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Enjoy these Crazy Costa Rica Facts and please share them with your friends! Come back every day for another Crazy Costa Rica Fact and get us to Costa Rica SOONER!

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Crazy Costa Rica Facts (Scroll down to see more details)

1.) Over half of Costa Rica’s population is under the age of 29.
2.) In 1949 Costa Rica abolished its military.
3.) 20% of Costa Ricans make less than $3.50 a day.
4.) Costa Rica has only 2 seasons: rainy and dry.
5.) The national symbol of Costa Rica is the oxcart.
6.) Costa Rica just qualified for their 4th world cup.
7.) Costa Ricans call themselves Ticos.
8.) The currency of Costa Rica is the Colon.
9.) A Soda is a popular place to eat in Costa Rica.
10.) There are no addresses in Costa Rica.
11.) Costa Rican Independence Day is September 15th.
12.) In Spanish, you literally call your soulmate an orange half.
13.) Gallo Pinto is the national dish of Costa Rica.
14.) On Sept 16th, Costa Rica received 15 days worth of rain in 6 hours.
15.) The national phrase of Costa Rica is “Pura Vida.”
16.) Costa Rica does not use Daylight Saving Time.
17.) Costa Rica is slightly smaller than Lake Michigan.
18.) Here are 10 ways life would be different if you were Tico.
19.) Costa Rica makes up 0.03% of Earth, but contains 5% of its biodiversity.
20.) Costa Rica is closing their zoos and setting the animals free.
21.) Some Costa Rican taxi drivers “bend” the rules…
22.) In Costa Rica you buy milk in a box unrefrigerated & ketchup in a bag.
23.) Monkeys are one of the most common mammals in Costa Rica.
24.) Everything delivers in Costa Rica…even McDonald’s!
25.) The Nicoya Peninsula has the world’s largest concentration of 100-year-olds.
26.) Need sunglasses or a phone charger in San José? Just roll down your window!
27.) For a true cultural experience in Costa Rica visit the Mercado Central.
28.) Costa Ricans are so kind, they will rarely tell you “no”…well directly.
29.) Costa Rica has a female president and is semi-socialistic.
30.) Costa Rica is ranked the “Happiest Country on Earth!”

  Crazy Costa Rica Facts (Twitter & Facebook hashtags #CrazyCRFacts, #Sooner, #Quinn)

1.) Over half of Costa Rica’s population is under the age of 29. 

Costa Rica is a very young, exciting country. The 20-24 & 25-29 age groups are the largest in Costa Rica, making up 19% of the population (9.5% each). Those are closely followed by the 15-19 age group which is 8.9%. The remaining age groups are as follows: 10-14 is 8.4%, 5-9 is 7.3%, and 0-4 is 8.1%. These are exciting statistics for us because we are going to be focusing on the college-aged young adults. Also, due to their education system (which we will touch on in a future fact) the universities are packed and will be for years to come.
(Source: CIA Factbook) 9/6/13

2.) In 1949 Costa Rica abolished its military. 

Costa Rica’s revered president, José Figueres Ferrer, abolished the country’s military on December 1, 1948. The armed forces’ budget was then shifted to the police force, education, environmental protection and cultural preservation. Because of the shift in funding, Costa Rica has an excellent education system, compared with the rest of the region, and many students have the opportunity to achieve college degrees. Ferrer was quoted saying “we are going to replace our military with an army of teachers.” As a result, the country became known as a ‘civilized nation’–a label that it could not have claimed before the abolition of the armed forces. Prior to Figueres’ landmark initiative, Costa Rica, had suffered from a series of unstable governments. From 1917 to 1919, the country was under the dictatorial grip of General Federico Tinoco Granados, until he was overthrown and forced into exile. Figueres himself came to power through an armed insurrection that pitted him against Rafael Ángel Calderón Guardia, a former president (1940-1944) who was trying to regain power through fraudulent elections and, ultimately, violence. Some 2,000 people died during the 44-day uprising. Today Costa Rica, considered by some, as the “Switzerland” of Latin America, serves as the host for the Inter-American Court of Human Rights and the United Nations’ University for Peace, and is a member of other organizations related to international justice and human rights, including the International Criminal Court.
(Source: Council on Hemisphical Affairs) 9/7/13

3.) 20% of Costa Ricans make less than $3.50 a day. 

Here are some numbers for you: the national average income for a working Costa Rican is $586/month ($7,034/year, $20/day). That being said, the bottom 20% of earners in the country makes only $101/month ($1,223/year, $3.35/day). This bottom 20% receives the equivalent of only 4.2% of the total income of the country. In comparison, the top 20% of earners receives 51% of the total income paid out in the country. Their average income is $1,826/month ($21,916/year, $60/day) which is 18 times higher than the bottom 20% of earners. Additionally, poverty affects 20.6% of the households (23.6% of the population) in Costa Rica, which equals about 1,100,000 people. You are considered to be in poverty in urban Costa Rica when you make less than $190/person/month and less than $147/person/month in the rural areas. Of the 20.6% in poverty, 6.3% are considered to be in extreme poverty meaning they cannot provide for their basic necessities. They make less than $87/person/month in the cities and less than $74/persons/month in the country. It is shocking to see that even the top 20% of people only make about $20,000/year. A person’s first response may be to say that it is cheaper to live in Costa Rica, but the truth is it’s about 30% more expensive to live there. Gasoline is about $5.30/gallon, cars are about 60% more expensive, and costs such as electricity, cell phones plans, and cable tv are about the same. Also, we were only able to find data about the average Costa Rican income, which is typically skewed higher than the preferred, more accurate median income (median is the very middle amount with half above and half below). For comparison, the average US household income is $60,528 compared to the median value of $44,389. The average is $17,210 higher than the more accurate picture presented by the median. The average Costa Rican household income in $20,658, and the median would be much lower.
(Source: Instituto Nacional de Estadística y Censos, pgs 13-21,25) 9/8/13

4.) Costa Rica has only 2 seasons: rainy and dry.

