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Costa Rica Geography Overview


Costa Rica, the southernmost of the five republics that comprise Central America extends approximately from eight to eleven degrees north latitude and between eighty-three and eighty-six degrees west longitude.

According to the latitudes mentioned, Costa Rica is located practically in the center of the inter-tropical zone 10° north  of the equator. This zone is also referred  to as the "Hot Zone", due to its prevailing  warm temperatures throughout. It is also located on the North American Continent, on the Central American Isthmus. It is six hours west of Greenwich,

Costa Rica's boundaries are natural, conventional and mixed. On the east and northeast it's bounded by the Caribbean Sea, and on the west and south by the Pacific Ocean; on the southeast it borders the country of Panama. Costa Rica is separated from its northern neighbor, Nicaragua, by natural boundaries: the little Sapoa River, the southern shore of Lake Nicaragua and the San Juan River, but by virtue of the Cañas Jerez Treaty signed in 1858, this border was defined as a line starting from the Caribbean Sea, exactly from the tip of Punta Castilla at the mouth of the San Juan River; the line continues along the right bank of the river, upstream, to a point three English miles from Fort Castillo Viejo; from there it continues west, making an equidistant curve of a three miles radius from the fort, and then continues two English miles south of the right bank of the same river; then it continues two miles south of the shore of Lake Nicaragua until it meets the Sapoa River. From this point on, it follows an astronomically straight line to the center of Salinas Bay.

Costa Rica borders with present-day Panama (which was a province of Colombia until 1903). This border issue went unresolved for many years, with Costa Rica claiming as part of its territory the littoral of Chiriqui Lagoon. Later, however, to end the dispute, Costa Rica and Colombia submitted the matter for French President Loubet to decide, but he suggested an equivocal border that failed to resolve the issue. Once Panama was established as a republic, the matter was submitted to the Chief Justice of the United States, Edward Douglas White, who presented his verdict on September 12, 1914. It pleased the Costa Ricans but was not altogether satisfactory to the Panamanians.

In 1941 Panama and Costa Rica arrived at a border agreement through the Echandi-Montero/Fernandez Jaen Treaty signed on May 1 of that year. Then the respective legislative bodies of both countries simultaneously approved a boundary described as: "starting from the present mouth of the Sixaola at the Caribbean Sea, following along the lowest part of the river valley upstream to its confluence with the Yorkin River; from there it follows the lowest part of that river valley upstream to the parallel at longitude 9°30', north of the equator; then it continues south 76°3T, west, to the meridian at longitude 82°58'10", west of Greenwich; from there it continues along this meridian south to the mountain ridge that separates the waters of the Caribbean Sea from those of the Pacific; it follows this mountain ridge to Cerro Pando, where it meets the spur dividing the waters of the tributaries of the Gulf Dulce and the Charco Azul Bay; from there it follows this spur until it ends at Punta Burica on the Pacific Ocean."