150 Interesting Facts About Costa Rica!

Facts About Costa Rica: Costa Rica is a country in Central America. In Spanish it means 'Rich Coast'. It is bordered by Nicaragua to the north, the Atlantic Ocean to the northeast, Panama to the southeast, and the Pacific Ocean to the south. Is Spanish and English is also widely used. It is one of the few countries that does not have its own army.

Costa Rica became an independent country from Spanish rule in 1821. The country's economy is dominated by agriculture, pharmaceutical industry and eco-tourism. Due to its proximity to the equator, it has a tropical climate. Catholic (Christian)The denomination is the official state religion of the country. Costa Rica's human development score is much higher than any other country in Central and South America.

150 Interesting Facts About Costa Rica

Historical Facts About Costa Rica

  • Native Costa Ricans call themselves Ticos and Ticas.
  • In Costa Rica, nearly all Catholic churches face west.
  • Over 10% of all butterflies in the world live in Costa Rica.
  • There are 20,000 different types of spiders living in Costa Rica.
  • Bri Bri is the one indigenous language still spoken in Costa Rica.
  • In Costa Rica, speed bumps are called son muertos, or dead persons.
  • Costa Rica’s largest body of freshwater is the manmade Lake Arenal.
  • Costa Rica is a democratic country that hosts elections every four years. 
  • Costa Rica’s national symbol is the clay-colored robin known as the yigüirro.
  • Costa Rica owns more ocean than it does land, with an impressive ratio of 10-1.
  • Lake Arenal is a manmade lake and the largest body of freshwater in Costa Rica.
  • Costa Rica is the second largest exporter of bananas in the world after Ecuador.
  • Costa Rica has one of the highest life expectancies in the world at the age of 77.
  • In Costa Rica, a discoteca is a nightclub, and a nightclub is actually a strip club.
  • Costa Rica is home to more than 100 protected areas which make up 25% of the landscape.
  • Speedbumps are referred to as son muertos, or dead persons in this fascinating country.
  • Joaquín Garcia Monge’s El Moto (1900) is widely considered as the first Costa Rican novel.
  • The working cowboys in Costa Rica’s Guanacaste Province are known as sabaneros or vaccaros.
  • Tourism is Costa Rica’s leading industry with over two million visitors arriving each year.
  • Costa Rica is one of the safest places in Central America. Making it just another reason to visit.
  • Labourers earn more in Costa Rica than anywhere else in Central America, with a daily wage of $10 USD. 
  • In Costa Rica, a nightclub is referred to as a discoteca, and the word nightclub is used for strip clubs.

Mind Blowing Facts About Costa Rica

  • The popular beach Bahía Ballena is shaped like a whales tail. It’s also a great place to go whale watching.
  • The population in Costa Rica exceeds just over 5 million. Which is only 0.07% of the entire world population.
  • All churches in Costa Rica face west. This is especially helpful when you’re lost and trying to find your way.
  • There is an abundance of monkeys in Costa Rica. In fact, they’re one of the most common mammals next to bats. 
  • There are a total of 29 national parks in Costa Rica. That is a lot of national parks for such a small country.
  • A common phrase used after a Costa Rican woman has a baby is "Ella dio a luz," meaning literally “She gave light.”
  • Costa Rica possesses 51 of the New World’s 300 hummingbird species, making it the hummingbird capital of the world.
  • In Costa Rica, there is an old town called Manzanillo where they name streets after the old residents who lived there.
  • Costa Rica pulls in over 2 million tourists every year. It’s no surprise that tourism is the country’s leading industry.
  • In Costa Rica, a soda is a small, informal restaurant that serves chicken, beans, rice, and salad for US$2 or $3 a plate.
  • A pulperia is a neighborhood store that sells essentials, like a convenience store. Think 7-11, but not so commercialized.
  • The sun rises and sets in Costa Rica at the same time every day 365 days a year, due to its close proximity to the equator.
  • Costa Ricans don’t refer to their partners as “their other half”, but instead “the other half of the orange” – media naranja.
  • The country set a goal to be the most eco-friendly country in the world, and they’re well on their way to achieving that goal.
  • Costa Rican currency is officially called the colón, but Costa Ricans often use the word harina (flour) to refer to their money.
  • The Coopedata Santa Maria coffee cooperative was recently heralded as the world’s first carbon-neutral coffee plantation in the world.
  • Coffee beans have been a large export for Costa Rica for many years. It’s known as El Grano de Oro which stands for “the golden grain.” YUM!
  • Costa Rica has a 96% literacy rate. For rural areas where children can’t make it to school, lessons are taught over a national radio station.
  • Instead of saying “my other half,” Costa Ricans refer to their significant others as their “media naranja,” or “the other half of the orange.”
  • Costa Rican call their girlfriends/boyfriends “Cabra/Cabro” which means goat. It is common to refer to your partner as your goat in Costa Rica.