Costa Rica has only two seasons (rainy and dry) due to its location near the equator. The rainy season is sometimes referred to as the “green season” by tourism companies since the term “rainy” doesn’t sound very appealing. In all honesty, it rains year round; however, the rainfall is quite a bit higher during the rainy season with some parts of Costa Rica receiving up to 18 feet of precipitation! Most years each region of Costa Rica will receive 70% of their rainfall in less than 15 days. Sometimes there will be days of torrential rainfall in a row. On average, San José only receives about 60” (5 feet) of rain a year. Generally, the rain comes mid-afternoon and lasts for about 30 min to a couple hours before the sun comes out again. During that time the rain may be anything from a torrential downpour to a light drizzle and about once a week as a heavy thunderstorm. The thunderstorms usually last several hours and have thunder that can rattle your door. The rainy season is generally from January through May while the dry season is from May through December. The coolest months are usually November and December while the warmest months are from March through May. The average temperature in the San José Central Valley area, where we will be living, is around 83 deg Fahrenheit. Today the high in San José is 80 deg F and the low is 58 deg F with a 60% chance of rain. Costa Rica has such a diverse topography though with mountain ranges, valleys, and coastlines that it greatly affects rainfall and temperature.
(Sources: Weather Spark, World Headquarters) 9/9/13

5.) The oxcart is the national symbol of Costa Rica.

The oxcart was traditionally used in the mid-19th century as a family’s only source of transportation, both for themselves and for their crops. It was made with spokeless wheels which were a cross between the discs used by the Aztecs and the spoked wheels used by the Spanish. These wheels were made to handle the rough terrain and the inevitable mud from the rainfall. The carts were pulled by two oxen and would often transport a family’s crop of coffee beans from the central valley over the mountains to Puntarenas on the Pacific coast – a trip that could take up to 2 weeks, but can now be done in about an hour and a half. The oxcart brought Costa Rica to the international commerce scene in the mid 1800’s when it was used to transport the first shipment of coffee from the coffee plantations to the coast where it was then sent to London. Besides being used for transportation, the oxcart was also seen as a symbol of social status, and in the early-1900s, it became a source of original Costa Rican art. Different regions would paint their carts in a unique way that would identify which region the cart was from. On March 22, 1988, the oxcart officially became the National Labor Symbol of Costa Rica. It has been said that the oxcart depicts the peacefulness of Costa Rica as well as the strong work ethic and tireless labor of the Costa Rican people.
(Sources:, United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) 9/10/13

6.) Costa Rica just qualified for their 4th World Cup. 

On September 10th, Costa Rica clinched their 4th World Cup berth. Every 4 years national soccer teams fight for a spot in the largest sporting event in the world: the World Cup! This year 203 countries are competing for a berth into the 32 team field for the 2014 World Cup hosted in Brazil. Countries qualify through their regional tournament, and Costa Rica falls in the CONCACAF region which includes North America, Central America, and the Caribbean. Of the 35 countries in the CONCACAF region who entered this year, only the top 3 are guaranteed spots in the World Cup (the 4th place team plays a playoff with another team from a different region for a spot). Mexico and the USA lead the region with 14 and 10 World Cup qualifications, respectively, and Costa Rica is now 3rd. Costa Rica’s first qualification to the field of 32 was in 1990 when they made it past the group stage into the round of 16 (the first round is called the group stage where teams are placed in a group of 4, play each other, and the top 2 teams advance to the elimination rounds, where if you win you advance and lose you go home). They went on to qualify in 2002 and 2006 but were eliminated in the group stage each time. Costa Ricans call their team La Sele (short for La Selección- The Selection), and they have played well this year, qualifying in the 2nd spot – just 1 point behind Team USA. There are still 2 games left, giving Costa Rica the chance to possibly even grab the top qualifying spot! We are hoping for a great showing in the 2014 World Cup which kicks off June 14th.
(Source: FIFA) 9/11/13

7.) Costa Ricans call themselves Ticos. 

The “proper” Spanish word for a Costa Rican is costarricense, but the Costa Ricans prefer to call themselves Ticos. In Spanish, it is common to add the diminutive suffix ‘-ito’ (or ‘-ita’ for a feminine noun) to the end of a word to mean something is small or cute. For example, a baby brother (hermano) might be called “hermanito.” However, in Spanish you can also use the suffix ‘-itico(a)’ to mean the same thing- “hermanitico”. This suffix, while still proper Spanish, is not used as commonly anywhere else in the world as it is in Costa Rica. Consequently, the Ticos find identity in it so much so that it has become their namesake. Also, when a Tico uses the suffix ‘-itico(a)’ if often also denotes affection towards the object: “he’s my cute little brother I love.” One large part of our adventure to Costa Rica will be learning all of the colloquial Spanish which you don’t encounter through books in the classroom, but we cannot wait!
(Sources:, 9/12/13

8.) The currency of Costa Rica is the Colon. 

