Costa Rica is one of the oldest democracies in America and is by far the politically most stable country in Central America. Costa Rica borders Nicaragua to the north, the Caribbean to the east, Panama to the southeast and the Pacific to the southwest and west. The total area of the country is approximately 51,100 square kilometers. San Jose is the capital. Several mountain ranges of the Cordilleras (Cordillera de Talamanca, Cordillera Central and Cordillera de Guanacaste) cross the country from the northwest to the southeast. The highest mountains are the Chirripó Grande (3,819m, 12,530ft) and the still active volcano Irazu 3,432m (11,260 ft).
The Meseta Central is located on a plateau in between the mountain ranges, which is the main settlement area of the country. The tropical rain forest in the north-eastern lowlands has almost everywhere given way to banana plantations, while the wet and dry savannahs at the edge of the mountain ridges have been converted into farmland. The original vegetation consists of ebony, balsa trees, mahogany and cedar trees. In addition, there are more than 1000 species of orchids. The diversity of fauna consists of numerous insects, monkeys, leopards, jaguars and about 725 species of birds.
The majority of the population of Costa Rica is of European (mainly Spanish) descent. White people and mestizos (of mixed marriages between white people and the indigenous population) account for more than 90 percent of the current population.
About 500 km (310 m) off the west coast of Costa Rica lies the legendary Cocos Island. For centuries it was the target of adventurers who searched for buried pirate treasures. With its 24 km ², the largest uninhabited rain forest island in the world is now a National Park and is part of the World Cultural Heritage.
One fifth of Costa Rica has been turned into National Parks and holds endless scenic attractions. Rain forests, mangrove swamps, mountain ranges and volcanoes offer a rich diversity to the interested visitor.
Cocos Island is far away from the main land, about 500 km (310 miles) off the west coast of Costa Rica. Legendary Cocos Island was for centuries the target of adventurers who searched for lost pirate treasures. The island is only 24 km ² (9.2 sq miles) in size and is covered with uninhabited rainforest.
Cocos Island is World Heritage listed. Shore excursions are possible, but most are limited to the ranger station, as the rest of the island is very dense and hard to explore by hiking. There are the many waterfalls and the remains of a crashed B-24 bomber from WWII.
The crossing from the mainland to Cocos Island takes about 35 hours. It is really recommended for people who are not prone to seasickness and even those better have seasickness medication in their luggage, just in case!