Nestled between Nicaragua and Panama is one of the safest countries in Latin America: Costa Rica. This tiny country attracts many outdoor and adventure lovers with its volcanoes, rivers, and lakes. Beaches on both the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans also make it a great surfing destination. The country houses both the Poás volcano, which holds the second widest crater in the world, and the Arenal volcano, which is one of the ten most active on the planet.
Costa Rica ranks in the top 20 countries in terms of species density, with some of the richest biodiversity on Earth. It is home to 130 species of fish, 220 reptiles, 1,000 butterflies, 9,000 plants, 20,000 spiders, and 34,000 insects, accounting for five percent of the entire planet’s biodiversity. In 2012, Costa Rica placed first in the “Happy Planet Index.” It is also considered to be the “greenest” country in the world, and almost a fourth of Costa Rica’s lands are part of a protected system, evidence of the country’s concerted efforts to safeguard its environment.
Costa Ricans live a very peaceful lifestyle, which explains why the country does not have an army. It was abolished in 1949. That lifestyle has also earned Costa Rica the label of “Switzerland of the Americas,” because of its neutrality during international conflicts. Oscar Arias, former president of Costa Rica (1986–1990 and from 2006–2010) was even awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1987 for his efforts to end the Central American crisis.
Did you know…? Costa Ricans are known as “Ticos” because of their unique way of referring to things using diminutives in Spanish. Even though Brazil and Colombia are considered two of the largest producers of coffee, Costa Rica has become known for the high quality of its coffee. The national dish of Costa Rica is Gallo Pinto, in which rice and beans are stir-fried together in a pan to create the speckled appearance of a spotted rooster.
This is the eighth in a series of articles spotlighting different countries in honor of Hispanic Heritage Month. To see a complete list of previous entries, click here.