Is Costa Rica a Country or an Island? The Definitive Answer

Have you ever heard someone refer to Costa Rica as an island? Or perhaps mention San Juan as its capital? It’s fascinating how such myths find their way into our conversations, isn’t it? 

Today, we’re setting the record straight and inviting you on a journey to the heart of Central America—not to an island, but to the vibrant and diverse country of Costa Rica.

Let’s clear the air: San José, not San Juan, is the bustling capital of Costa Rica, a country that boasts more than just an urban landscape. It’s a place where nature’s bounty is as rich as its culture, national parks, and beaches.

Continue reading to learn more about it!

Costa Rica has beaches in the Pacific Ocean and the Atlantic Coast.

The Truth About Costa Rica

At first glance, Costa Rica’s attractiveness may remind you of an island paradise lost in the middle of the ocean. However, its true identity is even more fascinating.

This country proudly stands as a bridge between continents, firmly anchored in Central America, connecting the North and South American landmasses.

Far from being an isolated island, the República de Costa Rica spans 51,100 square kilometers and borders Nicaragua to the north and Panama to the southeast.

Like other Central American countries, it is bordered by the Pacific Ocean on the west and the Caribbean Sea on the east. This strategic position gifts this beautiful nation with an incredibly varied landscape—a tapestry woven with lush rainforests, rugged mountains, and serene beaches.

Geographic Facts About Costa Rica

While Costa Rica may possess the enchanting beauty and rich biodiversity often associated with island destinations, it stands proudly as a dynamic, diverse country.

These are some facts you should know about Costa Rica as a continental country:

Costa Rica’s diverse landscapes

Unlike an island’s typical geography, this unique Central American country presents diverse ecosystems. Here, volcanic mountain ranges like Arenal and Irazú stand majestic.

The Monteverde Cloud Forest, a haven for bird watchers and nature lovers, offers a mystical experience with its misty canopy and rich biodiversity. Meanwhile, the coastline boasts beaches like Manuel Antonio and Tamarindo on the Pacific Coast.

Biodiversity and environmental wonders

The country’s status as a mainland nation contributes to its staggering biodiversity. It’s home to 5% of the world’s biodiversity, a feat rarely matched by an island nation.

The Corcovado National Park alone is a microcosm of this natural wealth, hosting wildlife like jaguars and scarlet macaws. Conservation is a national priority, reflected in the vast expanses of protected land and sustainable tourism practices.

Cultural and historical perspective

The culture is as varied as its landscapes, shaped by its geographical location and historical ties. Influences from different ethnic groups like indigenous, Spanish colonists, and African heritage (especially on the Caribbean Coast) merge to create a rich cultural tapestry.

This blend is evident in everything. Costa Ricans follow a delightful fusion of native and Spanish flavors and celebrate vibrant festivals that showcase the country’s rhythmic soul and colorful traditions.

Are There Islands in Costa Rica?

Yes, there are islands in Costa Rica although the country itself is not an island. These islands, both in the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea, add to the geographical diversity of the nation. Here are some of the most notable ones:

  • Cocos Island (Isla del Coco): Also known as Cocos Island National Park, it is the most famous island in the country. Located in the Pacific Ocean, about 550 km southwest of the mainland. It is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site, renowned for its incredible marine biodiversity, making it a world-class diving destination.
  • Caño Island (Isla del Caño): Situated on the southern side of the country near the Osa Peninsula, Caño Island is a biological reserve known for its clean beaches, coral reefs, and excellent snorkeling and scuba diving opportunities. The island also has archaeological significance due to the pre-Columbian stone spheres and other artifacts.
  • Tortuga Island (Isla Tortuga): In the Gulf of Nicoya, Tortuga Island is famous for day trips. Known for its sandy beaches and turquoise waters, it’s an excellent spot for swimming, snorkeling, and other water activities. The island comprises two uninhabited isles known for their natural beauty and wildlife.
  • The Murciélago Islands (Bat Islands): Part of the Guanacaste Conservation Area in the North Pacific Ocean, these islands are a significant site for marine biodiversity. They are primarily known for scuba diving and observing bull sharks.
  • Calero Island (Isla Calero): This is the largest island of Costa Rica, located in the Caribbean, near the border with Nicaragua. It’s mainly covered with wetlands and has significant ecological importance, but is less visited by tourists.

The Number One Destination for Families

Costa Rica is becoming a preferred choice for families seeking adventure, relaxation, and cultural richness. But what makes this Central American country the top family destination? 

Here are the top reasons that make this destination a number-one choice for families:

  • Proximity to the U.S., Mexico, South America, and Canada.
  • All major airlines fly into our two international airports. Liberia & San Jose.
  • Costa Rica is listed as one of the happiest places on earth.
  • Lower prices for family vacation packages. (Compare to other nearby destinations)
  • There are plenty of activities for every member of the family.
  • Accommodations to fit every size, interest, and budget.
  • Self-drive, non-private, drop-off, private, escorted tours and complete “start-to-finish” honeymoon packages are available.
  • Safe, with a low crime rate and no army (abolished in 1949).
  • There is no island fever here. It will take you years to see and do everything in our slice of heaven.

Explore Costa Rica’s Richness with Bill Beard’s Costa Rica

As our journey ends, it is clear that Costa Rica cannot be reduced to the idea of being just an island. This magical land in Latin America isn’t just a travel destination; it’s a geographical marvel, a biodiverse sanctuary, and a cultural treasure trove.

We at Bill Beard’s Costa Rica are your gateway to this extraordinary land. Our deep understanding and passion for Costa Rica translate into journeys beyond the usual.

We don’t just show you the sights; we bring you into the heart of the country’s soul. With us, you’re not just passing through; you’re engaging with Costa Rica’s history, vibrant culture, and breathtaking nature.

The Pura Vida lifestyle is waiting for you. Contact Bill Beard’s Costa Rica now to start this unforgettable journey!

According to the United Nations, Costa Rica is a country with high human development.