Rant: Costa Rica is not for everyone

Costa Rica is a good place to visit for your first time out of the country or if you are particularly fragile yet desire some adventure. It’s somewhere easily accessible with friendly people. Spanish is the language, but a lot of people speak English or are patient enough to try and communicate with you while you gesture and point. I mean look people – it’s a popular destination for teenagers on spring break, there are US citizens retiring here in droves – Costa Rica is becoming another Florida!!

But not everyone can hack it.

cow tongue

Costa Rica is too jarring for some people, which came as quite a shock to me. Of course I know there are people who are too fragile to travel or maybe they just lack the desire. I’m talking about people with dreams of traveling who come to Costa Rica and run at the first sign of a different culture.

That’s right. Costa Rica has a different culture than the United States. Shocker!

Maybe this post should be titled “Traveling is not for everyone.” I mean, seriously, who travels to a Spanish-speaking country and complains about the language barrier?! Who travels outside of the US and complains that the foreign country is not more like the US?! What exactly was the point in leaving the US to begin with?

Advice for this type of closed-minded person: start your journey within the US. Leave the small US town to travel to a slightly larger town, eventually make your way to Chicago, LA, New York, maybe Miami, and THEN leave the country. Maybe start your first journey outside the US to another developed country instead of coming to a developing rainforest country to complain about the dirt. Hello, it’s a jungle.

Life is about opportunities. You can be a Yes person or you can be No person. I wish we could bottle up the No people and drop them in to the sea, leaving them to float in their foggy No bottles to their new home in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, opening up the Yes world to more possibilities, more opportunities for learning, and an abundance of positivity.


  1. says

    Whoa! This is creepy. I got a post running tomorrow that deals with the dopes still in the U.S. that are haranguing us for moving to CR. Since I have family in SW FL that often refer to “another planeload of assholes” we will do our best not to make CR into FL. See ya soon.

    • Erin says

      Dopery must be in the air. Or the US water supply. Maybe it got contaminated. Good thing y’all are coming down to Costa Rica!

  2. says

    Wow! Sounds as though some people have really been getting on your nerves recently. I love to read a good old rant. I could go on for ages on our blog about some of the Brits who live in Turkey – but they’d probably hunt me down. :)

  3. says

    “travel within the US first” is great advice. There is a lot to get used to down here, but if you already are open to different people, different foods, different dialects, perhaps it will be easier for you here. Or not, there are plenty of people make a hobby out of complaining.

    I love reading the tripadvisor reviews when people complain about the bugs. Hello….it’s a rainforest. I would much rather deal with bugs in the jungle then sit in traffic on the New Jersey Turnpike.

    Thanks for a great post.

    • Erin says

      Thanks nadine! You know, I was actually surprised there weren’t more bugs in Costa Rica. I think the biodiversity, the sheer variety of bugs, helps to dampen their effect. It’s not like a GIANT swarm of mosquitos – there are mosquitos and other types swarming, too. :)

  4. says

    Amen to that! When I was booking my trip to Colombia my parents did their damnedest to get me to go to Costa Rica instead, sending me articles about how many Americans are going there and thinking this might actually make me want to go!!!

    Traveling is about leaving the comfort zone and learning to be comfortable in new surroundings, not about finding the most American place outside of the US. It cracks me up when people pass judgment on an entire country based on one visit when they stayed in a resort the whole time. Heheee. Enjoyed your rant, Erin!

    • Erin says

      Thanks Jenna. I think a lot of people see the press about Costa Rica being a hotspot for North American vacationers and come here expecting it to be like North America, but less expensive. And they can have that experience if they stick to the resorts and close their eyes while driving through the country. oh well. To each their own… As long as they aren’t complaining about it if they do happen to open their eyes.

    • Erin says

      oh the tragedy! Mexican food is so delicious! And the irony! Here in Costa Rica, the McDonalds often make people sick because of improper food handling and gross ingredients. You have much better luck eating at a soda (small, typical, restaurant with YUMMY food).
      …mmm mexican food, I miss it.

      • icysurfer says

        2 and a half weeks in Mex. Nothing but Mexican Food, sea and vegetarian. No Red meat or poultry for that matter. No Alcohol, either. Ruins vacations especially in hot enviorns. Anyway, the food was great as usual. Until the last night at an Airport hotel, before the return flight, ate Pizza Hut was sick for a week. haha…

  5. says

    I hate hate hate people who complain about language barriers when they go abroad. “Oh, they know English speakers are going to come to this place, so why don’t they learn to speak it?”

    Those kind of people are exactly the types to complain about “foreigners coming into our country who should learn how to speak English properly.”


    • Erin says

      I saw a man in the airport yelling about that – that everyone in Costa Rica should know English since tourism is such a huge part of the economy. !

      • says

        so I guess according to that guy, anyone who visits Costa Rica speaks English OR that every Tico/a working there should learn every language spoke around the world…I’m not sure.

        People sometimes make me crazy!

        • Erin says

          That guy probably thinks everyone in the world should speak English in order to make his life easier. …I wonder what he was doing in Costa Rica…

  6. says

    I love to encourage people to travel and experience the world, but with time I have come to accept that it is not for everyone. Some people are better off staying at home and not giving other travelers a bad name!

