In the context ofÂ memorableÂ vacations, Costa Rica evokes images of palm-fringed beaches, sultry rainforests brimming withÂ wildlife, andÂ theÂ delightedÂ yips of zip-line adventurers as they hurl their bodies from one platform to the next. But did you know that Costa Rica is also a model of environmental stewardship and boasts a long history of pacifist policies? Read on for interesting tidbits about Costa Ricaâ€™s people, history, and culture.
The people of Costa Rica
As of 2016, the population of Costa Rica hovers just under 5 million, with the majority of residents centralized in the San Jose metro area and Central Valley. More than 95 percent of â€śTicosâ€ť are of European descent, and less than 2 percent of Costa Rican residents are of indigenous ancestry, many of whom live in the countryâ€™s remote mountain regions. More than a century ago, legislators declared that education was to be mandatory and free for allÂ citizens, accounting for todayâ€™s high literacy rate of 97 percent.
No longer a cash crop nation
Formerly a cash crop nation reliant on coffee, sugar, and bananas, Costa Rica is now a major exporter of software technology and medical instruments. The countryâ€™s growing economy is driven by tourism, electronicÂ exports, andÂ some agriculture, and itÂ enjoys robust foreign investment, thanks to highly incentivizedÂ free-tradeÂ zones. Compared to its Central American neighbors, Costa Rica has a large middle class, largely comprised of working class, highly-educated professionals.
Green policies and environmental focus
In 2012, Costa Rica was rated the planetâ€™s 5th Greenest Country by the Environmental Performance Index (EPI). This tiny nation has demonstratedÂ what manyÂ have foundÂ inconceivable: achievingÂ nearly 100 percent renewable energy through natural resources. A winding river system and substantial rainfallÂ provideÂ hydroelectric power, which accounts for 80 percent of all energy production. The remaining is made up of geothermal,Â solar, andÂ biomass power. With renewable-energyÂ targets being met, Costa Rica continues a steady path toward becoming entirely carbon neutral by 2021.
Youâ€™ve probably heard (or learned first-hand) that Costa Rica is one of the most biologically diverse nations, housing an astounding variety of flora and fauna. Biologists claim that youâ€™ll find more than 600 species of animal for each 10,000 squareÂ milesâ€”comparedÂ to 104Â in the U.S.!Â But did you know that Costa Rica abolishedÂ itsÂ standing army in 1948? This bold feat was ordered byÂ then-PresidentÂ Jose Figueres Ferrer, who announced the countryâ€™s military spending would be directedÂ toward education, healthÂ care, andÂ environmental protection. Nearly 70 years later, itâ€™s obvious that this bold decision hasÂ paid off.