Why I will never be returning to Costa Rica 40

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Note to my readers. From the time I started this blog in 2008, I have resisted writing chronologically. I have written whenever I felt like it about whatever I felt like, whether it was from travels happening that day or three years prior.

I’m going to do my best to change that from now on and start writing in a mostly, though not always, orderly manner. In moving to a chronological format, I am seeking to try to insert some more discipline in my writing schedule and force myself to produce more content in a timely fashion — this also goes for the videos I will be doing more frequently also.

This post goes back to the end of my trip to Costa Rica in April, after the end of my biking tour with Exodus Travels that ended when I idiotically crashed my bike.


As you will remember, I crashed on the first day of my bike trip in Costa Rica. While I moronically was trying to take video footage while riding my bike on my cell phone, I went over some train tracks, lost control of my bike (though I still can’t remember any of this to this day), and went headfirst over the handlebars of the bike, face first into the asphalt pavement.

The photos after the accident of me are not exactly flattering.

The accident was completely my fault. The country of Costa Rica had no blame on its proverbial shoulders. The roads were fine. No Costa Rican driver cut me off or otherwise cause the accident. Costa Rica, you are innocent entirely in this matter.

But I still have no desire to go back ever again.

costa rica easter parade

Street parade for the Easter holiday in San Jose

Before I went down to Costa Rica to take that bike tour, I wrote in my announcement post about the trip that I hadn’t really enjoyed Costa Rica much the one time I had been there before:

Costa Rica isn’t my favorite country in the world. I was biased against it before I arrived the only other time I have been there. In the rest of Central America, the locals tend to refer to Costa Rica as Gringolandia, not only because it is the most popular expat country in that part of the world, but also because it has far more North American tourists than the rest of that part of the world (for admittedly good reasons — the tourist infrastructure is more established there than the rest of Central America and it has a long history of political stability, in comparison with its neighbors).

What I didn’t say in that post was that the first time I went down to Costa Rica I got robbed for the first time on my trip. To be technical, I didn’t get “robbed” because that means “taking of money or goods in the possession of another, from his or her person or immediate presence, by force or intimidation.”

It’s the lawyer still in me to be exact with legal terms.

I got “thieved,” but that is such a bad word. Long and short, someone swiped a credit card I had on me and bought a bunch of surf equipment before I noticed the next day. Luckily, my bank was incredible (huge shout out to the Bank of Fayetteville) and dealt with it quickly, canceling the charges and shipping a card down to me in just a couple days. It is one of the many reasons I highly suggest you actually know a real person in your bank before you travel internationally.

Costa Rica, you had nothing to blame in my theft experience in you in 2009.

But I still have no desire to go back ever again.

san jose costa rica park bench

quiet park near my hostel in San Jose

It was not my last experience with theft in Costa Rica unfortunately.

After my accident, I tried to stay with the tour group to complete the tour, take photos and video, and finish the job that I had signed up for. But I simply couldn’t.

The antibiotics had destroyed my stomach and I was having to make the follow van stop every few hours so I could take a bathroom break on the side of the road. Sleeping was difficult, because anytime I rolled over onto my right elbow or wrist, I’d wake up and yelp out in pain. It was just too difficult to be moving every day, trying to follow along the riders, so after four days of trying, I had them drop me off back in San Jose, so I could just go back to the hostel I was staying in before, have a stable place to stay for a couple weeks, and just recover.

My recovery went well. A lot faster than I thought I would, I got my stomach back. My energy level was still really low and I had a fair bit of pain in my right arm, which I basically couldn’t use for any purpose at all, but just having a stable place and being able to talk to friends and loved ones online was making my recovery come along nicely.

Why Tired is Your Enemy

Then I was just dumb and careless.

One of my blogging friends knew someone that was going to be in San Jose for the day that she wanted me to meet. We set up a time to go get an afternoon coffee nearby to where I was staying. I went into my dorm room to leave my computer and cell phone while I ran around the corner to meet her. I had been alone in the room up to then, but I noticed a new dorm roommate sleeping in one of the beds as I went in and tossed my computer and phone under the covers of my bed, before I rushed out.

