Is Costa Rica a United States Territory?

Written by Doug Shaffer
Updated: June 4, 2023
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It’s a common misconception that Costa Rica is part of the United States, considering how closely the two countries work together. However, Costa Rica is an independent country that gained freedom in 1821. Still, the two nations have a very cooperative economic, diplomatic, and environmental relationship.

Throughout history, the United States has been a key trading partner for Costa Rica and has provided support in the form of security. Costa Rica, in turn, has assisted the United States by acting as a stabilizing force in Central America — promoting peace and human rights. 

Let’s take a closer look at Costa Rica’s path to becoming a sovereign nation and how its partnership with the United States has helped the country grow. 

Where Is Costa Rica Located?

Costa Rica is a small nation of approximately 5 million people in Central America. While the country borders Nicaragua to the north and Panama to the south, the Caribbean Sea and the Pacific Ocean surround it on the east and west. 

Costa Rica’s location near the equator and the Pacific Ring of Fire gives the country a unique landscape comprising tropical rainforests, cloud forests, mountains, beaches, and active volcanoes. The country’s diversity makes it a popular tourist destination for many people in the United States. 

The region is also home to several mountain ranges, including the Cordillera de Guanacaste Mountains and the Cordillera Central Mountains. Both areas are brimming with wildlife, allowing travelers to see animals like monkeys and sloths in their natural habitat. 

Costa Rica map

Costa Rica is a country in Central America located south of Nicaragua and north of Panama.


When Did Costa Rica Become an Independent Country?

Unlike most countries that spent years fighting wars and tyrannical leaders, Costa Rica obtained its independence in a relatively peaceful way on September 15, 1821. At the time, Spain was ruling several Central American provinces. However, many factors lead to the country losing control of the land and people.

For example, Spain was heavily involved in the Napoleonic Wars at the time and dedicated much of its resources to the war efforts. Since there was less control in provinces like Costa Rica, many locals could easily organize and begin the push for independence. Ultimately, the two countries settled the separation peacefully through diplomatic talks and treaties. 

What Is Costa Rica’s Relationship with the United States?

The United States is one of Costa Rica’s most important allies. The two countries have a long history of strong relationships relating to economic, diplomatic, and environmental initiatives. Both countries have also worked closely over the past decades to fight the war against drug trafficking in the United States. 

Economic Relationship

Regarding economic trade partners, no country is more important to Costa Rica than the United States. A recent report by The U.S. Department of State stated, “the United States accounted for 38% of Costa Rica’s imports and 42% of its exports” The United States was also a major source of tourism income for the country.

Since the trade between the two countries is significant, both sides decided to enact a Free Trade Agreement in 2009, eliminating most tariffs on goods traded. 

U.S. businesses also rely heavily on Costa Rica’s highly skilled workforce and friendly business environment. Over the last ten years, many tech companies focusing on software development have moved operations from the United States to the Central American country. 

Diplomatic Relationship

Diplomatically the two countries have experienced a positive relationship since the 19th century. Today, the United States has an active embassy site in San Jose, where high-ranking officials gather to discuss various issues, from counter-narcotics efforts to strengthening trade. 

The United States has also supported Costa Rica’s goal of bringing stability to Central America. While many of the countries in the area have experienced a wave of violence under dictators and corrupt political parties, Costa Rica remains committed to democracy and peaceful resolutions. 

Environmental Relationship

The environmental relationship between the United States and Costa Rica is significant to help preserve the area’s rich biodiversity. Since the formation of the alliance between the two countries, the U.S. has provided financial support and technical assistance to protect the natural environment of Costa Rica. 

While the Free Trade Agreement between the nations is focused on making trade more affordable, it also has several provisions aimed at environmental protection. For instance, the agreement outlines both parties’ commitment to conservation efforts involving sustainable forestry practices. 

The United States has also invested heavily to support different conservation efforts throughout Costa Rica. One of the most significant initiatives for the United States was the involvement of the U.S. Agency for International Development to promote sustainable land use practices across the region.

Baby Brown throated Three toed sloth in the mangrove, Caribbean, Costa Rica

The U.S. provided financial support and technical assistance to protect the natural environment and incredible biodiversity of Costa Rica.


The photo featured at the top of this post is © Prehistorik/

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