Geographical Facts About Costa Rica

  • In 1539, officials in Panama used the name Costa Rica (Rich Coast) for the first time to distinguish the territory between Panama and Nicaragua.
  • Drake Bay in southern Costa Rica is named for Sir Francis Drake, the first English navigator to sail around the world, who landed there in 1579.
  • 94% of the population of Costa Rica is of European or Mestizo ethnicity. In fact, only 1% of the population has ancestry of indigenous descent. 
  • Costa Rican women don’t take on their husband’s last name. They keep their maiden name their entire lives, which they receive from their mother.
  • According to Costa Rican legend, the liquid inside the pipa (fresh, green coconut) is pure enough to be used as plasma in an emergency situation.
  • The country has no standing army as the army was abolished in 1949. They now only have a small force of law enforcement officials to keep the peace.
  • Each morning at 7 am, radio stations throughout the country play the national anthem It’s a great way to wake the country up in a very patriotic way. 
  • The single largest factor affecting Costa Rica’s economy is its national debt. In 1981, the country was the first in the world to default on its loans.
  • Costa Rican women do not take their husbands’ last name when they get married. They keep their maiden name for life along with their mother’s maiden name.
  • Costa Rica experiences many earthquakes. Many of them are very small and are nothing to be concerned about, but every so often they experience larger ones.
  • Costa Rica is located on the Central American Isthmus. An isthmus is a narrow piece of land that connects two larger pieces of land across a body of water. 
  • Costa Rica’s monetary notes depict wildlife that you’ll easily spot in the country. A monkey, palm trees, a sloth, butterfly, mushrooms, and common flowers.
  • Costa Rica's deadliest snake is the ground-dwelling fer-de-lance, a 9.8-foot-long pit viper that accounts for more than 80% of the country's fatal snake bites.
  • Costa Ricans have a high life expectancy. The average person lives to 80 years old, those are some pretty great odds! The Pura Vida lifestyle is clearly working. 
  • From northwest to southwest, Costa Rica measures only 285 miles (460 km) and at its narrowest, it is only 74 miles (120 km) wide. It is smaller than Lake Michigan.
  • Costa Rica is made up of seven Provinces. There are seven provinces in Costa Rica and include San Jose, Alajuela, Heredia, Cartago, Guanacaste, Limon, and Puntarenas.
  • Costa Rica is very small and only about the size of the state of West Virginia in the United States. For such a small country, Costa Rica still has many reasons to visit.