In the 19th century, the currency of Costa Rica was the peso which was divided into one hundred parts called centavos.  However, the price of silver dropped and the peso lost much of its value, so in 1896 the Colon was introduced as the official currency.  The Colon was backed by gold and was also divided into one hundred parts like the peso.  The Colon derived its name from Christopher Columbus, or Cristobal Colon in Spanish.  The material that makes up the Colon has changed several times over the years as Costa Rica keeps trying to find more cost-effective ways of producing the currency.  In the 1950’s, the Central Bank of Costa Rica started circulating banknotes in addition to the coins, and today the currency includes 1,000, 2,000, 5,000, 10,000, 20,000, and 50,000 Colones banknotes.  The 0.25, 0.50, and one and two Colones coins have practically disappeared since 1999, and new “500 Colones” coins were minted in 2003 along with the 5, 10, 25, 50, and 100 Colones coins already in use.  Colones are manufactured in Canada, Colombia, Chile, Serbia, Slovakia, Poland, and Germany.  The exchange rate varies daily, but is roughly 500 Colones to 1 U.S. Dollar.
(Source: Mint of Costa Rica, OANDA) 9/13/13

9.) A Soda is a popular place to eat in Costa Rica. 

No, it’s not a drink, in Costa Rica a “Soda” is the name for small, family-run restaurant. They are very common throughout the country and serve typical Costa Rican food at an affordable price. Some sodas are set up buffet style where customers choose from the food that is available that day, but most sodas have a menu that people can order from. Generally the menus do not vary much from soda to soda – they all seem to offer the same typical food. Most people order a Casado, which includes rice, beans, plantains, salad, and your choice of meat (fish, pork, chicken, beef). We may post a more detailed fact about Casados later in the month! Other food you could expect to see at a soda would be gallo pinto (future fact coming about gallo pinto!), arroz con pollo, soup, empanadas, a variety of fruit and vegetables that were available at the market that day, among other options. Sodas are always open for lunch, but some are open for breakfast and dinner as well, and a meal costs about $2-5 or 1,000-2,500 colones. A drink is also offered along with your meal called agua naturale (natural water), which is often made up of fruit, water, and sugar. Some of the common Costa Rican fruit juices offered are tamarindo, guanabana, mango, pineapple, cas, guava, papaya, orange, or a mixture of any of these. You can find sodas just about anywhere in Costa Rica, and they are frequently scattered along the side of the road. In fact, some sodas double as convenience stores or a type of truck stop. Whenever we are in Costa Rica, we routinely eat at sodas. It is a great experience when we are able to meet the family that owns the soda and talk with them while we eat. The food is always delicious, and it works great on missionary budget!
(Source: 9/14/13

10.) There are no addresses in Costa Rica. 

In Costa Rica there are no addresses…at least not addresses like we are used to seeing! You won’t find street names or numbers on buildings. If you are looking for a place, you would get the location based on a nearby landmark, for example: “from the Red Cross in Santa Ana, 100 meters East and 250 meters North.” To add to the confusion, it is not uncommon for the directions to reference something that is no longer there like “the old fig tree” or “the old Coca-Cola plant.” While this seems crazy to us, it is simply the “Tico” way of doing it, and it works for them. You may be curious how this affects mail delivery. Well, most people who want their mail delivered will have a P.O. Box. The postmen may try to deliver mail to the addresses described above by following the directions and asking neighbors, but the post office will tell you at least 20% of all mail is undeliverable because they cannot find the addressee based on the address provided. “We once got a letter addressed to ‘the guy who is sometimes outside of the post office,'” said Pablo Chaves, who is in charge of 22 letter carriers in central San José. Recently, Costa Rica did start an initiative to name all streets and give buildings street numbers, but they still have not completed the program. Even though some areas do have street names now, most Ticos have don’t know what they are. Many people believe that before Costa Rica finishes the addressing initiative, we will all be using GPS coordinates to locate places. For now, however, the Ticos are more than happy to stick with their current system because it is the Tico way.
(Source: The Wall Street Journal) 9/15/13

11.) Costa Rican Independence Day is September 15th.

Happy late Independence Day! Costa Rica celebrated their Independence Day on Sept. 15th, so happy late Independence Day! This is actually the date in 1821 that the entire Central America broke away from Spanish Rule. Representatives from Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala signed “La Acta de Independencia” which declared their freedom from Spain. It took about a month, however, for the news to reach the people of Costa Rica. Unlike many other independence declarations, the Central American countries did not encounter any retribution. At the time Spain was already overloaded with conflict in other Latin American countries and actually welcomed the independence as the five countries had become more of a burden than an asset. This was just the first step that Costa Rica took towards total autonomy which they later established in 1838. Today, Costa Rica celebrates their Independence Day with parades and festivals. The parades usually feature children and teenagers wearing traditional outfits and performing historical Costa Rica dances. National songs are played throughout the day all across the country. One of the most unique parades in Costa Rica is for the “Freedom Torch”. The torch starts in Guatemala and runners or students carry it down to Costa Rica, handing it off at the border of each country in between. This year it entered Costa Rica at 10:00am on Friday (Sept. 13th) at Penas Blancas and then proceeded to the old capital of Cartago where President Laura Chinchilla received it. Costa Rica also has a tradition of lantern parades. Children make colorful paper lanterns in the shape of houses and then have a parade after dark to show them off. Often, these lanterns will have a small, lit candle inside to illuminate them; however, there are times that the candles catch the lantern on fire, so it is very important for the children to be careful while carrying them. Costa Rica has such a great way of celebrating their independence, and we hope you had a great Independence Day celebrating Costa Rica’s 192 years of freedom from Spain!
(Source: Tico Times) 9/16/13

12.) In Spanish, you literally call your Soul Mate an orange half. 

