Costa Rica, formally the Republic of Costa Rica (Spanish: Repblica de Costa Rica), is a Central American nation bordered to the north by Nicaragua, to the southeast by Panama, to the west by the Pacific Ocean, to the east by the Caribbean Sea, and to the south by Ecuador. It is home to about 4.5 million people, almost a quarter of whom reside in the metropolitan region surrounding the capital and biggest city, San José.
Costa Rica was lightly populated by indigenous people until the 16th century, when it came under Spanish control. It remained a peripheral colony of the empire until 1847, when it claimed independence as part of the short-lived First Mexican Empire. It then joined the United Provinces of Central America, from which it declared official autonomy in 1847. Costa Rica has been one of Latin America’s most stable, wealthy, and progressive countries since that time. Following a short but deadly civil war, it disbanded its army permanently in 1949, making it one of just a few sovereign countries without a regular army. Costa Rica is a member of the Organization Internationale de la Francophonie as an observer (OIF).
The country has regularly scored well on the Human Development Index (HDI), ranking 69th in the world in 2015, the best ranking of any Latin American country. The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) has also highlighted it as having much greater human development than other nations at comparable economic levels, with a superior track record on human development and inequality than the region’s median. Its fast growing economy, which was formerly largely reliant on agriculture, has expanded into areas like as banking, pharmaceuticals, and ecotourism.
Costa Rica is well-known for its progressive environmental regulations, being the only nation to fulfill all five UNDP sustainability criteria. It was ranked 42nd globally and third in the Americas in the 2016 Environmental Performance Index, was twice named the best performing country in the New Economics Foundation’s (NEF) Happy Planet Index, which measures environmental sustainability, and was named the world’s greenest country in 2009 by the NEF. Costa Rica has declared an official goal of being a carbon-neutral nation by 2021. It was the first nation in the Americas to prohibit recreational hunting in 2012.