A jewel of Central America, situated between Panama and Nicaragua, Costa Rica has the reputation of being an oasis of calm and prosperity amongst more turbulent nations which surround it.
Already in 1949, a new Constitution gave voting rights to women and to blacks and also decided upon the dismantling of the armed forces of the country. It is quite an exceptional fact that a democratic country chose to not have an army. For several years, the governments in place have also made a real effort to preserve the tropical ecosystem of the country and to promote the image of a paradise of ecotourism. Effectively, the extreme biodiversity of the country attracts numerous lovers of fauna and flora each year. In Costa Rica, some 850 species of birds are recorded, including the magnificent quetzal, a bird of the forests of Central America with green and brown plumage. More than 1400 tree species are also found there, which offer a natural habitat to a large variety of animals such as monkeys, sloths, armadillos, jaguars and tapirs. A rich and luxuriant nature permits Costa Rica to export worldwide and in large quantities raw materials like coffee or bananas. This small country, with a surface area of 51, 100 km2, has long and narrow plains which form the coastal areas with the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea. The rest of the territory is partly made up of tropical forests and volcanic mountains. It is in this mountainous region of the centre where the largest population centres are situated. The capital, San Jose, moreover, culminates at 1,150 metres altitude. The State protects 27% of the territory in the form of nautral reserves of forest in which a small minority of indigenous Indians live. 12% of the lands have been ranked as national park. If 96% of the population is of Spanish descendance, the country still counts 1% of indigenous Indians who speak their own dialect and 2% of individuals descending from African who express themselves in a Creole English. Costa Rica lives in tandem with two annual seasons, the dry season which lasts approximately from December until April and the wet season during the rest of the year. Nevertheless, the coastal region of the Caribbean is subjected to the wet season throughout almost the whole year. The dry season is the most pleasant, but it also corresponds to the period of high numbers of tourists. Generally speaking, the temperature is always good, even very hot and humid and differences between regions can occur with differences in altitude.