Costa Rica facts on every entity in the world

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 the country's democratic development. In 1949, Costa Rica dissolved its armed forces. Although it still maintains a large agricultural sector, Costa Rica has expanded its economy to include strong technology and tourism industries. The standard of living is relatively high. Land ownership is widespread.



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

Geographic coordinates

10.00° N, 84.00° W

Area 130/257

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: 661 km

border countries (2): Nicaragua 313 km, Panama 348 km


1,290 km

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 active volcanoes


mean elevation:

elevation extremes:

lowest point: Pacific Ocean 0 m

highest point: Cerro Chirripo 3,810 m

Natural resources


Land use

agricultural land: 37.1%

arable land 4.9%; permanent crops 6.7%; permanent pasture 25.5%

forest: 51.5%

other: 11.4% (2011 est.)

Irrigated land

1,015 sq km (2012)

Total renewable water resources

112.4 cu km (2011)

Freshwater withdrawal (domestic/industrial/agricultural)

total: 5.77 cu km/yr (15%/9%/77%)

per capita: 1,582 cu m/yr (2006)

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

People and Society


noun: Costa Rican(s)

adjective: Costa Rican

Ethnic groups

white or mestizo 83.6%, mulato 6.7%, indigenous 2.4%, black of African descent 1.1%, other 1.1%, none 2.9%, unspecified 2.2% (2011 est.)


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%

Population 124/238

4,814,144 (July 2015 est.)

Age structure

0-14 years: 23.12% (male 569,181/female 543,835)

15-24 years: 17.1% (male 419,712/female 403,668)

25-54 years: 43.9% (male 1,062,378/female 1,051,058)

55-64 years: 8.6% (male 202,401/female 211,709)

65 years and over: 7.27% (male 161,831/female 188,371) (2015 est.)

Dependency ratios

total dependency ratio: 45.4%

youth dependency ratio: 32.4%

elderly dependency ratio: 12.9%

potential support ratio: 7.7% (2015 est.)

Median age

total: 30.4 years

male: 30 years

female: 30.9 years (2015 est.)

Population growth rate 97/233

1.22% (2015 est.)

Birth rate 122/224

15.91 births/1,000 population (2015 est.)

Death rate 200/225

4.55 deaths/1,000 population (2015 est.)

Net migration rate 67/222

0.83 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2015 est.)


urban population: 76.8% of total population (2015)

rate of urbanization: 2.74% annual rate of change (2010-15 est.)

Major urban areas - population

SAN JOSE (capital) 1.17 million (2015)

Sex ratio

at birth: 1.05 male(s)/female

0-14 years: 1.05 male(s)/female

15-24 years: 1.04 male(s)/female

25-54 years: 1.01 male(s)/female

55-64 years: 0.96 male(s)/female

65 years and over: 0.86 male(s)/female

total population: 1.01 male(s)/female (2015 est.)

Maternal mortality rate 115/184

25 deaths/100,000 live births (2015 est.)

Infant mortality rate 151/224

total: 8.46 deaths/1,000 live births

male: 9.25 deaths/1,000 live births

female: 7.64 deaths/1,000 live births (2015 est.)

Life expectancy at birth 58/224

total population: 78.4 years

male: 75.75 years

female: 81.19 years (2015 est.)

Total fertility rate 139/224

1.9 children born/woman (2015 est.)

Contraceptive prevalence rate

76.2% (2011)

Health expenditures 23/191

9.9% of GDP (2013)

Physicians density

1.11 physicians/1,000 population (2013)

Hospital bed density

1.2 beds/1,000 population (2012)

Drinking water source


urban: 99.6% of population

rural: 91.9% of population

total: 97.8% of population


urban: 0.4% of population

rural: 8.1% of population

total: 2.2% of population (2015 est.)

Sanitation facility access


urban: 95.2% of population

rural: 92.3% of population

total: 94.5% of population


urban: 4.8% of population

rural: 7.7% of population

total: 5.5% of population (2015 est.)

HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate

0.26% (2014 est.)

HIV/AIDS - people living with HIV/AIDS

8,800 (2014 est.)

HIV/AIDS - deaths

200 (2014 est.)

Obesity - adult prevalence rate 73/191

24% (2014)

Children under the age of 5 years underweight 130/138

1.1% (2009)

Education expenditures 34/173

6.9% of GDP (2013)

School life expectancy (primary to tertiary education)

total: 14 years

male: 13 years

female: 14 years (2013)

Unemployment, youth ages 15-24 62/134

total: 21.8%

male: 18.8%

female: 26.8% (2013 est.)


