I am thrilled to share with you some fun facts about a place that is incredibly close to my heart – Costa Rica.
A country rich in biodiversity, brimming with vibrant culture, and radiating warmth from every sun-kissed corner. I was fortunate enough to call this tropical paradise home for a year, and now I regularly return every year to visit my husband’s family.
Over time, my bond with Costa Rica has grown fonder, and my understanding of its nuances, deeper.
So, read on and allow me to take you on a virtual tour of ‘the rich coast’, sprinkled with interesting facts about Costa Rica that you perhaps never knew!
This post may contain affiliate links, which help keep the blog running at no cost to you. Thank you for helping support Adventures Abound so I can keep creating free content for your adventure planning!
Fun Facts About Costa Rica
1. Gas is not self-pumped.
Much like Oregon and New Jersey, Costa Rica still employs people to pump gas.
When driving your rental car, you’ll have to sit tight at the gas station while an attendant fills your tank for you.
If you are lucky, they may also clean your windshields, free of charge!
2. The currency is colones.
The exchange comes out to roughly 500 colones per dollar.
They are more plastic than paper, and come in brilliant colors with famous animals like sloths and the Blue Morpho butterfly.
Each denomination is a different length as well, making it easily accessible for those who are vision impaired.
3. The capital is San José
Located in a valley, San José has a mild climate year-round.
The majority of Costa Ricans live in the greater metropolitan area (GAM) of San Jose, Heredia, Alajuela, and Cartago.
4. One of my favorite facts about Costa Rica is that more than 25% of the country is protected in National Parks and Reserves.
It currently has 30 national parks, several of which have only been created over the last few years, making it one of the best destinations for sustainable travel.
One of my favorite national parks is often overlooked: Parque Nacional Carara, as tourists often drive right by it on the way to the more popular Manuel Antonio on the Pacific Coast.
La Amistad is the largest national Park in Costa Rica, expanding over the Southern border into Panamá.
5. There are 7 provinces that make up Costa Rica.
They are Guanacaste, Alajuela, Heredia, Cartago, Limon, San José, and Puntarenas.
Guanacaste was the last region to be annexed, and this is celebrated every year on July 25.
6. Costa Rica is a farming nation
While the main economy is supported by tourism and many growing tech businesses, Costa Rica remains largely agricultural.
Many farms grow things like coffee, cacao, pineapple, and bananas.
7. The culture of Costa Ricans is very friendly and polite.
It’s no wonder they are so happy – with all this sunshine, beautiful nature, and friendly neighbors!
It is always a good idea to greet someone before you enter their shop or ask them a question.
Remember to say goodbye too!
8. Costa Rica has notoriously terrible roads and traffic.
I refuse to drive here, but luckily my husband is Costa Rican and is used to it!
If you do choose to rent a car, be mindful of traffic times and driving to remote areas.
We highly recommend using Waze for directions as it is much more accurate than other map apps.
Manual/stick shift is more common in Costa Rica as well, even on public buses.
It is a bit wild to be on a public bus, winding around the mountains, and see them shifting gears!
9. Not everywhere in Costa Rica is hot.
Though located in the tropics, Costa Rica has a huge variety of ecosystems.
Places like Monteverde and Cerro de la Muerte are cloud forests, with a chillier climate.
Be sure to pack layers if you plan to go ziplining or hiking in the mountains.
10. One of the most interesting facts about Costa Rica is that Earthquakes are very common.
My first year here, there were 3 and I never felt a single one; I was always doing something like walking across a busy street, or sleeping. I used to joke that they were not real!
I recently felt one on my last visit – it was as if a large train was passing right by the house – you heard it before you felt it, and then everything shook just a little bit.
Costa Rica is full of volcanos, such as Poás and Irazú, that you can hike to on your trip!
11. Costa Rica doesn’t have a military.
It was dissolved in 1949 after a terrible civil war in 1948, and they haven’t had one since.
San José has a park dedicated to this called Parque La Paz. There is a monument commemorating the dissolving of the military in the middle of the lake.
You will often see locals flying kites, paddling in boats, and sliding down the hill on cardboard at the park!
12. Pura Vida is the most popular Costa Rica slang phrases.
It means “Pure Life” but as it is with many phrases you don’t translate it literally.
Pura Vida can be a greeting as much as an answer, but ultimately eludes to the laid-back way of life here in Costa Rica.
13. Nearly all of the energy consumed in Costa Rica is generated by renewable energy sources.
While information varies from year to year, Costa Rica has almost completely supplied its energy through solar, geothermal, hydro, and wind energy.
14. Costa Rica’s Nicoya Peninsula hosts one of the only five Blue Zones in the world.
Blue Zones are regions where people are happy, healthy, and live significantly longer than in the rest of the world.
15. Costa Rica is home to 8 indigenous groups recognized by the government
They are the BriBri, Chorotega, Huetar, Ngäbe, Cabécar, Brunka, Bröran, and Maleku.
Visit the Guayabo National Monument, or learn to make chocolate on the Bribri reservation.
16. Local diners in Costa Rica are called “sodas.”
Once, while on a bus towards Montezuma, my friend declared “Look! That sign says they have soda – I bet they have food for sale too!.”
I replied “well….yes they have food, but not for the reason that you think”
Sodas are small, family-run diners that serve typical Costa Rican meals.
Often they serve only a few variations of a plate with rice, beans, protein, salad, and sweet plantains, called a “casado”.
17. With over 700 miles of coastline and 600 beaches, it’s no wonder Costa Rica is one of the top 3 destinations for surfing in the world.
