The Instituto Geográfico, San José, was founded in 1944, but its origin can be traced back to 1889. It got its present name of Institute Geográfico Nacional (IGNCR) in 1968. Systematic large-scale topographic mapping began in the mid-1940s in collaboration with the Inter-American Geodetic Survey (IAGS). Initially this was a 1:25,000 scale photogrammetrically produced map, issued from 1953, but this series was terminated in 1962 with only 99 sheets published.

The present basic topographic cover is a complete series of 1:50,000 scale maps (Series E762) in 131 sheets. These sheets are in five colors with a 20 m contour interval and 10 m auxiliary contours. The projection is Lambert conformal conic and the Ellipsoid Clarke 1866. The series was initially published between 1955 and 1971, and sheets are being revised at a rate of about eight per year. Sheet format is graticule-based with sheets covering 10 minutes of latitude and 15 minutes of longitude. A parallel series of 1:50,000 maps was prepared concurrently by the US Army Topographic Command in 137 sheets on a Transverse Mercator projection.

There is also complete cover of the country at a scale of 1:200,000 (Series E561). This nine-sheet series was originally issued between 1955 and 1971, and is derived from the 1:50,000 scale mapping. A revised edition was published in 1988. It has 100 m contours and is on a Lambert conformal projection. There is also a special sheet, Gran Area Metropolitana, published in 1986. Most of Costa Rica is also covered in five sheets of the 1:250,000 scale PAIGH Unified hemispheric map series, published by IGNCR in 1981-87.

Urban mapping at scales of 1:5,000 to 1:12,500 has also been undertaken by IGNCR. These maps have 10 m or 5 m contours. A small number of sheets in a general topographic series at 1:10,000 have been issued since 1974.

Soviet military topographic mapping of Costa Rica exists at the following scales: 1:1,000,000 (4 sheets, complete coverage, published 1966-1990); 1:500,000 (5 sheets, complete coverage, published in 1985); 1:200,000 (3 sheets, northern coverage, published in 1984); 1:100,000 (7 sheets, southern coverage, published in 1979) and a city (1:10,000) topographic map of San Jose published in 1981. These products are available in print, digital raster and digital vector GIS formats from East View Geospatial.

Geological and other earth science maps have been issued by the Dirección de Geología, Minas y Petrólio (DGMP), established in 1951. The country has been well mapped, with a complete set of geological maps at 1:200,000 scale, and several smaller scale geoscience maps. It is planned to improve the resolution of geological maps to a scale of 1:50,000, but a shortage of funds during the 1980s resulted in little progress. However, a few sheets have been published since 1990. Some more detailed geological and geomorphological mapping of the country has been carried out by the Universidad de Costa Rica (UCR), including a nine-sheet Carta geomorfológica de Valle Central de Costa Rica at 1:50,000 scale, published in 1981. A nine-sheet geomorphological map of the whole country at 1:200,000 scale was published in 1980 by the Secretaría Ejecutiva de Planificación Sectorial Agropecuaria (SEPSA). In 1987, the United States Geological Survey (USGS), in co-operation with DGMP and UCR, published a mineral resources assessment (USGS I-1865). A 1:500,000 scale geological map of the whole country is in preparation.

A range of soil, land use and land capability mapping was undertaken in the 1970s by various government departments, including the Oficina de Planificación Nacional (OFICINA) and the Ministerio de Agricultura y Ganadería (MAG). More recently, the Japan International Co-operation Agency (JICA) has funded the production of 1:10,000 scale topographic and soil maps of the Central Valley, and the Dirección General Forestal (DGF) plans to produce a forest cover map derived from satellite imagery. The Fundación Neótropica is a private, non-profit organization founded in 1985 which supports resource conservation and sustainable development. It publishes educational materials, including maps of national parks and has produced maps of land use and ecological change using GIS.

Environmentally sensitive tourism (ecotourism) is a growth industry in Costa Rica, and the Instituto Costarricense de Turismo (ICT) not only distributes a number of general purpose maps but has begun to publish tourist maps.

The Ministerio de Obras Publicas y Transporte (MOPT) is responsible for highway maintenance, and has published occasional maps, including a six-sheet map of traffic flows in 1989.

Although a comparatively well mapped country, new programs continue to suffer from shortage of funds and lack of paper on which to print the maps. A new tourist map remains unprinted for this reason, and plans for a country place name gazetteer have been postponed. Tourist maps produced by commercial publishers include a road map of the country and a map of downtown San José by Jimenez and Tanzi (JITAN), and country maps by Berndtson and Berndtson (B&B) and International Travel Maps (ITM).

Population censuses have been carried out in 1984 and 1996. Maps for census enumeration purposes and small-scale demographic maps based on census statistics are produced by the Dirección General de Estadística y Censos (DGEC).

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