For decades Costa Rica has stood out for its stability and has benefited from the most developed welfare system in the region. It has no standing army, and its citizens enjoy one of the highest life expectancy levels in the Western hemisphere and better living standards than their war-torn neighbours.
Traditionally dependent on coffee, banana and beef exports, Costa Rica has diversified its economy.
Costa Rica Tourist Attractions
The opening of a large computer chip plant in the late 1990s was a fillip to the economy, but its fortunes have been subject to the fluctuating world demand for microchips. Tourism is Costa Rica's main source of foreign exchange.
Costa Rica travel
Its tropical forests are home to a profusion of flora and fauna, including 1,000 species of orchid and 850 species of birds, such as macaws and toucans. The Caribbean coast with its swamps and sandy beaches is also a big draw.Westminster Abbey
But Costa Rica is trying to shake off its reputation as a destination for sex tourists. While relatively free of crime, Costa Rica has been used as a transit point for South American cocaine and there have been allegations that drug-tainted money has found its way into the coffers of the two main political parties.
Costa Rica attractions
Once dubbed the "Switzerland of Central America", the country's self-image was badly shaken in 2004 when allegations of high-level corruption led to two former presidents being imprisoned on graft charges. Facts
Costa Rica map
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Full name: Republic of Costa Rica
Population: 4.5 million (UN, 2007)
Capital: San Jose
Area: 51,100 sq km (19,730 sq miles)
Major languages: Spanish (official), English
Major religion: Christianity
Costa Rica flag
Life expectancy: 76 years (men), 81 years (women) (UN)
Monetary unit: 1 Costa Rican colon = 100 centimos
Main exports: Coffee, bananas, sugar, textiles, electronic components, electricity
GNI per capita: US$4,590 (World Bank, 2006)
Internet domain: .cr
International dialling code: +506