Some Background on Costa Rica

Costa Rica – the “Rich Coast”
This is, apart from the beauty of its beaches and coastlines, certainly an understatement, since the country harbours its real treasures in its interior. Perhaps this was the reason why Costa Rica, after its conquest by Spanish Conquistadores such as Don Gil González Dávial in the 16th century, was colonized from the center of the country instead of from the coast like other American countries. However, this is mere speculation. Few things happened in this country for centuries. Although the first settlers to the Pacific coast did not arrive until the 19th century, the pace and degree of devastation of their activities overwhelmed Costa Rica’s quiet early history. . The deforestation of a country has hardly ever been carried out anywhere else with such vigour and consistency as it took place in Costa Rica.

The “Meseta Central”
The interior of the country - the so-called Meseta Central, the central high valley which is about 1,000 meters above sea level – offers everything that colonists sought at the time. A bearable climate and fertile soil which had been formed by the volcanoes surrounding the high valley. Here, at the base of the Irazu volcano, is where Costa Rica’s first capital, Cartago, was founded. After severe earthquake damage, San José was founded as the new and current capital city. Other major cities are Alajuela and Heredia in the central valley, as well as the Caribbean seaport of Puerto Limón and the Pacific seaport of Puntarenas.

Habitats and Diversity of Species                                                                           The varied topographic and climatic conditions of the country account for the great natural diversity and has led to the evolution of different habitats pieced together like a mosaic: dry forests, humid cloud forests, alpine vegetation, and the mangrove woods along the coast are just a few examples. The richness in species is also breathtaking. Although Costa Rica only has 0.03% of the land area on Earth, it has 5% (87,000) of the world’s known species (about 1.75 million). Besides wildcats, different species of monkeys, and other mammals, there exist also a multitude of birds, reptiles, amphibians, and insects.

Agriculture and Tourism
As in all of the other countries of the Central American land bridge, Costa Rica’s economy is based on agriculture. Despite this, the portion of the land area in Costa Rica which is intensely used agriculturally for dairy farming, coffee cultivation, or combined cropping systems is still relatively small. In contrast, large portions of the country’s woods are being used less productively, i.e. one-third of the farming area is reserved for extensive grazing management; other large areas of the coastal Caribbean and Pacific lowlands are utilized for growing oil palms, pineapples, and bananas in plantations.

Since the mid-1980s, Costa Rica has strongly supported the expansion of the tourism sector in order to become less dependent on exports of farming products. Nowadays, Costa Rica offers a wide range of choices in the area of ecotourism and also a few mass tourism attractions on the Pacific coast. The success of its tourism policy is last, but not least, the result of a well organized system of protected areas, comprising national parks and nature preserves.

More information and reference notes hereto can also be found on our web site “Tourism”, where we provide information on the ecotourism sector and on the activities of TROPICA VERDE on the Caribbean coast and in Monte Alto.

Our choice of recommended background reading on Costa Rica:

ELLENBERG, L., BERGEMANN, A. (1990): Entwicklungsprobleme Costa Ricas. - Saarbrücken (Verlag Breitenbach) 338 pages
EVANS, S. (1999): The Green Republic: A Conservation History of Costa Rica. University of Texas Press. – Austin, 317 pages
SCHWER, B. (2003): Costa Rica. Ein Bett im Regenwald. - In: Geo Saison October 2003. pages 22-57
SympathieMagazin: Costa Rica – Guatemala - Nicaragua verstehen.


Regional information compiled page by page by German institutions active in development cooperation – a selective and commented compilation of updated information sources with lots of authentic material on Costa Rica  

Tico Times – English weekly newspaper from Costa Rica  

Semanario Universidad – Spanish weekly newspaper of the state university, active and critical