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Geology & Geography

The Geology is very unique as most countries of Central America share an incredible biodiversity and ecosystems because of how, when and where Central America was formed by two tectonic plates pushing against each other.

With an estimated 3 million years ago the constant bridge from North to South America became complete which is one of the main causes Costa Rica's high biodiversity; as its geographic location (10 degrees north of the equator) with the warmest currents of the Pacific Ocean allowed most of the animal and plant species of this region to survive the last ice age.


Costa Rica is assumed to have been forming as the Caribbean tectonic plate continuously overrides the so called Cocos plate pushing in the opposite direction from the Pacific Coast.  It is estimated that only 50 million years of this activity is what caused Central America to be pushed out of the sea floor. This also explains the active volcanoes that run along the mountain range that runs from North West to South East.

Costa Rica was initially underwater volcanoes that over thousands and thousands of years kept adding layers and therefore to its size; till eventually they surficed and continued to grow just as Hawaii does today.  Once there were several Volcanoes that reached out of the sea, erosion and further volcanic activity eventually (only app. 3 million years ago) led to a continuous landmass connecting North to South America. This enabled animal and plant migration from north and south and is the main cause of the high biodiversity of this region.


Costa Rica has close to 1,300 km (800 mi) of coastline. The Pacific Coastline with more of a mountenous terrain makes up roughly 80% of the total coastline. Caribbean Coastal Areas are characterized by long sand beaches, humid, lower ocean tide variations, and often times swamps and mangroves. The Pacific Coastline on the other hand is characterized by lagoons and hills to high cliffs reaching into the sea, large tidal variations, rainforest to dry forest to the north due mainly to the papagayo winds.   The Pacific Coast is distinguished by two large peninsulas reaching out into the sea.  The northern and larger Peninsula is called Peninsula de Nicoya and is home to the dry forest. The southern and smaller peninsula is called Peninsula de Osa and is home to the Corcovado National Park and rain forest.

Through time Costa Rica evolved by Volcanoes growing out of the Ocean creating a natural bridge between North and South America; this is one of the major reasons Costa Rica enjoys the greatest density of species in the World.

Costa Rica dedicated close to one quarter of its total land mass to protected areas. Thanks to Costa Rica's Geography it is able to supply the majority of its electricity demand by hydro generation in places lake the largest and man made Arenal Lake.

The large Mountain ranges, that are mainly formed through volcanic activity triggered by the tectonic plates pushing against the Western seabord of the Americas; run mostly Northwest to South East throughout the Country.

  • Cerro Chirripo at 3,820 m (12,532 ft) is the hightest peak of Costa Rica.

The most northwestern mountain range is called the Cordillera de Guanacaste, consisting of a spectacular chain of volcanoes that can be appreciated by the traveler heading south from the Nicaraguan border along the Pan-American Highway (Interamericana). Among the most popular naming them north to south:


Farther to the southeast is the Cordillera de Tilaran, with popular destinations such as:

The Cordillera de Tilaran runs into the Cordillera Central, which includes:

The southeasternmost mountains are associated with the Cordillera de Talamanca, which is higher and  more remote and rugged terrain. At least 15 seperate mountain peaks are around 3,000 m. above sea level.

Source: CIA country report


Hikers should not miss the oportunity to visit:

The mountain ranges with their many different ranges of altitudes determine the climate and ecosystem variations. The Mountain Ranges that surround the central plain, form the so called Central Valley, in the center of the highlands (1,000 -1,500 m). Over half the population resides in this central valley as it is home to four out of six most populated cities: - Alajuela, - Cartago, - Heredia, - San Jose


    Costa Rica is also home to several islands such as:

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