Costa Rica

GEOGRAPHY AND ENVIRONMENT

North Pacific Ocean click on the image to enlarge
Costa Rica is located in Central America. It borders both the Caribbean Sea (to the east) and the North Pacific Ocean (to the west), with a total of 1,290 km of coastline.

Costa Rica also borders Nicaragua to the north and Panama to the south-southeast.  In total, Costa Rica comprises 51,100 km² of which 50,660 km² is land and 440 km² is water, making it slightly smaller than the U.S. state of West Virginia.

Valley click on the image to enlarge
The nation's terrain is coastal plain separated by rugged mountains in the center of the country.  The country has a tropical and subtropical climate and is part of the Neotropic ecozone. It is part of many ecoregions, including Costa Rican seasonal moist forests, Bocas del Toro-San Bastimentos Island-San Blas mangroves, Mosquitia-Nicaraguan Caribbean Coast mangroves, Southern Dry Pacific Coast mangroves, Central American dry forests, and Talamancan montane forests. An inlet from the pacific the Gulf of Nicoya contains several small islands, the largest of these being Chira Island with a population of around four thousand.

Buceo click on the image to enlarge
The country is noted for its national park system, administered by SINAC (Sistema Nacional de Areas de Conservacion, or "National System of Conservation Areas"). This agency oversees over 160 protected areas in Costa Rica, of which 26 are national parks. Together the protected areas comprise over one-forth of Costa Rican territory. The largest national park is Cocos Island (Spanish: Isla del Coco), an island about 500 km from the Costa Rica's Pacific coast.

Cerro Chirripo click on the image to enlarge
Costa Rica's dry season is in most places from December to April, while the rainy season is from May to November. On the Caribbean coast, however, December is by far the wettest month. The highlands areas are always cooler. The lowest elevation level in the country is the Pacific Ocean at sea level, the highest point is Cerro Chirripo, a volcanic mountain with an elevation of 3,810 m (part of Cerro Chirripo National Park). On a clear day, it is possible to see both the Caribbean and the Pacific from the peak.

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