Costa Rica is a fabulous country with fabulous people, diverse in terrain, climate and wildlife. It has one of the highest literacy rates in the world, one of the oldest democracies south of the United States border, no standing army – and very good salsa dancers. A smile goes far here, as it does in most places in the world (Global Traveler’s Secret #1).
Expect to meet wonderful, friendly Costa Ricans called Ticos/Ticas. They are a gentle people, sometimes a bit shy until you look them in the eye and smile. They are not to be feared as thieves or rip-off artists, and unlike other Latin American countries, Ticos rarely bargain over prices (many are offended by the very concept – they really don’t get it, and have never even heard of such a thing), but they may give you a discount for payment in cash (…avoiding the tax man).
Costa Ricans are typically soft spoken and love children. They shake hands when meeting you, as do their children. They expect you and yours to do the same.
When Costa Ricans enter a building, they say hello to almost everyone there – sometimes one-by-one – even when they don’t know them. Ticos always find time to greet people (my guess is that if my house were burning down, I would still get a pleasant greeting from the firemen before emergency services kicked in – these are truly friendly folk!)
Once Ticos are past infancy, they do not lose their temper in public. Pura Vida, right? Hence, the only way to not get ahead in this country, make a fool of yourself, and guarantee not to get what you want, is to lose your temper. Costa Ricans are actually amused when adults become angry, because they can not fathom an adult choosing to embarrass themselves in that way. On the other hand, when you smile, lighten up a situation, make a joke, Ticos will go to any extreme to help you out.
They are a genuine people, and appreciate connecting with you on the same level.
If you are traveling with young children, especially toddlers, consider for a moment that the Osa is a jungle: a wild and remote place with all sorts of flora and fauna, often beautiful and intriguing, but at the same time often dangerous. The beach is gorgeous and generally family friendly but is also an ocean, inviting but unpredictable. Many a fuzzy caterpillar can sting like you wouldn’t believe, and Costa Rica doesn’t have much in the way of building codes or other safety concerns – nor legal concerns. If you decide to bring your Precious Little Ones, plan to keep your eyes on them.