Provinces of Costa Rica

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The results of the 2011 census have been released.

Country overview: 

Short nameCOSTA RICA
ISO codeCR
LanguageSpanish (es)
Time zone-6
CapitalSan José


Costa Rica has been an independent country for the whole twentieth century. There have been minor territorial transfers, but the names and capitals of its provinces have lasted the whole century.

Other names of country: 

  1. Danish: Costa Rica
  2. Dutch: Costa Rica, Republiek Costa Rica (formal)
  3. English: Republic of Costa Rica (formal)
  4. Finnish: Costa Rica
  5. French: Costa Rica m
  6. German: Costa Rica n
  7. Icelandic: Kostaríka
  8. Italian: Costa Rica f
  9. Norwegian: Costa Rica, Republikken Costa Rica (formal)
  10. Portuguese: Costa Rica, República f da Costa f Rica (formal)
  11. Russian: Республика Коста-Рика (formal)
  12. Spanish: Costa Rica, República f de Costa f Rica (formal)
  13. Swedish: Costa Rica
  14. Turkish: Kosta Rika Cumhuriyeti (formal)

Origin of name: 

Spanish for rich coast. Columbus thought there was gold to be found there.

Primary subdivisions: 

Costa Rica is divided into seven provincias (provinces).

LimónCR.LILCS0670000386,8629,1893,548Puerto Limón
San JoséCR.SJSJCS08100001,404,2424,9601,915San José
7 provinces4,301,71251,09019,726
  • HASC: Hierarchical administrative subdivision code.
  • ISO: Codes from ISO 3166-2.
  • FIPS: Codes from FIPS PUB 10-4.
  • Code: INEC province code.
  • Population: 2011-05-30 census (source [8]).
  • Cantons: Number of cantons in province.

Postal codes: 

Costa Rica uses five-digit postal codes which are the same as the INEC district codes. This system was adopted on 2007-03-01, replacing a system of four-digit codes which didn't correlate well with the provinces.

Further subdivisions:

See the Cantons of Costa Rica page.

The provinces are subdivided into cantons, which in turn are subdivided into districts.

The National Institute of Statistics and Census (Instituto Nacional de Estadística y Censos) has defined a hierarchical code for the administrative divisions of Costa Rica. Each district has a distinct five-digit code. The first digit represents a province (note: not region), and the province code is that digit followed by four zeros. Likewise, the first three digits of the district code represent a canton, and the canton code ends in two zeros.

Costa Rica is also divided into six regions. I haven't been able to find a direct explanation for the coexistence of regions and provinces. It appears that the provinces are the primary units of local government. The regions seem to be used for certain statistical reports, such as public health. Some region names derive from precolumbian ethnic groups. The regional division listed below comes from source [7], which says that this regionalization of Costa Rica was created by Decree No. 16068, Plan of 1985-02-15. Other sources have slightly different lists of regions. Central is sometimes subdivided into Central Norte, Central Occidental, Central Oriental, and Central Sur.

Brunca320,8639,5283,679parts of P and SJ
Central2,064,06810,6694,119C and parts of A, H, and SJ
Chorotega251,24110,1413,915G and part of A
Huetar Atlántica294,3809,1893,548L and part of H
Huetar Norte164,0927,6632,959parts of A and H
Pacífico Central176,0563,9111,510part of P
  • Population: 1997-07 estimates.
  • Provinces: Provinces corresponding to the region's territory,
    denoted by their ISO codes.

Territorial extent: 

  1. Costa Rica owns Isla del Coco in the Pacific Ocean.
  2. Puntarenas includes the southeastern part of Península de Nicoya; Isla Chira and other islands in the Gulf of Nicoya; and Isla del Caño.

The UN LOCODE page  for Costa Rica lists locations in the country, some of them with their latitudes and longitudes, some with their ISO 3166-2 codes for their subdivisions. This information can be put together to approximate the territorial extent of subdivisions.

Change history: 

~1990: Name of the capital of Limón changed from Limón to Puerto Limón

Other names of subdivisions: 

Brunca: Pacífico Sur (variant)

Population history:

San José65,261121,162153,183207,769281,822488,000695,163890,4341,345,7501,404,242


  1. [1] Keltie, J. Scott, ed. The Statesman's Year-Book 1913. Macmillan, London, 1913. Has 1911 population estimates. It says, "There are about 3,500 aborigines (Indians)."
  2. [2] Encyclopædia Britannica World Atlas, 1951 edition. Has 1927 census data.
  3. [3] Demographic Yearbook , 7th Ed. Statistical Office of the United Nations, New York, 1955 (retrieved 2011-08-20). Has 1951 census data.
  4. [4] The Instituto Nacional de Estadística y Censos  site has a search function which allows users to generate customized tables. I used it to get the 1973 census data (retrieved 2011-11-15).
  5. [5] Encyclopædia Britannica, 1984 edition. Has 1963 census data.
  6. [6] Paxton, John, ed. The Statesman's Year-Book 1988-1989. St. Martin's Press, New York, 1988. Has 1984 census data.
  7. [7] Regionalización de Costa Rica. Ministerio de Economía Industria y Comercio. Retrieved 1999-09-15 from (dead link).
  8. [8] Cuadro 1 : Población total por sexo, total de viviendas por ocupación y promedio de ocupantes según provincia, cantón y distrito (click on "Resultados" tab), from the Instituto Nacional de Estadística y Censos website (retrieved 2013-03-02).
  9. [9] La Gaceta No. 100 : División Territorial Administrativa de Costa Rica Según Decreto N° 35213-MG, from the official gazette dated 2009-05-26, p. 109, has areas of cantons (retrieved 2013-03-02).
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