Cultural Facts About Costa Rica

  • There are eight indigenous groups in Costa Rica. About 2% of the population identify with indigenous roots and continue to carry on their heritage, language, and culture. 
  • The Costa Rican National Post Office was built in 1914. Because the postal service does not offer home delivery, Costa Ricans go to a local post office to collect their mail.
  • Guaro, moonshine rum made from distilled sugar cane, is Costa Rica’s indigenous spirit. Cacique is the best brand of guaro, and most people mix guaro with Coca-Cola or Sprite.
  • In 1904, Augustín Blessing (née Presinger), a German priest and missionary serving in the Limón area, became the first man to conquer Cerro Chirripó, Costa Rica’s highest peak.
  • Costa Rica abolished its armed forces in 1949 and has no standing military. However, the country still maintains a small force to enforce laws and assist with foreign peacekeeping.
  • Arenal Volcano is the most active volcano in Costa Rica and one of the most active in the world. In 1968, Arenal erupted and destroyed the town of Tabacón. It last erupted in 2010.
  • The annual Carrera de Campo Traviesa Al Cerro Chirripó is a race to the top of Costa Rica’s highest mountain and back. To date, the record time is 3 hours, 15 minutes, and 3 seconds.
  • Óscar Arias Sánchez, the president of Costa Rica from 1986–1990 and again from 2006–2010, won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1987 for his work in trying to end the crisis in Central America.
  • On September 8, 1502, Christopher Columbus became the first European recorded to land in Costa Rica. He took refuge just off the coast between tiny Uvita Island and the current port of Limón.
  • The most expensive place to live in Costa Rica is in San José, not near the beach. It’s the most city-like and has the largest population which makes it expensive to find housing in downtown.
  • Costa Rica only has two seasons. The seasons can be split into just two periods: dry season and wet season. The dry season runs from December to April and the wet season from May to November. 
  • You can actually watch the sun rise and set over the sea in one day. The sun rises on the Caribbean coast and there’s enough time in one day to travel to the Pacific coast to catch the sunset.
  • The countries slogan is Pura Vida, meaning pure life. The individuals who live in Costa Rica truly live this lifestyle, which is probably why they’re one of the happiest countries in the world.
  • Gallo Pinto is the most popular breakfast dish and includes rice and black beans. It’s very important to the culture of Costa Rica and it’s the national dish. You have to try it before you leave. 

Facts About Costa Rica Volcanoes

  • Costa Rican families live on a staple diet of rice, black beans, bread, vegetables and chicken. One of the more popular breakfasts in Costa Rica is rice with black beans. They call this Gallo Pinto.
  • The national animal is the white-tailed deer (think Bambi). Not a monkey, sloth, or exotic bird that comes to mind when you think about Costa Rica. You’ll even find a deer on the 1,000 colones bill. 
  • Tourism is the leading foreign income earner for the country. People love to visit Costa Rica for vacation. Costa Rica is full of amazing beach towns and laid back atmosphere that just screams vacation.
  • Poas Volcano has the second-largest crater in the world. Poas Volcano one of Costa Rica’s largest volcano’s not only has the largest craters in Costa Rica but also has the second-largest crater in the world.
  • Before Tourism, bananas used to be the top income earner. The top foreign income earner used to be bananas until 1995 when tourism took over the number one spot. Coffee is another big export for the country. 
  • Costa Rica's nation flower is orchids. Orchids were named by Dioscorides, a Greek physician who, noting the similarity of the tubers of one species he was examining to male genitals, dubbed the species orchis.
  • Guaro is the local liquor of Costa Rica. It’s made from sugar cane and has a unique flavor. You should be very careful when drinking it. It is cheap and will most likely leave you with a hangover the next day.
  • While Costa Rica takes up only 0.03% of the world’s land space, it possesses fully 4% of all known living species of flora and fauna and is one of the top 20 countries with the greatest biodiversity in the world.
  • To cut down on high levels of pollution, San José, Costa Rica, car owners are forbidden to drive into the city one day out of the week. The forbidden day corresponds to the last number on their car’s license plate.
  • Held every second Sunday of March, Dia de los Boyeros is an annual ox cart festival in Escazú, Costa Rica. It attracts around 100 painted antique oxcarts and the great oxen to pull them, plus thousands of visitors.
  • Costa Rica's basilisk, a small semi-aquatic lizard, has been given the nickname “Jesus Christ lizard" due to its habit of rearing onto its hind legs and appearing to run across the surface of the water when alarmed.
  • Children take both parent’s last names. Since women don’t take their husband’s last names. Children take the last name of both of their parents with their father’s last name first and their mother’s last name second.
  • The sun rises and sets at almost the same time every single day year around. This is because of its proximity to the equator. At least you never have to worry about readjusting to the sun’s new sleep schedule, right? 
  • Costa Rica’s only astronaut is Dr. Franklin R. Chang-Diaz, who had a very successful 25-year career at NASA. He is now in the process of designing a plasma-based rocket which would completely revolutionize space travel.

