Costa Rica
The Republic of Costa Rica is in the midst of a dramatic transition from a
small, Central American nation known for its bananas and good coffee into a
gateway for international commerce between Latin America and the rest of the
world and a well traveled, if not over traveled, tourist destination--and
rightfully so. Costa Rica is a highly attractive country filled with beautiful
mountain ranges, undisturbed beaches and friendly natives or Ticos. In addition,

Costa Rica offers a highly educated work force, a stable economic and political
environment, and exceptional communications and transportation
networks--especially in comparison to its neighbors, Panama and Nicaragua. All
of these national characteristics, and others, have been fueling a movement of
multi-national companies, American retirees and tourists from around the world
into Costa Rica, in order to benefit from these treasures. One may adequately
predict that Costa Rica, specifically the capital city of San Jose and the
coastal regions on both the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea, have the
potential of becoming the "Silicon Valley" and "Ft. Lauderdale" of

Central America. That is to say, the major U.S. and European firms in the
personal computer and software industries, along with retirees and tourists,
will continue this trend of moving into Costa Rica for the next twenty five
years and maybe more. This trend and its longevity present geographers,
environmentalists, politicians and economists with a seemingly insurmountable
task of preventing the destruction of Costa Rica’s environment, culture,
society and natural resources while facilitating the expansion of both domestic
and international businesses and economic growth. Facing the challenge of
achieving sustainable development in Costa Rica is not specific to the public
servants and scholars mentioned above, but also requires the intellectual input,
physical effort and cooperation of every Tico and foreigner living or working in
the county. Although there are many issues concerning sustainable development in

Costa Rica requiring a wide range of solutions, the growing tourism industry and
preventing the destruction of the environment through ecotourism should be the
foremost priority of Costa Rica’s policy makers and environmentalists.

Ecotourism is an alternative to mass tourism that is educational, conserves the
environment and benefits local communities. In other words, ecotourism should"incorporate economic development as a fundamental element of
conservation."1 THE GEOGRAPHIC AND SOCIAL CHARACTERISTICS OF COSTA RICA Costa

Rica is situated on the Central American Isthmus and is bordered by Nicaragua to
the North and Panama to the South totaling 239 kilometers in border territory.

The Central American country consists of 51,000 square miles, of which only 440
are water due to the extensive mountains dominating the majority of the
country’s area. These mountain ranges, peaking at 12, 529 feet at Cerro

Chirripo, provide Costa Rica a wide variety of climate zones ranging from cloud
forests to rain forests to coastal plains. The coastal plains in the East and
the West stretch for 1,290 kilometers combined; The Pacific coast is twice a
long as the Caribbean coast. Land use--6% arable, 5% permanent crops, 46%
permanent pastures, 31% forests and woodland, 12% other--suggests the dominant
interests of Costa Rica are agriculture and preservation and reflects a general
disagreement over land use addressed later. The national park system, operated
by the government, protects 14 percent of the national territory and is one of
the main attractions for tourists.2 Guanacaste is the northwestern province of

Costa Rica and the home of numerous developed and undeveloped (national parks)
beaches and cattle ranches, the most expansive tenant in the region. Many of the

Pacific beaches are isolated and are not accessible by road creating a challenge
to many of those who flock to them to enjoy the excellent surfing conditions.

The Gulf of Nicoya is an ideal location for sea kayaking, sport fishing and
birdwatching along its undeveloped bays and coastal stretches. Many tour
companies offer expeditions to these areas by boat and plane illustrating the
potential of over development in a region already dominated by cattle ranches
and coffee fields.3 There are four major mountain ranges that form the central
corridor of Costa Rica minimizing the amount of flat land to just the sea coast.

Three of theses ranges have actively erupting peaks. The Cordillera de

Guanacaste extends 65 miles southeast from Lake Nicaragua and houses the active

Arenal Volcano at 6,000 feet. This volcano erupted in 1968 and 1985 killing few
in the sparsely populated region (54 percent of the countries population lives
in urban areas).4 Lake Arenal, popular for its ideal windsurfing conditions, was
formed by a rift separating the Cordillera de Guanacaste and the rest of the
mountain ranges to the southeast. Like the Cordillera de Guanacaste, the

Cordillera