Bordered by sea on both sides, Costa Rica differs from its neighbors in many ways. It is a peaceful country with a democratically elected government and, since 1948, no army. The country is also relatively wealthy. Schools are free, and Costa Rica spends much of its budget on education. Life expectancy in Costa Rica is the highest in Central America. Exports include coffee, bananas, and sugar, which grow on the country’s fertile volcanic soils. The main port is Limón on the Caribbean coast.
Costa Rica was once covered with forests that included mahogany and tropical cedar trees. But its tree cover has been greatly reduced because forests have been cut down for lumber and to make room for coffee plantations. However, the government is aware that loss of forest also means loss of valuable plant and animal life, and it is now working to conserve its forests. Today, much of the forest is protected in reserves and national parks.
Costa Rica was the first country in Central America to grow coffee, and for more than 100 years this has been its leading export. From time to time this success is affected by falling international prices. Coffee is made from the fruit of the coffee tree, which grows best on well-drained soil.
Trees need a warm, but not hot, climate, and are usually grown in areas partly shaded with larger trees. They can produce good crops for 15 years.