Bordered by Nicaragua to the north and Panama to the south, the tiny republic of Costa Rica has coastlines on the Pacific Ocean and Caribbean Sea.

One of the most prosperous and politically stable countries in the region, Costa Rica is the only Central American state without a permanent standing army, after it was abolished in 1948.

It also enjoys one of the highest standards of living in the region, although a significant percentage of Costa Ricans - or Ticos - continue to live below the poverty line.

Known for its beaches, mountain ranges, volcanoes and varied wildlife, Costa Rica's rich biodiversity makes it a popular destination for eco-tourists. Traditionally a producer of agricultural goods such as coffee and bananas, its economy has diversified and tourism now ranks as the country's number one earner.

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Republic of Costa Rica

Capital: San Jose

  • Population 4.8 million

  • Area 51,100 sq km (19,730 sq miles)

  • Major languages Spanish (official), English

  • Major religion Christianity

  • Life expectancy 77 years (men), 82 years (women)

  • Currency Costa Rican colon

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