Costa Rican Geography

And other Costa Rica Physical Features

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Diverse Costa Rican Geography

Costa Rican Geography is diverse featuring over 200 active and extinct volcanoes, steep mountain slopes, endless tropical beaches with sands ranging in colors from sparkling white and pale rose to black. Also, acres of primary and secondary rainforests, dry forests, mangrove and cloud forests, swamps, wetlands, raging rivers, lakes and thunderous waterfalls. In fact, there are only three climates on Earth that are not in Costa Rica. They are the three least hospitable climates for humans and most other animals, so it doesn’t miss them: Tundra, Snow, and desert.

The Geology and Geography of Costa Rica

The Costa Rican Geography and geology are unique and largely responsible for the incredible biodiversity found here. In fact, it can be traced to how and where Central America was formed. About 3 million years ago two tectonic plates pushed against each other. This built the bridge between North to South America. Because of its tropical location 10 degrees north of the equator, many of the native animal and plant species were able to survive the last ice age.

Costa Rica Tectonic Plates Geology

Costa Rican Geography is important to know. Especially that Costa Rica was formed as the Caribbean tectonic plate pushed up against the Cocos plate continually for about 50 million years forcing the Central America isthmus to be raised off the sea floor. This is why the active volcanoes in Costa Rica are found along the mountain range at the tectonic rift. This runs from South East to the North West. The vast mountain ranges were formed by volcanic eruptions. Also, triggered by the tectonic plate of the Pacific Rim of Fire pushing against the Western Seaboard of the Americas.

Costa Rica came from a string of underwater volcanoes. Over years of erupting and growing in height and breadth eventually broke the sea surface and continued to expand. Over millions of years of erosion and volcanic enterprise, finally, a landmass connecting North to South America formed. This made animal and plant migration possible. Both from north and south resulting in Costa Rica’s extraordinary biodiversity.  More than 25% of the country’s territory is protected and consists of National Parks, reserves, and refuges where its biologically diverse riches are preserved for future generations.


Costa Rican Geography features nearly 1,300 km or 800 miles of tropical coastline. The Pacific Coastline is more mountainous and makes up about 80% of the coastal land. The Caribbean coast is a quarter of the size of the Pacific and features long stretches of sandy beaches.  The Caribbean is highly humid with lower ocean tides and features swamps and mangroves. The Pacific Coastline feature high sheer cliffs rising majestically from turquoise lagoons, has high tide variations, rainforest to the South and dry forest to the north to the Papagayo trade winds.   In fact, the Pacific Coast has two large, lush peninsulas reaching into the ocean. The Nicoya Peninsula is in the North and the Osa Peninsula is in the South. Osa is home to the abundant rainforest wilderness of  Corcovado.

Costa Rica Mountain Ranges Costa Rica Physical Features: Mountains and Volcanoes

The northwestern mountain range is the Cordillera de Guanacaste. A chain of volcanoes that follows down from the Nicaraguan border and includes the Volcano Orosi in the Guanacaste National Park, the active Volcano Rincon de la Vieja, Volcano Santa Maria, and the Volcano Tenorio.  Continuing to the southeast is the Cordillera de Tilaran where visitors flock to the popular destinations of the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve. Also the Arenal Volcano and National Park. The Cordillera de Tilaran is in the mountainous central valley, the Cordillera Central, and includes the Poas, Irazu, Turrialba and Barva Volcanoes. Over half the population resides in this central valley. The mountains in the Cordillera de Talamanca to the South are taller and harder to traverse due to steep terrain. Many of the volcanoes of Costa Rica are active: including the Arenal Volcano (currently dormant), Irazu, Turrialba, and Poas.

Outstanding Bio-Diversity

Costa Rica, also one of the great wonders of the world with the densest biodiversity found on Earth. Primary and secondary forests, mangroves, plains, and volcanoes are home to an incredible variety of flora and fauna. The highest peak of Costa Rica is the Cerro Chirripo at 3,819 meters, and it is the 5th highest peak in Central America. Irazu is the highest volcano with 3,431 meters, and the largest lake is Lake Arenal, by the Arenal Volcano. Costa Rica has several islands including the largest, Calero Island, Isla del Cano, Cocos Island home to Cocos Island National Park, 480 km from the port of Puntarenas in the Pacific.

Climate Zones in Costa RicaClimate of Costa Rica

Costa Rica is a tropical country and therefore enjoys a beautiful climate all year around. It does, however, have mini eco-climates due to the variation in elevation. There are essentially two seasons here, the dry season or summer. Between December and April, and the rainy or green season. Temperatures can reach up to 95 degrees Fahrenheit on the coast. In the Central, Valley temperatures stay mild between 70-85 degrees. Temperatures, however, can fall below 50 degrees F on the highest mountain summits. So many great facts about Costa Rica.


Costa Rica LocationLocation, location, location!

Costa Rica is located on the Central American Isthmus that is part of the land bridge between the North and South American continents and sandwiched between Nicaragua to the North and Panama to the South. The border with Nicaragua is 313 km long and the border with Panama has a length of 348 km.

Featuring an outstanding total of 1290 kilometers of tropical coastline, with 1,016 km on the Pacific and 212 km on the Caribbean, and covering of 50,660 km² of area. Because of this, there are countless beautiful beaches in Costa Rica which you can visit during your vacation.

Learn more about the Geography of Costa Rica and take a look at our Maps of Costa Rica!

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