Costa Rica is known internationally as a prime travel destination, seeing roughly over 1.7 million tourists annually. Whether you’ve been to the beautiful country or are planning your next vacation and would like to consider it, here are 16 interesting things about Costa Rica that you may not know.
1. More than 1/4th of the land is dedicated to conservation
Image: Costa Rica Eco Tour
Costa Rica is very much committed to maintaining and preserving the natural beauty that captivates both tourists and locals. The country has 20 national parks, 8 reserves and several protected animal refuges. 26 percent of the country’s land is protected.
2. Tourism tops the list of the country’s foreign exchange earners
Image: Costa Rica Experts
Tourism overtook bananas to become Costa Rica’s top foreign exchange earner in 1995, reaching an all-time high in 2013 with 2.4 million visitors. Earnings from tourism are estimated to exceed $1.7 billion annually on average.
3. Costa Rica contains four UNESCO World Heritage sites
UNESCO, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization has four designated locations in Costa Rica noted for their cultural and natural value. These areas are: La Amistad National Park, Cocos Island National Park, Area de Conservacion Guanacaste and the Precolumbian Chiefdom Settlements.
4. Costa Rica does not have a national army
Image: Cayuga Online
Costa Rica is one of only 23 countries that does not currently have a national army. The army was dissolved in 1948 and is instead supported by twenty-one countries, including the U.S., who have agreed to provide it with military assistance should it be necessary.
5. Costa Rica has one of the world’s highest life expectancies
Image: Home Care Assistance
Costa Rica’s life expectancy is 80 years at birth. This surpasses that of the U.S., which is 79. Costa Rica also has one Blue Zone area, the Nicoya region, which is inhabited by some of the longest-living people in the world.
6. Costa Rica contains over 200 volcanic spots
Of these 200 volcanic spots, 112 have been observed to be active and 60 are predicted to be dormant. Irazu is the tallest volcano in Costa Rico.
7. Costa Rica is smaller than Lake Michigan
Image: Nations Encyclopedia
Costa Rica is 19,730 square miles – slightly less than Lake Michigan’s 22,394 square miles.
8. Costa Rica contains more than 5 percent of the globe’s biodiversity
Image: The Costa Rica News
Although Costa Rica occupies only .03 percent of the world’s surface area, it has the world’s highest biodiversity density boasting over 500,000 species. Corcovado National Park in Costa Rica has been labelled as the most biologically diverse place in the world.
9. Costa Rica has a ton of butterflies
Image: Berkeley University
Costa Rica contains roughly 90 percent of butterfly species found in Central America and 18 percent of all butterfly species in the world.
10. Costa Rica also contains 50+ species of hummingbirds
Image: Montever Detours
There are 338 known species of hummingbirds, 50 of which live in Costa Rica.
11. Costa Rica residents are known as ticos and ticas
Image: The Costa Rica News
Costa Rica residents refer to themselves as ticos and ticas – male and female, respectively.
12. Residents have got a cute, citrusy love phrase
Costa Ricans in love will refer to their partners as their media naranja – this translates literally to ‘half an orange.’
13. Most of the country’s radio stations play the national anthem at 7 each morning
Costa Rica’s national anthem was first played in 1852 to welcome U.S. and UK diplomats.
14. Street signs weren’t used until 2012
Image: Live In Costa Rica
Although a GPS will display street names in Costa Rica, residents are much more accustomed to finding their way around town using landmarks. The practice of using street names fell out of fashion as the population boomed in the 50s and 60s, not returning to prominence until 2012 when a $1 million project was undertaken to provide street signs and a regulated postal system to the region.
15. They’ve got their dedicated means of greeting and bidding farewell
Image: Angie Away
Costa Ricans greet each other – and say goodbye – using the phrase ‘pura vida.’ This term translates to “pure life” and describes a state of mind that Costa Ricans believe in, taking every opportunity that life presents.
16. Costa Ricas are some of the happiest people in the world
Image: Revisit A Utopia
With that sort of philosophy, it’s not surprising that Costa Ricans are some of the happiest people in the world according to The Happy Planet Index, which uses three criteria (life expectancy, well-being and ecological footprint) to rank countries. With a score of 64, Costa Rica tops this list and flies past the U.S., which is ranked at 37.3.