of - mostly unskilled - labor, but also place heavy demands on the social welfare system. The US-Central American-Dominican Republic Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA-DR) entered into force on 1 January 2009, after significant delays within the Costa Rican legislature. CAFTA-DR will likely lead to increased foreign direct investment in key sectors of the economy, including the insurance and telecommunications sectors recently opened to private investors. President CHINCHILLA is likely to push for fiscal reform in the coming year, seeking to boost revenue, possibly through revised tax legislation, to fund an increase in security services and education.

GDP (Purchasing Power Parity):

 $51.17 billion (2010 est.)
$49.12 billion (2009 est.)
$49.76 billion (2008 est.)

Note: data are in 2010 US dollars

GDP (Official Exchange Rate):

 $35.78 billion (2010 est.)

GDP - Real Growth Rate:

 4.2% (2010 est.)
-1.3% (2009 est.)
2.7% (2008 est.)

GDP - Per Capita (PPP):

 $11,300 (2010 est.)
$11,000 (2009 est.)
$11,300 (2008 est.)

Note: data are in 2010 US dollars

GDP - Composition By Sector:

 Agriculture: 6.5%
Industry: 22.5%
Services: 71% (2010 est.)

Labor Force:

 2.052 million

Note: this official estimate excludes Nicaraguans living in Costa Rica (2010 est.)

Labor Force - By Occupation:

 Agriculture: 14%
Industry: 22%
Services: 64% (2006 est.)

Unemployment Rate:

 7.3% (2010 est.)
8.4% (2009 est.)

Population Below Poverty Line:

 16% (2006 est.)

Household Income / Consumption By Share:

 Lowest 10%: 1.7%
Highest 10%: 39.4% (2009)

Distribution of Family Income - Gini Index:

 50.3 (2009)
45.9 (1997)

Refugees and Internally Displaced Persons:

 Refugees (country of origin): 9,699-11,500 (Colombia) (2007)

Investment (Gross Fixed):

 19.7% of GDP (2010 est.)


 Revenues: $5.217 billion
Expenditures: $7.083 billion (2010 est.)

Taxes and Other Revenues:

 14.6% of GDP (2010 est.)

Budget Surplus / Deficit:

 -5.2% of GDP (2010 est.)

Public Debt:

 42.7% of GDP (2010 est.)
42.1% of GDP (2009 est.)

Inflation Rate (Consumer Prices):

 5.7% (2010 est.)
7.8% (2009 est.)

Central Bank Discount Rate:

 21.5% (31 December 2010 est.)
23% (31 December 2009 est.)

Commercial Bank Prime Lending Rate:

 17.091% (31 December 2010 est.)
19.723% (31 December 2009 est.)

Stock of Money:

 $4.209 billion (31 December 2008)
$4.504 billion (31 December 2007)

Stock of Quasi Money:

 $3.143 billion (31 December 2008)
$2.87 billion (31 December 2007)

Stock of Narrow Money:

 $3.484 billion (31 December 2010 est.)
$2.615 billion (31 December 2009 est.)

Stock of Broad Money:

 $18.68 billion (31 December 2010 est.)
$16.81 billion (31 December 2009 est.)

Stock of Domestic Credit:

 $18.07 billion (31 December 2010 est.)
$14.65 billion (31 December 2009 est.)

Market Value of Publicly Traded Shares:

 $1.445 billion (31 December 2010)
$1.452 billion (31 December 2009)
$1.887 billion (31 December 2008)

Agriculture - Products:

 Bananas, pineapples, coffee, melons, ornamental plants, sugar, corn, rice, beans, potatoes; beef, poultry, dairy; timber


 Microprocessors, food processing, medical equipment, textiles and clothing, construction materials, fertilizer, plastic products

Industrial Production Growth Rate:

 1.8% (2010 est.)

Electricity - Production:

 9.29 billion kWh (2008 est.)

Electricity - Production By Source:

 Fossil fuel: 1.5%
Hydro: 81.9%
Nuclear: 0%
Other: 16.6% (2001)

Electricity - Consumption:

 8.247 billion kWh (2008 est.)

Electricity - Exports:

 166 million kWh (2008 est.)

Electricity - Imports:

 70 million kWh (2008 est.)

Oil - Production:

 263 bbl/day (2010 est.)

Oil - Consumption:

 47,000 bbl/day (2010 est.)

Oil - Exports:

 2,087 bbl/day (2009 est.)

Oil - Imports:

 44,110 bbl/day (2009 est.)

Oil - Proven Reserves:

 0 bbl (1 January 2011 est.)

Natural Gas - Production:

 0 cu m (2009 est.)

Natural Gas - Consumption:

 0 cu m (2009 est.)

Natural Gas - Exports:

 0 cu m (2009 est.)

Natural Gas - Imports:

 0 cu m (2009 est.)

Natural Gas - Proven Reserves:

 0 cu m (1 January 2011 est.)

Current Account Balance:

 -$1.299 billion (2010 est.)
-$576 million (2009 est.)


 $9.375 billion (2010 est.)
$8.838 billion (2009 est.)

Exports - Commodities:

 Bananas, pineapples, coffee, melons, ornamental plants, sugar; beef; seafood; electronic components, medical equipment

Exports - Partners:

 US 33.6%, China 11.7%, Netherlands 11.7%, UK 11.5% (2010)


 $12.95 billion (2010 est.)
$10.88 billion (2009 est.)

