Costa Rica Prompts U.S. Embassy To Issue Warning

Photo of author

( — April 10, 2013) Limon, Costa Rica — Costa Rica has had a spree of armed robberies that targeted foreign tourists staying in isolated hotels with minimalistic security, leading the United States Embassy to issue a publicized, security message for those living or traveling in the area.

March 27th’s cautionary announcement is likely to sound warning bells for any uninformed tourist considering vacationing on the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica. 

So what exactly is going in this sleepy corner of Central America’s quietest and safest country? The usual suspects of the largest criminal element have typically been from white-faced monkeys trying to sneak food from a bag — while its owner is obliviously swimming in the warm waters of the Caribbean! However this time, it appears that a newly released criminal returned to the area and gathered a gang together to wreck havoc on the weak security of the local hotels, which incidentally, never saw the threat coming. 

It is always easy to be critical in retrospect — lampoon the hotels for having unarmed, relaxed guards, or question the logic of tourists choosing to stay in the middle of nowhere or even blame local police for not capturing the criminals immediately. The Samasati Hotel, where 18 tourists were robbed collectively of $6,000, had been operating for years without incident. The hotel’s appeal is based on its position as a retreat from the hectic world and local police did capture four of the five gang members and are being held until trial.

Police presence in the region has been bolstered by a decision to position a number of officers in Cocles, just southeast of Puerto Viejo. Residents of Puerto Viejo have also invested in security cameras to monitor the comings and goings on the main road through their small town in order to help police with any future investigations.

The U.S. Embassy lists suggestions for crime prevention on their website.  The most important advice to follow is that of not resisting robbery attempts. Violence is usually the result of a person’s reluctance to give up their money and possessions, so it is best not to provoke it. Health is more valuable than items.

The appeal of the Caribbean for many North American and European visitors is its rustic, undeveloped charm. But it is still possible to get away from it all without being away from absolutely everything and everyone! Consider staying within one of the small towns along the Caribbean coastline — Cahuita, Puerto Viejo or Manzanillo. Crime figures for the region appear high, but virtually all violent crime occurs in the bustling Port of Limon and not the laid-back beaches to the south. 

Tourist figures are expected to dip due to this posted warning, but only until the next crime against tourists hits the headlines in another part of the world.  Limon’s incredible natural beauty and wildlife, fascinating indigenous and Afro-Caribbean culture and stretches of deserted beaches will continue to draw visitors who want to escape the crowds.  

For the freedom to explore the hidden beaches and hillside villages, to enjoy the waterfalls, or hiking through rain forests and returning to the comfort of a hotel after the day’s adventures, one would do well to rent a car in San Jose and discover the wonders of the Caribbean at one’s own pace.