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Countries Information & Lifestyle
 Costa Rica Costa Rica

Country Information & Lifestyle

 Wild at Heart

Wild at Heart

Costa Rica is a beautiful Central American country bordered by Nicaragua to the north, Panama to the southeast, the Pacific Ocean to the west, the Caribbean Sea to the east and Ecuador.

Tere are a scattering of islands boasting sandy coves and palm trees including the Cocos Islands 500 km from Puntarenas, but Calero Island is the largest island of the country.

Costa Rica is famous for its natural beauty with open spaces, gorgeous beaches with crystal clear waters, beautiful flowers, magical birds and stunning rain-forests. With monkeys and parrots as neighbours this country will captivate you. The smell of the ocean is never very far away, and with mystic rain and cloud in the rain forests, makes this a perfect country to live in.

Because Costa Rica is located between 8 and 12 degrees north of the Equator, the climate is tropical year round. However, the country has many micro-climates depending on elevation, rainfall, topography, and by the geography of each particular region.

Although relatively small in size, Costa Rica is extremely diverse in what it has to offer with over 15 different ecosystems. Whether it is the swamp lands of the Tortuguero National Park (referred to as the "little Amazon"), the breathtaking ocean and jungle views found on the central and southern pacific coast or the drier climate of the northern Pacific region offering incredible scuba diving and surfing, this country truly is a hidden treasure waiting to be found.

There are top class resorts, world-class surfing, record breaking sport fishing, exotic beaches, dense rain forests, exuberant flora and fauna, while for those looking for that unique getaway off the beaten track some incredible islands where you can imagine you are Robinson Crusoe.

Costa Rica is a Spanish speaking country with English rarely spoken. The Costa Ricans call themselves Ticos or Tica, this is supposed to stem from their love of the use of diminutives such as chico(small). They are a friendly, helpful people and a very family orientated society. The vast majority of Costa Ricans are mainly white of Spanish descent. There are a small number of Indians remaining making up less than 1 % of the population. There are 22 Indian reservations and for the most part discourage visitors although a few have a store perhaps selling some local crafts.

Costa Rica is divided into seven provinces. Lajuela province is located in the north-central part of the country. The Central Mountain Range passes through the provinces borders, as do the Tilaran and Guanacaste ranges. This province is also home to two of the most active Costa Rican volcanoes, Poas Volcano and the Arenal Volcano.

Alajuela Province has a rich and diverse architectural history, reflected in the variety of different styles of churches, schools and houses. Mammals such as ocelots, and other wild cats, jaguar, although rarely seen and the giant anteater inhabit the province's national park. Some of the province's tourist industry is centred on the area around La Fortuna, a small town at the base of Arenal Volcano. The area has hot spring resorts, a large lake below the volcano, fishing and nature reserves.

There is plenty of opportunity to fish in Lake Arenal. It is still incredibly peaceful not too hot and never too cold. It is total tranquillity. You're in front of the volcano. Arenal is one of the world's most active volcanoes, thundering and erupting daily since 1968. The volcano, located in the Tilaran Mountains about 3 hours from San Jose, dominates the landscape of this National Park and of the region. The lava flow comes from a horseshoe shaped crater, sending eruptions of cloud, ash and fiery materials into the mountain sky (making lava flows especially spectacular at night).

There are toucans flying around. Even in the central valley, the most populated part of the country, you are never too far away from secluded nature. It's easy to find yourself surrounded by lush green jungle, a kaleidoscope of flowers, and a menagerie of animals. At Arenal, one of the ten busiest volcanoes in the world, there is a fair chance of witnessing amazing pyrotechnics, a glowing river of lava or a towering plume of smoke. There are guided trips on foot or horseback through the wildlife-rich mountain habitat.

In Sarchi you can visit traditional artisan shops and in the municipality of Palmares there is a large festival every January with live music, horse parades and other traditional events. In San Carlos every April there is an annual cattle market which attracts visitors as well as business people.

In the centre of Alajuela is a centuries-old cathedral with a plaza where mangoes regularly fall from the trees. Known as the City of Mangoes, there is a mango festival every June. Located within the old Alajuela Prison is a museum with lots of relics from the past well worth visiting.

The only indigenous tribe of Alajuela today are the Maleku left from the Spanish colonial period. Their reserve is one hour north of La Fortuna at San Rafael de Guatuso. There are three Maleku villages Palenque Sol, Palenqu Tonjibe and Palenque Margarita, where the residents subsist largely from the tourist economy.