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

etymology: the name means "rich coast" in Spanish and was first applied in the early colonial period of the 16th century

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)


previous 1825; latest effective 8 November 1949; amended many times, last in 2015 (2015)

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


citizenship by birth: yes

citizenship by descent: yes

dual citizenship recognized: yes

residency requirement for naturalization: 7 years


18 years of age; universal and compulsory

Executive branch

chief of state: President Luis Guillermo SOLIS Rivera (since 8 May 2014); First Vice President Helio FALLAS Venega (since 8 May 2014); Second Vice President Ana Helena CHACON Echeverria (since 8 May 2014); note - the president is both chief of state and head of government

head of government: President Luis Guillermo SOLIS Rivera (since 8 May 2014); First Vice President Helio FALLAS Venega (since 8 May 2014); Second Vice President Ana Helena CHACON Echeverria (since 8 May 2014)

cabinet: Cabinet selected by the president

elections/appointments: president and vice presidents directly elected on the same ballot by modified majority popular vote (40% threshold) for a 4-year term (eligible for non-consecutive terms); election last held on 2 February 2014 with a runoff on 6 April 2014 (next to be held in February 2018)

election results: Luis Guillermo SOLIS Rivera elected president; percent of vote - Luis Guillermo SOLIS Rivera (PAC) 77.8%; Johnny ARAYA (PLN) 22.2%

Legislative branch

description: unicameral Legislative Assembly or Asamblea Legislativa (57 seats; members directly elected in multi-seat constituencies - corresponding to the country's 7 provinces - by proportional representation vote; members serve 4-year terms)

elections: last held on 2 February 2014 (next to be held in February 2018)

election results: percent of vote by party - NA; seats by party - PLN 18, PAC 13, FA 9, PUSC 8, PML 4, other 5

Judicial branch

highest court(s): Supreme Court of Justice (consists of 22 judges organized into 3 cassation chambers each with 5 judges, and the Constitutional Chamber with 7 judges)

judge selection and term of office: Supreme Court of Justice judges elected by the National Assembly for 8-year terms with renewal decided by the National Assembly

subordinate courts: appellate courts; first instance and justice of the peace courts; Superior Electoral Tribunal

Political parties and leaders

Accessibility Without Exclusion or PASE [Oscar Andres LOPEZ Arias]

Broad Front (Frente Amplio) or PFA [Ana Patricia MORA]

Citizen Action Party or PAC [Olivier PEREZ Gonzalez]

Costa Rican Renovation Party or PRC [Gerardo Justo OROZCO Alvarez]

Libertarian Movement Party or ML [Victor Danilo CUBERO Corrales]

National Integration Party or PIN [Walter MUNOZ Cespedes]

National Liberation Party or PLN [Bernal JIMENEZ]

National Restoration Party or PRN [Carlos AVENDANO]

Patriotic Alliance [Jorge ARAYA Westover]

Popular Vanguard [Humberto VARGAS]

Social Christian Unity Party or PUSC [Gerardo VARGAS]

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)

Confederation of Workers Rerum Novarum or CTRN (National Libertion Party affiliate)

Costa Rican Confederation of Democratic Workers or CCTD (National Libertion Party affiliate)

Costa Rican Exporter's Chamber or CADEXCO

Costa Rican Solidarity Movement

Costa Rican Union of Private Sector Enterprises or UCCAEP

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

International organization participation

BCIE, CACM, CD, CELAC, FAO, G-77, IADB, IAEA, IBRD, ICAO, ICC (national committees), ICCt, ICRM, IDA, IFAD, IFC, IFRCS, ILO, IMF, IMO, IMSO, Interpol, IOC, IOM, IPU, ISO, ITSO, ITU, ITUC (NGOs), LAES, LAIA (observer), MIGA, NAM (observer), OAS, OIF (observer), OPANAL, OPCW, Pacific Alliance (observer), PCA, SICA, UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNHCR, UNIDO, Union Latina, UNWTO, UPU, WCO, WFTU (NGOs), WHO, WIPO, WMO, WTO

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 placed 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 symbol(s)

yiguirro (clay-colored robin); national colors: blue, white, red

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


Economy - overview

Prior to the global economic crisis, Costa Rica enjoyed stable economic growth. The economy contracted in 2009 but resumed growth at about 4% per year in 2010-15. While 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 medical devices, 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 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. 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 has increased foreign direct investment in key sectors of the economy, including the insurance and telecommunications sectors. However, poor infrastructure, high energy costs, bureaucracy, weak investor protection, and legal uncertainty due to difficulty of enforcing contracts and overlapping and at times conflicting responsibilities between agencies, remain impediments to greater competitiveness.

