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Costa Rica Geography

Costa Rica (kŏs'tə rē'kə), officially Republic of Costa Rica, 50,700 sq km (19,575 sq mi), Central America. It is bounded on the north by Nicaragua, on the east by the Caribbean Sea, on the southeast by Panama, and on the south and west by the Pacific Ocean. The capital and largest city is San José. In addition to the capital, other important cities are Alajuela, Heredia, Puntarenas and Cartago.

The coastal plains are low, hot, and heavily forested. Bananas, cocoa, and sugarcane are cultivated there. In the northwest is the Nicoya peninsula, a semiarid plain where cattle and grain are raised. A massive cordillera, with peaks over 3,658 m (12,000 ft) high, cuts the country from northwest to southeast. Within it, under the shadow of volcanoes such as Irazú, lies the Central Valley, with a perennially springlike climate. This valley is the heart of the country, where coffee is cultivated and most of the population and market facilities are located.

Because Costa Rica is located only about eight degrees north of the equator, the climate is tropical year round. However, this varies depending on elevation and rainfall. Therefore, it is greatly affected by the geography of Costa Rica.

Costa Rica's seasons are defined by how much it rains during a particular period. The year can be easily split into two periods. These two periods are what is known to the residents as Verano, summer and Invierno, winter. The verano season is from December to May, and is the time of year when it is not as wet. Invierno is the period from May to November, and during this time, in many locations, it rains constantly.

The location that receives the most rain is the Caribbean (northeast) slopes of the Central Cordillera mountains, with an annual rainfall of over 5,000 mm. Humidity is also higher on the Caribbean side than on the Pacific side. The mean annual temperature on the coastal lowlands is around 27°C, 21° in the main populated areas of the Central Cordilera, and below 10° on the summits of the highest mountains.


Central America, bordering both the Caribbean Sea and the North Pacific Ocean, between Nicaragua and Panama

Geographic coordinates
10 00 N, 84 00 W

Map references
Central America and the Caribbean

total: 51,100 sq km
land: 50,660 sq km
water: 440 sq km
note: includes Isla del Coco

Area - comparative
slightly smaller than West Virginia

Land boundaries
total: 639 km
border countries: Nicaragua 309 km, Panama 330 km

1,290 km

Maritime claims
territorial sea: 12 nm
exclusive economic zone: 200 nm
continental shelf: 200 nm

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