  7. says

    I’ve seen these people before too. One guy got in the “cash only” line at a supermarket in Panama with a credit card. The cashier couldn’t ring him up and he flipped out. Yelling at her in English, and then pissed that she didn’t understand him.

    Next he looked at me for support, but I just told him “it’s not her fault you’re too lazy to learn Spanish”.

    He wasn’t very happy. :)

    • Erin Morris says

      Wowww. Xanax. I’m telling you, it’s what these people need. You don’t even need to understand Spanish to get that it’s a cash only line – gestures should suffice. I’m glad you spoke up and defended the cashier. Pobrecita.

      • icysurfer says

        That is what domestic destinations are for, right..? Grand Canyon, Disneyworld. A Beer Factory. There could be a test administered with Passport Applications. Ugly Americans would be denied as a possible national embarassment.

  8. says

    Oh my god, I’ve seen cartoons like that first picture but never an ACTUAL photo of that happening!! Too funny. Personally, I embrace differences between my own culture and that of the places where I travel… I think I’d love Costa Rica, from all I’ve seen of it here! :)


  9. Erik says

    Costa Rica sucks; But maybe not to most of stupid Americans who know nothing better. They all flock there like it is heaven on earth; but it is the farthest from this. But what do Americans know? They will not venture into real ethnic cultures, and they will not master any other foreign language. Some of them are living in CR with the Fiance’ simply because they could not find anybody in the US; yep. And there they can teach English, or write a blog in English- for the Americans. So much for culture assimilation.

    • Erin Morris says

      Thanks for the comment.
      I would respond, but it’s unclear what you mean by “real ethnic culture,” as well as “Americans.” Did you know that America has a North, Central, and South?
      And the last part seems downright derogatory. You knock writing blogs, yet here you are reading and commenting on one. ha.

    • icysurfer says

      Has the Commenter been there..? If so, for more than one week..? I venture that this poster has never set foot in Central America.

  10. says

    This is just great. I hear it all the time from friends and people from the older generation (aka my parents ;-)) who come back from traveling: it’s difficult to get around, the food is weird, the hotel rooms are so tiny, we got lost, we were jet-lagged for 3 days! WTF people? I agree with you completely, Erin. Stay home. Go to Disney where there is a sign every 5 feet herding the cattle into the correct lines so junior doesn’t throw a temper tantrum.

    But the positive is that the more these xenophobes stay home, the less they screw up our fave worldwide destinations…

  11. Tom says

    I’m particularly happy that you both mentioned and included a link to the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. A great deal of people are not even aware that this chaos exist!
    Props, E..

  12. says

    Hence why I’ve decided to start my journey in Nicaragua first. Then I’ll be going to Costa Rica. I expect myself to make a fool with my broken Spanish, but I need to start practicing somewhere.

    • Erin Morris says

      ooo where are you going in Costa Rica? There are so many options. I’ve got my own eyes set on the Osa Peninsula for my next trip. It requires more planning than just hopping in a car, though.

      • says

        After my trip to San Juan del Sur, I’m going to cross into CR and stay in the Tamarindo area. After that, not sure if I’ll stay in another location in CR, or continue on towards Panama. Where are you thinking in the Osa Peninsula?

        • Erin Morris says

          For Osa, I want to check out at the very least Corcovado. Osa is the densest most biodiverse place in the world.

          While you are in Tamarindo, venture out and explore some of the other beaches around the area that are less inhabited. There is a lot of variety in the types of beaches you can find it that area and some are sooooo beautiful. I love that area (not so much Tamarindo, but that’s my preference, others love it) as well as the Nicoya Peninsula. Let me know if you find yourself near the Central Pacific or Central Valley.

    • icysurfer says

      Don;t go to Santa Teresa/Malpais. It is not good. The Surf is poor, the people unattractive. The Food tepid, even the sunsets are Black-and-White. Really, don;t go there.

      Unless of course you want to find a really cool International area for surfing and Chillin like Bob Dylan.

        • icysurfer says

          It;s rare for Me to KNOW that I will return to a specific Town/Area even before I leave it to return to Redwood Babylon after months there. Just the right Funky Factor for me.

          Many Open-Eyed ‘Merkins are out there travelling. There are certain destinations around the world where they can be seen in greater percentages,. CR is one of these places. It can be tropical squalor, or the ultimate Outdoor destination. Your Choice.. Most travellers to CR are not tourists per se. They are surfing, or looking for fresh air at worst. Beaming and catching waves as well as other great experiences await. The Pacific Sunsets are well-nigh religious events..!!!

          Still the Country has problems. So, no one should expect perfection. Anywhere for that matter, But, make sure to keep an eye on your belongings at the beach, or else..! Bring 4 pairs of cheap flip-flops, instead of 1 pair of expensive ones.

          They are too alive to spend time complaining on blogs, or anywhere else…

  13. says

    Haha! I love this! And completely AGREE!

    I went with my family one time to one of those stinky American resorts in Dominican Republic after hearing so many recommendations and at a moment when my family was in dire need of mental rest after something bad happened in our lives.