Costa Rica’s economy also faces challenges due to a rising fiscal deficit, rising public debt, and relatively low levels of domestic revenue. Poverty has remained around 20-25% 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, which in 2014 represented 1% 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.

GDP (purchasing power parity) 93/230

$74.09 billion (2015 est.)

$71.93 billion (2014 est.)

$69.5 billion (2013 est.)

note: data are in 2015 US dollars

GDP (official exchange rate)

$51.62 billion (2015 est.)

GDP - real growth rate 102/225

3% (2015 est.)

3.5% (2014 est.)

3.4% (2013 est.)

GDP - per capita (PPP) 105/230

$15,500 (2015 est.)

$15,100 (2014 est.)

$14,600 (2013 est.)

note: data are in 2015 US dollars

Gross national saving 110/179

15.9% of GDP (2015 est.)

14.4% of GDP (2014 est.)

15.5% of GDP (2013 est.)

GDP - composition, by end use

household consumption: 64.8%

government consumption: 17.5%

investment in fixed capital: 21.9%

investment in inventories: -0.6%

exports of goods and services: 30.1%

imports of goods and services: -33.7%

(2015 est.)

GDP - composition, by sector of origin

agriculture: 6%

industry: 19.7%

services: 74.3% (2015 est.)

Agriculture - products

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


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

Industrial production growth rate 63/202

3.6% (2015 est.)

Labor force 119/233

2.268 million

note: this official estimate excludes Nicaraguans living in Costa Rica (2015 est.)

Labor force - by occupation

agriculture: 14%

industry: 22%

services: 64% (2006 est.)

Unemployment rate 101/207

8.7% (2015 est.)

8.6% (2014 est.)

Population below poverty line

24.8% (2011 est.)

Household income or consumption by percentage share

lowest 10%: 1.2%

highest 10%: 39.5% (2009 est.)

Distribution of family income - Gini index 20/144

50.3 (2009)

45.9 (1997)


revenues: $7.5 billion

expenditures: $10.64 billion (2015 est.)

Taxes and other revenues 196/219

14.5% of GDP (2015 est.)

Budget surplus (+) or deficit (-) 182/220

-6.1% of GDP (2015 est.)

Public debt 62/176

59.7% of GDP (2015 est.)

56.8% of GDP (2014 est.)

Fiscal year

calendar year

Inflation rate (consumer prices) 73/226

1.1% (2015 est.)

4.5% (2014 est.)

Central bank discount rate 3/156

21.5% (31 December 2010)

23% (31 December 2009)

Commercial bank prime lending rate 29/184

16.1% (31 December 2015 est.)

14.9% (31 December 2014 est.)

Stock of narrow money 97/192

$5.119 billion (31 December 2015 est.)

$4.643 billion (31 December 2014 est.)

Stock of broad money 88/193

$21.55 billion (31 December 2015 est.)

$18 billion (31 December 2014 est.)

Stock of domestic credit 70/191

$35.07 billion (31 December 2015 est.)

$27.25 billion (31 December 2014 est.)

Market value of publicly traded shares 100/121

$2.015 billion (31 December 2012 est.)

$1.443 billion (31 December 2011)

$1.445 billion (31 December 2010 est.)

Current account balance 144/197

-$1.937 billion (2015 est.)

-$2.429 billion (2014 est.)

Exports 89/224

$9.756 billion (2015 est.)

$11.14 billion (2014 est.)

Exports - commodities

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

Exports - partners

US 38.4%, Netherlands 6.2%, Panama 5.3%, Nicaragua 4.4%, Guatemala 4.1% (2014)

Imports 82/223

$15.44 billion (2015 est.)

$16.35 billion (2014 est.)

Imports - commodities

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

Imports - partners

US 44.4%, China 10%, Mexico 6.7% (2014)

Reserves of foreign exchange and gold 81/170

$7.578 billion (31 December 2015 est.)

$7.211 billion (31 December 2014 est.)

Debt - external 86/206

$19.43 billion (31 December 2014 est.)

$17.65 billion (31 December 2013 est.)

Stock of direct foreign investment - at home 73/120

$27.63 billion (31 December 2015 est.)

$24.66 billion (31 December 2014 est.)

Stock of direct foreign investment - abroad 76/105

$2.999 billion (31 December 2015 est.)

$2.799 billion (31 December 2014 est.)

Exchange rates

Costa Rican colones (CRC) per US dollar -

535 (2015 est.)

538.32 (2014 est.)