18. Costa Rica is one of the most biodiverse places in the entire world.
Not only do they have 5% of the world’s biodiversity in only 0.04% of the Earth’s land mass, but Costa Rica is also home to several unique phenomena.
Cocos Island is one of only three sites in the world where hammerhead sharks school; Ostional Wildlife Refuge sees one of the only places where Olive Ridley turtles return in droves monthly, with hundreds of thousands of the turtles coming ashore to lay their eggs – a phenomenon known as the ‘arribada’; and bioluminescence in the Nicoya Peninsula.
19. The national anthem plays on the radio every single morning at 6 am!
It is also very commonly sung at 6 pm on the eve of Costa Rica’s Independence Day – September 15th.
20. There is a privately owned reserve that was founded by children in Sweden.
The Children’s Eternal Rainforest is located in the Monteverde area, and has been protected for over 30 years!
While the total protected land was funded by over 44 countries, the initial added tract of land was purchased from funds raised by a group of students in Sweden who heard about the Monteverde Conservation League and wanted to help.
21. There is a park dedicated entirely to stray dogs.
The territorio de zaguates is a sanctuary to more than 1800 dogs – so if you’re looking for a new best friend, Costa Rica might just be the place for you.
22. Street signs are relatively new!
When I studied abroad in Costa Rica, the directions were descriptive to the tune of “turn right at the old mango tree, 300 meters south from the mechanic, etc
It was only in 2012 that the capital San Jose actually installed street signs.
Since then, people have started using their numerical addresses, though they still largely rely on the old way of giving directions.
23. Costa Rica is small but mighty!
At only 19,710 sq mi, it is relatively the same size as the state of West Virginia.
24. Costa Rica is home to the world’s very first zip line.
Not only is Costa Rica famous for ziplining, but it is also the location of the first recreational zipline.
Now you can enjoy a thrilling and breathtaking experience of flying through the jungle like Tarzan!
Whether you are an adrenaline seeker or just looking for a unique adventure, ziplining in Costa Rica is a must-do activity.
25. Costa Rican food isn’t spicy (for the most part).
While most US Americans expect a cuisine similar to that of Mexico, Costa Rican food is much milder.
Except for the Caribbean side, the chilero (a homemade fermented veggie sauce), and the chiliguaro shots (sugar cane liquor with hot sauce – the national shot), most of the food in Costa Rica is flavorful but not spicy.
Expect to eat a lot of rice and beans, fresh vegetables, plantains, and tropical fruits instead of spicy salsas.
My mother-in-law even thinks that black pepper is too spicey!
26. Costa Rica is more sea than land.
Comprising of over 230,000 sq miles of ocean (but only 20,000 sq miles of land), Costa Rica has a larger claim to its neighboring waters than the land itself.
27. Costa Rica has 12 different ecosystems!
While you may know that there are cloud forests, beaches, and rainforests, did you know that there are 12 different climate zones in the country?
In Guanacaste, visitors will find Tropical Dry Forests, that look as lush as a rainforest in the rainy season, but dry up like a desert when the rains stop.
On the mountaintops, like the famous Monteverde, the climate gets cooler and is enshrouded in a continuous misty cloud.
On the Pacific Coast, the mangrove trees provide unique habitats to the famous Scarlett Macaws while protecting the coast from storms.
28. Costa Rica is home to four UNESCO World Heritage Sites
Isla de Coco National Park, La Amistad International Park, Diquís Spheres, and Guanacaste Conservation Area are Costa Rica’s four UNESCO sites.
29. The national animal is the sloth.
Costa Rica has 2 of the 6 sloth species in the world: the Hoffmann’s two-toed sloth and the brown-throated three-toed sloth.
While it may be exciting to see them, always take care to ensure you are having ethical animal encounters.
Costa Rica is currently promoting stop animal selfies, to remind tourists not to interact with wild animals.
Common Questions About Costa Rica
What is Costa Rica known for?
Costa Rica is known for its incredible biodiversity, adventure tourism such as ziplining and river-rafting, and the incredibly kind and welcoming people.
Is Costa Rica an island?
Costa Rica is not an island. It is located in Central America, between Nicaragua and Panama.
What is the official language in Costa Rica?
Costa Ricans speak Spanish. While much of the younger generation speaks English as a second language, Spanish is still the predominant language and the official one.
Don’t forget to purchase travel insurance before your trip to Costa Rica! While Costa Rica is a common destination for medical tourism – having insurance can still help you lower costs if anything comes up while traveling.
Wrapping up these Costa Rica fun facts!
And there you have it – a whirlwind tour of the many fun facts about Costa Rica!
From the thrill of ziplining to the tranquility of its UNESCO World Heritage Sites, the excitement of its vibrant beaches to the allure of its unique wildlife, Costa Rica truly is a treasure trove of experiences. Each fact uncovered is a testament to the country’s rich culture, biodiversity, and way of life.
So, next time you think of planning a getaway, why not let the Pura Vida lifestyle lure you to this Central American paradise?
Until then, keep exploring, and as we say in Costa Rica, “Pura Vida!”
- The Ultimate Costa Rica Travel Guide
- Nauyaca Waterfall Nature Park – Everything You Need to Know to Visit One of Costa Rica’s Best Waterfalls
- Costa Rican Slang You Need to Know Before Your Trip
- Wildlife of Costa Rica: A Photo Journal
- How Nearly Failing College Chemistry Led to a Lifetime of Travel and Adventure
- The Ultimate Guide to Planning a Costa Rican Wedding on a Budget
- Studying Hummingbirds in Cerro de la Muerte
Like this post? Pin it for later!