There is a spanish phrase, “media naranja,” which translates to “other half” or “soulmate” in English. If translated literally, “media naranja” would mean “half an orange.” I (Sarah) write this post today in honor of Adam and my 2 year anniversary. These last two years have gone by so quickly, and I am so blessed to have Adam as my “media naranja.” Media naranja is a fairly complicated phrase. Some people say it comes from a greek myth found in Plato’s The Banquet. This myth states that humans started out round, like an orange, and had a face on each side, essentially having 2 “parts.” These “humans” became so prideful and conceited that the greek gods eventually separated them into two halves, and the two halves roamed the earth for the rest of their lives looking for their “other half” or “media naranja.” I have heard other people explain the phrase “media naranja” by saying that one person, by him/herself, can only go so far, just like how half an orange can only roll onto one side. When two people (or soul mates) are together, they are like a complete orange which can roll on forever. In this way, a “media naranja” or a soulmate can help an individual roll through life instead of being stuck. While these theories and explanations are all very romantic, it’s hard to know where exactly the phrase truly comes from. Either way, I am very glad that God has given me 2 years of marriage with my “media naranja,” Adam.
(Source: personal experience) 9/17/13

13.) Gallo Pinto is the national dish of Costa Rica.

Gallo Pinto is very popular in Costa Rica and is often referred to as the national dish. It is comprised of white rice, black beans, and a variety of herbs and spices.  Many eat it everyday for breakfast, usually along with eggs and cheese, although it is also popular at lunch or dinner as part of a “casado” meal. The name “Gallo Pinto” literally means “painted rooster” and is derived from the appearance of the rice once it is cooked with the beans. The rice becomes speckled and looks a bit like a painted rooster. Gallo Pinto varies some from family to family depending on which herbs or spices that family prefers, but it is always delicious. The most noticeable variation of Gallo Pinto is from the Caribbean side of Costa Rica, on the eastern coast, where people will add in coconut oil and coconut milk. Personally, we have never tried this variation, but we can’t wait to have the chance!
(Sources: NBC Latino, Recetas Típicas) 9/18/13

14.) On Sept 16th, Costa Rica received 15 days worth of rain in 6 hours.

Massive rainfall on Sept 16th caused mudslides, washed away roads, flooded homes, cut-off communities, and collapsed a bridge in parts of Costa Rica. 100 liters of rain fell per square meter in less than six days – that is the equivalent of 15 days of continual rainfall according to Inside Costa Rica News Source. For those of us not fluent in the metric system, 100 liters per square meter is equal to about 22.3 gallons per square yard. The heaviest rainfalls were in the provinces of San Jose, Alajuela, Heredia, Limon, and Puntarenas. A landslide 4 kilometers wide blocked a road near San Jose and left people trapped in their vehicles while cutting off the community of Varablanca about 60 kilometers southwest of San Jose. A bridge near Varablanca also washed away after the La Paz Waterfalls flooded and surged over it. This bridge had connected Varablanca and other communities to the outside world and is already in the process of being rebuilt. Several other mudslides have occurred and countless roads have been closed. Around 500 homes have been severely damaged from the floods and even destroyed. Some families have taken shelter in local schools but many are staying with relatives until they can repair or rebuild their homes.
(Source: Inside Costa Rica) 9/19/13

15.) The national phrase of Costa Rica is “Pura Vida.” 

“Pura Vida” literally means “pure life,” but its meaning goes far beyond the literal translation. Costa Ricans use the phrase “Pura Vida” for many things such as a greeting, a state of being, an adjective, a farewell, or as an expression of appreciation. It is a phrase that expresses happiness, peace, contentedness, optimism, positivity, and much more. When asking a Costa Rican how they are doing, they may respond “pura vida!” When they greet each other, instead of saying hello they may say “pura vida!” They may even describe someone or something as being “pura vida.” There is really not a direct English translation for this phrase, but it is meant to convey a message of how good life is or of how happy they are to be Costa Rican. It is a national phrase of pride and happiness in their country. So in the spirit of Costa Rica, the next time someone asks how you are simply say, “Pura Vida!”
(Source: 9/20/13

16.) Costa Rica does not use Daylight Saving Time. 

Costa Rica is usually in the same timezone as the central part of the U.S. unless the U.S. is in Daylight Saving Time (DST). During DST, Costa Rica remains in Central Time while the U.S. hops forward an hour. DST was created in order to conserve energy; instead of using so much electricity for lights after dark, why not take advantage of the daylight early in the morning? Some very practical morning people decided long ago to do that very thing. From March to November, the U.S. jumps forward to align the hours of our activity more closely with the hours of daylight. However, Costa Rica is located much closer to the equator and does not have a large shift in daylight hours throughout the year. Therefore, Costa Rica and the rest of Central America do not participate in DST, but instead, enjoy similar sunrise and sunset hours year round. Pura Vida!
(Sources:, 9/21/13

17.) Costa Rica is slightly smaller than Lake Michigan. 