Guanacaste, along the Pacific Ocean Coast, borders Nicaragua to the north. It is the most sparsely populated province. The province is bounded on the east by a group of green-swathed volcanoes forming the Cordillera de Guanacaste and the Cordillera de Tilaran.

Limon is the most culturally diverse province housing a significant Afro-Caribbean and indigenous population. Several languages, Spanish, Limon, Creole, are spoken and, due mainly to its cultural ties to the Caribbean islands, dishes like rice and beans are ubiquitous throughout the province, along with reggae, calypso and soca music.

The province of Grecia is home to many historic churches and buildings. The Puente de Las Damas (Ladies' Bridge) built in 1844, is another national monument in Atenas. Stories differ on the origin of the name. According to many people, construction was organized by well-known "high society" women, including the widow of former former head-of-state Manuel Fernandez Chacon, Dolores Oreamuno.(Other sources claim the name comes from the nearby planting of cestrum noctumum, which is often called "lady of the night") in Spanish. Reconstructed, the bridge still stands on the old highway to Puntarenas, providing an avenue for farmers to transport coffee to the Pacific coast, as it did in the past.

Outside of Grecia, El Puente de Piedra (the Stone Footbridge) has given rise to so many folk-tales and legends that it is also a national monument. It is a natural formation that has been complemented to allow visitors to traverse across.

Geographic magazine calls Corcovado National Park 'the most biologically intense place on Earth'. It takes in a third of the Osa Peninsula, unspoiled tropical rain-forest behind miles of empty beaches from where you can watch pelicans spearing into the shining sea.

You fly to a tiny airstrip, take a boat to Drake Bay, where the Elizabethan explorer first saw the Pacific, and stay in simple but comfy lodges. Helped by resident experts, you may spot a jaguar, an ocelot, or a cougar on a forest walk.

After the rain-forest relax on one of Manuel Antonio's beaches. There are four stretches of sand within the national park, each with its own charms and attractions but all of them have one thing in common, they are a haven for wildlife.

Further along the coast, you will find Playa Espadilla Sur, which is situated on a small island that is now attached to the mainland by a narrow sand spit. This boasts white sand and is fringed by the rain-forest.

If you want to find stunning views across the Pacific Ocean follow the trail to the top of Serrucho Point. The cliff here is deeply eroded and you will be able to see numerous sea caves as you approach it. Once you reach the top, you will be rewarded with a beautiful panorama across the rain-forest stretching down towards the beaches and the water's edge.

While in Costa Rica you must sample the local cuisine. Known for being tasty, yet fairly mild, with high reliance on fresh fruit and vegetables, the main staple being gallo pinto which consists of rice and beans. In taverns, various small dishes,(bocas) are served which include patacones with black bean dip, chimichurri,(tomatoes and onions pickled in lime juice) accompanied with tortilla chips, chifrijo,(rice and beans with chicharrones, which are fried pork skins, and chimichurri), ceviche,(fish and/or shrimp with onions and pickled in lime juice) and vigor�n,(cabbage, chimichurri, yucca, served with a slice of lime).

Other Costa Rican food staples include corn tortillas, which frequently accompany meals, but rice is nearly always present. Ticos will often fill tortillas with whatever they are eating and eat it in the form of a gallo which resembles a soft Mexican taco.

Costa Rica has a scattering of islands boasting sandy coves, palm trees & dozens of bird species. Cocos Island is an uninhabited island in the Pacific Ocean, volcanic and tectonic in origin and 550 km from the shores of Costa Rica surrounded by deep waters with counter-currents. The island is admired by scuba divers for its populations of Hammerhead sharks, rays, dolphins, and other large marine species.

The extremely wet climate and oceanic character give Cocos an ecological character that is not shared with either the Galapagos Archipelago or any of the other islands e.g. Malpelo or Coiba in this region of the world. The mountainous landscape and the tropical climate combine to create over 200 waterfalls throughout the island.

Cocos Island is home to dense and exuberant tropical moist forests and is the only oceanic island in the eastern Pacific region with such rain forests and their characteristic types of flora and fauna. The cloud forests at higher elevations are also unique in the eastern Pacific.

The island has 235 known species of flowering plants, pigs, deer, cats and rats, nearly 90 bird species and two species of lizard. Humpback whales. Pilot whales, bottle-nose dolphins, sea lions and turtle species are common in the waters, along with yellow fin tuna, giant mantas and sharks.

The Isla del Coco may be the inspiration for the fictitious Isla Nubar in the novel Jurassic Park Piracy and hidden treasures on Cocos Island. Benito Bonito, a Portuguese pirate, allegedly buried the Treasure of Lima on Cocos Island during the Peruvian War of Independence.

