Search Google for “Costa Rica property” and it returns 435,000 hits. International property investors have been attracted to Costa Rica for many years, but recently real estate investment in the country has stepped up a gear. the CIA World Fact Book calls Costa Rica “a Central American success story”, and for sure, this Central American country has been politically and economically stable for many years. As a result it is emerging as the next big retirement and holiday home destination. This may be great for foreign investors but do the locals benefit? What will be the effect on the environment? Will all that money encourage corruption?
As I rode along the coast I passed hundreds of signs advertising land for sale, homes for sale, condos for sale. All in English, all exclaiming, “agents available now!” It felt like the place was being invaded.
A sign of the times:
I knew I was in Costa Rica when, while crossing the border, I heard some loud American complaining in English to the immigration official about something. The term Ugly American sort of came to mind. There are a lot of Americans in Costa Rica. I have heard more English here than I usually hear in South Beach. Nothing wrong with that I guess, but it has driven up the cost of living for everyone. Beer costs three times as much here than in Panama. And another thing: If you travel at least try to speak a few words of the local language. I hate those Americans who go abroad and expect everyone to know English.
Two too many?
Anyway, enough complaining for now. I left Panama and continued northwest. The road was similar to Panama: hot and humid. I also ran into a real bad stretch of dirt road that slowed me down for a day:
I finally had to hitch a ride it was so bad.
I made it to the town of Jacó on the coast. A pleasant beach town with great surfing breaks. It is a nice place to relax for a couple days. Jacó is where you also realize prostitution is legal in Costa Rica. The bars are full of scantily-clad, slim young Latinas mingling with paunchy, lascivious old gringos. Again, nothing wrong with that I suppose. Anyone have a point of view on legalizing the oldest profession?
After Jacó I turned north into the mountains and realized two other things: to be good at climbing mountains you need to climb mountains. I had been on flat ground since Colombia and now I was suffering. Some very steep gradients, I would guess up to 20%, forced me to walk my bike for the first time since Bolivia. The other thing I noticed was the lack of a shoulder to ride on. So here I am, walking my bike up a steep hill, on the road, with trucks and buses whizzing by in both directions. “This is suicidal”, I thought to myself. So after a few hours I caught a bus to the capital, San José.
Once there I was befriended by the Arias family. My father worked with Alvaro Arias in the 1960s and 70s, and they have been family friends since then. I was treated to some fantastic lunches and dinners, and Señora Leila let me stay in her house, so a very special thank you to the Arias family.
A few of the Arias family. Left to right: Alejandro, Marta, la Señora Leyla and Carlos.
Two of Alejandro’s children, Maria Alejandra and Manuel:
You can read my father’s own report of some of his Costa Rican adventures—including an amusing account of his time spent in jail—on his blog:
Lastly, another cute visitor to the Arias house: