[Country map of Costa Rica]

Costa Rica


Location: Middle America, bordering both the Caribbean Sea and the North Pacific Ocean, between Nicaragua and Panama

Map references: Central America and the Caribbean

total area: 51,100 sq km
land area: 50,660 sq km
comparative area: slightly smaller than West Virginia
note: includes Isla del Coco

Land boundaries: total 639 km, Nicaragua 309 km, Panama 330 km

Coastline: 1,290 km

Maritime claims:
exclusive economic zone: 200 nm
territorial sea: 12 nm

International disputes: none

Climate: tropical; dry season (December to April); rainy season (May to November)

Terrain: coastal plains separated by rugged mountains

Natural resources: hydropower potential

Land use:
arable land: 6%
permanent crops: 7%
meadows and pastures: 45%
forest and woodland: 34%
other: 8%

Irrigated land: 1,180 sq km (1989 est.)

current issues: deforestation, largely a result of the clearing of land for cattle ranching; soil erosion
natural hazards: occasional earthquakes, hurricanes along Atlantic coast; frequent flooding of lowlands at onset of rainy season; active volcanoes
international agreements: party to - Biodiversity, Climate Change, Endangered Species, Law of the Sea, Marine Dumping, Nuclear Test Ban, Ozone Layer Protection, Wetlands, Whaling; signed, but not ratified - Desertification, Marine Life Conservation


Population: 3,419,114 (July 1995 est.)

Age structure:
0-14 years: 35% (female 585,976; male 617,456)
15-64 years: 60% (female 1,013,491; male 1,036,195)
65 years and over: 5% (female 88,050; male 77,946) (July 1995 est.)

Population growth rate: 2.24% (1995 est.)

Birth rate: 24.88 births/1,000 population (1995 est.)

Death rate: 3.47 deaths/1,000 population (1995 est.)

Net migration rate: 1.02 migrant(s)/1,000 population (1995 est.)

Infant mortality rate: 10.3 deaths/1,000 live births (1995 est.)

Life expectancy at birth:
total population: 78.11 years
male: 76.21 years
female: 80.1 years (1995 est.)

Total fertility rate: 3.01 children born/woman (1995 est.)

noun: Costa Rican(s)
adjective: Costa Rican

Ethnic divisions: white (including mestizo) 96%, black 2%, Indian 1%, Chinese 1%

Religions: Roman Catholic 95%

Languages: Spanish (official), English; spoken around Puerto Limon

Literacy: age 15 and over can read and write (1984)
total population: 93%
male: 93%
female: 93%

Labor force: 868,300
by occupation: industry and commerce 35.1%, government and services 33%, agriculture 27%, other 4.9% (1985 est.)


conventional long form: Republic of Costa Rica
conventional short form: Costa Rica
local long form: Republica de Costa Rica
local short form: Costa Rica

Digraph: CS

Type: democratic republic

Capital: San Jose

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

Independence: 15 September 1821 (from Spain)

National holiday: Independence Day, 15 September (1821)

Constitution: 9 November 1949

Legal system: based on Spanish civil law system; judicial review of legislative acts in the Supreme Court; has not accepted compulsory ICJ jurisdiction

Suffrage: 18 years of age; universal and compulsory

Executive branch:
chief of state and head of government: President Jose Maria FIGUERES Olsen (since 8 May 1994); First Vice President Rodrigo OREAMUNO Blanco (since 8 May 1994); Second Vice President Rebeca GRYNSPAN Mayufis (since 8 May 1994); election last held 6 February 1994 (next to be held February 1998); results - President FIGUERES (PLN party) 49.7%, Miquel Angel RODRIGUEZ (PUSC party) 47.5%
cabinet: Cabinet; selected by the president

Legislative branch: unicameral
Legislative Assembly (Asamblea Legislativa): elections last held 6 February 1994 (next to be held February 1998); results - percent of vote by party NA; seats - (61 total) PLN 28, PUSC 29, minority parties 4

Judicial branch: Supreme Court (Corte Suprema)

Political parties and leaders: National Liberation Party (PLN), Manuel AGUILAR Bonilla; Social Christian Unity Party (PUSC), Rafael Angel CALDERON Fournier; Marxist Popular Vanguard Party (PVP), Humberto VARGAS Carbonell; New Republic Movement (MNR), Sergio Erick ARDON Ramirez; Progressive Party (PP), Isaac Felipe AZOFEIFA Bolanos; People's Party of Costa Rica (PPC), Lenin CHACON Vargas; Radical Democratic Party (PRD), Juan Jose ECHEVERRIA Brealey

Other political or pressure groups: Costa Rican Confederation of Democratic Workers (CCTD, Liberation Party affiliate); Confederated Union of Workers (CUT, Communist Party affiliate); Authentic Confederation of Democratic Workers (CATD, Communist Party affiliate); Chamber of Coffee Growers; National Association for Economic Development (ANFE); Free Costa Rica Movement (MCRL, rightwing militants); National Association of Educators (ANDE)


