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Costa Rica is often identified as the “Switzerland of the Americas” due to its natural beauty and political stability. It is among a minority of countries in the world that have no standing army. Here, you will discover a country of friendly people and breathtaking landscapes. Costa Rica is roughly the size of West Virginia, yet it holds 5 percent of the world’s biodiversity. The mountainous landscape is dotted with volcanoes, cascading waterfalls, and rushing rivers. Costa Rica is situated between two coastlines, the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea, giving it miles of stunning seashore that supports an amazing array of sea life. Of Costa Rica’s roughly 3.5 million inhabitants, about two thirds live in the Central Valley. Outside of the valley, the country still retains its rural roots. While in Costa Rica, you will have endless opportunities to practice and learn Spanish. It is considered one of the best places in the world to study Spanish due to the clear and enjoyable accent of its inhabitants.
Population: 4.14 million
Population of Atenas: 5,000
Population of Heredia (Gap Year semester only): 500,000
Time Zone: Costa Rica is in the Central Standard Time Zone but does NOT observe daylight savings.
Geographic Location: Central America, bordering both the Caribbean Sea and the North Pacific Ocean, between Nicaragua and Panama. Slightly smaller than West Virginia, or the size of New Hampshire and Vermont combined.
Highest Point: Cerro Chirripó 3,810 m (12,497 ft.)
Spanish in Costa Rica: Costa Rica Spanish is considered to be one of the best forms of Spanish to study due to its clear accent and standard form. Something important to know is that Costa Ricans do not use “tu” frequently, although they understand it perfectly well. They use “usted” almost exclusively for addressing each other. You will hear small children use “usted” with each other! Costa Ricans also use “vos” (instead of “tu”). Argentina is the country most known for using “vos” but it is also used throughout Central America and in Central Colombia. You won’t hear it as often as it is used mostly amongst locals who are familiar with each other.
Climate: Tropical and subtropical; dry season (December to April); rainy season (May to November); cooler in the highlands. Terrain coastal plains separated by rugged mountains including over 100 volcanic cones, of which several are major volcanoes.
Climate in the Central Valley: The Central Valley is over 1000 m (3,280 ft.) above sea level and has a cool and moderate climate. During the Costa Rican summer, from December to May, rain showers are infrequent. During the Costa Rican winter, from June to November, it is usually sunny in the morning and it is not uncommon to have an hour of rain each afternoon. This is very pleasant, because temperatures are cooler and there is less humidity. When it rains, and it rains fairly regularly especially in August, September, October and November, it is usually from 2 or 3 PM and most of the time for a few hours only. The rainy season, as this season is called, is the one that many foreign residents prefer. Nature is lusher and the Central Valley becomes a floral garden in a Swiss landscape.
Climate in Atenas: Atenas, 696 m (2,282 ft) is blessed with perfect weather year-round: "the best climate in the world" according to National Geographic Magazine. Atenas is often the last location in the Central Valley to get rained on. On many days, it may rain in San Jose, while the sun shines in Atenas. The temperatures vary from 19-20°C (64°F) at night to 27-28°C (80°F) during the day, with a light breeze due to the hills. This is year-round!
Climate in Heredia (Gap Year semester only): Heredia, 1176 m (3,858 ft.) the city of eternal spring, has a comfortable climate year-round of 24°C (75°F) during the day. Due to the altitude, nights are cooler and temperatures are about 18°C (65°F). Heredia has more of a mountain climate.
Año Nuevo (New Year's Day)
Anniversary of the Battle of Rivas
|Mar or Apr
||Semana Santa (Holy Week - Spring Break) Thursday through Easter Sunday|
||Día del Trabajo (Labor Day)|
|Jul 25||Annexation of the Guanacaste Province|
|Aug 2||Our Lady of the Angels (Costa Rica’s patron saint)|
|Aug 15||Día de la Madre (Assumption Day, Mother’s Day)
|Sep 15||Día de la Independencia (Independence Day)
|Oct 12||Día de la Raza (Columbus Day, Carnival in Limón)|
|Dec 24||Navidad (Christmas Eve and Christmas Day)|