As my professor of South Pacific Studies at the University of Victoria in British Columbia once said, “There are no perfect paradises left”. Costa Rica comes much closer than most nations, and has tended to keep the world’s problems at arms length. It has had a slow, almost uneventful beginning leading to a relatively peaceful history. Today, the factors that historically limited the expansion of civilizations and empires are the very reasons that Costa Rica tourism receives in excess of a million visitors per year. Tourist arrivals and Costa Rica lodging revenues are on a general increase every year compared to the global average, maintaining a positive cash flow. Turtle hunters and egg gatherers can make more money as Costa Rica tourism guides explaining their nesting habits. Sharp-eyed guides now point out wildlife for visitors, rather than hunting and poaching or upsetting the environment in search for gold. The pre-Columbian art of pottery making is being revived in Guanacaste, and the Talamanca Indians are expanding the market for their natural medicinal rainforest products. Because of the quality of visitors, Costa Rica tourism have been mostly positive, making Ticos more aware of what they have and their need to protect it.
People who have proof read the above articles have indicated that I have taken some of their enthusiasm out of Costa Rica travel. It was not the intension of this article to dampen the reader’s spirit about visiting or even living in Costa Rica. You would still be hard pressed to find a better, more fulfilling and interesting country. The purpose was to raise awareness of issues that have been swept under the marketing carpet, the other side of Costa Rica. With no perfect paradises left, a Costa Rica vacation comes closer than all the countries I have visited. That’s why I live here. Costa Rica has its share of problems like anywhere, but with the richness of the land and the pride, resiliency and motivation of the Ticos to make the necessary changes, Costa Rica also has viable solutions, and an increasingly bright future.