Imports - Commodities:

 Raw materials, consumer goods, capital equipment, petroleum, construction materials

Imports - Partners:

 US 40.1%, Mexico 6.6%, Japan 5.6%, China 5.3% (2010)

Reserves of Foreign Exchange and Gold:

 $4.627 billion (31 December 2010 est.)
$4.066 billion (31 December 2009 est.)

Debt - External:

 $9.239 billion (30 June 2011 est.)
$8.59 billion (31 December 2010 est.)

Stock of Direct Foreign Investment - Abroad:

 $88.3 million (31 December 2010 est.)
$544.6 million (31 December 2009 est.)

Stock of Direct Foreign Investment - At Home:

 $13.5 billion (31 December 2010 est.)
$12.39 billion (31 December 2009 est.)

Exchange Rates:

 Convert Costa Rica Colon to Any Currency

Costa Rican colones (CRC) per US dollar -
513 (2010)
573.29 (2009)
530.41 (2008)
519.53 (2007)
511.3 (2006)

Back to the Top


Telephones - Main Lines In Use:

 1.482 million (2010)

Telephones - Cellular:

 3.035 million (2010)

Telephone System:

 General assessment: good domestic telephone service in terms of breadth of coverage; under the terms of CAFTA-DR, the state-run telecommunications monopoly scheduled to be opened to competition from domestic and international firms, has been delayed by the nation's telecommunications regulator.

Domestic: point-to-point and point-to-multi-point microwave, fiber-optic, and coaxial cable link rural areas; Internet service is available

International: country code - 506; landing points for the Americas Region Caribbean Ring System (ARCOS-1), MAYA-1, and the Pan American Crossing submarine cables that provide links to South and Central America, parts of the Caribbean, and the US; connected to Central American Microwave System; satellite earth stations - 2 Intelsat (Atlantic Ocean) (2009)

Broadcast Media:

 Multiple privately-owned television stations and 1 publicly-owned television station; cable network services are widely available; more than 100 privately-owned radio stations and a public radio network (2007)

Radio Broadcast Stations:

 AM 65, FM 51, shortwave 19 (2002)

Television Broadcast Stations:

 20 (plus 43 repeaters) (2002)

Internet Country Code:


Internet Hosts:

 34,024 (2010)

Internet Users:

 1.485 million (2009)

Back to the Top



 151 (2010)

Airports - With Paved Runways:

 Total: 39
2,438 to 3,047 m: 2
1,524 to 2,437 m: 2
914 to 1,523 m: 23
Under 914 m: 12 (2010)

Airports - With Unpaved Runways:

 Total: 112
914 to 1,523 m: 18
Under 914 m: 94 (2010)


 Refined products 662 km (2010)


 Total: 278 km
Narrow gauge: 278 km 1.067-m gauge

Note: none of the railway network is in use (2010)


 Total: 38,049 km
Paved: 9,619 km
Unpaved: 28,430 km (2008)


 730 km (seasonally navigable by small craft) (2010)

Merchant Marine:

 Total: 1
By type: passenger/cargo 1 (2010)

Ports and Terminals:

 Caldera, Puerto Limon

Back to the Top


Military Branches:

 No regular military forces; Ministry of Public Security, Government, and Police (2011)

Manpower Available For Military Service:

 Males age 16-49: 1,255,798
Females age 16-49: 1,230,202 (2010 est.)

Manpower Fit For Military Service:

 Males age 16-49: 1,058,419
Females age 16-49: 1,037,053 (2010 est.)

Manpower Reaching Militarily Significant Age Annually:

 Male: 42,201
Female: 40,444 (2010 est.)

Military Expenditures:

 0.6% of GDP (2009)

Back to the Top


Disputes - International:

 The ICJ has given Costa Rica until January 2008 to reply and Nicaragua until July 2008 to rejoin before rendering its decision on the navigation, security, and commercial rights of Costa Rican vessels on the Rio San Juan over which Nicaragua retains sovereignty

Illicit Drugs:

 Transshipment country for cocaine and heroin from South America; illicit production of cannabis in remote areas; domestic cocaine consumption, particularly crack cocaine, is rising; significant consumption of amphetamines; seizures of smuggled cash in Costa Rica and at the main border crossing to enter Costa Rica from Nicaragua have risen in recent years (2008)

Trafficking in Persons:

 Current situation: Costa Rica is a source, transit, and destination country for men, women, and children subjected to sex trafficking and forced labor; Costa Rican women and children are subjected to sex trafficking within the country; women and girls from Nicaragua, the Dominican Republic, and other Latin American countries have been identified in Costa Rica as victims of sex trafficking and forced domestic service; child sex tourism is a serious problem; Costa Rica is increasingly a destination for men from other Central American countries and from Asian countries subjected to conditions of forced labor, particularly in the agriculture, construction, and fishing sectors

Tier rating: Tier 2 Watch List - Costa Rica did not demonstrate evidence of overall increasing efforts over the previous reporting period; authorities failed to convict or sentence any trafficking offenders, did not maintain specialized services or shelters for trafficking victims, and made limited efforts to raise public awareness about human trafficking; however, the government has made efforts including implementation of procedures to identify and assist trafficking victims, increased staffing of the anti-trafficking police unit, and the creation of a special team to identify potential trafficking victims among migrants (2011)

Back to the Top

Last Updated: December 2011

Costa Rica Main Page World Factbook Main Page


Click any image to enlarge.

National Flag

(₡) Costa Rica Colon (CRC)
Convert to Any Currency


Locator Map