Geography of Costa Rica


Terrain shapes and bedrock

According to COUNTRYAAH, Costa Rica’s long narrow land area between the Pacific and the Atlantic (Caribbean) has three distinct landform regions.

The central highlands pass as a backbone through the country and consist of the Central Cordillera and the Guanacaste Cordillera in the northwest and the Talamanca Cordillera in the southeast with the country’s highest point, Chirripó Grande, 3,820 m above sea level. The first two form a volcanic ridge with several high volcanic peaks such as Irazú (3,432 m above sea level), Poás (2,704 m above sea level) and Miravalles (2,028 m above sea level), the latter in the Guanacaste Cordillera.

The other region, Valle Central, also known as Meseta Central, is an intermontant basin and Costa Rica’s most economically important area, with among other things. the capital of San José at an altitude of 1,160 m above sea level. Here, too, there are active volcanoes, and earthquakes often occur. Such a year in 1910 reaped many casualties. The area is dewatered to both the Pacific and the Caribbean.

The third type of landform consists of the lowland areas that exist, among other things. in the north and along the eastern coast. They occupy one fifth of the land area and are lower than 120 m above sea level. The northern lowlands, like Meseta Central, have an alluvial soil suitable for cultivation.

On the western coast of Costa Rica, three major peninsulas appear, the Nicoya, Osa and Burica Peninsula, where fault sinks separate outer elevation areas from the main land.


Costa Rica belongs to the tropical climate zone but exhibits large temperature variations, which are related to the altitude conditions. According to BRIDGAT, the lowland regions have an annual average temperature of over 25 °C, while areas between 900 and 2000 m asl. have 25–15 °C, and those higher than 2,000 m above sea level. have average temperatures between 5 and 15 °C.

Through the impact of the northeastern pass, the Caribbean coastal areas and the eastern side of the highlands mountain ranges receive abundant rainfall year-round, a total of 4,500–5,000 mm per year. The middle part of the country has rainy May-November and dry season during the rest of the year, while the southern part has rainy April-December. The northern part of the west coast receives about 1,875 mm per year. San José receives close to 2,000 mm of rain per year and has an annual average temperature of 21 °C with 2.4 °C in annual amplitude.

Plant-and animal life

Costa Rica Wildlife

The flora is very rich and comprises about 8,000 vascular plants. Half of Costa Rica’s area was originally covered by very rich, evergreen tropical moisture forests and rainforests, most widespread along the country’s Atlantic side. Along the Pacific side, especially in the northwest, are tropical, deciduous dry forests (originally 10% of the country’s area) and mangrove forests. The original vegetation of the mountains is largely made up of moist or wet mountain rainforests. contains many oak species and a few species of tree worms. Above 3,000 meters above sea level there is a subalpine shrub vegetation, which is floristically reminiscent of paramon in the northern parts of the Andes, but which is probably largely created by humans.

Of mammals, 212 species have been observed in the country. Of these species, 103 are bats (including all three species of vampires), 9 beak rats, 21 predators (including jaguars, jaguarundi, white-tailed rhinos (Nasua narica) and raccoons), 2 navel pigs and 4 monkeys – mantle larva monkey (Alouatta palliata), actually capucin (Cebus capucinus), red spider monkey (Ateles geoffroyi) and skull monkey.

More than 850 species of birds have been observed, of which about 600 breed. Hummingbirds, trogons (including the practice quetzal), tyrants and mannequins are typical groups in the country. 148 species of amphibians (including deciduous frogs, arrow poison frogs and glass frogs) and 211 species of reptiles (of which 127 snake species, including rattlesnakes) are known from Costa Rica. The insect fauna is very rich and includes e.g. hiking and leaf-cutting ants, an extremely rich beetle fauna and about 1,600 day butterfly species.

Nature conservation

Costa Rica’s natural vegetation has become very depleted as a result of cultivation (sugarcane, coffee, etc.) and the establishment of pastures. During the 1970s and 1990s a strong protection of nature was built up, and Costa Rica is a leading country in this regard. This is one of the reasons why Swedish nature conservation organizations and authorities have also invested significant sums on the purchase of land for Guanacaste and others. National Parks. About 25% of Costa Rica’s area enjoys some form of nature protection, of which 12% are national parks.