A few weeks ago when I announced on Facebook that we were crossing into Costa Rica a friend commented and said he would be going there in October.
My response was a simple “why”?
I’m sure this post won’t sit well with a lot of people. Everyone seems to adore Costa Rica. People from all over the world flock to this little country and simply gush over the beaches, the jungles, the wildlife, and they all seem to return to the airport for their flights home wearing something with “Pura Vida” on it. Hell, when I flew out two weeks ago I saw a guy with a tank top and a hat with Pura Vida scrawled on them in neon green.
He was not a man who should be wearing a tank top or neon green.
So you might be wondering why I hate one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world. You might think that Costa Rica is perfect and I’m an asshole. That’s okay because after what’s probably been my seventh or eighth time in this country I can officially say it sucks and if I never come back here that would be too soon.
This is by no means a complete list but rather a shortlist of some of the reasons why Costa Rica sucks.
It’s Ridiculously Expensive
Everyone likes to save money when they travel and we’re no exception. In fact, we have to be very careful about what we spend and Costa Rica will rip a hole in your wallet so big you might as well throw it away.
If you google “why is costa rica so expensive” you’ll be hit with link after link wherein people ask the same question. Is there a definitive answer? Not really but people mention everything from food to taxi fare and many of them comment that even the United States is cheaper.
Costa Ricans benefit from salaries that are the highest in Central America and yet the only thing they can reliably count on to be cheap is electricity. I’ll grudgingly admit that Costa Rica does have their renewable energy game down pat however with the hundreds of thousands of cars on the roads and no emissions regulations that pollution kind of negates Costa Rica’s relative lack of a barely noticeable carbon footprint.
And if you’ve ever had the pleasure of driving in the absolute shithole that is Costa Rica’s capital you’ll understand what I mean. San Jose’s only redeeming qualities are its airport and Denny’s, but you’ll still pay about 50USD for dinner for two.
At fucking Denny’s. Costa Rica sucks.
Animal Welfare is a Bag of Lies
A few years ago everyone in the whole world went nuts when news started to fly about Costa Rica’s zoos and their closure. My Facebook was flooded with congratulations for the Ticos for doing the right thing by captive animals. However, as with most news, this was not exactly as it seemed. Fake news wins again.
The truth is that Costa Rica’s Minister of the Environment wanted to close the country’s two zoos, turn them into educational centers, and relocate the animals to sanctuaries in other parts of the country. But the joke was on him when the nonprofit that actually operated the zoos sued for breach of contract and won. They will continue to operate the zoos for many more years.
But it’s not the traditional zoos in Costa Rica that bother me. It’s the slapped together buildings on the side of the road housing captive animals of all kinds. If you put the words “eco” or “rescue” on your sign you’re not a zoo and tourists will flock to see the miserable birds, reptiles, and mammals and pay a fortune for the privilege.
And if Costa Rica seems to have a penchant for animal welfare let’s talk about shark finning shall we? Technically the practice is illegal in Costa Rica but the law is not enforced. In 2011 it was estimated that between 350,000 and 450,000 sharks were killed for solely for their fins. Since then Costa Rican authorities will still allow sharks to be landed as long as they have their fins attached. So fishermen have made this easier by stripping the shark down to its spinal column and fin only, leaving the carcasses to rot in the water. And it’s legal. In fact, a large shipment of fins from endangered hammerheads just went off to China this year.
So that brings up China. China and Hong Kong simply can’t live without shark fin soup. So, as a “donation” to Costa Rica the Chinese government built them a brand new fútbol stadium. Of course, gifts from the Chinese are rarely simply gifts. In exchange the Costa Rican government severed their ties with Taiwan and no longer recognized them as a sovereign nation. And China is now Costa Rica’s second biggest trading partner.
However, earlier this year Costa Rica handed down its first ever criminal sentence for shark finning, but that’s unlikely to deter others.
So yeah, go on and on about Costa Rica’s eco-bullshit but don’t forget about all the things tourists never see. Costa Rica sucks.
What the Hell is Pura Vida?
I swear if someone says “pura vida” to me one more time I’ll throat punch them. It’s the country’s motto and means “pure life” in English but aside from that what the everlasting fuck does it actually mean? The gringos and expats embrace it like a long lost lover and explain that it means to slow down, take every aspect of life as a gift, and live high on the hog in an overpriced gated community on the beach.
What does it mean to the locals? I really don’t know but apparently it’s something your server likes to say to you when they bring your million dollar beer to your table. And it looks so good on shirts and hats. Especially in neon.
But sometimes when people say this it almost feels like an accusation. Like I just don’t get it and my life is far less pure because of that.
Whatever. I’ve never claimed to be pure and don’t plan on doing so at a future time.
So Do I Have Anything Good to Say?
It’s a little hard to conclude this post with something nice to say, but my mom always told me that if I didn’t have anything nice to say then I shouldn’t say anything at all. So here goes.
Costa Rica is very pretty.
But you might have noticed that I haven’t included any photos in this post and there’s a good reason for that. I don’t need to. All you have to do is head on over to Instagram and search #puravida. You’ll find plenty of pics there.
So we leave this weekend and head back to our beloved Panama and that day can’t come too soon. And if you were wondering about my friend’s plan to visit Costa Rica you can rest assured that he won’t be tossed into the pricey, pura vida hellhole.
He’s going to Mexico City instead.
I went scuba diving off Costa Rica’s Catalina Island a few years ago. Off in the distance, those shark boats were circling like “sharks after sharks.” It was heinous.
Cate Brubaker says
That must have been horrifying.
Lol! Definitely will agree with you. Costa Rica was our least favorite country in C Am. So fucking expensive! Also public transport sucked. It was the only place in Central America that we had to rent a car to get to the places we wanted to go. Give me a chicken bus any day. And the hassle… we got hassled by so many touts, tour operators, menu holders, scammers, like nowhere else in C Am. Where’s the puravida in that? I will say it was genuinely nice to see the country without much garbage littering the ground, such is life throughout neighboring countries. I suppose CR has some decent beers too if you looked hard enough. But other than that, I’m with ya 100%! Enjoy your return to Panama amigos!
Cate Brubaker says
I’m actually quite surprised that so many people agree with me! We’re headed out this afternoon and hopefully can cross into Panama tomorrow, but I’m a bit worried because it’s Easter. I hope we’re not stuck until Monday. Let me out already!!!