Economic Facts About Costa Rica

  • Geovanny Escalante, a Costa Rican saxophonist for the band Marfil, broke Kenny G’s world record for holding a single saxophone note in 1998. He held the note for 90 minutes and 45 seconds, nearly doubling Kenny G’s time.
  • People in Costa Rica call themselves Ticos and Ticas. It comes from the diminutive suffix of “tico” which is used to end many words in Costa Rica. Tico is a male and Tica is a female and it’s used casually in conversation.
  • In 1546, Christopher Columbus' grandson Luis was named Duke of Veragua. He set out from Spain to claim his legacy with 130 men, but was attacked by Amerindians, lost most of his men, and retreated back to Europe in failure.
  • In the sleepy town of Manzanillo, Costa Rica, there is a thoroughfare called Mista Cracker Jack Street. Other streets are named after old citizens who have passed on, and Manzanillans call their cemetery “the Ole Buryground.”
  • A soda is a small restaurant often family-owned that services traditional meals at a very inexpensive price. It is a great place to eat when traveling to Costa Rica, not only to save money, but to experience and try local food.
  • The army was abolished in 1948 after the Costa Rica Civil War in the same year. Without having to fund a military, more money can go to things like education, healthcare, and pensions which all around is better for the country. 
  • The official language is Spanish. However, many people are bilingual and usually speak English. This is because English is an international language spoken by most tourists so it’s very common to know English as a second language. 
  • In every single town in Costa Rica, has to have a church, soccer field, and a bar. If they don’t have these three things they can’t be considered a town. Costa Ricans want to ensure everyone can drink, play soccer and go to church.
  • There are four UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Costa Rica. They include La Amistad National Park, Cocos Island National Park, Area de Conservación Guanacaste, and the Precolumbian Chiefdom Settlements with Stone Spheres of the Diquís.
  • Mecatelio, a fusion of Spanish and standard and Jamaican English, is the language spoken by the descendants of Black Jamaicans who initially arrived in Puerto Limón, Costa Rica, from Jamaica to build the railroad in the late 19th century.
  • Costa Rica has two coastlines. Costa Rica is lined by the Pacific Ocean on its left side and the Caribbean Sea on its right. Each side boasts different waves and has a bit of a different atmosphere. There are 800 miles of coastline in Costa Rica.
  • Costa Ricans claim that Dr. Clodomiro “Clorito” Picado discovered the properties of penicillin before Dr. Alexander Fleming, based on a paper Dr. Picado had published in 1927 on how penicillin inhibited the growth of streptococcus in his patients.
  • There is a large ex-pat community in Costa Rica. Many people are intrigued by the Costa Rican way of life and move there to live a true Pura Vida lifestyle. Expats can live comfortably and there are great programs for retirees to move to Costa Rica.

Scientific Facts About Costa Rica

  • After its discovery, the golden toad became one of the symbols of Monteverde, Costa Rica. It has only ever been sighted in the Monteverde rainforest preserve. In 1983, University of Miami researcher Marc Hayes spotted hundreds of the toad—none have been seen since.
  • On average, it costs roughly $1,500 a month for a single person or $2,000 to $2,500 a month for a couple to live in Costa Rica. This can range based on lifestyle differences and includes housing, utilities, food, transportation, healthcare, and even some activities. 
  • Costa Rica doesn’t really use street signs or addresses. The only way to give directions was to say 75 meters from the “soda” up ahead or take a left 100 meters south of the “pulperia.” In 2012, street signs became more regulated, but you still won’t really see them.
  • The capital of Costa Rica is San José which is located in the San José province. It’s the most populated place in Costa Rica and is often frequented by tourists. It’s also the most modern place in the country and has a really mild year-round climate which makes it attractive. 
  • Costa Rica’s Teatro Nacional (National Theater) was built in 1897 after Adelina Patti, a world-renown Spanish opera singer, performed in Central America but did not sing in Costa Rica because there was not a suitable venue for her to perform anywhere in the country at that time.
  • The cheapest place to live in Costa Rica is Cartago. This is because this province is landlocked so it doesn’t get as many tourists and it’s not near any of the large cities. The area has a ton of history so it’s still worth exploring and would make a great place to stay to save money. 
  • The country contains seven active volcanoes and a total of 121 volcanic formations. Their main volcano, Arenal, is one of the top ten most active volcanoes in the world. In 1968, an eruption from Mount Arenal completely destroyed the town of Tabacon. Its latest eruption happened in 2010.
  • Costa Rican Catadores, or tasters, decide which coffees to buy and are as important as wine tasters are in France. They train for five years to learn exactly how to slurp the coffee off a spoon onto their taste buds, and they taste it cold—a good coffee should taste just as good cold as hot.
  • During Costa Rica's arribada, as many as 100,000 Olive Ridley turtles come ashore on Ostional National Wildlife Refuge's isolated beaches, leaving behind as many as 10 million eggs. Arribadas generally occur at two- to four-week intervals from April to December, peaking July through September.

