1. Costa Rica takes up just 0.03 percent of the Earth’s surface, but it has 6 percent of its biodiversity.
For thousands of years, Costa Rica has acted as a ‘bridge’ for numerous species of animals and plants to travel up from South America. And it has so much climate diversity, that they all tend to remain there. Costa Rica has miles of rainforest, but there are also dry, volcanic areas and mountain ranges as well. Plus, it has a coastline on both the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea.
The people of Costa Rica have also made preserving the environment a top priority — they’ve signed 45 international environmental treaties and have enacted countless regulations of their own in order to protect endangered species and biodiversity. One small example I saw while I was in Dominical: monkey bridges. When a highway was built between Quepos and Dominical, the community knew that because it had to intersect through a rainforest, the road would endanger animals trying to get between either side. To counteract this, rope bridges were strung between the trees above to give monkeys and sloths a way to pass safely.
2. In Costa Rica, you’re not ‘pregnant,’ you’re ‘con luz.’
Which translates as ‘with light.’ And your soulmate isn’t your ‘soulmate,’ they’re your ‘media naranja‘ or ‘the other half of your orange.’
3. Nearly 26 percent of Costa Rica’s land is protected in either a national park or refuge.
There are also four UNESCO World Heritage sites in Costa Rica — Area de Conservación Guanacaste in the northwest, Cocos Island 342 miles offshore in the Pacific Ocean, the Stone Spheres on the Diquís Delta, and La Amistad International Park, which is the largest nature reserve in Central America and is equally split between Costa Rica and Panama.
4. More than 10 percent of the world’s butterflies live in Costa Rica.
And there are more than 750,000 different types of insects, including 20,000 different kinds of spiders.
5. Costa Rica’s life expectancy is one of the highest in the world.
In 2012, The World Health Organization found that the average life expectancy of Ticos is about 78 years. And as of June 2013, 417 Centenarians were reported to be living in the country — out of a population of 4.5 million, that’s really good. The Nicoya Penninsula is especially interesting to longevity researchers because it’s common for citizens to reach ages between 90 to 110 years old there. Researchers believe that the high life expectancy in Nicoya could be because the waters are unusually rich in magnesium and calcium, but other factors might play in too. For instance, Costa Rica has a well-structured social welfare system, living standards are high, many people are spiritual and the country has remained peaceful, even while its neighboring countries battle civil wars and poverty.
6. Costa Rica’s marine territory is larger than its land territory.
By a lot. The actual land area of Costa Rica is just over 50,000 square kilometers, but it watches over more than 500,000 square kilometers of marine territory.
7. Costa Rica has a literacy rate of 98 percent.
The World Economic Forum ranked Costa Rica’s education system as the highest in Latin America. Schooling is mandatory and free — a minimum of 8% GDP goes to it annually. And if a student lives in a rural area without access to a school, classes are broadcasted over the national radio station for them. When they turn 13, students can choose between two different types of secondary education: five years at an academic school or six years at a technical school, either way, they get a high school diploma.
8. Monkeys are the most common mammals.
Next to bats. There are four different species of monkey in CR: Howler Monkeys, Spider Monkeys, Squirrel (or Titi) Monkeys and White-Faced (or Capuchin) Monkeys.
9. Costa Rica is the longest standing democracy in Central America.
Its constitution was drafted in 1949. Since then, it’s arguably become the most stable nation in Central America.
10. Costa Rica is a Catholic country, but it respects freedom of religion.
A 2007 survey by the University of Costa Rica found that a little more than 70 percent of Ticos identify as Roman Catholic, but a little more than 11 percent don’t practice a religion at all. And an interesting fact: all the Catholic Churches face west. Although the purpose of this tradition isn’t exactly set in stone, the reason might be that if the church faces west, the churchgoers will be facing east, which is the direction of Jerusalem.
11. CR hasn’t had an army since 1948.
After Costa Rica ended its civil war — a war that lasted just 44 days but killed at least 2,000 people — the Costa Rican military was abolished. Breaking a wall with a mallet, President José Figueres Ferrer symbolically called for an end to any militarized, violent spirit. In 1949, the abolition of the military was added to Costa Rica’s Constitution. The budget that was devoted to military spending was funneled into education, culture and security instead.