Guaria de Osa, Rainforest Ocean Discovery Centre and Enthnobotanical Gardens

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The Osa Peninsula

General Information


Costa Rica

General Information

From I.C.T. - The Costa Rica Tourist Board

Costa Rica is small in size and has an area of roughly 51,100 square kilometers (31,682 square miles). Even so, it is internationally famous and recognized for the diversity and density of its natural resources and for the fabled kindness of its inhabitants. For example, approximately 96% of Costa Ricans read and write; a high percentage of their taxes go to conservation; and the government has said 'no way' to the petrol entrepreneurs and open pit mining, What's more, ex-President, Oscar Arias (1986 –— 1990) won the Nobel Peace Prize, and on May 8th, 2002, on the occasion of his ascension to the Presidency of Costa Rica, the newly elected President of the country, Dr. Abel Pacheco de la Espriella, has declared (de facto) Costa Rica as a country free of oil exploration and exploitation and free of open pit mining!! These facts set Costa Rica as a model global country! Thus, it is an especially attractive destination for foreign travelers who, not incidentally, make for more than a million visits a year.

Entry Documents

Anyone who wants to visit Costa Rica should contact the Costa Rican embassy or consulate in their country to determine the necessary documents they need to enter the country.


Costa Rica really has two seasons: a “green” or rainy season that runs from May through October, and a dry season that beings in November and ends in April. The average temperature in the Central Valley is 72 degrees Fahrenheit (22 Centigrade), while on the coast and at the beaches it ranges from 70 to 90 degrees Fahrenheit (21 to 32 Centigrade).

Business Hours

In general, businesses open at 9 a.m. and close at 6 p.m., although shopping centers are usually open from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. State banks usually operate between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. while private banks are open from 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. Offices are generally open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Credit Cards

The credit cards most commonly accepted by businesses and in tourist areas are Visa, Master Card, American Express, and Diners Club.


The country possesses three major airports. The Juan Santamaria International Airport is located in Alajuela 10 minutes from the capital, and the Daniel Oduber Quirós International Airport in Liberia, in the Province of Guanacaste. In Pavas, just outside San José, there is the Tobias Bolanos Airport, which handles domestic flights. In addition, there are numerous landing strips that serve the various tourist destinations.

Ports Visitors who want to enter the country by sea can do so at the ports of Limón and Moín on the Caribbean, Puerto Caldera and Puntarenas on the Pacific, and Central Pacific, Golfito, and Quepos on the Southern Pacific side.


River transport is possible on the Reventazón in the center of the country, the San Carlos, Río Frío, San Juan, and Sarapiquí on the northern plains, and the Grande de Térraba and the Sierpe on the Southern Pacific side.


Costa Rica has an extensive network of roadways, mostly paved, that provide access to most parts of the country.

Bus Service

The national bus system provides comfortable, economic, and fast service to most parts of the country, especially to points of interest to tourists.

Rental Cars

There is a broad offering of rental vehicles, due to the existence of many agencies that provide service to the international market.


Taxi service to different points in the country is modern, efficient, and safe, although it is advisable that you only use the more well-known companies.

Political System

Costa Rica enjoys one of the oldest and most stable democracies in Latin America. This stance lead to its abolishing the army in 1948 and to earning a Nobel Peace Prize for ex-president Oscar Arias for his ongoing struggle to approve the Central American Peace Plan during the turbulent eighties. The Costa Rican political system is a representative system with three branches: the Executive, the Legislative, and the Judicial. The president is elected by popular vote every four years.


Thanks to its free, yet mandatory public education system established in 1017, Costa Ricans enjoy a high level of education and one of the highest literacy rates in the world: 96.2%


This high level of education, along with the development of telecommunications, has contributed to Costa Rica being considered as a place suitable for foreign multi-national high-technology investment by companies. Intel Corporation, Laser Sight Technology, Siemens, Proctor and Gamble and others all have a presence in Costa Rica.


Telecommunication services are provided by the Instituto Costaricense de Electricidad (ICE – the Costa Rican Institute of Electricity), a state-owned body. The modern telecommunications network includes: direct communications with the outside world by the self-dial MIDA international telephone system. There are also telex, telegram, fax, cellular, and Internet services, along with data transmission via the use of satellites and microwaves.


The majority of cities in the country have drinkable water, although in the more remote areas it is recommended that you drink bottled water.


Costa Rican cuisine offers a wide variety of choices to the tourist, ranging from the freshest tropical fruits and vegetables to exquisite seafood and indigenous foods such as "gallo pinto" (spotted rooster") consisting of rice lightly sauteed with bean and served with a steak or eggs. Costa Rican dishes also include tamales, arroz con pollo (rice with chicken), minced arracache root, potato and meat hash, and "casado," a "marriage" of portions of rice, beans, ripe plantains, fresh vegetable salad, and some sort of meat. The list goes on to include grilled corn on the cob, "chorreadas" (a thick johnny cake made from tender corn), and different types of empanadas (turnovers) filled with cheese, beans, or meat. In addition, if a visitor so desires, s/he may try other cuisines, such as French, Italian, German, Korean, Chinese, Spanish, Mexican, U.S., and vegetarian, all of which are well represented in the country.

Travelers' Attractions

Just as travelers' tastes are varied, so are the attractions that Costa Rica offers in the form of natural beauty, sun and sea, hospitality, history, adventure, and fun. All these attractions are concentrated in a small area where distance does not present a problem

Traveler's Health

Although taking a vacation in a beautiful country in and of itself contributes to good health, there are other options available as well. The country offers high-quality professional services in plastic and reconstructive surgery, opthalmology, and dentistry at very good prices compared to other countries. In the same area as tourist health, we should mention that Costa Rica has natural hot spring bathing. There are also therapeutic treatment destinations with volcanic muds and other natural components that have earned the special interest of many visitors.

Population 4,000,000 inhabitants
National Territory 51.100 km3/31,682 square miles)
Capital San José
Official Language Spanish
Money Colon (named after Christopher Columbus)
Official Religion Catholic (with freedom of expression of other beliefs)
Political System Democracy
Bordering Countries Nicaragua to the north, Panama to the south
Bordering Waters Caribbean to the east, Pacific to the west
Electricity 110 volts
National Bird Yigüirro (Turdus grayi)
National Flower Purple Guaria Orchid (Cattleya skinneri)
National Tree Guanacaste (Enterolobium cyclocarpum)

A Piece on San José

by Alexander del Sol,
author of The Southern Costa Rica Guide, 2000

This country's capital is actually no larger than a medium sized city in the developed world (I.S., Canada, Europe, Japan, etc.), if that. It has all the usual attractions of the city, including lost of theaters, restaurants, bars, clubs, live music, discos, etc. In the central district, at least, it also has a major helping of all the 'negative' aspects of the city: traffic, noise, pollution, etc. Generally speaking, if you like the city, this one is ok. Us locals visit only when we have to, though, for unavoidable business, or when we leave or enter the country by plane. As a tourist, you'll pretty much have to pass through here one way or another. For this reason, I have added this short section to the book. I hope it helps you out.

Despite the fact that San José and its environs are the areas with the highest rates of violent crime in Costa Rica (with the Limón area coming in as a close second), the chances of you or me being assaulted, even downtown at midnight, are very slim. It does happen, of course, but with much less frequency than it does in, say, London, New York, or Berlin.

If you're going to stay in San José for any length of time, I recommend a decent hotel. Good food is easy to come by, though it can be a bit pricey compared to the rest of the country. Communications is best here, though more and more Internet cafés are sprouting up around the country, and most of the post offices have it now too. In any case, enjoy.

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