Costa Rica Road Map Research

It’s not all fun and games

We’re just days away from our next research trip to update the Waterproof Travel Map to its Fourth edition (ISBN 097637334-3) and Costa Rica Guide into its eighteenth year of dispensing advice.  All of our friends have begun the requisite teasing about how we’re “packing to spend another month and a half on the beach in paradise” while claiming to “work.”

Sunset on Playa Cuajiniquil from our last round of updates a couple of months ago
Sunset on Playa Cuajiniquil from our last round of updates a couple of months ago

While there are some serious fringe benefits (Osa/Corcovado) associated with traveling around Costa Rica for work we want to dispel the myth that it’s all an extended vacation with adventure tours, luxury resorts, and relaxing on the beach with cool drinks.

We work hard when we’re traveling.  Sure, we accept the occasional complimentary suite at a luxury resort but believe us when we tell you that’s not how we roll; we’d rather be out climbing volcanoes and sleeping in huts.  It’s also a lot of work checking out every room type and all the amenities, meeting with management to hear why their property is the best, and striking up casual conversations with guests to fish for candid opinions.

If you’ve ever driven a couple hundred kilometers across Costa Rica you know it’s not always fun.  A typical day for us may include ten hours in the car with the gps enabled notebook computer stopping at every hotel, lodge, resort, restaurant, tour and  roadside attraction to chat, renew our acquaintance or make our introductions and take a look around.  The whole time we’re lugging fifteen kilo gear bags because we follow our own advice to “never leave anything in a parked car.”

At the end of the day a Luxury Resort is the exception rather than the rule and we typically stay in modest cabinas or nondescript in-town hotels and grab a quick bite at the closest soda before falling into bed.

But, you might think, “what about the activities, those have to be fun right?” A lot of the time they are, but think for a minute about multiplying that once in a lifetime zipline through the cloud forest canopy by the 121 zipline locations in Costa Rica – can you say “too much of a good thing.”

Don’t get me wrong, we’re not complaining – we love our job, this is just a minor reality check for our friends.

4 thoughts on “Costa Rica Road Map Research”

  1. Definitely Lori, but we’ll probably never be organized enough to figure out what an assistant would do ;-)

  2. I want to follow up on the comment, “Never leave anything in a parked car.” We follow that rule as well when in CR, but I have heard comments like, “They’ll rob you blind.” when talking about a home that I am renting in CR. Have you had the experience that thievery is worse in CR than USA? If so why? And do they steal from Ticos as much as gringos? Is it just endemic? Or did we cause this? Just askin…

  3. Theft is a much bigger problem in Costa Rica than it generally is in the U.S. Violent crime is rare outside San José, Limón and Puntarenas (which are similar to bad neighborhoods in a major U.S. city) but stealing from cars, hotels, beach blankets, under bus seats and overhead bins – anywhere things are unattended even for a few minutes is a big problem everywhere.

    Theft from Gringos is more common than from Ticos simply because the Gringos are less cautious, easier targets and have more to steal. Foreigners also bear the brunt of corrupt police officers collecting bribes at phony speeding stops and fraud in the real estate and business arenas.

    The barbed wire topped walls and iron bars on the windows were there in the 70’s when the tourist industry was in its infancy. Corruption and bribery are archetypal stereotypes of Latin American culture that are very much alive and well in Costa Rica. I guess that would be evidence for endemic rather than introduced.

    It’s hard to know the true extent of the problem because denial is rampant. Police don’t want to file reports because it creates work for them and they’ve found that the easiest way to reduce crime in their district is to simply pretend it didn’t happen. It’s not good for the rental car business to tell people they can’t stop for a quick hike at Carara National Park on their way to Manuel Antonio because if they do all of their luggage will be gone when they return. Costa Rica probably wouldn’t last long at the top of the Happy Planet index of happiest places in the world if estimates like every Tico will be the victim of 5.7 crimes over their lifetime were known. The ICT certainly isn’t going to broadcast the fact that the Canadian embassy in San José reported replacing more passports than any other office in the world even though there are dozens of other countries with many more of their citizens traveling (the U.S. embassy did not release exact numbers but basically conceded the same was true there).

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