Costa Rica

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Costa Rica, Central America

latitude: 9.6, longitude: -84.27
Browse map of Costa Rica 9°36′00.00″ N, 84°16′12.00″ W
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Costa Rica is a country in Central America at latitude 9°36′00.00″ North, longitude 84°16′12.00″ West.
Flag of Costa Rica Costa Rica Mapping Project,
the home of Costa Rica on the OpenStreetMap wiki.
¡Pura Vida! Welcome to the project for mapping efforts in Costa Rica!
You can find here national events, ongoing projects, map status and mapping guidelines, as well as links to other pages directly related to the mapping of Costa Rica.
You may also find a list of contacts and mappers involved with the OpenStreetMap community in Costa Rica.

Administrative subdivisions

The boundaries for all the administrative units in Costa Rica are now done as of August 2020. Check Costa Rica/División Territorial Administrativa for the listings.

In Costa Rica an official hierarchical administrative division (División Territorial Administrativa) is in use, but the locals hardly apply it or even know where they live or work. The division works on the following way:

Down to Distritos, there is a well defined geospatial cartography division, with administrative codes for each administrative unit, but the barrios are not well defined in most of the districts and are part of the local culture, for practical purposes, barrios shouldn't need to have a boundary, a label would be enough, as there are no official documents to support most barrios' boundaries (The closest thing would be the land use maps by Registro Nacional, but those are created for taxation, allowed economic activities and similar reasons). If a barrio is added with its proper boundary, please add the sources and official maps to this wiki.

Costa Rica borders tagging

New Districts are created relatively often, or rearranged to create others (Like the Indigenous territory of relation Matambú, which was promoted to its own district in 2017), once you got the coordinates for the points that define the borderlines, the following is an outline of the steps to tag the borders:

  • Draw the borderlines in OSM or import the data.
  • Create a relation of type boundary from all ways that make up the border of an area (Canton, District or Barrio).
  • Set the admin_level=* tag value to 6 for a Cantón, 8 for a District.
  • Set the name=* tag in the relation with the official name in Spanish of the administrative subdivision.
  • Set the name:en=* tag in the relation if the subdivision name in English is different.
  • Set Role outer role for all member border ways.
  • If there are some enclaved areas that are excluded from the area if the subdivision, add their border ways with an Role inner role.
  • Add a member node with Role admin_centre role for the place of the capital.
  • Optionally add a member node with Role label role for locating the position of the label at low zoom level (this node may be named but will not be rendered on maps): this is needed only for subdivisions that have enclaves to exclude or has a large concavity, to avoid placing the label completely outside the effective area. At higher zoom levels, the names will not be rendered as nodes but along the borders if they can fit there, using names defined in the relation (node members with Role label role won't be used at all).
  • Add other informative tags for the subdivision, such as national reference numbers, postal codes for districts, wikidata=* element identifier (which links to Wikipedia articles in several languages), and population from census data (with a date, last census was in 2011, don't use estimates or projections).

Costa Rica roads tagging

For the complete list of routes and their relations in OSM (work in progress!) see: Costa Rica/Red Vial Nacional

Main guidelines:

  • Please use the official classification by the MOPT (Ministerio de Obras Públicas y Transportes / Ministry of Public Works and Transportation), remember that OSM stands by a verifiability principle and should use the official road classification, Costa Rica's OSM should provide the same information as an official map.
  • Just because you use a shortcut inside residential areas, it doesn't mean that shortcut has a higher priority in its classification, specifically, don't tag shortcuts as highway=tertiary (or worse, highway=trunk, highway=primary, or even highway=secondary) so that it would look prettier in your GPS unit for daily commutes.
  • While the neighboring countries of Panamá and Nicaragua have primary roads (particularly those part of the Panamerican Highway) tagged as highway=trunk, in Costa Rica the mechanical and technical characteristics of those routes are not of trunk-type as stipulated by OSM guidelines, therefore should be marked as highway=primary. Currently (September 2019) routes 1, 2 and 34 are marked as highway=trunk. This should be discussed by the community.
  • Also, a highway=secondary road that is widely used doesn't convert it into a highway=primary.
  • Use tags properly:
    • Use ref=* with a numeric value only (non alphabetic!) for official road numbers according to the lists in this documentation.
    • Use name=* as the long textual name (Calle Hungría Libre).
    • Use alt_name=* as the numbered street name (Calle 42).
      • In August 2019 a script was executed country wide to alter the previous behaviour, it is now suggested to use name=* as the long textual name, and alt_name=* as the numbered street name, as this is the official stance of the Comisión de Nomenclatura de Carreteras (Road Naming Commitee) of MOPT. A discussion was held for the change, and approved at: ES talk:Propuesta para el nombramiento de calles en Costa Rica.

The first thing to keep in mind when tagging roads in Costa Rica is the fact, that these roads in most cases do not meet European standards. Even main highways like the Carretera Interamericana (Panamerican Highway) may have links with cobblestone surface that just lead to a couple of private houses.

That's why it is a good idea to depend of the importance of a road for tagging instead of the state the road actually is in.

