Playas del Coco is a typical tourist spot on Costa Rica's northern Pacific coast. The town is a mix of local people and tourists living side by side. The dwellings of many of the locals are primitive, and are basically shacks with no flooring, no windows and garbage strewn everywhere.
However, the locals are not starving because there is no one begging for food or money as you walk past. The tourism dollars are the heart of this coastal town. Jobs and services of all kinds are directly related to tourism.
During the daylight hours, everything seems normal in this community. There is one main street in Playas del Coco, which contains a mixture of shops, bars, grocery stores, hotels, restaurants, and 'sodas'- small eateries in Costa Rica that are popular with the locals.
The nearby beach strip of El Coco is a half hour's walk, end to end. You will see the fishing boats bringing in their catch in mid morning; trucks filled with coolers of ice drive right on the beach and the fish is transferred and taken to the restaurants and stores.
The west side of the beach attracts mostly locals and is the exchange point for the loads of fish coming in; whereas the east side is closer to the hotels and tourist condominums.
However, not many swimmers partake in the waters of the Pacific, as it is generally known that the water is not clean, having been polluted over the years by substandard sewage dumping, untreated as well. So, the beach tends to be moderately inhabited, with people sunning themselves and enjoying the view, but refraining from actually bathing in the Pacific waters.
However, the issue foremost of the minds of tourists visiting Cosat Rica is their own personal security while they are here. The daytime hours are safe enough and there appears to be no restriction on people's movements in the community. But as the day darkens, and the sunset approaches, everything changes.
Here in the tropics with little or no twilight, that mean that after 6:00 pm, the day is over and night sets in. Most people you meet here from other countries agree on at least one little gem of tourist advice: if you go out at night take a taxi home!
Under the cover of darkness tourists bold enough to walk away from the town centre, on the side streets leading back to their condos and hotels run a high rsik of being mugged and robbed by locals under the influence of alcohol or drugs, or both.
In a article in the January 30, 2009 edition of Tico Times, an English language newspaper in Costa Rica, Francisco Dall'Anese, Chief Prosecutor gave some candid responses in an interview regarding crime in the country.
Unfortunately Costa Rica is viewed by the drug networks and gangs as a country of easy passage, and has not updated its laws and legislation in dealing with a notable increase in drug trafficking. Costa Ricans, or Ticos, seem oblivious to this rise, and legislators are resisting changes in the laws.
For example, Cosat Rican authorities have no wiretapping capabilities, and it is generally known that to break in to the drug networks, police have to find out who the players are, and then use insiders to penetrate the drug networks. This strategy does not exist in Costa Rica.
As a result, the proliferation of drugs available in Costa Rica filters down to the users on the streets, and once they become dependent on these drugs, they resort to robbery and violence to fund their habit.
The newly released crime statistics are a stark reminder of the effects of the increased crime in Costa Rica. The overall homicide rate in Costa Rica is 9.6 murders per 100,000 people, but in the tourist district of Guanacaste, the rate has increased from 16 to 24 homicides per 100,000. This makes the rate in Guanacaste almost as high as San Jose, the capital of Costa Rica, which has a rate of 28 per 100,000.
In comparison, the United States claimed an overall rate of 5.6 per 100,000 in 2007 whereas in Canada the rate is
In countries such as El Salvador and Honduras, the rates are staggering, more than 50 per 100,000 of population. Overall, the countries of Central America have the highest homicide rates in the world.
In conclusion, tourists should weigh this information when visiting Central America, and ensure that at least their accommodations are secure, with our recommendation for 24/7 armed security if possible. More importantly, refrain from nighttime walking. That $2. taxi ride may be worth a lot more to you than $2. in the end.