Another version is that Captain William Thompson was given the treasures from Lima and ordered to sail them on his ship Mary Dear to safety. But the temptation was too great for him and his first mate, James Alexander Forbes. They slew the guards and hid the treasure on Cocos Island. A friend of Thompson called John Keating is believed to have managed to retrieve part of the treasure. A descendant of John Alexander Forbes, John Forbes made five trips to the island, the last in 1950.

In 1818 Captain Bennett Graham, a distinguished British naval officer put in charge of a coastal survey in the South Pacific aboard the HMS Devonshire, instead of this mission he chose a life of piracy. He was eventually caught and executed along with his officers, the remainder of his crew being sent to a penal colony in Tasmania.

Twenty years later, one of the crew, a woman named Mary Welch released from prison claimed to have witnessed the burial of Graham's fortune 350 tons of gold bullion stolen from Spanish galleons - on Cocos Island. Moreover, she had a chart with compass bearings showing where the so-called "Devonshire Treasure" was buried. Graham had given it to her, she said, just before he was captured.

Welch's story was believed and an expedition was organised to hunt for the treasure. Welch took part in it but on the island she said the lay of the land had changed so much that many of her identifying marks had disappeared. The expedition recovered nothing.

If you choose to live, even for part of the year, in Costa Rica, maybe you will be the one to discover the hidden treasure on Cocos Island.

Purchasing a Property

A non-Costa Rican has the same rights to own property as do the citizens of the country and this is reflected in the laws and protected by the Constitution.

Neither citizenship nor residency, or even a presence in the country is required for land ownership. One exception is property fronting the ocean or close, within 200 mt of high tide, known as terrestrial zone and holds certain restrictions affecting foreigners.

It is important to instruct an English speaking lawyer to handle the purchase transaction for you as the whole process will be in Spanish.

Once you have decided on your property a written agreement between the buyer and seller in some format identifying the terms and conditions of the sale will be drawn up and a deposit should be paid into an escrow account.

Your lawyer will search the property title deed and the Registro as all documents must be registered with the REGISTRO PUBLICO. He will also check that all the utilities have been paid up, do a search in the Catastro office and obtain a map of the property.

The ESCRITURA, (Title Deed), will describe how the property is recorded in the REGISTRO and the "will" between buyer and seller may have been identified in the written initial contract which may then be included in the new ESCRITURA.

The final transfer Title Deed will be signed in front of a NOTARY, by both parties and then the Title Deed will go for registering at the REGISTRO PUBLICO.

After purchasing the property it is necessary to change over the utilities and the companies will require a copy of your escritura and if you have received a telephone line as part of the purchase you should secure a special transfer form from the telephone company, "I.C.E" the only company in Costa Rica and government owned.

The form must be completed during the sale process and signed by the seller and certified by the NOTARY. CAVEAT phone liens acquired after 1995 are not transferable.

Fees & Taxes

Title Guarantee fees are typically based on a sliding scale depending on the purchase price.

Escrow fees are dependent on the escrow provider.

Incorporation fees for purchasing a corporation typically run between $500-$1000.

Transfer tax is charged by the government at 1.5% of the purchase price.

Stamp duty of 1% is charged by the Public Registry.

Notaries are required by law to charge 1.25% as their legal fees.

If you require a survey for your property there are qualified surveyors available to perform this task and the price will depend on the property location and size

Visas

Citizens from the following countries can enter Costa Rica for a period of 90 consecutive days without a visa – Argentina, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France and Germany Dependencies, Greece, Holland and Dependencies, Hungary, Israel, Italy, Japan, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Norway, Panama, Paraguay, Poland, Portugal, Puerto Rico, Romania, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Trinidad & Tobago, United Kingdom, United States of America and Uruguay.

Citizens of the following countries holding a valid passport can enter Costa Rica for a period of 30 consecutive days without a visa – Antigua and Barbuda, Australia, Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Bolivia, Bulgaria, Chile, Dominica, El Salvador, Estonia, Grenada, Guatemala, Guyana, Honduras, Iceland, Ireland, Jamaica, Kenya, Mexico, Monaco, New Zealand, Philippines, Russia, Saint Kitts/Nevis, San Marino, St.Lucia, St.Vincent, Singapore, Slovakia, South Africa, Suriname, Taiwan, Turkey, The Vatican and Venezuela.

Citizens of countries not listed need to contact a Costa Rican Embassy or Consulate to apply for a tourist visa.

Please note that there is a 26$ US departure tax payable at the airport in US dollars or Costa Rican cash. This only applies when you leave the country by air and does not apply for land exits for which there is no fee.

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