Costa Rica's broken topography creates myriad microenvironments.
Natives with "golden mirrors around their necks" told of "many places . Costa Ricans are called ticos, which derives from their appending the Spanish -ico diminutive to the standard -ito. Costa Rica is located in Central America with Nicaragua to its north and Panama to its south.
Its territory is 19,652 square miles (51,022 square kilometers).
Volcanic mountains—several of which produce sporadic eruptions— run northwest to southeast, dividing Costa Rica into Pacific and Atlantic zones. The capital, San José, is on the meseta central, a plateau twenty-five miles by twelve miles (40 kilometers by 20 kilometers).
The meseta is in the Central Valley—an area five times as large as the plateau— which includes three other cities in addition to San José.
Temperature varies with altitude, averaging over 86 degrees Fahrenheit (30 degrees Celsius) in the coastal lowlands, but only 64 degrees Fahrenheit (18 degrees Celsius) at the higher elevations.
The Atlantic zone receives trade winds and has high rainfall year-round.
The Pacific zone has fertile volcanic and alluvial soils and distinct wet and dry seasons.
The northern Pacific suffers frequent droughts, associated with the Niño phenomenon. Pacific ports include Puntarenas, Quepos, and Golfito.
Two modern ports, Caldera and Punta Morales, were built near Puntarenas in the 1980s.