Information About Costa Rica

  • Married women in Costa Rica don’t take their husband’s last name and instead keep their maiden name. Costa Rica loves and respects women and their mothers. So much so that mother’s day is actually a bank holiday in Costa Rica. They want to ensure that everyone celebrates it the way they should.
  • Ángela Acuña, Costa Rica’s first female lawyer, founded the Feminist League in 1923 and spearheaded the long struggle for woman’s suffrage in Costa Rica. In 1949, universal suffrage was granted. Acuña was the first woman on record to be appointed ambassador to the Organization of American States.
  • A young Costa Rican Alajuela militia drummer boy named Juan Santamaria volunteered to torch Fort Rivas in Nicaragua—he succeeded but was shot dead in the process. His name lives on in Costa Rican folklore as a symbol of national freedom. The country’s main international airport is named after him.
  • “Tico Time” is widely used throughout the country. Just like the Pura Vida saying goes, people in Costa Rica are generally laid back and don’t worry about time too much. If you have a meeting at 3 pm, don’t actually expect the person to be prompt because they very well could show up an hour later.
  • Costa Rica was also discovered by Christopher Columbus. Christopher Columbus stumbled upon Costa Rica on one of his trips to the United States. He named it “Costa Rica” meaning “Rich Coast” in hopes that there would be lots of gold. When they did not find any gold, most of the European settlers left.
  • Costa Rica's Escazú is famous for witchcraft where, historically, people took to mountain caves to secretly practice their religious and magical rituals. Despite being a rich suburb of San José, brujas (witches) can still be found, offering readings of tarot cards and a whole range of “other services.”
  • Escazú is a neighborhood in San Jose known for an abundance of brujas (witches). They once had to refine their skills and perform their rituals in mountain caves but that’s no longer the case. If you visit this neighborhood you’ll be able to take part in a tarot reading or purchase many other services.
  • Coffee was introduced to Costa Rica from Jamaica in 1779. Called the grano de oro (grain of gold), coffee was Costa Rica’s foremost export for 150 years until tourism surpassed it in 1991. More than 247,104 acres of coffee are planted in Costa Rica, making it the 13th largest coffee exporter in the world.
  • The Nicoya Peninsula is one of the top 5 Blue Zones in the world. A Blue Zone is an area where there is a higher than normal amount of people who live longer than the average person. The elders of the Nicoya Peninsula are more than twice as lucky to live to at least 90 and many live to over 100 years old. 
  • Costa Rica has coffee tasters who train for five years to refine their palate. They are called Catadores and are just as important to Costa Rica as wine tasters are to France. Often these Catadores taste the coffee while it’s cold, because it should taste just as good as when it’s hot (if it’s of good quality).
  • Costa Ricans tell the story of how they received independence by mail. On October 13, 1821, a courier aboard a mule arrived in the central valley of Costa Rica with the news of independence—nearly a month after colonial officials in Guatemala City had declared independence for Costa Rica from the Spanish Empire.
  • In the 1980s, the discovery of a 25-lb (11-kg) gold nugget created a gold rush and havoc in Costa Rica’s Corcovado National Park. Farmers-turned-prospectors invaded the area and destroyed thousands of acres of parkland. Government officials had to close the park for years while they tried to evict the prospectors.
  • Irazú Volcano is Costa Rica’s highest volcano at 11,000 feet (3,800 m). Also known as El Coloso, the volcano broke a 30-year period of silence with a single, noisy eruption on December 8, 1994. The previous, March 19, 1963 eruption coincided with the arrival of John F. Kennedy in Costa Rica and was even more powerful.