Lake Michigan covers 57,800 square kilometers, and Costa Rica covers 51,100 square kilometers which means that, hypothetically, Costa Rica could fit inside Lake Michigan. The size of a country greatly affects how it is run and what policies are put in place. I believe the size of Costa Rica plays a large role in the unique facts we have been posting. For example, I think Costa Rica’s smaller size is part of what made it possible for them to abolish their army in 1949. I also think it is why Costa Rica is able to function without the type of addresses that we have in the U.S. They can address mail and give directions based on landmarks because, by and large, most Ticos are familiar with those landmarks. It works based on the size of their country.
(Sources: CIA, World Atlas) 9/22/13

18.) Here are 10 ways life would be different if you were Tico.

We found a very interesting website the other day that compared the U.S. and Costa Rica. The website is cited below, but their information came from the CIA World Factbook.

If Costa Rica were your home instead of the U.S., you would:

1.) use 85.7% less electricity
2.) consume 84.15% less oil
3.) make 76.51% less money
4.) have 58.31% more chance of dying in infancy
5.) spend 88.41% less money on health care
6.)have 31.18% more chance at being employed
7.) have 20.39% more babies
8.) experience 6.67% more of a class divide
9.) die 0.69999999999999 years sooner
10.) be 33.33% less likely to have HIV/AIDS
(Source: ifitweremyhome.com9/23/13

19.) Costa Rica makes up 0.03% of Earth, but contains 5% of its biodiversity. 

Costa Rica is a small country that only covers 0.03% of the Earth’s landmass, but it is home to 5% of our planet’s biodiversity: a density that is unmatched anywhere else in the world! The country is covered with dense forests, vast wetlands, misty mountains, and even some arid regions all teeming with life. Because of this, ecotourism has become a huge industry in Costa Rica. In fact, since 1999 tourism has earned more foreign exchange than banana, pineapple, and coffee export combined! In 2012, 2.34 million people visited Costa Rica making this a 2 billion dollar industry. Of all visitors, 60% engage in some form of ecotourism by visiting at least 2 of the nation’s protected national parks, and it’s easy to see why. Below you will find a list of Costa Rica’s amazing biodiversity.

– 130 species of freshwater fish
– 174 species of amphibians
– 208 species of mammals
– 221 species of reptiles
– 850 species of birds
– 1,000 species of butterflies
– 1,200 varieties of orchids   
– 9,000 species of plants   
– 34,000 species of insects   
– and still counting as new species are discovered every day
(Sources: Anywhere Costa Rica, La Nación9/24/13

20.) Costa Rica is closing their zoos and setting the animals free.

In light of Costa Rica’s efforts to be eco-conscious, they are closing two of their public zoos and setting the animals free. The new initiative is to be “cage free” according to the Environment Ministry Rene Castro. Castro tells a story of his grandmother’s pet parrot when he was a child. He and his grandmother would take meticulous care of this parrot. They fed her and gave her attention – everything that they as humans desired. However, one day while he was playing with the parrot outside, a flock of wild parrots flew overhead, and his pet flew away to join them. He realized at that moment that despite their best efforts the parrot preferred to be in her original, native environment.

More than 400 animals of 60 different species will be released from these two zoos, either into the wild or into rescue center. Because of Costa Rica’s rich bio-diversity, all of these animals are naturally found in Costa Rica except for the lion who may be sent to a rescue center outside of the country. The goal is for these zoos to be closed and the animals to be released by the end of 2014.
(Source: CNN) 9/25/13

21.) Some Costa Rican taxi drivers “bend” the rules…

There are thousands and thousands of taxis throughout Costa Rica. They are convenient and typically provide an affordable way to get around the country. All the taxis in Costa Rica are red, not yellow like in the USA, except the Costa Rican airport taxis which are orange. Taxi drivers are generally good people just working hard to make a living for their family, but as with any profession, some choose to “bend” the rules and cheat the system.

In order to be an airport taxi driver, you must obtain a certificate from an accredited school that you speak conversational-level English. However, some drivers purchase fake diplomas to avoid having to learn English. In fact, just this week agents of the Judicial Investigation Police raided a private English-language school accused of issuing fake diplomas to taxi drivers and arrested 12 cab drivers and 4 employees of the school. Some of these taxi drivers paid as much as $320 for a fake certificate!

Taxi drivers will also occasionally cheat unsuspecting tourists by not using the meter. In Costa Rica, they refer to the trip meter as “Maria” in reference to the virgin Mary and her honesty. Unfortunately, honesty doesn’t always follow. Sometimes the driver won’t use the meter and will charge the passenger an unfairly high rate, or other times they won’t reset the meter from the previous ride and will charge the person double. Even harder to catch is if the meter has been tampered with, charging more than the rate stated. These are all common occurrences, but typically if you ask the driver politely to reset the meter they will do it without question. If you ever enter a cab without a meter you should get out immediately because they are in violation of the law and will most likely charge a very high fare.

Finally, sometimes you will come across “fake” taxis. These are people in red cars trying to imitate a taxi, but they won’t have the official yellow diamond on their door. Usually these are honest people just trying to make some extra money for their family and will charge you less than a real taxi. However, there are some people who will travel around looking for tourists to steal from. You have to be very careful when using an unofficial, technically illegal taxi!

