Costa Rica: Background & Geography

Introduction Costa Rica
Background:
Costa Rica is a Central American success story: since the late 19th century, only two brief periods of violence have marred its democratic development. Although still a largely agricultural country, it has expanded its economy to include strong technology and tourism sectors. The standard of living is relatively high. Land ownership is widespread.
Geography Costa Rica
Location:
Central America, bordering both the Caribbean Sea and the North Pacific Ocean, between Nicaragua and Panama
Geographic coordinates:
10 00 N, 84 00 W
Map references:
Central America and the Caribbean
Area:
total: 51,100 sq km
water: 440 sq km
note: includes Isla del Coco
land: 50,660 sq km
Area - comparative:
slightly smaller than West Virginia
Land boundaries:
total: 639 km
border countries: Nicaragua 309 km, Panama 330 km
Coastline:
1,290 km
Maritime claims - as described in UNCLOS 1982 (see Notes and Definitions):
territorial sea: 12 NM
exclusive economic zone: 200 NM
continental shelf: 200 NM
Climate:
tropical and subtropical; dry season (December to April); rainy season (May to November); cooler in highlands
Terrain:
coastal plains separated by rugged mountains including over 100 volcanic cones, of which several are major volcanoes
Elevation extremes:
lowest point: Pacific Ocean 0 m
highest point: Cerro Chirripo 3,810 m
Natural resources:
hydropower
Land use:
arable land: 4.41%
permanent crops: 5.48%
other: 90.11% (1998 est.)
Irrigated land:
1,260 sq km (1998 est.)
Natural hazards:
occasional earthquakes, hurricanes along Atlantic coast; frequent flooding of lowlands at onset of rainy season and landslides; active volcanoes
Environment - current issues:
deforestation and land use change, largely a result of the clearing of land for cattle ranching and agriculture; soil erosion; coastal marine pollution; fisheries protection; solid waste management; air pollution
Environment - international agreements:
party to: Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Endangered Species, Environmental Modification, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Marine Dumping, Ozone Layer Protection, Wetlands, Whaling
signed, but not ratified: Marine Life Conservation
Geography - note:
four volcanoes, two of them active, rise near the capital of San Jose in the center of the country; one of the volcanoes, Irazu, erupted destructively in 1963-65

See Also: