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Costa Rica

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History

The first European explorer to encounter Costa Rica was the Great Navigator himself, Christopher Columbus. The day was September 18, 1502, and Columbus was making his fourth and final voyage to the New World. As he was setting anchor offshore, a crowd of local Carib Indians paddled out in canoes and greeted his crew warmly. Later, the golden bands that the region’s inhabitants wore in their noses and ears would inspire the Spaniard Gil Gonzalez Davila to name the country Costa Rica, or Rich Coast.

In The Beginning

Costa Rica’s history starts with the movement of tribes southwards from North America during the last Ice Age between 13,000 and 17,000 years ago. The first evidence of human settlement in Costa Rica comes from around 10,000BC (12,000 years ago). That’s far earlier than originally thought. Indeed, the 12,000-year-old settlements found in 2016 by the Reventazon River are the oldest evidence of human life found in Central America so far. Between then and the European arrival in the 15th century, Costa Rica was home to at least 25 indigenous groups. Each group had its own culture and way of living.

 

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Climate

The climate in Costa Rica is hot all year round in the plains and along the coasts, while it’s milder in the plateau (in the so-called tierras templadas). In the Pacific coast and the plateau, there is a dry season (from December to April), and a rainy season (May to November), in which rainfall is abundant, while in the eastern plains and coast the climate is equatorial, with abundant rainfall throughout the year.

Temperature variations are low because the country is located near the Equator, so the main difference between the seasons is related to the rains. Anyway, most of the country is so rainy that it’s covered by rainforests. The best time to visit Costa Rica, either for swimming or for exploring its rich environment, runs from January to mid-April, and in particular the months of February and March.

Good To Know

Country

Costa Rica

Languages spoken

Spanish

Currency used

Costa Rican Colon (CRC)

Area (km2)

51, 100 km2

Getting There

Costa Rica has two international airports. Juan Santamaría (SJO), just outside San José, receives the majority of flights, while Daniel Oduber (LIR), near the northern city of Liberia, handles some flights from the US and Canada, plus the odd seasonal flight from the UK.

Although there are a few direct flights from Europe, the vast majority of routes pass through the US, meaning that passengers have to comply with US entry requirements, even if merely transiting the country. Airfares always depend on the season, with the highest being around July, August, and December to mid-January; you’ll get the best prices during the wet summer (May–Nov).