Westward from Panamá our steamer ploughs the Caribbean toward the rainbow countries. The white completeness of the Canal Zone fades behind, and with it the lonely, unaccented coast of the Panamá Republic. The Mosquito Gulf lifts us on its dark blue bosom with the uncertain, always threatening swell of the waters of the "Spanish Main." For we sail this sea, flecked with romance and mystery, toward regions that are still as wonderful and new as when Drake first came to try the prowess of his tiny ships against the might of sea and Spain.
This romance and mystery we shall not lose. With the morning we touch its outer rim, the purpled edge of the rainbow's crimson--in the solid, good red earth of Costa Rica. Dawn finds us at Port Limón, and about us a long, even coast, accented now with level forests that look like overgrown maize fields or a vast nursery of that aristocrat of the garden, the canna. And so it is the canna--a noble relative of the canna family-the banana of Costa Rica. Down to the very water's edge the groves seem to come, and only a suggestion of palm and tropical forest rises above and behind them.
Now, wherever there are bananas, somewhere in the hot quiet about them is civilization--in Central America. Port Limón is an excellent type of civilization, for it is a well-built port, and looks not at all forbidding as a town, merely a not too much modernized blotch of human-ness in the green of the jungle and banana groves. It welcomes us with its busy and efficient pier and after the Costa Rican doctor has come aboard our ship draws up alongside--a noble miracle of seamanship without a tug and with a single-screw steamer!
Port Limón is a banana port when all is said and done. The real Costa Rica is only sifting in on us, all the beautiful, vivid, proud Costa Rica that lies beyond the jungle, and beyond the hills, far up in the mountains.
Port Limón and the banana country are only the very formal and rather distantly related introduction to Costa Rica itself. The country the Spaniards knew is on the tableland, 3,000 feet above the sea. In fact, all of Costa Rica (save the two ports, one on the Caribbean and one on the Pacific) is concentrated in four little cities on the top of the Andean plateau. One can see the four of them from the slope of almost any Costa Rican mountain.
For all its diminutive size, however, Costa Rica is not one of the countries which the world can take lightly. It has only 23,000 square miles, or about the area of the American State of West Virginia, but it is one of the five American countries that have transcontinental railways within their own borders, it produces a goodly portion of the bananas we eat and some of much esteemed coffee. Costa Rica has a few mines, chiefly in one section, which have exported of gold and silver. But coffee and bananas and, increasingly, sugar and cacao are its chief products.