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Costa Rica is a land of endless adventure and lots of heart. Locals prove welcoming, friendly, and warm. Multigenerational travel is the norm, and kid-friendly amenities abound, making travel through Costa Rica with kids a breeze.
But Costa Rica is also a land of white sand beaches, turquoise waters, and offshore coral reefs and volcanic rock formations teeming with marine life. The activity under the water is matched by the parade of wildlife in the country’s lush, emerald-hued rainforest canopies. Add to this, breathtaking views of jungle-shrouded volcanoes and unique ecosystems accessible only by inland waterways, and you’ve got a true vacation paradise.
Ready for some interesting facts about Costa Rica? Let’s see how many of these you already know…
Costa Ricans affectionately refer to themselves as Ticos (masculine) and Ticas (feminine). This comes from the tendency of Costa Ricans to add the diminutive “tico” to the end of words. While the suffix refers to smallness, its use implies affection or fondness for the object or person named. But the meaning of Tico and Tica runs even deeper. It encompasses a cultural identity. As one song goes, “I’m Latino inside, but Tico at heart.”
Pura vida represents an important mantra of the Costa Rican people. It translates to “pure or simple life,” a concept that informs many aspects of Costa Rican culture and identity. Ticos and Ticas use the phrase to greet each other as well as say goodbye. They use it to communicate that everything’s going great. They even use it to say “Thank you” and “You’re welcome.” In Costa Rica, pura vida represents an attitude, an emotion, and a way of life. It means remaining laid-back and optimistic no matter what life throws your way. It also means hoping and planning for the best. The phrase encapsulates life in Costa Rica and must be experienced first-hand to be authentically understood.
In 1948, Costa Ricans did something shocking just three years after the end of World War II. They abolished their military. Then, the government reinvested the money saved by cutting defense spending into conservation efforts, education, and other national infrastructure and services. The result? Costa Rica now enjoys a 98 percent literacy rate and the lowest infant mortality rate in Latin America.
Costa Ricans remain passionate protectors of their natural environment. Nearly 28 percent of Costa Rican lands are protected as national parks, wildlife refuges, or reserves. To date, the nation boasts 58 wildlife refuges, 15 wetland areas/mangroves, 32 protected zones, 11 forest reserves, eight biological reserves, and 12 other conservation regions. These protected areas include deciduous forests, swamp forests, mangrove swamps, rainforests, cloud forests, coral reefs, and more.
All told, more than 9,000 species of plants — including 1,200 orchid varieties — have been identified in Costa Rica. One of these species is the Guanacaste, the country’s national tree. It can reach heights of 130 feet (39 meters) and measure up to six feet (1.8 meters) in diameter. Prized for its shade, the tree occurs naturally in the country’s low elevation forests and plains, especially the savannas and open plains of Costa Rica’s northwestern province of the same name, Guanacaste.
Home to hundreds of thousands of species, Costa Rica boasts 130 freshwater fish species, 175 species of amphibians, and 225 species of reptiles. Approximately 894 species of birds also call it home. More than 600 of these birds prove resident species with the rest migrating through seasonally. Costa Rica has 250 species of mammals including anteaters, spider monkeys, howler monkeys, sloths, tropical deer, coatimundis, tapirs, and peccaries. But these numbers represent just a fraction of the creatures living in the country. You see, Costa Rica also boasts 34,000 species of insects including 1,251 butterflies and 8,000 species of moths.
Besides protected lands, Costa Rica pays landowners to preserve old-growth forests and to replenish the environment by planting new trees. From 1985 to 2010 alone, this program resulted in a virtual doubling of forest cover from 24 to 46 percent. The government also uses revenue collected from car stamp duties, energy fees, and fuel taxes to pay for nature reserve management and environmental services that promote clean air, fresh water, and the preservation of biodiversity.
Not surprisingly, Costa Rica has also committed to becoming the first carbon-neutral country in the world. In 2018, President Carlos Alvarado announced plans to make his country carbon-neutral by 2021 in celebration of the 200th anniversary of its independence. Instead of banning fossil fuels, the plan involves phasing them out through new incentives and policies over time. Costa Rica will also continue to offset its fossil fuel emissions through proper land management, conservation, and reforestation.
Did any of these interesting facts about Costa Rica surprise you? Are you ready for your own Costa Rica travel adventure? Check out our Costa Rica Adventure, a culturally rich, kid-friendly way to visit some of the most extraordinary destinations in Central America.
At Our Whole Village, we create transformational trips for curious families who want to create lasting memories while making a difference. We’re here to help you and your family experience the world, its peoples, and its cultures. Contact us today to learn more about the unforgettable experiences that we handcraft for curious families just like yours.
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