Amazing Facts About Costa Rica

  • Over 25% of the land in Costa Rica is conserved. Costa Rica is fighting global warming and saving its rainforests. They dedicate their land to national parks, reserves, and wildlife refuges. There are over 100 national parks and the country works hard to protect and preserve the eco-diversity of the 12 ecological zones. 
  • Isla del Coco is the most remote part of Costa Rica, nearly 360 miles (600 km) into the Pacific Ocean, southwest of the mainland. Millions have seen this island on film, in the opening moments of the Steven Spielberg film Jurassic Park. At 8 miles by 3 miles (12 km by 5 km), Isla del Coco is the largest uninhabited island in the world.
  • More than 5% of the world’s entire biodiversity is in Costa Rica. To put that into perspective, Costa Rica only makes up .03% of the planet’s surface but hosts 5% of the world’s biodiversity. Quetzal Bird Costa Rica11. There are over 500,000 different species in Costa Rica. which makes it one of the most bio-diverse countries in the world. 
  • Costa Rica’s national musical instrument is the marimba. African in origin, it is also part of the musical history of Chiapas region in Mexico and Guatemala. In Costa Rica, early marimbas were made from a hollowed-out, elongated calabaza (squash) gourds set within a wooden frame whose top was lined with a panel of wooden keys, representing an octave.
  • The Guanacaste (Enterolobium cyclocarpum) is Costa Rica’s national tree. The distinctive tree is known for its broad, full crown, which provides welcome shade on the Guanacaste’s hot plains and savannahs. The tree is also known as the elephant-ear tree because of the distinctive shape of its large seedpods. The province of Guanacaste is named for the tree.
  • If you have been to Costa Rica, you will hear Pura Vida a lot. The term Pura Vida comes from Costa Rica and translates to “pure life.” For Costa Ricans, it’s a way of life where people are laidback, welcoming, and kind. The famous quote has been around for more than 50 years in Costa Rica and has become well-known around the world. It’s the national slogan. 
  • Costa Rica is one of the happiest places in the world. The warm weather and the beautiful landscape probably play a large role in this. The government also takes good care of their people and has a good education and healthcare system, for example. People are just free to live a carefree and happy life. The number 1 reason tourists keep going back to Costa Rica is the people.
  • Each year, Costa Rica hosts what many consider to be the most grueling and challenging mountain bike race on the planet, La Ruta de los Conquistadores (Route of the Conquerors), which retraces the path of the 16th-century Spanish conquistadors from the Pacific Ocean to the Caribbean Sea—all in 4 days. The race takes place in November and draws hundreds of competitors from around the world.
  • Robert Louis Stevenson's novel Treasure Island is thought to be modeled on Costa Rica's Isla del Coco. Many famous pirates and privateers such as Sir Francis Drake, Captain Edward Davis, William Dampier, and Mary Welch visited the Costa Rican island. Allegedly, they left troves of buried loot, although treasure hunters over the centuries have failed to discover more than a smattering of the purported bounty.
  • Like Eskimos with their 57 words for snow, Costa Ricans have at least a dozen terms for rain—from drizzly pelo de gato (cat hair) to a baldazo or aguacero (downpour) and a temporal (heavy rain falling for several days without letting up during the rainy season). The heavy amounts of rain give Costa Rica more rivers and a higher volume of water for a country of its size than any other nation except for New Zealand.
  • In the 1970s and 80s, American Danny Fowler used the beach town of Pavones, Costa Rica, as his base of operations for running drugs from South America to California. As a reward for his employees, Fowler built a saw mill with wood for new homes, built roads, and even added an airstrip. He was eventually busted by Mexican officials and sentenced to prison, including serving a sentence in California's federal prison.
  • Costa Rica is a leader in renewable energy. Costa Rica uses renewable energy to generate more than 99% of its electricity. Most of the energy in the country comes from five renewable sources which include geothermal energy, hydropower, biomass, wind, and solar. Costa Rica is working towards becoming the first carbon-neutral nation in the world. What a big feat and one to be proud of! Costa Rica is very eco-friendly.
  • Archaeologists have long wondered at the source of Costa Rica's many pieces of pre-Columbian jade, as no jade quarries have ever been found in the country. Guatemala is believed to be the primary source, although some jade may have come from Mexico. One interesting theory holds that some of the jade was brought to Costa Rica by looters of Mayan burial sites, also explaining the presence of Mayan hieroglyphs inscribed on the stones.
  • The Monteverde Cloud Forest is the home of the quetzal, the most spectacular and colorful bird in the tropics. Some 40 species of the trogon family to which the quetzal belongs inhabit the tropics worldwide, and 10 of those are found in Costa Rica. As witnessed by ancient sculptures and paintings, the quetzal’s long tail coverts were highly prized by the Aztec and Maya nobility. Mayan kings prized the green tail feathers more than gold itself.
  • Dr. Franklin R. Chang-Diaz is Costa Rica’s only astronaut, as well as the first Latin-American to be chosen by NASA and to go into space. He was one of 19 astronauts chosen from a pool of more than 3,000 applications. He tied a record seven space shuttle missions, retiring after a 25-year career with NASA in 2005. He is currenlty designing a plasma-based rocket engine that could revolutionize space travel and put our entire solar system at our disposal for exploration.
  • Costa Rica’s Diquís Delta stone spheres are one of Central America’s most intriguing archaeological phenomena. Believed to be around 2,000 years old, thousands of stone spheres, from 4 inches (10 cm) to 8 feet (2.5 m) in diameter, were uncovered in the 1940s. Many of the stones were found placed close to grave sites, aligned in strait and curved lines, triangles, and parallelograms. They were most likely constructed by the ancestors of the current Boruca, Térraba, and Guaymi tribes.
  • Ollie’s Point in northeastern Costa Rica was named after American Colonel Oliver North, the famous and felonious former lieutenant colonel at the center of the 1980s Iran-Contra scandal. The beaches and ports of northern Guanacaste like Ollie’s Point were a staging ground for supplying the Nicaraguan Contra rebels. Legend has it that during a news broadcast of an interview with North, some surfers noticed a fabulous point break going off in the background. Hence, the discovery and naming of Ollie’s Point.
  • Paolo Wanchope is Costa Rica’s biggest sports star and arguably the world’s most famous Costa Rican. In 2006, Wanchope scored both goals in Costa Rica’s 4-2 loss in their opening game to Germany, making him the first Costa Rican to ever score two goals in a World Cup match. He has played for Costa Rican clubs as well as international football clubs in England, Spain, and Japan. He retired in 2007 after a knee injury and has since become a coach. He is now the interim head coach of the Costa Rican national team.
  • In 1995, a group of Costa Ricans residing in Nicaragua near the border established the Republic of Airrecú, named for the Maleku Indian word for friendship. The 170-square mile (440-sq km) nation was formed from the belief that the area was mistakenly ceded to Nicaragua, and their president, Augusto Rodríguez, presented documentation on behalf of their claim to the United Nations. Even though Nicaragua has refused to allow the 5,000 residents of Airrecú to secede, the Airrecú movement continues, and they even have a flag and an anthem.
  • Swede Nils Olof Wessberg was mainly responsible for the creation of the Costa Rican national park system. Wessberg lost his mother to brain cancer in 1947, and suspected that there was a link between the environment and cancer. He left Sweden in 1954 and arrived in Costa Rica on a banana boat, immediately falling in love with the rainforests. In 1963, Wessberg opened the Absolute Nature Reserve Cabo Blanco, and the main trail there is still called “Swede’s path.” While lobbying for the creation of Corcovado National Park in 1974, he was murdered and, per his request, left in the forest to become one with nature.
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