Diplomatic representation in US:
chief of mission: Ambassador Sonia PICADO
chancery: 2114 S Street NW, Washington, DC 20008
telephone: [1] (202) 234-2945
FAX: [1] (202) 265-4795
consulate(s) general: Albuquerque, Atlanta, Chicago, Durham, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, New Orleans, New York, Orlando, Philadelphia, San Antonio, San Diego, San Francisco, and San Juan (Puerto Rico)
consulate(s): Austin

US diplomatic representation:
chief of mission: US Ambassador to Costa Rica Peter DE VOS
embassy: Pavas Road, San Jose
mailing address: APO AA 34020
telephone: [506] 220-3939
FAX: [506] 220-2305

Flag: five horizontal bands of blue (top), white, red (double width), white, and blue, with the coat of arms in a white disk on the hoist side of the red band


Overview: Costa Rica's basically stable and progressive economy depends especially on tourism and export of bananas, coffee, and other agricultural products. In 1994 the economy grew at an estimated 4.3%, compared with 6.5% in 1993, 7.7% in 1992, and 2.1% in 1991. Inflation in 1993 dropped to 9% from 17% in 1992 and 25% in 1991, an indication of basic financial stability. Unemployment is officially reported at only 4.0%, but there is much underemployment. Costa Rica signed a free trade agreement with Mexico in 1994.

National product: GDP - purchasing power parity - $16.9 billion (1994 est.)

National product real growth rate: 4.3% (1994 est.)

National product per capita: $5,050 (1994 est.)

Inflation rate (consumer prices): 9% (1993 est.)

Unemployment rate: 4% (1993); much underemployment

revenues: $1.1 billion
expenditures: $1.34 billion, including capital expenditures of $110 million (1991 est.)

Exports: $2.1 billion (f.o.b., 1993)
commodities: coffee, bananas, textiles, sugar
partners: US, Germany, Italy, Guatemala, El Salvador, Netherlands, UK, France

Imports: $2.9 billion (c.i.f., 1993)
commodities: raw materials, consumer goods, capital equipment, petroleum
partners: US, Japan, Mexico, Guatemala, Venezuela, Germany

External debt: $3.2 billion (1991)

Industrial production: growth rate 10.5% (1992); accounts for 22% of GDP

capacity: 1,040,000 kW
production: 4.1 billion kWh
consumption per capita: 1,164 kWh (1993)

Industries: food processing, textiles and clothing, construction materials, fertilizer, plastic products

Agriculture: accounts for 19% of GDP and 70% of exports; cash commodities - coffee, beef, bananas, sugar; other food crops include corn, rice, beans, potatoes; normally self-sufficient in food except for grain; depletion of forest resources resulting in lower timber output

Illicit drugs: transshipment country for cocaine and heroin from South America; illicit production of cannabis on small, scattered plots

Economic aid:
recipient: US commitments, including Ex-Im (FY70-89), $1.4 billion; Western (non-US) countries, ODA and OOF bilateral commitments (1970-89), $935 million; Communist countries (1971-89), $27 million

Currency: 1 Costa Rican colon (C) = 100 centimos

Exchange rates: Costa Rican colones (C) per US$1 - 164.39 (December 1994), 157.07 (1994), 142.17 (1993), 134.51 (1992), 122.43 (1991), 91.58 (1990)

Fiscal year: calendar year


total: 950 km (260 km electrified)
narrow gauge: 950 km 1.067-m gauge

total: 35,560 km
paved: 5,600 km
unpaved: gravel and earth 29,960 km (1992)

Inland waterways: about 730 km, seasonally navigable

Pipelines: petroleum products 176 km

Ports: Caldera, Golfito, Moin, Puerto Limon, Puerto Quepos, Puntarenas

Merchant marine: none

total: 174
with paved runways 2,438 to 3,047 m: 2
with paved runways 1,524 to 2,437 m: 1
with paved runways 914 to 1,523 m: 17
with paved runways under 914 m: 117
with unpaved runways 1,524 to 2,438 m: 1
with unpaved runways 914 to 1,523 m: 36


Telephone system: 292,000 telephones; very good domestic telephone service
local: NA
intercity: NA
international: connection into Central American Microwave System; 1 INTELSAT (Atlantic Ocean) earth station

broadcast stations: AM 71, FM 0, shortwave 13
radios: NA

broadcast stations: 18
televisions: NA

Defense Forces

Branches: Civil Guard, Coast Guard, Air Section, Rural Assistance Guard; note - the Constitution prohibits armed forces

Manpower availability: males age 15-49 896,516; males fit for military service 602,785; males reach military age (18) annually 32,815 (1995 est.)

Defense expenditures: exchange rate conversion - $22 million, 0.5% of GDP (1989)