And as always, it is important to remember that getting in the car with a Costa Rican cab driver will definitely be a wild ride!
(Source: Tico Times, therealcostarica.com9/26/13

22.) In Costa Rica you buy milk in a box unrefrigerated & ketchup in a bag.

Grocery shopping, or any shopping really, is quite different in Costa Rica than in the U.S. In the U.S., we are accustomed to going to one place to buy everything on our list. In Costa Rica, it is usually necessary to visit a variety of markets and stores to find everything you may be looking for. If you are in the European/American parts of Costa Rica, you may be able to find a walmart or a Sam’s Club/Price Smart, but in most parts of Costa Rica, you would go to different places for different things. For example, you would go to one place for your fish or meat, one place for fruits and vegetables, one place for bread, and one place for paper products. In the U.S., the culture places a high priority on efficiency and it shows in every part of our daily lives, but it’s not that way in Costa Rica. Costa Rican culture emphasizes relationships over efficiency, and it’s evident even in grocery shopping. More jobs are created this way, and it creates an opportunity to develop relationships with the store workers and employees. Shopping is often a social event, even if you are shopping for groceries.

Also, many of the products that we have in the States are found in Costa Rica but are packaged differently. For instance, mayonnaise and ketchup are found in plastic bags, milk is in cardboard boxes on the shelf, and neither milk nor eggs are refrigerated. They are considered shelf-stable, and the milk isn’t refrigerated until after it’s opened.

So while there are Wal-Marts and Sam’s Clubs in Costa Rica, for an authentic Costa Rican experience it’s necessary to get out and visit a few different places before checking everything off your to-do list.
(Source: costaricabedfinder.com9/27/13

23.) Monkeys are one of the most common mammals in Costa Rica.

Monkeys are very common in Costa Rica, and you are bound to see some of them if you visit. The four major species of monkeys in Costa Rica are the White-Faced or Capuchin, the Squirrel, the Howler, and the Spider Monkey.

The White-Faced/Capuchin monkey is the same type of monkey featured in the “Night at the Museum” movies, and in my experience, the movies accurately portrayed their personalities! These monkeys prefer to live in the wet lowland forests on the Caribbean coast or in the deciduous dry forest on the Pacific coast, and they have a distinct look with a black body, white upper chest and shoulders, and a white face with a black cap on top of their heads. They usually travel in groups of about 15 with one adult male leader. Their main predators are large raptors, boa constrictors, and large cats. They generally eat insects; however, they will also eat fruits, plants, and invertebrates. Once they are full grown, they can weigh up to 8lbs with males being larger than females.

The Squirrel monkeys are naturally found only in the southern part of Costa Rica and along the Pacific lowlands – this is the most restrictive range of any primate in Costa Rica. They look pretty unique with their body being a greenish yellow color, their throat, face, and ears being white, and their muzzle and tip of their tail being black.  The squirrel monkeys travel in groups as small as 7 and as large as 100 depending on their habitat. These groups will have several adult males and about four females for every male. Their diet consists of insects, fruits, and leaves, and when they are full grown, they weigh about 1lb to 2.5lbs with males being larger than females.

The Howler monkeys live in the canopies of lowland and montane forests. They are black with brown or blonde saddles although as infants, they appear silver to golden brown. Their name comes from the howling sound that the adult male makes which can be heard more than half a mile away. The males often howl at sunrise/sunset or in response to noises from people, weather, airplanes, or other animals. They live in groups of 11 to 18 with the offspring leaving the group around 12 weeks of age. Something different about the howler monkeys compared to the other species is that the alpha monkey of male/female is the youngest adult – not the oldest. This species is also the most common of the Costa Rican primates making up 69% of the primate biomass. They are sedentary foragers and generally just eat leaves although they may eat fruits and flowers. When they are full grown, they weigh between 9 to 15 lbs depending on gender.

Last but not least is the Spider monkey who lives in the canopy of the tropical forests. This species actually has 9 subspecies based on color variations from blonde to black, although only 2 subspecies are found in Costa Rica. These monkeys are the most mobile of the primates – they quickly move from tree to tree using their long arms and tails which can support their full body weight. Their group dynamics continually change throughout the day and can be very complicated. They will separate into subgroups of 2 or 3 for the day to find food and then come back together as a large group near sleeping trees at night. This large group usually consists of around 20 monkeys. Spider monkeys require larger territories than other species because their diet is almost exclusively dependent on fruit. These monkeys have multiple ways to communicate from sounds to facial expressions to chemical secretions on the males’ chests. Adult Spider monkeys can weigh more than 17 lb, and have a long gestational period (225 days – about 7.5 months) which makes it difficult for the species to recover from any disaster – manmade or natural.
(Source: Anywhere Costa Rica9/28/13

24.) Everything delivers in Costa Rica…even McDonald’s!

Today is Adam’s birthday which means he gets to pick the fact, and he has saved his favorite just for the occasion! In Costa Rica you can get just about anything delivered, or as they call the service “Por Express.” McDonald’s, Wendy’s, Burger King, Taco Bell (which BTW has terrific french fries in Costa Rica), Subway, KFC, Quizno’s (also great fries!), and more will deliver your order via motorcycle straight to your door (which is sometimes tricky if you recall the lack of addresses in Costa Rica from fact #10). Usually, the delivery for food is an extra dollar or two charge, but worth it! This service is so common because many Costa Rican’s don’t have cars and may not prefer to take a bus ride just to get a hamburger. This convenience however, seems to offer quite a challenge for those of us on diets!

