Costa Rica is a well-known travel destination for a long time now, mostly due to its many beautiful destinations, full of natural wonders, vibrating wildlife, national parks, and amazing beaches. In this article, we will explore what is Costa Rica famous for, including these and many other wonderful features.
Planning a trip to Costa Rica? Have a look at the 50 things you need to know before traveling to Costa Rica.
Located in Central America, Costa Rica is a small country with a distinct personality, making it unique worldwide. With Nicaragua to the north and Panama to the Southeast, it only has a population of about 5 million people, but it has made its mark in the world.
12 Things Costa Rica is famous for
#1 Wildlife and biodiversity
The first thing that comes to mind when thinking of Costa Rica is undoubtedly the wildlife and biodiversity present in the country. Due to its location, neotropical climate, variety of habitats, and the policies taken, Costa Rica is widely famous for having incredibly diverse fauna and flora, which is even more impressive if we consider the country’s size.
Home to more than 500 000 species, representing almost 5% of the total species worldwide, Costa Rica is in the top 20 countries with the highest biodiversity. Plus, it is considered to possess the highest density of biodiversity of any country worldwide
Some of the most famous animals in Costa Rica include:
- Sea turtles
- Scarlet macaws, toucans, and so many other birds
- Wild cats
#2 National Parks and Reserves
One of the reasons why wildlife in Costa Rica is such a biodiverse country is the National parks. In fact, Costa Rica has 28 national parks (3 are UNESCO heritage sites), 51 wildlife refuges, 13 forest reserves, and 8 biological reserves.
In total, 28 % of the country is protected in a Park or reserve, which then translates to Costa Rica’s famous lush landscape and thriving animal population.
From the misty cloud forests in Monteverde, the turtle haven of Tortuguero, and the incredibly diverse Corcovado, to the famous Manuel Antonio, there are National parks and reserves for everyone, and they are some of the most interesting and beautiful places to visit. Consequently, they are some of the most famous things about Costa Rica!
The national parks system is extraordinarily diverse, protecting rainforests, tropical forests, cloud forests, volcanoes, marine areas, and wetlands.
Costa Rica’s success in environmental protection made sustainable ecotourism possible and one of the most important parts of its economy. It’s even considered a model in other countries as it combines scientific studies, economic growth, and sustainability.
Furthermore, Costa Rica has invested heavily in renewable energy and now generates about 98% of its energy using renewable sources: hydropower, wind, geothermal energy, biomass, and solar. Out of this, Hydropower is the main source.
Yet, Costa Rica wants to go even further on its environmental-friendly policies. The country set the goal of becoming carbon neutral in 2021, which probably won’t happen. But still, they are walking in that direction, and it’s possible they’ll become the first country to achieve it.
#4 Great beaches and surfing
Besides all the National Parks, animals, and biodiversity, Costa Rica is famous for its world-class beaches. In general, the beaches in Costa Rica have crystal clear warm water, but other than that, they are pretty diverse – you can find beaches for every taste.
There are incredible surfing beaches like Tamarindo, Dominical beaches, and Playa Santa Teresa; there are snorkeling beaches like Punta Uva and conchal beach; there are white sand beaches, black sand beaches like Playa Negra close to Cahuita; there are untouched beaches and resort beaches… and then there’s the unique Punta Uvita, with the shape of a whale’s tail.
In hindsight, if you are a beach person, you are in for a treat in Costa Rica.
#5 Laid-back people
One of the things everyone notices when visiting Costa Rica is how laid-back the Ticos are. Costa Ricans don’t seem to get upset easily and take life like a breeze.
This relaxed way of life translates into the country’s motto, “Pura Vida.” Pura Vida literally means pure life, but it’s more than a motto, it’s a state of mind as Ticos try to live life to the fullest.
This approach to life is probably one of the main reasons why people in Costa Rica are considered one of the happiest in the world. Ticos rank number 1 in the Happy Planet Index. This index uses 3 criteria to measure happiness: experienced well-being, Ecological Footprint, and life expectancy.
Pura Vida is everywhere in Costa Rica, thus one of the most well-known things about Costa Rica.
