Costa Rica is a world leader in land conservation – but it hasn’t always been that way. In 1500, over 95% of the area was forested, but by 1987 only 21%. By 2010, 52% was forested and today, a bit more. With 20 national parks, 8 biological reserves, plus animal refuges, and protected areas, 26 percent of Costa Rica’s land is protected.
One of those important parks is the Arenal Volcano National Park, 29,692-acre (12,016-hectors) that includes both the Arenal Volcano and the dormant Chato Volcano. Beginning near Lake Arenal, the park has hiking trails and observational points. Of the over 200 volcanic formations in Costa Rica about 112 have shown some type of activity: Arenal is the most active volcano in Central America, while Poás is the second widest volcanic crater in the world, and Irazú is Costa Rica’s tallest volcano.
Costa Rica is serious about land conservation; it offers farmers, for instance, yearly subsidies if they keep part of their land forested.
Another popular tourist destination is Manuel Antonio National Park: on Costa Rica’s central Pacific coast; it includes rugged rainforest, white-sand beaches and coral reefs. It contains a vast diversity of tropical plants and wildlife, including three-toed sloths, endangered white-faced capuchin monkeys, and hundreds of bird species. The park’s 1,680 acres (680 hectares) have hiking trails meandering from the coast up into the mountains.
But these are only two of the many wildlife and conservation sites you can visit in Costa Rica. It is one of the most valued environmental destinations in the world – with over 100 protected areas to visit.
There are zip lines, water adventures, beaches, wildlife tours, and much more to see in Costa Rica.
Other important facts:
- The Costa Rican army was abolished in 1948 after a grim civil war that killed 2,000 people in 44 days.
- On 24 April, 1944, led by José María (Pepe) Figueres, a powerful coffee grower and outspoken rival of Calderón (the previous president), anti-government forces entered San José, almost six weeks after beginning a revolt in southern Costa Rica against the contested election of the Picado government. The United States helped determine the outcome of the revolution by its mobilization in the Canal Zone, constant pressure on Picado, and cutting off Nicaragua’s (Somoza’s) help. Also, throughout the country, armed groups were formed, trained by Guatemalan military advisors, in part, we were told, because of a promise by Figueres to send Costa Rican fighters later to Guatemala.
- Over the following 18 months, Figueres acted as interim president, during which time he drafted a new constitution that prohibited presidential reelection, dissolved the communist party in Costa Rica, granted women and blacks the right to vote, abolished the army, and established a neutral body that would oversee future elections (the Electoral Tribunal). All of the social reforms that Calderón had established were maintained. Banks and insurance companies were nationalized, and ten percent of all bank funds were seized for reconstruction. In 1949, Figueres turned the country over to Ulate, who had run as the unified opposition party leader, challenging Calderón’s party in the 1948 election. “Don Pepe” Figueres was elected president in 1953 and again in 1970. Upon his death in 1990, he was remembered as one of Costa Rica’s greatest leaders and a crusader against political corruption. He also never kept his promise to send troops to Guatemala; he knew the horror of war and didn’t want any more Costa Ricans to die. Costa Rica still has no standing army.
- Costa Rica has more teachers than police!
- Literacy rate is 95% for men and women.
- Infant mortality /maternal mortality rate is 25 per 100,000 live births and it continues to go down. In contrast, in 1987, there were 7.2 deaths of mothers per 100,000 live births in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In 2011, that number more than doubled, jumping to 17.8 deaths per 100,000 births mainly because of obesity-related complications. While the U.S. rate is still better than Costa Rica’s – that may not be true for long.
- President Luis Guillermo Solís won the 2014 election with over 77% of the vote. This was the largest margin ever recorded for a free election in Costa Rica. He is a member of the center-left Citizens’ Action Party. Now he isn’t as popular as when he was elected because the employment rate hasn’t improved as much as hoped.
Previously, Costa Rica’s president was Laura Chinchilla, Costa Rica’s first female president and sixth female elected for president of a Latin American country.
- In the 1950’s, the Monteverde Quaker community started with nine families from the U.S. – seeking a peaceful country.
- It has one of the highest life expectancies in the world according to the World Bank, Life expectancy at birth is 80 years compared to 79 in the United States. The Nicoya region of Costa Rica is also one of five Blue Zones—“longevity hotspots” populated by the longest-living people in the world—on the globe.
- At 19,730 square miles, Costa Rica measures slightly smaller than Lake Michigan. It has 801 miles (1,290 km) of coastline.
- It is home to more than 500,000 species – with nearly 3 percent of the world’s biodiversity. Corcovado National Park has been deemed “the most biologically intense place on the planet.”
- Costa Rica contains approximately 90 percent of the butterfly species found in Central America, 66 percent of all neo-tropical butterflies, and about 18 percent of all butterfly species in the world.
– and over 50 species of hummingbirds.
- Costa Ricans are some of the happiest people on Earth according to the Happy Planet Index, which uses three criteria—life expectancy, experienced well-being, and Ecological Footprint—to determine the overall happiness levels of 151 countries across the globe. With a score of 64.0, Costa Rica is near the top of this list while the United States has a happiness index of 37.3.
- In case you think that Costa Rica is perfect, know that pedestrians are called “targets” and speed bumps are “son muertos” – [they are] dead people. Do pay attention when you cross a street.
- Pura Vida is the response of locals when asked how they are or in passing to say “hello or goodbye.” Pura vida is a state of mind. Costa Ricans take every opportunity to live life to the fullest.
Visit – you will love the people, the conservation lands, the adventure tours. . .
Go to Costa Rica. You’ll love it.
Pura vida, Renée