Indigenous peoples in Costa Rica

With a population of 104,143 people divided between eight different ethnic groups, indigenous peoples account for 2.42% of the country’s total population of  4,301,712.

Seven of these groups are of Chibchense origin (Huetar in Quitirrisí and Zapatón; Maleku in Guatuso; Bribri in Salitre, Cabagra, Talamanca Bribri and Kekoldi; Cabécar in Alto Chirripó, Tayni, Talamanca Cabécar, Telire and China Kichá, Bajo Chirripó, Nairi Awari and Ujarrás; Brunca in Boruca and Rey Curré; Ngöbe in Abrojos Montezuma, Coto Brus, Conte Burica, Altos de San Antonio and Osa; Teribe in Térraba) and one of Meso-American origin (Chorotega in Matambú).

Almost 6% of the national area of Costa Rica is made up of 24 indigenous territories, covering a total of 3,344 km2. Some 48,500 people live on the 24 indigenous territories, of whom 35,943 are indigenous and the rest (25.9%) not. The situation is even more alarming in the Southern Zone of the country where levels of non-indigenous encroachment have reached between 50% and 90%. The right to consultation continues to be denied.


Costa Rica is one of the few countries on the continent that does not constitutionally recognise its ethnic and cultural diversity. It ratified ILO Convention 169 two decades ago but this does not mean that indigenous rights have been recognised, nor that the legislative changes required by the Convention have been made. Costa Rica also voted in favour of adopting the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in 2007.

Yearly update

Read the 2012 yearbook article on indigenous peoples in Costa Rica to learn about major developments and events during 2011 (internal link)