A small country of only 20,000 square miles, Costa Rica is wedged between Nicaragua and Panama in Central America.
The interior of Costa Rica is shaped by four mountain ranges, which run from North to South; punctuating the landscape are many volcanic cones - Costa Rica has seven active volcanoes and 60 dormant ones. Cascading down to the Caribbean from the central highlands are Costa Rica's many great rivers The capital, San Jose, is situated on a plateau in the middle of the central highlands. One of the most biodiverse countries on this planet, Costa Rica has12 distinct life zones; cloud forests and sub-alpine paramo with its characteristic stunted dwarf trees dominate the rugged mountainous interior while lush rainforests prevail in the Caribbean lowlands and tidal mangrove swamps are extensive along both seacoasts. And in the Pacific Northwest, pockets of the rare tropical dry forest still exist.
As a reflection of this biodiversity, there are over 9000 species of vascular plants including an estimated 1,400 species of orchids in addition to over 800 species of ferns,
which is one of the predominant types of plants encountered in tropical rainforests. Over 850 species of birds have been identified in Costa Rica not to mention over 600 species of butterflies and 205 species of mammals. The resplendent quetzal and the scarlet macaw are two of the most spectacular birds that reside in Costa Rica. The coastlines of Costa Rica are important breeding grounds of four species of sea turtles- the Green, Olive Ridley, Leatherback and Hawksbill turtles. Designated areas along both the Caribbean and Pacific have been assigned as protected zones for the nesting turtles. As a reflection of Costa Rica's strong conservation ethos, over 27% of its countryside is designated as a National Park, wildlife refuge, biological reserve or other protected area
A very peaceful and stable democracy, Costa Rica has one of the highest literacy rates in the Americas and has no standing army; following the country's last civil war in 1940, the military forces were abolished.
For most of Costa Rica, the rainy season is May-November and the dry season is December-April. Temperature ranges from very hot on the coastal plain and in the lowlands to very chilly in the mountains and the upper elevations. Throughout the central plateau, which for the most part ranges from 3000-4000 feet above sea level, the climate is mostly temperate all year around with the average temperature a comfortable 75F. The climate is considerably drier in the Pacific Northwest and during "the so-called rainy season", the rains usually cease or decline by late October and sometimes weeks will go by without any rainfall. The wettest regions are along the Caribbean slope and in the Caribbean lowlands, and in the Pacific Southwest.