Costa Rica in a nutshell

Because it’s always interesting to know a little about a country before you live there for a while, I’d like to introduce you to Malaysia 😊

Costa Rica is one of the safest country in Central America.

Literally: the Rich Coast

Christopher Columbus gave this name to the country during his invasion in 1502. He also gave his name to its currency the Colòn, Columbus in Spanish.

The economy in Costa Rica

Costa Rica Cafétier
Costa Rica Régime de bananes

The economy depends on three factors

  • Tourism
  • Agriculture with the export of bananas, pineapple, coffee, sugar and cocoa
  • Its industry of advanced techniques, thanks to the free zones that were created in order to attract foreign companies

Living standards

The country is classified as “developing country” and poverty is estimated at 21%.
In San Jose, the capital, the monthly average salary is about $770 and the minimum wage is $510. For this reason the cost of living surprised us. For our traditional grocery of the week, we pay the same price as in France or in the UK. Bars and restaurants have similar prices. Tourist attractions, organized tours and national parks also have high entrance fees. So you have to calculate your budget before coming here.

Tourism in Costa Rica

Costa Rica Singe
Costa Rica Iguane
Costa Rica Fougères volcan

Tourism relies mainly on its fauna, flora, national parks which account for 23% of its territory and eco-tourism. It is a pioneer in this field and is recognized for this activity. The best-known and busiest park is Manuel Antonio Park in the south of the country.

The country has taken advantage of two assets

  • Its geographical location allows it to take advantage of the movements of animals between North and South America
  • The different climates:
    – To the East, the humid and semi-marshy Caribbean coast
    – To the West, the dry Pacific coast
    – In the center, a volcanic area with high relief and dry vegetation. There are 116 volcanoes, 5 of which are active!
Costa Rica Fleurs Orange

The flags of Costa Rica

Costa Rica civil flag
Costa Rica Officiel flag

There are two flags in Costa Rica. The civilian one and the flag reserved for the government on which the coat of arms of Costa Rica appears.
The flag was created in 1848 by Pacafica Fernandez wife of then-President José Maria Castro Madriz. It is inspired by the French Revolution of 1848 and the creation of the Second French Republic. It is for this reason that we find the colors of the French flag.

The coat of arms

  • The frame, first of all, is gilded and is decorated with rounds that represent the golden beans, the coffee.
  • At its centre, three volcanoes, one for each of the country’s three mountain ranges:
  1. The Central Cordillera (Volcanoes Poás, Barva, Irazú et Turrialba) and the Talamanca Cordillera to the south form the spine of the country and separate the Caribbean and the Pacific zone.
  2. The Tilaràn Cordillera in the north of the country (Volcan Arenal).
    The mountain range further north of Guanacaste is not present, as this part of the territory was still Nicaraguan at the time of the creation of the coat of arms.
Costa Rica Coat of arms
  • On either side of the volcanoes, the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea on which two merchant ships sail. They recall the maritime history of the country.
  • A seven-star arc represents the provinces of the republic. Alajuela, Cartago, Guanacaste, Heredia, Limon, Puntarenas and San José.
  • On the horizon the rising sun characterizes the country’s quest for prosperity.
  • A white banner with the inscription “Republic of Costa Rica” is located on the upper part of the Shield under two branches of myrtle.
  • At the top of the coat of arms is a blue ribbon with the words “Central America.” It honors the United Provinces of Central America.

The meaning of the colors

  • Blue for the sky, opportunities, idealism and perseverance
  • White for peace, wisdom and happiness
  • Red for the blood shed by the martyrs for the defense of the country, as well as the warmth and generosity of the people

San Jose, its capital

The National theatre

Its population is around 335,000 inhabitants (2020).
The capital has a pretty bad reputation. To be quite frank, it is true that the atmosphere is not as light as in other cities I have visited. That doesn’t mean I felt threatened. But this is not a city where I would spend time wandering around.

San Jose Maison barricadée
San Jose magasin fermé

There are vendors on the street directly on the pavement with a handful of products for sale. All the houses in the city are barricaded behind walls, or fences topped with peaks and barbed wire. There are bars on the windows. Even if Costa Ricans explained to us that in Latin American countries, it is part of the way they build, it’s surprising! During the day, there are pairs of police officers on every street corner. The closed shops are hidden behind full iron curtains. In the street, when night falls, everything gets dark. We don’t see illuminated windows like in other countries. The pedestrian area then boils down to two large walls.

In small towns, inland or by the sea, you don’t feel that atmosphere. Houses are not as protected, the atmosphere is lighter, and life for us is pleasant.

That said, the welcome is great! People are very kind and helpful. 

We also made a very interesting tour of the city.

Their motto “Pura Vida”

Costa Rica Pura Vida

“Pura Vida.” If there is one expression to know before coming to Costa Rica, it is this one. Costa Ricans use it in a lot of different situations.
For a warm hello, “Hola, pura vida”, to toast “Salúd, Pura Vida “, for a friendly goodbye “Ciao, Pura Vida”, also to say “Everything is fine”, “Everything is OK” and “No worries” … So if you hear it all day long, that’s normal. Even when something bothers them, it’s a Pura Vida problem! If I had to translate it, I’d say, “Nothing but life!”

This expression would come from a 1956 Mexican film, Pura Vida, from which Costa Ricans would have taken up the phrase.
They have completely appropriated these two words and now more than just an expression, they represent the state of mind of the country, their culture. A sense of belonging and cultural pride. So even if you want to use “Pura Vida” to feel more like a “local”, you have to do it the right way!

Traditional dishes

In every restaurant we went, they always served us well. Very good dishes, neat presentations, and good portions. So the only advice I would give you when you go to the restaurant is to ask for portion sizes. The plate of plantains pictured is for one person. And they sold it as an appetizer 🤣

Below, the pictures of the three dishes I love, but unfortunately I can’t eat every day. A little heavy 😉They also serve delicious fajitas, even if the dish is more a typical Mexican dish.
And on top of that, they cook all these dishes with fresh products. Delicious!

Costa Rica petit déjeuner Gallo Pinto
Costa Rica fajitas au poulet

Gallo Pinto. Traditional Costa Rican breakfast made with rice and red beans.
Chicken fajitas.

Costa Rica Patacones plantains frites

Patacones, fried plantains

To conclude

My advice for a good holiday in Costa Rica would be to plan a circuit and rent a car. The various interesting sites are located in different parts of the country. And even if they do not seem too far apart in terms of mileage, driving here takes time. You travel in average 30 miles per hour. Sometimes less when you finish your journey on dirt tracks… And of course, calculate your budget before coming, because Costa Rica stays an expensive country.


  1. So I was miles off about the flag. I have heard that it’s a little intimidating in Costa Rica, but it wouldn’t stop me going. The wildlife and scenery is too amazing. And that food 😋

    1. HopOnMyJourney

      Yes definitively it’s worth it to come to Costa Rica. We’ve never had bad experiences, on the contrary. The nature is stunning. And all the fresh veg and fruits. Mangoes at your fingertips 🥭🍍 🍌

  2. Cute. You said the most important things! Looks wild and exotic.

    1. It is. And beautilful as well! Thanks.

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