The importance of the main roads has been defined as primary, secondary or tertiary by the MOPT.

It is recommended to follow these definitions even if some roads, like the tertiary road 301 south of San Ignacio should be used with a 4WD only. These state information can be given by surface and description tags.

The MOPT defines the following categories:

  • Red Vial Nacional Primaria (One or two digits)
  • Red Vial Nacional Secundaria (Three digits)
  • Red Vial Nacional Terciaria (Three digits)

Costa Rica road names and numbering

There are five different kind of road names in Costa Rica, they are defined according to their orientation, the numbering starts from a main road (Calle 0, Calle Central, Avenida Central, ...) and depending on the geographic orientation they get the number:

  • Calle: North-South ( | )
    • Odd (1, 3, 5, 7...) numbers on the West side of Calle 0 or Central.
    • Even (2, 4, 6, 8...) numbers on the East side of Calle 0 or Central.
  • Avenida: West-East ( -- )
    • Odd (1, 3, 5, 7...) numbers on the North side of Avenida 0 or Central.
    • Even (2, 4, 6, 8...) numbers on the South side of Avenida 0 or Central.
  • Diagonal: Southwest-Northeast (/)
  • Transversal: Southeast-Northwest (\)
  • Via: Used for those national roads in highway=trunk, highway=primary, highway=secondary, highway=tertiary. They are delimited by "Kilómetro" stones each kilometer.

Please use the whole name for each kind of road (ie, Calle, Avenida, ...) when naming the streets and NOT an abbreviation (C. C/, Av., etc).

"Autopistas" (Trunks)

THERE ARE *NOT* ANY highway=motorway IN COSTA RICA, what the locals know as such, are actually trunk lines.

There are a handful of trunk lines, locally known as "autopistas" which would translate as "motorway", but they are not by international definition, just separated way two-lane highways, therefore they MUST be tagged as highway=trunk, these are the "autopistas".

  • Autopista General Canas (Part of Route 1): Between San Jose (East) and SJO Airport at Alajuela (West)
  • Autopista Florencio del Castillo (Part of Route 2): Between Zapote (West) and Junction with Route 10 at Cartago (East)
  • Autopista a Caldera (Part of Route 27): Between National Gimnasium at Mata Redonda San José (East) and Caldera (West)
  • Braulio Carrillo (Part of Route 32): As of September 2019, only a small segment between Route 108 and the Virilla river bridge qualifies as trunk.
  • Circunvalación (Route 39): This a ring circling San José, as of September 2019 it is still unfinished (North arc construction ongoing).

No other highway in the country can be tagged as highway=trunk, even the remainder segments of the aforementioned list need to be tagged as highway=primary as required (When the physical design of the road stops having a separation between the lanes).

"Red Vial Nacional Primaria","Ruta Nacional" (National Primary Roads)

Administratively they are primary roads, part of these can be a trunk as stated previously. So, the administrative tagging must be highway=primary, but when the highway is physically a highway=trunk, it should be tagged as one.

Examples of these routes include the 1, 2, 32. By definition any two or one digit route numbers.

"Red Vial Nacional Secundaria","Ruta Regional" (National Secondary Roads)

MUST be tagged as highway=secondary as administratively designated by the MOPT.

"Red Vial Nacional Terciaria","Ruta Regional" (National Tertiary Roads)

The tertiary roads should be tagged as tertiary.


This is like a fourth administrative category, but they are usually well known routes that were recently assigned a number. They can be tagged as highway=tertiary. Add the appropriate five digit route number.

NOTE: Curiously, many of the route number of the "travesias" are also the corresponding nearest  postal code.


Other streets, roads and tracks

Most of the other routes in Costa Rica are residential or unclassified, with a lot of tracks all over the country.

And if applicable, add:


From time to time somebody comes along who did not read the mapping guidelines above or just does not care about them. In order to make it easer for those who do care, all parts of every important road in Costa Rica are gathered in a relation. That makes it easier to check if the road is still intact and it also helps fixing problems that an edit might have caused.

For the complete list of routes and their relations (work in progress!) see: Costa Rica/Red Vial Nacional

Natural environment

National Parks

Currently, there are very few National Park areas mapped in Costa Rica, if possible we should ask around to government sources to find the official cartographic polygons and import that data to OSM.

We should abide by the following list: List of national parks of Costa Rica


One of the most popular places in Costa Rica are its beaches, mapping those is very easy.

Inside the border of the coastline, map an area covering the sand of the beach and tag it:

There are places where instead of pleasant sand, a bunch of rocks is what you will see, they can be tagged also with:

Agricultural areas

Due to the high production of natural products in Costa Rica, particularly coffee, the recommended tags for "cafetales" (Coffee Plantations) would be:

Coffee plantations

Points of interest

Catholic churches

Suggestions for tagging the dozens of Catholic churches in this country, they are of particular importance as a custom of using them as points of reference, so, even when a contributor isn't catholic or even religious, all the churches should be added as soon as possible.