When I came back, the guy was gone and so was my computer and phone.

There was a ten to fifteen minute period where I just didn’t comprehend what happened. I went through my backpack about five times, not that a 15 inch MacBook Pro is easy to misplace in a small backpack. I knew I had left it on the bed, carelessly, but I just didn’t register that it was stolen.

I’m not going to say which hostel this was, because frankly it was 100% my fault and not theirs, and the hostel owner was a true champion for me. He took me to the police station to report the theft, which took almost five hours, translated everything for me to them, found the passport information for the guy in my room and gave it to the police, and later helped me sort out how to buy a replacement computer in town.

The whole thing was totally my fault. I was just exhausted mentally and physically and didn’t think to lock up my stuff for the half hour I was going to be gone.

It turned out this guy was one of the (very rare, but it happens) dangers of staying in a dorm room. He had checked in to this place just an hour or two before stealing my stuff. He was obviously there for that purpose. He grabbed my computer and phone, stuffed it into a small bag he had, left his bigger backpack with some clothes in it — to make it look like he’d be back, and just walked out.

Pure snatch and grab deal.

They never caught him or found my computer. Luckily, there wasn’t much on either of them that I needed — but I did lose some funny video of me talking to the computer a few days after my wreck, making jokes about how I looked for a future video diary (“Yea, I look bad, but you should see the other guy” and “I didn’t know Mike Tyson was in Costa Rica” — perhaps my sense of humor wasn’t in full display in my condition). I also never looked at the footage of my wreck on my cell phone, but it was gone also.

Insurance covered most of my losses and both the theft and my injuries ended up not being a horrible deal at all. Just inconvenient.

Costa Rica, again you had nothing to blame for my theft.

But I still have no desire to go back to your country.

Why Won’t I Go Back?

There isn’t anything wrong with Costa Rica. In fact, it is the Latin American country that I recommend to friends and followers that ask me about taking their first trip to the region because it is so tourist-friendly.

I just have had horrible luck there. I’ve had stuff stolen twice. I got into a pretty bad accident. I had a massive fight, again my fault which appears to be a trend, with a close friend while I was there that I still haven’t recovered from. I really haven’t enjoyed any of my time there at all. There are zero good memories for me in that country.

The world is a huge place and there is tons to see. I’m not saying you shouldn’t go to Costa Rica, in fact, please do. Have a great time and enjoy yourself mightily. We all have different experiences in different places and just because I have sworn off a place should mean absolutely nothing when you consider what you want to do.

But I won’t be back in that country for any reason.

Sometimes a place is just cursed for someone — and Costa Rica is a cursed location for me.

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About Michael Hodson

I’m an attorney that took off on my birthday in December of 2008 to circumnavigate the globe without ever getting on an airplane. After 16 months, 6 continents and 44 countries, I made it all the way back home. Right now, I am back on the road writing about it all.

40 thoughts on “Why I will never be returning to Costa Rica

  • Lance | Trips By Lance

    Yes, just because those negative situations were your fault if you had a bad experience in a country there isn’t much reason to return with so many places in the world to see. You gave it more than the “old college try.” It just didn’t work out for you.

    • Michael Hodson Post author

      Yep, that’s pretty much how I feel about it. Heck, I encourage other people to go. But the world is a big place. Something we me and there just doesn’t click.

  • Cacinda Maloney

    I can hardly blame you. Sometimes those bad experiences just make it where it is not worth a return. I had an issue in Berlin and just really never want to go back there, so I get it.

    • Michael Hodson Post author

      Everyone loves and hates people based on what they experienced in a limited amount of time. For me, I love Berlin. Headed there next weekend. But I don’t begrudge you hating it.

