Costa Rica is a country in Central America, bordering Nicaragua to the north, Panama to the south-east, the Caribbean Sea to the east and the Pacific Ocean to the west. The country is known for its impressive biodiversity and well-kept natural landscapes; 25% of the land is in protected National Parks, attracting a significant number of visitors every year from all over the world. Furthermore, Costa Rica has one of the most progressive economies in Latin America and well-developed universal healthcare. The vibrant and beautiful capital city San José is both modern and historical and is considered one of the safest cities in all of Latin America.

Population estimate (2019): 4,991,572

Capital City: San José

Currency used: Costa Rica Colon

Gross National Income per capita (2013) (PPP international $): 13,570

Time zone: GMT – 6

Population growth rate (2019): 1.20%

Total fertility rate per woman: 1.89

Languages: The official and predominant language is Spanish. Several indigenous languages are also spoken, are Jamaican patois is spoken along the Caribbean coast.

Key ethnic groups: Almost ⅘ of the population is of European descent, close to ⅕ is Mestizo, approximately 1/10 is of mixed African, indigenous and European descent. Smaller groups are of African ancestry, Chinese and indigenous people.

Religion: 76.3% Catholic, 13.7% Evangelical Christians, 1.3% Jehovah’s Witness and 0.7% Protestant Christians.

Literacy: 97.8%

Climate: Costa Rica’s climate is generally considered tropical, there is little seasonal variation in terms of temperature, but rather based on rainfall. May to November sees a lot of heavy rainfall, while December to April is considered the dry season. There are around 12 hours of sunlight per day throughout the year. Generally the Caribbean coast is more humid and sees more rainfall than the drier Pacific coast. Average annual temperatures range between 12ºc and 27ºc.

Health statistics:

Life expectancy at birth (2016): 77/82 (male/female)

Probability of dying between 15 and 60 years: 126/66 (per 1000 population, 2016)

Total expenditure on health per capita (2014): $1,389

Number of doctors per 1000 population (2013): 1.15

Nursing and midwifery personnel density (per 1000 population, 2013): 0.796

Neonatal mortality rate (per 1000 live births, 2016): 5.7 [3.5-7.8]

Maternal mortality ratio (per 100.000 live births, 2016): 8.8 [7.4-10.4]

Births attended by skilled health personnel (2014): 99.2%

Top 10 causes of death:

Coronary heart disease: 3,758/ 19.49% of total

Stroke: 1,546 / 8.02%

Lung disease: 1,059 / 5.49%

Diabetes mellitus: 850 / 4.41%

Stomach cancer: 844 / 4.38%

Road traffic accidents: 719 / 3.73%

Influenza & pneumonia: 704 / 3.65%

Kidney disease: 619 / 3.21%

Colon-rectum cancers: 609 / 3.16%

Other injuries: 538 / 2.79%

Healthcare system

The healthcare system in Costa Rica is one of the best in Latin America, and comprises a public and a private sector. The public sector consists of a government-sponsored network of clinics and hospitals that make up the country’s universal healthcare system “Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social” (CCSS). The system covers everything from check-ups to prescription medicine and surgery. Public healthcare facilities are regularly upgraded with new hospitals, equipment and improved staff training. Although sometimes overburdened, CCSS has worked well for over 60 years. Professionals are highly skilled; it is common for doctors to work mornings at CCSS facilities and afternoons in the private sector. 

The private sector is well-developed and relatively affordable, but mainly concentrated in and around the capital San José. Although both public and private system are of high standard, those who can afford it may choose to use both sectors due to shorter waiting times at private facilities. Due to the high standard and relatively low fees, Costa Rica has become a popular destination for medical tourism, especially for US citizens. Popular procedures include knee and hip replacements, cosmetic surgery and dentistry. Clínica Bíblica, CIMA hospital and Hospital La Católica are some of the most well-known hospitals offering very modern facilities and high quality care.