The amazing thing is that the service doesn’t stop with food. Many grocery stores and even some mini-markets offer home delivery of your goods. Auto Mercado is an upscale supermarket known for their imported goods, and they offer online ordering in addition to home delivery. Depending on the order size, delivery may be free, but most charge a flat rate-per-kilometer-fee. This service is very convenient during the rainy season, when you don’t want to carry all your heavy bags during torrential downpours!
(Source: CostaRica.com9/29/13

25.) The Nicoya Peninsula has the world’s largest concentration of 100-year-olds.

Costa Rica’s Nicoya Peninsula is what’s called a “blue zone”- an area with an abnormally high amount of centenarians (100-year-olds). Five “blue zones” have been identified around the globe, but Costa Rica’s is the largest (the others are found in Japan, Greece, Italy, and Loma Linda, CA). The study was undertaken in an effort to learn from these regions the “secret” to a long, healthy life. Each of these regions had 6 things in common: family, no smoking, plant-based diet, constant moderate physical activity, social engagement, and legumes.

The Nicoya Peninsula is only 75 miles long and 19-37 miles wide. Until 2003, the region was relatively isolated and only accessible by ferry- meaning their way of life has been fairly unchanged over the years. In fact, a 60-year-old Costa Rican man has twice the chance of reaching 90 as an American, French, or even Japanese man! This region also has incredibly low rates of cancer. So what is their secret? Well secret may not be the best word for it because the cause is their lifestyle, diet, and even values they have had for centuries. Below is an excerpt from our source detailing it.

Longevity Highlights

1.) Have a plan de vida– Nicoyan centenarians feel needed through fostering a plan de vida, or reason to live. This sense of purpose often centers around spending time with and providing for their family. This often results in centenarians retaining an active lifestyle, reaping the benefits of physical activity and exposure to the sun. Faith plays a strong role in the Nicoyan lifestyle. Relinquishing control of their life to God helps relieves stress and anxiety related to well-being.

2.) Get Sleep- Nicoyans sleep an average of 8 hours per day, prompted by a lack of electricity, which causes them to hit their beds around 8:30PM and wake with the sun.

3.) Eat Longevity Fruits- They, like those in the other Blue Zones, eat rich, colorful fruits. The maroñon, a red-orange fruit with more vitamin C than oranges and the anona, a pear-like fruit rich in antioxidants provide Nicoyans with nutrient dense, longevity foods. Their gardens flow rich with rice, beans and corn, all staples in the diet.

Lessons From Nicoya

1.) Have a plan de vida. Nicoyans always nurture their plan de vida, or reason to live, which encourages them to contribute to their community.

2.) Drink hard water. High amounts of calcium and magnesium, essential for bone and muscle strength, abound in Nicoya’s water. By drinking and cooking with this water, people here get their daily intake of calcium throughout their entire lives!

3.) Focus on your family and friends. Having a good relationship with their family and maintaining a strong social network contributes greatly to centenarian’s sense of purpose and well-being.

4.) Work hard. Nicoyan centenarians maintain a strong work ethic, which keeps them active and healthy while contributing to their sense of purpose.

5.) Plan your meals. Nicoyans eat their biggest meal in the morning and their smallest meal at night.

6.) Get some sun. Nicoyans enjoy healthy doses of daily sun, enriching their bodies with Vitamin D. Getting at least 15 minutes every day can decrease the risk for osteoporosis and heart disease.
(Source: Blue Zones) 9/30/13

26.) Need sunglasses or a phone charger in San José? Just roll down your window!

In Costa Rica – especially in San Jose – people will sell all kinds of things at the intersections. It can be a little overwhelming at first when you stop at a street light and people start swarming around the cars with cell phone chargers, newspapers, all types of clothing, fruit, sunglasses, and almost anything else you can imagine! Sometimes the vendors won’t even wait for the cars to stop and will just be out on the sides of the street as you drive by. Other than being able to shop directly from your car while stopped at a light, you can also enjoy a mini-circus show! Sometimes there will be clowns on unicycles or with juggling sticks performing a short show while you are at the light – afterwards they will walk past the cars holding out their hats for tips. These vendors and performers feel like they have created their own part of Costa Rican culture; however, the Costa Rican government has been trying to get rid of them over the past year because of the risk – numerous vendors and performers are seriously hurt and killed every year from being hit by vehicles. The country is trying to cut down on these needless deaths and injuries, but it is hard to enforce the new laws. The vendors and performers are so widespread throughout the city, and generally if they are told to leave one area, they will just move on to another one. Also, the vendors and performers feel like the government is imposing on their human rights and their personal culture and are fighting back against the government. We have not been back in Costa Rica since 2012, so it will be interesting to see what the streets are like when we go back – hopefully on May 7th, 2014! You can help us get there!
(Sources:, Inside Costa Rica, Tico Times10/1/13

27.) For a true cultural experience in Costa Rica visit the Mercado Central.

