Costa Rica is widely known as the king of ecotourism in Central America. Within Costa Rica's 51,200 square kilometers there is a wider variety of species of birds than in all of Europe or North America. With a population of roughly three and a half million inhabitants, Costa Rica also boasts of one of the oldest democracies in Latin America. In 1869, primary education for both sexes was declared obligatory and free of cost, paid by the State. In 1949 the armed forces were abolished and in 1983 Perpetual Neutrality was proclaimed. World recognized international human rights organizations have their headquarters in Costa Rica. Because of its rich and lush 1500 kilometers of tropical sun-bathed beaches and the wild diversity of flora and fauna to be found in its diverse microclimates, and its well managed national parks, Costa Rica has earned its reputation as king of ecotourism.
San Jose, the capital, is on a plateau in the Central Valley at 1500 meters elevation. It is ringed by lush green mountains and valleys, with easy access to volcanoes, the rain forest and beautiful beaches within one to two hours drive. Costa Rica's microclimates vary from the barren cold volcanic tundra to the lush cloud forest, from the thick jungle of Talamanca to the tropical dry forests of Guanacaste, from serene gold-colored beaches where the Baulas Tortoises build their nests to the meandering Tortuguero Canals where the crocodile reigns. However, Costa Rica's climate in general can best be described as mild. There is a "dry" season (equivalent to summer and spring) when temperatures extend in the high 60's to low 70's F (20 – 23 degrees C), lasting from December to May, and a "wet" season from June to November when mornings are normally sunny and showers may happen in the afternoon. On areas near the coasts, temperatures may be as much as ten degrees higher, where as at Chirripo Peak, the highest mountain in Costa Rica (3800 meters), temperatures may drop down to the freezing point.