    Well, we went and said it would be the last time ever. Watching fat Americans (sorry!) get drunk and act like kings all day long in a different country without even trying to say Hola or Gracias was absurd! We spent our entire time chatting and hanging out with the Dominicans who were amazing people and in the end regretted that we stayed in a resort instead of staying in one of the local cities.

    How can you go to the other country and still expect it to be America?

    • Erin Morris says

      Yeah, I don’t get it. I guess some of these people just don’t think much or don’t care about anyone except themselves. Oh well. Not everyone can be the same!

  14. says

    I’ve been in Costa Rica for six years and I’m still amazed at the amount of gringos(as) that don’t speak a word of Spanish. I mean shame on you! And they expect the locals to communicate in English. Now, lets reverse that situation and put you in Miami, which is a bi-lingual city. How would you feel if you lived there and only spoke English and the tourists all started demanding the you speak Spanish. This absolutely makes no sense. I learned basic Spanish in my first year and by my fifth year I was speaking advanced Spanish.

    • icysurfer says

      It is deplorable. No matter which country, which language.

      The upside is that these folks do not last, and when they bring new money some folks benefit from it.

  15. Catherine says

    And for all those people who are sooooooo bothered by the fact that not all the universe speaks english, it’s actually FUN to learn a new language!!! I speak 3 languages, french, english and spanish and I can tell you that I can travel ANYWHERE in the world and have absolutely no problem!!! And, when you speak the language of the country you’re in, you get so much more out of it!! New friends, learning the culture, special treatment, and it’s always nice to really get out of your routine and be entirely somewhere else, including speaking another language. Isn’t that what a vacation is supposed to be? Getting out of your little bubble and enjoying yourself?

    English-speaking people in general want EVERYBODY to speak english wether you are in their country or they are in yours. Where’s the logic in that?? I work in the restaurant business and let me give you an example. Americans demand that we serve them in english because they don’t speak french ( I live in Quebec, a french-canadian province) and when I go to the States, I STILL have to speak english everywhere I go. I always have to accomodate! But , it makes me richer because I learned english AND spanish on my own and I can be proud when I go somewhere and speak with the locals. Makes the experience of the vacation much more real.

    I’m going to Costa Rica with my husband soon and I can’t wait!! We both speak spanish AND english AND french so we’re not stuck on a resort, we rented a condo and we can plan everything and do as we please without needing someone to deal everything for us or translate. It’s the same when we go to Mexico, Europe, Cuba, all over the States and Canada….it makes us FREE. Free to live our vacation to the fullest.

    Open your minds and people will open their arms!!!!!!
    A bientôt! See you soon!!! Hasta luego!!!
    Cat :)

  16. Julia morse says

    I am in Costa Rica helping my daughter who broke her leg while seeing a waterfall in a National Park. Everyone has been helpful but ubfortunately the medical level of treatment is kind of like that of the USA maybe 40 years ago when I broke my arm. Tha specialist in Quepos which is the nearest hospital to Manuel Antonio set her leg in a wrong position and used almost an inch of plaster to cast it. After two weeks of atill feeling terrible she and I went to CIMA Hospital . CIMA was started by American doctors. They have a website listing all their doctors and the specialty. The doctor we chose was Harvard Medical School educated and a Costa Rican University undergraduate so bilingual. It took him a half hour to saw off the plaster cast, he reset the broken bone with a lightweight fiberglass cast temporarily and the next day he performed a two hour operation putting in a strip of metal and seven screws. My point is dual. Costa Rica does have high level medical care but only at CIMA. And second getting there from anywhere but San Jose takes time but it is worth it.

    • Erin Morris says

      awww I’m so sorry your daughter had to go through that! There are many fine doctors in the Central Valley, not just at CIMA. But there are also many unexperienced or subpar docs in more remote areas of the country. I had to get stitched up once at the hospital in Puerto Viejo and it was without pain meds and the tools must have been like 40 years old. …and they slapped me when I screamed “F*ck” as they slid the needle into the wound on my un-numbed foot. However, my experiences in Central Valley have mostly been better than the care I was receiving in the States. Especially the good dentists here.
      I hope your daughter heals well and can put this all behind her soon.

    • Erin Morris says

      I recommend talking to several people and reading a variety of blogs. Avoid the blogs and websites that make it seem like Costa Rica is a perfect paradise. It’s not. Like every place, it has its pros and cons.

  17. says

    Agree with what you say in here. I don’t understand why some people spend a lot of money to travel to some places and they come back without any positive to say about the place they visited. I don’t know if they hear all the hype about places like Costa Rica and believe it is very similar to the United States. But don’t worry. I don’t think people like the ones you describe will last long in Costa Rica (or will want to visit back). Meanwhile, we can continue enjoying the jungles of Central America.

  18. says

    It was great to find your blog, thanks for popping by mine! Costa Rica is one of the places that are on my “to do” list, I would love to spend an extended period of time there. I look forward to reading more about it here! :)

    • Erin Morris says

      Costa Rica is changing, a lot, and fast. I recommend coming sooner than later and don’t miss the Osa Peninsula. Thanks for popping over. I’ll see you around the interwebs :)

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