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Costa Rican Currency Spotlight: Costa Rican Colón

In Business and Currency by Continental StaffLeave a Comment

In this Spotlight we’ll be delving into the intricacies of the currency and economy of Costa Rica. So whether you need to buy Costa Rican colón or you’re just looking to expand your knowledge, read on!

Fast Facts: 

  • Costa Rican Colón Symbol:
  • Costa Rican Colón Currency Code: CRC
  • Coins: 5, 10, 25, 50, 100 and 500 colones
  • Costa Rican Colón Banknotes: 1,000, 2,000, 5,000, 10,000, 20,000, 50,000 colones
  • Costa Rican GDP (nominal): $427.139 billion (29th)
  • Central Bank: Central Bank of Costa Rica


In Spanish Christopher Columbus is known as Cristóbal Colón, and it is from his name that the Costa Rican colón derives its name. The colón replaced the Costa Rican peso at a rate of 1 to 1 in 1896. Shortly after in 1897; 2, 5, 10 and 20 colones gold coins were issued. More followed with silver 2 and 50 centimos coins in 1903 and 5 and 10 centimos in 1905. In 1917 the term centavos replaced centimos. Over the course of the 20th century the issuer of the national currency changed from the Banco Internacional to the Banco Nacional to the Banco Central, which still issues coins today.

The colón is sometimes locally referred to as the peso in regular use, or as cana – Spanish for sugar cane. In addition, the word Teja – meaning roof tile – is often used as slang for 100 colones.

Notes and Coins

After the Central Bank took over minting duties in 1951 coins were stamped with BCCR. Its first issue were 5 and 10 centimo coins in the same year, followed by 1 and 2 colones in 1954, 50 centimos in 1965, and 25 centimos in 1967. By 1983 the 5 and 10 centimos coins were discontinued and 5, 10, 20, 25, 50 and 100 colón coins were issued between 1995 and 1998. A 500 colón coin was minted in 2003 and in 2009 silver coloured 5, 10 and 20 colón coins were replaced with gold coloured equivalents

A variety of different notes were issued in Costa Rica over the course of the life of the colón. The latest iteration printed by the Banco Central including 5, 10, 20, 50 and 100 colones were issued in 150, followed by 1000 colones in 1958, 2 colón bills in 1967, 500 colones in 1973, 5000 colones in 1992, and 2000 and 10 000 colones in 1997.

Value Colour Obverse Reverse
1 000 Red Braulio Evaristo Carrillo Colina – former head of state A Guanacaste tree/white tailed deer
2 000 Blue Mauro Fernandez Acuna – politician and lawyer Bull Shark
5 000 Yellow Alfredo Gonzales Flores – former president- and the Banco International building Mangrove Swamp, flowers, crab monkey
10 000 Green Jose Figueres Ferrer – former president – and an image commemorating the abolition of the army Rainforest
20 000 Orange Maria Isabel Carvajal – famous Costa Rican female writer Volcano hummingbird
50 000 Violet Ricardo Jimenez – former president- Oreamuno and the Supreme Court Fog forest


For years the colón had what can be described as a ‘crawling peg’ against the US dollar which prevented it from increasing or decreasing in value against the dollar by a significant amount. In 2006 this system was abandoned allowing the colón to float freely. A significant drop in value occurred in 2014, but prior to and following this drop the currency remained relatively stable against the USD. In the last several years, the value of the colón has generally sat around or above 500 to 1 US dollar.


Costa Rica has one of the most competitive economies in Latin America. A strong and unique ecotourism industry makes use of Costa Rica’s incredible natural beauty in a sustainable manner. Agriculture, industry and services all make up significant portions of the economy. A stable government, minimal corruption, high education levels and consistently high levels of growth make Costa Rica an attractive place for investment.

costa rican colon coins silver money

Final Thoughts

Costa Rica has a sustainable model for its tourism industry, based on environmental protection as well as high education levels. The country will continue to attract foreign tourists and investment while the value of the Costa Rican colón should reflect this success.

Whether you need to buy Costa Rican colón or any other of over 160 different currencies, we’ve got you covered!

For a broader understanding of Costa Rican history and culture check out our Country of the Week profile. For information about traveling to Costa Rica then be sure to follow our Travel Guide.

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