  • Anita Mac

    wow – that is certainly a string of bad luck! I would be devastated if I lost my laptop – not so much for the hardware, but definitely for the stuff that I have stored there! Yet another reminder that I really must find a better back up system!

    Ironic that you are talking about not going to Costa Rica. Has been on my bucket list for ages, but lately I haven’t been feeling it! I feel like everyone goes there and I am looking for something a little less touristed! I am sure I will get there some day, but for now, my interests are waning!

    • Michael Hodson Post author

      Ahhhh, the backup. Yea, I could handle losing the laptop and the phone, but if the guy had grabbed my whole backpack, with my 4 backup hard drives.

      THEN, I’d be singing a different song.

    • Michael Hodson Post author

      It is a big, big, big word. I realized that when I circled it on the ground. Lots and lots of places left to see.

  • Joe @ Cosmic Smudge

    I actually used to feel the same way about New Orleans. I had a lot of bad experiences there — my brother-in-law was shot (in the leg. he was ok), almost got in fights twice (once my fault. once trying to stand up for a stranger), my ex-wife moved there (enuf said)…None of this was really new Orleans’ fault (ok, some of it was) …But a couple years ago, against my better judgement, I went back and had a great time. So, I’m not sure if there’s any lesson in all that….

    • Michael Hodson Post author

      Joe, the only lesson is that life is strange and weird… and cool.

      And I agree with all that.

  • Mike

    In 1982, I had the time of my life in Florence — great pensione on the Arno a block from the Ponte Vecchio, easy walks from there to the Uffizi, the Pitti, and the Duomo, a Stravinsky opera, and Vivoli’s, where I found out what all the fuss about gelato was for. Four days later, in Venice, it rained the whole time I was there, the owner of our hotel was out of town so all of a sudden we had to pay daily for towels and sheets, and the staff failed to clean up after another patron recycled his dinner on the entrance stairs. Can’t wait to get back to Florence; you can’t pay me to go back to Venice. Even though it wasn’t Venice’s fault.

    • Michael Hodson Post author

      I wish I’d been traveling like that back in 1982.

      Yea, the thing is that we really have a short time for a place to make an impression. And the impression lasts, for better or worse.

      Sometimes just the luck of the draw, or in your case, luck of the weather.

  • Aileen

    Ha, thats funny I have the exact same feeling about Costa Rica, and have no desire to return. In fact every time I think about it I shudder. What an accursed place! (…or perhaps it was just bad luck/decision making on my part, sorry CR 😉

    • Michael Hodson Post author

      It was a very bad luck month or two there. Thank goodness that all is back on the right track now.

  • joan mckniff

    Yes, you had a series of negative experiences, several totally your fault, but why use such a trash the country in your headline, which will be all many see/read, about a decent country, no military, just closed all animal performance operations, which depends on tourism for much of their income? Irresponsible behavior by you. .

    • Michael Hodson Post author


      Not why you shouldn’t go or anyone else. Pretty clearly, I’m talking just about me in the headline.

  • Aleah | SolitaryWanderer.com

    I was also robbed in the hostel I stayed at in Bangkok. The thief took all my credit cards while I was in the bathroom. That was a really expensive lesson for me to learn; prior to that experience, I never thought my belongings would be stolen from a hostel. Pretty naive huh.

    • Michael Hodson Post author

      Aleah, oddly… same thing happened to me in a hotel in Bangkok. Wonder if it was the same place!

  • Jennifer

    Man oh man, you really did have a rash of bad luck in Costa Rica! I did a study abroad there in high school and I don’t want to go back, but for fear the places I loved so much will not be wrought with tourists.

    • Michael Hodson Post author

      Yea, the fact it is so touristy doesn’t really bug me that much. I have LOVED some tourist places. Siem Reap. Venice. Etc.

      But yea…. not Costa Rica.

  • Gaelyn

    Can certainly understand why you don’t want to go back, but good for some. While doing research for a trip to Costa Rica last Fall I kept being more depressed about how tourista it seemed. All of a sudden, South Africa called my traveler’s spirit, and I returned for the second time. Going back again this year. Costa Rica works its way lower on the list.

