The Republic of Costa Rica is a country in Central America, bordered to the north by Nicaragua and to the south by Panama. The Caribbean Sea sits off the east coast, and the Pacific Ocean laps at its western shores.
Its capital, political center and economic hub is San Jose. Costa Rica’s official language is Spanish.
Costa Rica is one of the most successful democracies in the Americas. It is the only country in Latin American included on the list of the oldest democracies in the world. Costa Rica gained world recognition when it abolished its army on December 1, 1948. Costa Rica also takes third place in the world on the 2010 environmental performance index, where it ranks first among Latin American nations. It also takes first place within Latin America, and 42nd in the world, on the tourism competitiveness index. On the index of social development, Costa Rica is the sixth-most developed in Latin America and the second-best in Central America.
It occupies third place on the Index for Global Competitiveness, after Panama and Chile. In 2007, the government of Costa Rica announced plans for the country to be the first in the world to go carbon neutral. The nation intends to achieve this goal by the year 2021, which will mark their bicentennial anniversary.
Costa Rica is a “green” country: home to 4.5% of the world’s plant and animal species, it also occupies first place on the Happy Planet Index (HPI), a study administered by the New Economics Foundation.
Costa Rica is a very mountainous country, and the majority of its territory lies at elevations between 900 and 1,800 meters (2,950-5,900 feet) above sea level. The Central Mountain Range surrounds the Central Valley, which is home to the majority of Costa Rica’s citizens. The highest point in the country is on Mount Chirripó, which towers 3,820 meters (12,532 feet) above sea level and is the fifth-highest point in Central America. The country’s tallest volcano is Irazu, at 3,432 meters (11,260 feet) above sea level. The nation’s largest volcanic crater, which measures 1.5 kilometers (0.93 miles) in diameter, is in Poás Volcano.
Costa Rica is home to many islands, among them Cocos Island (24 square kilometers, or 9.27 square miles), which is considered a Costa Rican Historic and Architectural Heritage Site due to its historic and cultural value. In 1997, Cocos Island was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and in 1998, it was named an important national wetland under the 1991 Ramsal Convention on Wetlands of International Importance.