About Costa Rica
Costa Rica is a small country in Central America that borders to the north with Nicaragua, to the southeast with Panama, to the east with the Caribbean Sea and to the west with the Pacific Ocean. (View map) It has a population of approximately 4.5 million and covers an area of a little under 20,000 square miles (51,000 square kilometers). The capital city is San Jose, the official language is Spanish and the local currency is the Colon.
The country has been blessed with incredible biodiversity, boasting lush rainforests, amazing volcanoes, beautiful beaches, and rich wildlife; and has long been commited to its conservation. Around 25% of the country's territory is under some level of protection by the government, be it as a conservation area, national park, biological or forest reserve, wildlife refuge, etc.; and the percentage grows even higher when taking into account the efforts of the private sector, which has created private reserves with ecotourism and research purposes.
Having abolished its army in 1948, Costa Rica has been able to escape much of the turmoil that has plagued other countries in the region, and stands out as one of the most stable and robust democracies in the continent. With no military expenditure, the country has been able to redirect these funds towards two of the cornerstones of this stability, the country's public education and healthcare systems.
Primary and secondary education are free and mandatory in Costa Rica by law (primary school since 1869, secondary since 1949). There are also five state-funded universities, the largest and oldest being the Universidad de Costa Rica (founded in 1940). The universal nature of its education policies, and the quality of the education provided, have allowed Costa Rica to have one of the highest literacy rates in Latin America (96% - CIA World Fact Book, February 2007).
Costa Rica's healthcare system includes both public and private care. The Caja Costarricense del Seguro Social (Social Security Administration - established in 1941) provides universal healthcare coverage for all its citizens and legal residents, through a network of major public hospitals and satellite clinics that cover practically every corner of the country. The system has allowed Costa Rica to rival developed nations such as the US and the UK with respect to vital statistics such as life expectancy and infant mortality rates.