Central America’s multicultural Costa Rica (Rich Coast) is bordered by the Caribbean Sea to the east and the Pacific Ocean to the west, as well as by Panama and Nicaragua. Most unusually for the region, the multiracial Latin American society lives and thrives in what is one of the world’s older democracies. Costa Rica ranks first in the “Happy Planet” index, is highly developed for its income and scores excellent in environmental performance and sustainability.
With the exception of some tribes (like the Bribri and Boruca, still living at the Cordillera de Talamanca mountains near Panama), Costa Rica did not initially have a native civilization to be dominated by the Spanish colonists. A small local population also meant that the colonising Spaniards actually worked on their own small parcels of land (as opposed to running large slave-serviced haciendas).
In contrast with other Central American countries, Costa Rica was largely ignored by the concurring Spaniards and left to fend for itself, which resulted in an egalitarian type of society and a rural democracy. Coffee was Costa Rica’s main export to Europe and in order to get it to the ships, the 1870s Costa Rican government built a railroad from the central Plateau to the port of Limon in the Caribbean.
Notable Costa Rican landmarks include the magnificent Lake Arenal, the 3,400 metre Irazú Volcano and the 3,800 metre Cerro Chirripó (Central America’s fifth highest peak). Also the colourful Calero and Cocos Islands.
Costa Rica’s a nature lover’s paradise, as it is home to possibly the highest number of species per square acre in the world. Admirers of flora and fauna are fascinated with the many types of colourful wild flowers and all the tropical birds.
Being very near the Equator, Costa Rica has a tropical climate all year round, with the rainy season (winter) from about May to November and the dry season for the rest of the year.
The local tongue is predominantly Spanish; however, Creole-English, English, French, Portuguese and native languages (e.g. Ngäbere, Maléku, Bribri and Cabécar) will also be encountered, particularly in the more remote areas.
Look out for local and/or native festive dancing events featuring styles like Costa Rican swing, merengue, salsa, bachata and cumbia. Also try sampling some typical dishes such as traditional tamale and a variety of others reflecting the country’s Spanish, African and Native American population origins.
Posted : Friday, January 13th, 2012 at 11:00
As well as writing about travel, Karen Bryan offers tips on saving money, frugal living and how to live well on less, on her site Help Me To Save