With 47 per cent of the vote, Laura Chinchilla, the ruling party candidate became the first female president of Costa Rica.
As votes were way ahead of her rivals and above the 40 per cent needed to avoid a run-off, Chincilla declared victory early on Monday.
Earlier Otton Solis, from the Citizen Action Party (PAC), and Otto Guevara, of the Libertarian Movement Party (ML), both conceded defeat, gaining 24 and 21 per cent of the vote respectively.
The two men congratulated Chinchilla on her apparent victory.
“She is going to be the next president of Costa Rica,” Solid told his supporters, while Guevarra offered congratulations to “our president, Laura Chinchilla”.
Addressing her supporters at a hotel in the capital, San Jose, Chinchilla said: “Thank you, Costa Rica. It’s certainly a moment of happiness, but above all of humility … I won’t betray that confidence.”
Chinchilla served as vice-president under Oscar Arias, the current president and Nobel-prize winner, and has pledges to continue Arias’s moderate free-market policies.
Under Arias’s National Liberation Party (PLN) Costa Rica has been brought into the Central American Free Trade Agreement with the United States and initiated trade relations with China after a 63-year association with Taiwan.
However critics of the government argue that Arias’ administration catered to big developers in order to boost the economy at the cost of the nation’s fragile ecosystems.
Costa Rica enjoys the highest standard of living in Central America. The country is also renowned for not having an army and for its role in ending the Cold War-era civil wars that wracked its neighbours.
And with a record of 60 years of democratic elections, Costa Rica is Central America’s oldest democracy.
Besides Guevara and Solis, six other candidates were also running in a race that tested the popularity of the PLN party, which has dominated politics in Costa Rica for the past six decades.
While Chinchilla will be Costa Rica’s first female president, she will be Latin America’s fifth.