Fun facts about Costa Rica

There are plenty of reasons why Costa Rica is growing in popularity as a holiday destination, and not just with the nature lovers who’ve been coming here for years. Kissed by the waters of the Pacific on one side and the Caribbean on the other, you’ll find Costa Rica on the map due south of Mexico on the isthmus – the thin strip of land – that connects North and South America.

Sunny, versatile and populated by happy people with a love of life, Costa Rica has plenty of standout points that make it a unique part of Latin America. Here are a few of our favourite trivia snippets to prepare you for your Costa Rican adventures ahead.

Costa Ricans are peaceful people

This country has no standing military, and has smartly worked out how to generate almost all of its power through green energy.

Equality is massive here, with women keeping their maiden names after marriage, and the harmony of humanity and nature is quietly emphasised across the country.

This tiny nation of just over four million people is always proud to highlight how 5% of the entire world’s biodiversity calls Costa Rica home – from turtles and monkeys to spiders and birds. Animal lovers are in for an utter treat here.

Nicknames are everywhere

Although Costa Ricans speak Spanish, it’s evolved from colonial times into a different dialect to that which you’ll find in Spain. For example, local people nickname themselves ‘Ticos’ and ‘Ticas’ for men and women respectively, while the couples among us would call our partner our ‘media naranja’, which means ‘half of the orange’. It extends to some of Costa Rica’s most famous exports too, with coffee being a great example. Here, they affectionately dub it ‘grano del oro’ – the golden grain.

The colonial history is pretty unique

We all know that South America has been hugely influenced by the Age of Exploration, when it was colonised by the efforts of Spain and Portugal. Yet Costa Rica has a pretty distinctive past, which has helped make it such a wonderland of natural beauty and wildlife today.

Essentially, Spain’s New World empire was so large that running it became a nightmare. The higher-ups simply didn’t know what to do with their ‘Rich Coast’ – the translated name of Costa Rica – due to it being such a small part of the greater empire. Largely forgotten, Costa Rica languished under Spanish rule until the plucky Ticos and Ticas took it into their own hands to craft their own fate.

Take care when getting directions

If you’re visiting the gorgeous capital of San Jose, you’re going to have a pretty easy time getting around, thanks to all the signage and street names. That said, if those signs look pretty new, it’s because they are – San Jose didn’t use street names until 2012, and for many parts of Costa Rica, the lack of street names remains.

So how do people share directions? Quite simply, everyone navigates by landmarks. It’s something to keep in mind when you’re enquiring how to get from place to place by asking one of the cheerful locals.

The national catchphrase is 'pura vida'

Fitting right in with the peace and sunny positivity of Costa Rica, Ticos and Ticas have a saying that they break out for saying hello and goodbye, commenting on a spot of good luck, saying how they’re feeling when their day’s going well and anything else you might imagine. Simply, that saying is ‘pura vida’, which means ‘pure life’, and you’re going to be hearing it a lot. In fact, don’t be surprised if you’re still saying it when you get back home.

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