The coastal plains are low, hot, and heavily forested. Bananas, cocoa, and sugarcane are cultivated there. In the northwest is the Nicoya peninsula, a semiarid plain where cattle and grain are raised. A massive cordillera, with peaks over 12,000 ft (3,658 m) high, cuts the country from northwest to southeast. Within it, under the shadow of volcanoes such as Irazú, lies the Central Valley, with a perennially springlike climate. This valley is the heart of the country, where coffee is cultivated and most of the population and market facilities are located.
One of the most stable countries in Latin America, Costa Rica has a long democratic tradition and no regular military forces. The population is largely of Spanish and mestizo descent. The official language is Spanish, and English is also spoken. About 75% of the people are Roman Catholics; there is a large Protestant minority.