  • Lindsey

    I know that feeling all too well, and sometimes our opinions of a place just can’t be shaken. I’m glad the bank was able to get onto the card theft easily, and I hope the loss of your laptop didn’t set you back too much – I know I’d be devastated if mine was stolen!

    • Michael Hodson Post author

      It wasn’t too bad really. The main bummer is that I had to downgrade on the new laptop specs, because they couldn’t order the one I had. O well. My fault.

    • Michael Hodson Post author

      And see… all of that sounds horrible…. and it is right up at the top of my list of places to go.

  • Casey

    Frankly, none of it sounds like it had anything to do with luck. So, yeah, fine, don’t come back, but maybe a look in the mirror would serve you better than writing off an entire country. Really, I’m just trying to be helpful…

    • Michael Hodson Post author

      Appreciate it. But you like or don’t like places based mostly on the experiences you have there, whether good or bad.

      I haven’t had a single good time in Costa Rica. There are about 200 other countries in the world. 80 or so of which I can say I’ve enjoyed.

      That’s good enough for me.

  • Jordana

    Truly unfortunate. It’s so rare to come across a traveler who writes off an entire country. And when they do, it’s usually because of a conflict of morality or principle, not theft and biking accidents. And by the sounds of it, you spent the better part of trip on an organized tour, which let’s face it, will of course place you squarely in the path of thieves, con-artists and indecent human beings. You’re a target. On the other hand, personal accounts of travel experiences are essential, good and bad. And for anyone discrediting the author’s opinion, let’s remember that we’re all entitled to our opinions, and we are certainly not required to love every destination we travel to!

    • Michael Hodson Post author

      I’ve done it on an organized tour and independently. In fact, I spent a week before and after this tour there on my own.

      Yea, just don’t like it. Like you said, not required to love every place we go to. And I just don’t like Costa Rica.

  • Barbara

    Sounds like a good decision you have made…sometimes enough is enough. Not many good memories and way too many bad ones, time to move on and as you said the world is a huge place and there is tons to see! Happy travels to you and stay safe.

    • Michael Hodson Post author

      Thanks Barbara. Currently in one of my favorite places in the world, Costa Brava. So, I don’t have a bias against “Costa”s or Spanish speaking countries 😉

  • Caroline @ Traveling 9 to 5

    Not every place is going to grab your interest – I agree with it’s a big world out there and there’s a lot to explore. No need to return to a city (at least right away) that doesn’t spark your wanderlust!

  • Claire

    It’s unfortunate, but it happens: sometimes personal experiences affect how you feel about the place you’re in. It’s definitely happened to me. There are plenty of other places out there!

  • jennifer

    I am surprised you are getting any negative comments. You clearly state that it is your own fault. I do not blame you for not going back. Why should you? You have not had the best of luck there, even if it is your own fault, there is something about Costa Rica that makes you do dumb stuff. It happens.

    Sometimes I do return to places I hate, just to give them a second chance. It usually ends with me not only still hating the place, but also hating myself because I wasted time going to somewhere I knew I hated, when I could have instead, discovered a new place in the world.

  • Michelle

    I totally understand. I feel this way about Bali. I need to re-evaluate whether it was just my experiences there or if it truly is a place I won’t recommend to ANYONE at this point.

    • Jordana

      You wouldn’t return or recommend Bali to anyone? Wow! I’ve spent over months traveling and researching it. It certainly has it’s rough patches. Would be interested to hear your thoughts…if you feel like sharing of course.

  • Casey @ A Cruising Couple

    So sorry to hear about your experience in Costa Rica, but like you said, you can’t love everywhere you go. I have to admit I was a bit intrigued to read this as we have just decided we will be spending the fall in Costa Rica ourselves. Glad to hear at least you don’t blame it on Costa Rica!

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