#6 No standing army
Costa Rica is one of the few countries in the world that doesn’t have a standing army. In fact, in 1949, the army was dissolved, and article 12 of the constitution of Costa Rica forbids it from having a standing army since 1949. It has some public forces with limited capacities, but their main roles are law enforcement, internal security, and air vigilance.
When the army was abolished, it was said it “would be replaced with an army of teachers,” symbolizing a new era of investment in Education instead of guns.
Known as “el Grano de Oro” – the golden grain – coffee was pivotal in the early development of Costa Rica. It helped to shape social, cultural, and political institutions, and it is still one of the country’s major exports. Despite being small, Costa Rica provides about 1% of the world’s coffee production.
But, more important than the quantity is the quality of the coffee produced, with many flavor nuances depending on the soil and altitude. The classic Costa Rican coffee is mild and softly acidic, making a good afternoon drink and pairing well with desserts.
The traditional way to prepare coffee is by using a chorreador where the hot water leaches through coffee grounds held in a cloth filter mounted on a wooden stand, then drips into a container.
The best way of learning about coffee in Costa Rica is by doing a coffee plantation tour where the guides explain how coffee is grown and harvested while you walk through the fields.
You may not believe it, but cacao was the leading crop export in Costa Rica before coffee, and then Bananas took over. It played a vital role in Costa Rica since ancient times. Aztecs and Mayans prized it, and indigenous tribes even used it as currency.
You may not know this, but Cacao beans are bitter. Through a manufacturing process of roasting, cracking, crushing, mashing, heating, cooling, and adding a few ingredients, it becomes the beloved chocolate bar the whole world loves.
Due to a fungus that killed a massive portion of the trees, the industry almost died too, but today it’s still a thriving industry once again, with many cacao bean plantations across the country. It’s possible to visit them, to learn everything about the fruit, the manufacturing process and obviously try it. Cacao from Costa Rica is very, very good.
Coffee and Chocolate were fulcra in the early days of Costa Rica, but recently they were surpassed by Bananas as the main cash crop. In fact, about 10% of the bananas consumed globally were grown in Costa Rica, making it the 3rd biggest exporter in the world.
Remember that we are talking about a relatively small country, and the banana is the most popular fruit in the world!
So, it’s highly probable that you have eaten bananas from Costa Rica, and quite a lot of them!
#10 Expat destination
Costa Rica has been a famous expat destination for a long time now, particularly for American expats. There are a lot of good reasons for it.
Besides the amazing wildlife, beaches, national parks, and friendly people, Costa Rica has great weather year-round, it’s fairly close to the US, has the most stable political system in the region, and it’s relatively cheap compared with the USA.
Though we don’t really consider it a cheap destination. There are plenty of other cheaper countries.
#11 Gallo Pinto
What is Costa Rica famous for food? Costa Rican food isn’t widely known (and honestly, it isn’t a favorite of ours), but there’s one dish that’s everywhere in Costa Rica, and that’s Gallo Pinto.
Gallo Pinto consists of rice and beans fried together until roasted, where the rice is roughly double the beans. It usually includes other ingredients such as cooked bell peppers, garlic, and chopped onions.
Gallo Pinto plays an important role in the diet of Costa Rica and other Central American countries. It’s controversial if Gallo Pinto is originally from Costa Rica or Nicaragua, but either way, it’s an important part of the culture of both countries. And one of the most famous things about Costa Rica.
#12 Arenal volcano
Arenal volcano is one of the most prominent images and famous natural landmarks of Costa Rica. This perfect cone-shaped mountain volcano is just picture-perfect, but it’s also a lovely travel destination. The things to do in the surrounding area include going to the waterfalls, exploring the Arenal National Park, and of course, bath in the numerous thermal baths and spas.
Yet, the Arenal volcano is widely famous for another reason. It’s Costa Rica’s most active volcano, with several eruptions between 1968 and 2010.
Since 2010, it’s been resting, but the images of the volcano covered with bright orange lava traveled worldwide for many years. You’ll probably remember constantly seeing it on the news, as it’s an incredible image.
Planning a trip to Central America? Maybe you’ll want to see which country better fits you… Panama or Costa Rica
Did you enjoy this post? Have a look at other articles from this series:
- What is Mexico famous for?
- What is Guatemala famous for?
- What is Belize known for?
- What is Argentina famous for?
- What is Cuba famous for?
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