Costa Rica's national parks are its greatest glory. The Costa Rican authorities have set aside one-third of the country as protected areas, and dozens of private wilderness reserves have helped elevate Costa Rica to star status for ecotourism. The country has a stunning variety of landscapes, microclimates, and flora and fauna, and nature lovers will not be disappointed by the superb wildlife viewing. Visitors looking for an active holiday are spoilt for choice, with options from whitewater rafting to surfing. In urban areas, the country's Spanish heritage provides the main features of interest, although sites are relatively few.Columbus landed in what is now Costa Rica in 1501. Under the rule of General Tomas Guardia between 1870 and 1882, Costa Rica developed many of its principal modern characteristics, notably the minimal role of the Catholic Church in secular matters and an adherence to the principles of democracy. Throughout the 20th century, Costa Rica has enjoyed peace and a steady growth in prosperity, with the notable exception of a civil war in 1948, which followed a disputed presidential election. Significantly, Costa Rica is the only country in the region to have abolished the national army.