Costa Rica straddles the Central American isthmus, reaching from the Caribbean Sea to the Pacific Ocean, with Nicaragua to the North and Panama to the South. From the jungles of the coastal regions the land rises up steeply into cloud forests and rugged mountain ranges, topped by active volcanoes, and girding a central meseta.
The country's immensely diverse landscapes and microclimates, coupled with its geographic position on a tenuous landbridge between two continents, give Costa
Rica arguably the highest biodiversity density anywhere in the world.
At 51,000 km² Costa Rica covers only 0.3 % of our planet's landmass, but it contains around 4-5% of all species estimated worldwide.
Barely bigger than the state of New Hampshire Costa Rica harbors more butterfly species than the whole of Africa, and more bird species than all of North America.
Costa Rica's national park system protects nearly all of the country's ecosystems in part, covering over 25% of national territory.
Nature lovers can admire prolific animal and bird life in habitats as varied as dry forest and savannah, rain and cloud forest, volcanoes, mountains, beaches, mangrove swamps and coral reefs.
Besides eco-tourism Costa Rica offers many other outdoor adventures and thrilling sports.
You can go whitewater river rafting, do a zip line tour through the jungle canopy, or cruise Costa Rica on a motorcycle, mountain bike or ATV. At a more leisurly pace you can ride on horseback, or glide through the water in a kayak.
Sun-worshippers find a fantasy land of paradise beaches, some with perfect surf conditions.
There are two oceans to choose from: the Pacific and the Carribean, whose teeming marine life can be explored while snorkeling or diving. Sport fishers in Costa Rica regularly reel in world record catches.
The Costa Ricans, affectionately knowns as 'Ticos' for short, are proud of their stable democracy. Unlike other latin-american countries, Costa Rica never endured dictatorships, wars, or revolutions. The peace-loving country abolished its army in 1948 and the government employs more teachers than policemen. The 95 percent literacy rate is the highest in the region.
Costa Rica enjoys an excellent social welfare system with good health care. The standard of living and live expectancy are considered the highest in Central America.
All these good points make it sound as if Costa Rica is paradise on earth but there are downsides as well. With a minimum wage of around $500 and prices of food and other items often higher than in the U.S. there is also poverty. Theft and corruption are rampant, roads are in a serious state of disrepair, to name just a few things.