Costa Rica – Twenty Years Later

Just bought tickets to visit Costa Rica in January. Almost twenty years later…Seventeen to be exact, but what’s three year? Yes, that is still a long time from now, but I’m older now and I plan ahead. I’ve got a business to run even while I’m out of the country. Much different than when I was twenty and a buddy of mine mentioned that Costa Rica was cheap and had surf almost everyday and that night we bought tickets and were gone within a week and stayed for two months. This time I’m only going for two weeks. Visiting the same buddy there though. He has since bought two houses in Nosara and spends half his time in the States the other half in Nosara. This time we won’t be twenty-year old dumbasses; We’ll be forty year-old dumbasses. Except this time, I’m going with my family. I’ll be a little less of a dumbass. I can’t speak for him.

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image borrowed from: borderfreetravels.com

While researching Costa Rica, yet another difference between this trip and my last, I’ve noticed quite a few things have changed. Not just with the country but with myself.

For instance, I’m renting a car this time. Riding on public transportation for six to eight hours at a time with a six-year old doesn’t sound like a vacation. Yes, it will be an added cost, but one I think will be well worth it. Apparently the rental car companies run a good scam you’ve got to watch for. Calling it a scam might be unfair. If you look online at large rental car places – Budget, Hertz, Economy, etc.  – you will notice some very cheap cars being offered. Some for as little as $10 a day. Sounds great, right? What’s not included in that price is mandatory insurance. Mandatory by the Costa Rican government. That adds about $20 a day to the cost. But that’s not the real catch because that insurance doesn’t cover you if there is damage to the car. To be covered if there is an accident you need the supplemental insurance and that can run you an extra $20- $25 a day. Now that great quote of $100 a week is now to about $400 a week. I’m not kidding. The folks at MyTanFeet.com have a much better explanation of it. Check it out and see for yourself. But be warned: the car rental insurance in Costa Rica rabbit-hole consumed about three hours of my time last night. Luckily, through all that research I found out what may be the best option for keeping rental costs low:American Express. AmEx offers rental car insurance in Costa Rica. They send you a letter saying you have full coverage, you present the letter to the rental agency and refuse all the rental company’s offers for insurance. No matter how much they try to bully you. You will still have to pay the mandatory insurance though. However, with AmEx the cost goes from about $800 for two weeks to about $500. There are a few things that you have to do if you need to make a claim though so read the fine print carefully. One thing is to file a police report. Hopefully, I won’t have to worry about it.

Another difference I’ve noticed is cost of living. Seventeen years ago I paid a lady $1.50 to camp in her yard and she gave us coffee in the morning. The breakfast spot was also $1.50 and that was a full breakfast. Dinner was a whole fried red snapper with rice and beans for $3. It sounds insane and it was. These prices no longer exist. A snapper dinner will easily run $20 a plate now. And accommodations? Good luck finding anything for $75. Now I know I’m not camping this time around, but even last time on the nights I didn’t camp, I never paid more than $10 a night. I guess the locals have realized the foreigners have more money than they thought. Speaking of foreigners, one thing I’ll be curious to see is how many of the businesses are locally owned. I remember the last time already being aware of how many non-Ticos were running businesses. This time I will purposefully pay attention to that.

The other thing I’m curious to see  is how much Tamarindo has changed. I’ve heard they now have paved roads and the place looks like a resort town. I know it was already on it’s way to being a resort town seventeen years ago. But the locals need the growth to provide more income off the tourism, but it risks ruining why people visit there in the first place. It’s similar to what happened in my hometown on Pensacola Beach. People visited because it was untouched, unspoiled white sand beaches and now it is built to not even resemble what first attracted people there. But the local economy needs the tourism, but we lose what made it so unique. And I’m a guilty of this, I run a tourism business.

Seventeen years ago I went there knowing nothing of the culture and with no plan. This time things are a little more thought out and I have a much different purpose: Besides making memories with my family, I’m going to sell books. It costs $25 to ship one book to Costa Rica, so I will be loading up a suit case with about fifty books and try to sell them to bookstores and surf shops. I think Native Moments will sell well there with the backpacking surfing community. It is not only a fun adventure tale of wayward surfers, but it captures a moment in Tamarindo history that was around for only a short period of time and faded much too quickly. It’s something I hope people visiting the area will start to include as part of their necessary travel items. And I hope it makes its mark in the surfing literature community. Only way to make that happen though is if people discover it and read it and like it.

Can’t wait to write a follow up on this in six months. In the meantime I hope you give Native Moments a chance and enjoy it.

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