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Puerto Limon, Costa Rica

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Puerto Limon, once an important banana port, is the capital of Costa Rica’s Limon Province on the Caribbean coast. The town offers few sights, but serves mostly as a gateway to Costa Rica’s rugged wilderness. Among the natural sites of the area is Cahuita National Park, known for its flora and fauna and its magnificent coral reefs. Visitors can also take advantage of a train tour through the banana plantations or spend a day whitewater rafting on the rapids of the Reventazon River.

A two and a half hour drive from Puerto Limon leads to San Jose, situated in the heart of Costa Rica’s central valley at an altitude of 4,450 feet, which accounts for its pleasant climate. The capital of Costa Rica was founded in 1737 but frequent earthquakes have destroyed most of the colonial buildings and the modern replacements give the city of roughly one million inhabitants a very modest appearance. When Columbus discovered Costa Rica during his last voyage, rumors of vast gold treasures led to the name of Costa Rica (Rich Coast). The Spaniards settled in the central valley and with additional immigrants from northern Spain their numbers increased considerably. The local Indian population was soon greatly diminished due to diseases brought by the settlers. In 1821 the country declared independence from Spain and in an effort to create a source for revenue, coffee was introduced from Cuba in 1808. The government offered free land to coffee growers, thus building up a peasant landowning class. The first coffee exports were carried on mule-back to the ports, by 1846 there were ox-cart roads to Puntarenas. By 1850 there was a large flow of coffee to oversea markets which was facilitated by the opening of a railway from San Jose to Puerto Limon in 1890, and later on to the Pacific port of Puntarenas. Today, the country’s economy is based on the export of coffee, bananas, meat, sugar and cocoa.

Costa Rica is known to have the most stable democracy among all of the Latin American countries. The army was abolished in 1949, however law and order is being upheld by a very efficient-looking Civil Guard. The country boasts the best standard of living in Cental America, along with the highest literacy rate and the greatest degree of economic and social advance.

Tourists particularly enjoy the country’s well-kept national parks and nature reserves which have been established to protect the extremely varied Costa Rican ecosystems, such as the few remaining patches left of the dry tropical forest and the unique cloud forest.

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