538.32 (2013 est.)

502.9 (2012 est.)

505.66 (2011 est.)


Electricity - production 97/220

10.05 billion kWh (2012 est.)

Electricity - consumption 93/219

8.987 billion kWh (2012 est.)

Electricity - exports 70/218

402 million kWh (2012 est.)

Electricity - imports 76/219

419 million kWh (2012 est.)

Electricity - installed generating capacity 93/214

3.039 million kW (2012 est.)

Electricity - from fossil fuels 182/214

30.7% of total installed capacity (2012 est.)

Electricity - from nuclear fuels 72/214

0% of total installed capacity (2012 est.)

Electricity - from hydroelectric plants 40/214

55.9% of total installed capacity (2012 est.)

Electricity - from other renewable sources 25/212

13.3% of total installed capacity (2012 est.)

Crude oil - production 120/214

0 bbl/day (2014 est.)

Crude oil - exports 82/214

1,300 bbl/day (2012 est.)

Crude oil - imports 176/214

0 bbl/day (2012 est.)

Crude oil - proved reserves 119/215

0 bbl (1 January 2015 est.)

Refined petroleum products - production 169/214

0 bbl/day (2012 est.)

Refined petroleum products - consumption 100/212

50,000 bbl/day (2013 est.)

Refined petroleum products - exports 169/214

0 bbl/day (2012 est.)

Refined petroleum products - imports 81/213

49,410 bbl/day (2012 est.)

Natural gas - production 173/216

0 cu m (2013 est.)

Natural gas - consumption 132/215

0 cu m (2013 est.)

Natural gas - exports 82/215

0 cu m (2013 est.)

Natural gas - imports 182/214

0 cu m (2013 est.)

Natural gas - proved reserves 126/212

0 cu m (1 January 2014 est.)

Carbon dioxide emissions from consumption of energy 114/212

7.29 million Mt (2012 est.)


Telephones - fixed lines 82/219

total subscriptions: 880,000

subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: 19 (2014 est.)

Telephones - mobile cellular 104/217

total: 7.1 million

subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: 149 (2014 est.)

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 is scheduled to be opened to competition from domestic and international firms, but has been slow to open to competition

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) (2011)

Broadcast media

multiple privately owned TV stations and 1 publicly owned TV 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 78/232

147,258 (2012)

Internet users 92/217

total: 2.4 million

percent of population: 50.9% (2014 est.)


Airports 35/236

161 (2013)

Airports - with paved runways

total: 47

2,438 to 3,047 m: 2

1,524 to 2,437 m: 2

914 to 1,523 m: 27

under 914 m: 16 (2013)

Airports - with unpaved runways

total: 114

914 to 1,523 m: 18

under 914 m: 96 (2013)


refined products 662 km (2013)

Railways 123/136

total: 278 km

narrow gauge: 278 km 1.067-m gauge

note: the entire rail network fell into disrepair and out of use at the end of the 20th century; since 2005, certain sections of rail have been rehabilitated (2014)

Roadways 90/223

total: 39,018 km

paved: 10,133 km

unpaved: 28,885 km (2010)

Waterways 74/107

730 km (seasonally navigable by small craft) (2011)

Merchant marine 149/156

total: 1

by type: passenger/cargo 1 (2010)

Ports and terminals

major seaport(s): Atlantic Ocean (Caribbean) - Puerto Limon; Pacific Ocean - Caldera

Military and Security

Military branches

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

Transnational Issues

Disputes - international

Costa Rica and Nicaragua regularly file border dispute cases over the delimitations of the San Juan River and the northern tip of Calero Island to the International Court of Justice (ICJ); in 2009, the ICJ ruled that Costa Rican vessels carrying out police activities could not use the river, but official Costa Rican vessels providing essential services to riverside inhabitants and Costa Rican tourists could travel freely on the river; in 2011, the ICJ provisionally ruled that both countries must remove personnel from the disputed area; in 2013, the ICJ rejected Nicaragua's 2012 suit to halt Costa Rica's construction of a highway paralleling the river on the grounds of irreparable environmental damage; in 2013, the ICJ, regarding the disputed territory, ordered that Nicaragua should refrain from dredging or canal construction and refill and repair damage caused by trenches connecting the river to the Caribbean and upheld its 2010 ruling that Nicaragua must remove all personnel; in early 2014, Costa Rica brought Nicaragua to the ICJ over offshore oil concessions in the disputed region

Refugees and internally displaced persons

refugees (country of origin): 16,623 (Colombia) (2014)

stateless persons: 1,200 (2014)

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)