In downtown San Jose, you will find the Mercado Central (the Central Market) which is a covered market the size of a city block. This market has been open since the late 1800s and is comprised of over 200 vendors which are set up in stalls that create an endless maze. While wandering through the outer parts of the maze, you will see souvenir shops, leather stores, clothing stalls, shoe stores, flower shops, machetes, even a pet store, and more! Once you move into the center of the market, I believe – it can be a little disorienting at times – you will find meat markets, seafood markets, sodas, produce/fruit stands, spice markets, etc. Just imagine all of those smells combined into one! Most of the meats and seafoods are in refrigerated cases, but many are just sitting out in the open at room temperature! We can attest however, to how good those sodas are, and we still have some achiote spice that we bought at a spice market there.

This market is definitely a cultural experience! We were trapped in there for about an hour or so on my first visit. I’m not sure if something happened outside of the market in downtown or what, but all of the sliding metal doors from the ceiling were pulled down (like what you see when a mall is closing) forcing everyone to stay inside. There were policemen everywhere, but no one seemed to know what was going on. Even more interesting, no one seemed overly concerned about what was going on – people just kept walking around, shopping, and waiting patiently for the doors to open again. No one panicked or demanded to be released from what we could see – it was such a foreign experience for us! Eventually, we found a small exit into an alleyway and walked back to the bus stop in a nearly deserted downtown San Jose – definitely odd, and we never discovered the reason behind the lockdown!

So if you are looking for a unique, Costa Rican experience – go to the Mercado Central! Just beware of the pickpockets that like to target the tourists or rip the necklaces right off of people’s necks!
(Source: Tico Times) 10/2/13


28.) Costa Ricans are so kind, they will rarely tell you “no”…well directly.

When spending much time in Costa Rica you will find that Ticos rarely tell anyone “no.” Ticos are so nice that they prefer to avoid conflict and saying “no” can be considered rude. Here are three examples of how Ticos avoid using the “no.”

Make it someone else’s problem- One way to avoid saying “no” is to say “yes”…if you know it will become someone else’s problem. Sometimes if you ask to use something, the person you ask will tell you “yes” because they know that someone else will tell you “no” later. This way they are not the “bad guy.”

Misinformation- We encounter this constantly when asking for directions. Ticos not only want to avoid being rude, they want to be helpful as well. Therefore, if you ask for directions somewhere, they will probably give you some…whether they know where you are trying to go or not. When getting directions from strangers, we try to ask several people and hope a trend emerges!

Making Excuses- Traffic is one of the most popular excuses. “Sorry I was late, traffic.” “I can’t come to the party because of traffic.” These are not uncommon. We do that even in the U.S., however. Also, If someone is asked to buy something, they may say, “I don’t have any money,” “I already have one,” or “I bought that at the intersection this morning.” Whether or not these responses are true, they are a way to avoid being rude and telling someone “no.”
(Source: De la Pura Vida10/3/13

29.) Costa Rica has a female president and is semi-socialistic.

In 2010, Laura Chinchilla was elected as the first female president of Costa Rica, winning the election with 46.8% of the vote. She is the country’s first female president- a feat that still hasn’t been accomplished in the USA. There have actually been 9 female presidents throughout Latin America, and 3 in Central America. In fact the first female president in Latin America was Isabel Peron of Argentina in 1974! President Chinchilla is socially conservative, pro-life, and pro-traditional marriage.

Costa Rica has many socialist programs. The electric, water, phone, health care, and cell phone (until just a few years ago) industries are all government monopolies. Leadership has been trying to bring in outside investors for telecommunications and electric power, but efforts to open these industries to the private sector have been stalled by government opposition. The health care system, while free, is nearly out of money, and the public hospitals do not have all the resources they need. How one of our friends words it: “you have just as much of a chance of dying in a hospital as you are of being healed!” That being said, medical tourism is still a huge industry in Costa Rica. People fly in from all over the world to stay at private, hotel-like hospitals where they have quality, “luxury” surgeries performed for a fraction of the cost. It will be fascinating to see how Costa Rica’s public policy continues to develop over the next 20 years as they tackle these tough issues.
(Sources: BBCEncyclopedia Britannica, Global Tenders10/4/13

30.) Costa Rica is ranked the “Happiest Country on Earth!”

Costa Rica was ranked the happiest country on Earth this year for the second time by the Happy Planet Index. HPI takes into account a country’s life expectancy, experienced well-being, and ecological footprint to come up with their rankings – Costa Rica was the highest rated with a 64.0. Costa Rica’s life expectancy is 79.3 years, their surveyed well-being is 7.3/10, and the ecological footprint is 2.52 global hectares per capita. HPI believes that through these three components, they can measure overall happiness. The index is calculated by multiplying the well-being rating by the life expectancy and then dividing that value by the ecological footprint.

HPI calculated the well-being rating by surveying Costa Rican citizens and asking questions based on the “Ladder of Life” from the Gallup World Poll. Basically, people are asked to imagine a ladder where 0 signifies the worst life imaginable and 10 is the best life imaginable, and tell which step of the ladder they feel like they are standing on. The average Costa Rican said they felt like they were about step 7.

For those of us not familiar with ecological footprints or global hectares per capita, HPI calculated this value based on the amount of land needed to sustain Costa Rica’s consumption – measured in global hectares. So basically, Costa Rica needs 2.52 global hectares (about 6.5 acres) per capita in order to sustain their lifestyle.

HPI is different than many other ratings because they do not take economy into account; they measure happiness outside the context of wealth. We all know that money does not necessarily equal happiness and that is the basis of the HPI.
(Source: Happy Planet Index, full report10/5/13