By any means please add another denomination's churches, synagogues or mosques (I don't think there are much more than two of the two last) too.

Draw an area around the building of the church and add all the following tags:

With all those tags added, the render will display an area with a Christian cross and the name of the church.

International names

Almost all names should be in Spanish, except a few locations where the local native name in Bribri, Cabecar and such, is still in use.

Use name:cai=NATIVE NAME in those circumstances.

cai according to ISO 639-2 is used for Central American native languages.

A few places can have names in English, German or Chinese, use the appropriate tags there. See [Multilingual names] for more information.

Garmin maps

Routable maps of Costa Rica and Central America for Garmin devices are available here. They are updated every week.


Relation Tagging for the National Road Network (Red Vial Nacional)

A primordial and urgent project is to tag all the routes of the National Road Network into their own proper relation.

So, for example, Route 126, which now has the relation relation 11125484:

  • name=Ruta 126
  • network=CR:national
  • ref=126
  • route=road
  • type=route
  • wikidata=Q68110238

The complete list of routes is located here: Costa Rica/Red Vial Nacional.

Those routes are part of the National Road Network and have been tabulated from the official sources available at the Ministry of Public Works and Transport's GeoPortal.


  1. First and foremost, check the official route design and map at: Red Vial Nacional (MOPT), check that the route follows the official designated path, this is not often the case and would be helpful to edit the route in OSM to the official path.
  2. In and OSM editor, add the segments of a route to their relation.
    1. If a relation doesn't exist, create one with the name 'Ruta XYZ', with XYZ being the proper number of the route.
  3. The continue adding segments to the route.
  4. Optional: Follow the steps below to properly document the route in OSM, Wikidata and Wikipedia, for the greater good of humankind. For example, check out the English Wikipedia page for the example Route 126: National Route 126 (Costa Rica).

Wikipedia ⇆ OpenStreetMap Metadata Integration

It is possible to tag roads (and buildings and other properties) in OSM with the information from articles in Wikipedia. This is done by associating a wikidata=* tag in the node(s), with the Wikidata item value in Wikipedia.

The recommended way to do so for Costa Rica is to use the wikidata=* tag instead of wikipedia=*, because Wikidata holds the metadata for articles in any language, instead of adding individual Wikipedia tags for each article in each language.

Wikipedia articles for National Routes

There are already some articles about national routes in both Spanish (ie Ruta 39) and English (ie Route 39) Wikipedia, those existing articles already have the proper Wikidata item link on the Tools toolbar of each article page, there a Q-id will be available. (ie, Route/Ruta 39 would be Q17629098, and because it is metadata, is the same identifier for either language, very nice, isn't it?).

For a proper and thorough project to work, we need to document each and every national route of Costa Rica in Wikipedia, this is a lot of work (19 Primary Routes, 132 Secondary Routes, 183 Tertiary Routes, and 1 Border Route), and some of the routes are not noteworthy at all, just a couple of kilometers or so, and would be categorized as a Wikipedia stub.

In English Wikipedia there is already a navigation template covering the required routes to be documented, with some already done that work as example: Road Transport in Costa Rica


This is an effort that goes both ways, it is recommended to have an account in both OSM and Wikimedia projects to proceed. The recommended workflow is:

  • In Wikipedia and Wikidata
    • Create an article about a route in Wikipedia (either language works, please use an existing article as a template and fill the templates properly, particularly the main infobox)
      • Please follow either language nomenclature for the article name en:National Route ### (Costa Rica) or es:Ruta ## (Costa Rica).
    • Create a Wikidata entry about the route (this is done in English), and add the corresponding Wikipedia entry.
      • At least add the minimal data of Label: National Route ### (it is not necessary to add any mention of Costa Rica in the label), and Description: Road route in Costa Rica, then add the entries in the Wikipedia section.
      • A Wikidata id (Starts with a Q followed by numbers) will be generated.
  • In OSM
    • Add the wikidata=* to the corresponding relation with the proper Wikidata id (Q-number).
  • In English Wikipedia
    • After adding the Wikidata id to the nodes, add to the Infobox road template the maplink template to dynamically generate the map from the corresponding OSM data. Note: It will take 3-5 days for the renders to be available.


See also

Logo de OSM LatAm
Central America
México · Belize · Guatemala · Honduras · El Salvador · Nicaragua · Costa Rica · Panamá
South America
Brasil · Colombia · Venezuela · Ecuador · Perú · Bolivia · Paraguay · Chile · Argentina · Uruguay · Guyana · Suriname · Guyane française
The Caribbean
Cuba · Jamaica · Haiti · República Dominicana · Puerto Rico · British Virgin Islands · US Virgin Islands · Anguilla · Sint Maarten (NL) · St. Martin (FR) · St. Barthélemy · St. Eustatius · St. Kitts and Nevis · Antigua and Barbuda · Guadeloupe · Dominica · Martinique · St. Lucia · St. Vincent and the Grenadines · Barbados · Grenada · Trinidad and Tobago · Bonaire · Curaçao · Aruba
Iberian Peninsula
España · Portugal