Random Thoughts about Costa Rica

I’m glad we visited Costa Rica! Even though it was on our list of countries to consider, we had never actually been there. It was a great visit, but we are not leaving Panama.

We only saw Golfito, about an hour from the Panama Border, and Puerta Jimenez, a short boat ride beyond that so my opinions only relate to this limited experience in the country.

Costa Rica is a gorgeous place. I was surprised at how different it looked as soon as we crossed the border. Joel says it makes him think of Jurassic Park because it is so untouched and jungle-wild looking. There is a lot less cleared land and most areas are thick with trees and vegetation. There also seem to be more hills and mountains. Golfito has barely enough room for a town between the hills and the water, and the hills are covered with huge trees, plants, and flowers. We saw monkeys in Puerta Jimenez, and spectacular scarlet macaws flying wild in both places, and I know that’s only a small part of the wildlife. I can certainly see why people rave about the natural beauty of the country and I am looking forward to seeing more of it.

It looks like life is harder in Costa Rica and there is more poverty. The cost of living is definitely higher. We saw it on our own trips to the supermarket, and people I talked to confirmed this. People in this area often go to the border to shop because the Panama prices make it well worth the trip. We saw some nice homes, but we also saw people living in very poor conditions, even squatters with homes made of scraps and no water or  electricity. I saw less pride in appearance – often very casual to tattered clothing and bare feet. We were warned not to talk with people because a friendly or helpful person was most likely doing it to hit you up for some money, or worse. That was a change for me, coming from Panama where everyone talks to everyone and helps each other without a second thought.

We were also warned by multiple people to be careful of theft. Keep valuables out of sight and secured at all times, and carry as few valuables as possible. We talked with the manager of our villa and one of the staff members and heard stories about dogs being poisoned, people using poles to grab what they could through barred windows, and other such stories which wouldn’t make Gulfito an appealing place for us to live.

Puerta Jiminez seemed different. We only talked with a couple men there, but they told us that crime is rare and their town is safe and quiet. It also looked and felt more comfortable to us. We are anxious to go back and spend some more time there but just for a vacation not as a possible place to live. It’s too small and far from the city things that we prefer.

I know there are many other places to visit in Costa Rica, and experiences to be had, and other thoughts to be developed but this is what I think after my first short visit there. It’s beautiful and has a lot of great things to offer, and though we don’t want to live there, we are happy that it is so close so we can easily visit.

We are currently making plans to go back to Puerta Jimenez the first week of December, and perhaps explore a bit farther into the country as well. So, we were impressed enough to want to go back almost immediately!

I’ve received a few questions about the bus, where we stayed, etc. so stay tuned and another post will be coming on those topics.

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About Kris Cunningham

We live in David, Chiriqui Provence, Republic of Panama! This blog is about some of our experiences in our new country.
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12 Responses to Random Thoughts about Costa Rica

  1. tombseekers says:

    We never got onto the Costa Rica bandwagon either. I like that it is ‘wilder’ and you see much more wildlife but it seemed living there would be more difficult. Little infrastructure outside gated communities, roads are in very poor condition, and crime is much higher than here. I think we both made a better choice.


    • I agree, Panama is a good choice. The roads didn’t seem to be a problem where we went though. I was expecting worse. The crime, higher cost of living, and more desperate poverty, that would make things more difficult.
      Are you back in Panama? We need to catch up! We’re coming up for the festivities on the 30th so maybe we’ll see you, or if you are in our neighborhood let us know.


  2. Sabrina says:

    It seems they’re past their big boom and now Nicaragua is the new Costa Rica so to speak. This is all hear say since I live in Colorado. Have you ever been to Nica? It’s on our list as is Panama. 🙂 Thanks!


    • No, I haven’t. I’ve only seen parts of Panama, and nothing else in Central America until this Costa Rica trip. I definitely plan to change this in the next year! I’ve also heard good things about Columbia and Ecuador, so they are on the list of places to visit too.


  3. Dan says:

    I’ve been to CR +- 15 times and to Panama only once and have considered living in Panama, but not CR. The only thing to recommend CR is sport fishing and the Ticas. (just kidding) . It’s very expensive to live there and there are just as many if not more hoops to jump through for residency. Those of you who chose Panama, made the right choice. Felicidades! Next time you visit try Quepos and the Manuel Antonio federal park/preserve.


    • Thanks for the recommendations. We just made reservations for Puerta Jimenez for the 1st of Dec, and it looks like it wouldn’t be too hard to get to Quepos from there if we decide to do something more. I did just a little looking and it already looks very very interesting.


  4. Nice comparison and I agree with all of your thoughts, Kris. We’ve traveled through CR many times. Crime rate is very high, inflation is horrible, and honestly, the people aren’t nearly as friendly as in Nicaragua.


    • Interesting to hear that you feel the same. We met many friendly people, but also some who I think had an ulterior motive for being friendly. It’s too bad about the crime and costs because it puts people off from enjoying the many good things about the country.


  5. D. Quijote says:

    When younger I saw CR as somehow better; I think Panama’s economy has improved with time and CR is no longer what I remember.
    About Puerto Jimenez, the shuttle/ferry, did it take only people or you could also take a car there from Golfito?


    • CR sure was the tourist and expat destination as well, but that is also changing.
      The ferry was a small boat, so no cars. But, you can drive around the bay. I think I heard the buses take twice as long as the ferry but maybe if you drive you can make better time.


  6. Dana Jones says:

    ” We were warned not to talk with people because a friendly or helpful person was most likely doing it to hit you up for some money, or worse. ”
    This is not true, I have been living in Costa Rica for many years, and the people are quite friendly and helpful, without bad intentions in this.
    Sure, there is some crime, especially in the areas around San Jose and the central valley. But in most rural areas, not so much. Due to the poverty here, theft is a problem, but the crimes are mostly those of opportunity, such as something valuable left visible in a car.
    Please come and visit Costa Rica again, and don’t be afraid to talk to the people.


    • Thank you very much for your comments. I really enjoy talking with people, so I talked anyway and found people to be very nice though with all those warnings, it’s always in the back of your mind that you are putting yourself at risk. It reminds me of New York City, that bad and dangerous place where everyone gets held up, etc. I lived there for years and ran all over the city with no problems. I’m not inclined to be afraid much but my husband was a bit wound up after reading and hearing all the warnings from all sides. We will keep our common sense about us and continue to visit! We have another trip planned on Dec 1st, in fact.


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