My Favorite Waves – The Quepos Rivermouth
Envision Music Festival
How the Envision Festival Changed my Life and Community

Over the last 20 years I’ve heard the same stories multiple times. Here is the first one “I had locked up the car and hid my bag under the seat, but when I came back one of the doors was open and they took everything inside. I was gone only ten minutes.” 

I do not need to tell you what beaches these events took place on because it happens EVERYWHERE. And not just in Costa Rica. But for some reason people let their guard down when visiting the beaches here. It even happens to expats after a few years of living here and to Ticos as well. 

So how do we get these crimes to stop happening? To really solve the problem we have to tackle the issue of why people are stealing in the first place. Maybe its drug addiction, maybe they didn’t get an education so are jobless, maybe they need money for medicine for their child. These problems will take a countrywide solution so in the short term let’s focus on how to protect yourself and your items.

#1 – Do not leave anything inside of it that looks valuable! No cables, sunglasses, fancy clothes or bags – and definitely no suitcases. If you have to leave something, put it under the floormat or hide it somewhere where it would take a longer time to find. Thieves don’t want to stick around to search around. Also get your car rental dirty and put a sticker or two on it so it doesn’t look so blatantly tourist. On some beaches you can park next to a family hanging out by their car and ask them to keep an eye on it, or ask how long they will be there.  Knowing Spanish helps, but even just saying “Hola” will build up a little trust and friendship.

Is that granola, or a hiding place for a cell phone?

PART 2 –

To further expound on the issue of safety in our coastal communities, here is another story I’ve heard. “We were on this beautiful beach with no one around so we left our beach bag on our towel and walked down to the ocean for a dip. Right after I ducked my head under the water, I looked back and saw a man picking up my bag and then running back into the jungle.”

If you are at any beach, not just in Costa Rica, then you should not leave your belongings unattended. If there is someone nearby who looks trustworthy, I’ll ask them to watch it. I’m talking of a towel and flops, not a phone or passport though. You can leave your passport in a safe in your hotel and take a picture of the front page and the page with the entry stamp. Of course, you could leave your phone in the safe, too, but the reality is the phone is often coming with us. For the beach, I would bring a plastic sealable bag, like a bag for granola, and I’d put the phone in that.

That’s for random rain shower protection and if someone looked on my towel, they are going to see a bag of granola, not the phone. Then if I had to leave my towel and my bag for a few minutes, and no one was around, I would dig a hole and put the phone in it and then cover it back up with my towel. I would actually dig two holes so it would take longer for someone to figure out where the phone was.

Most thieves hide in the shade just off the sand and wait for you to jump in the water.
They will run out, grab the bag, and run back into the trees. So if you cannot bury your bag, at least take it with you as far as you can from the tree line so they have farther to run to get it.

PART 3 –

This last example has happened more than once. “My girlfriend and I were walking home on this empty stretch of beach under a starlit sky. Everything felt very romantic until these two guys jumped out – one of them was holding a gun and the other had a machete. They made us give them everything – jewelry, wallets, and phones, and then they tied us up.“

Tourists and locals should be aware that you may be in danger on any stretch of beach at night and take common sense precautions. Here is my advice: Don’t wear or carry anything valuable.  Walk with a larger group of people (at least 4 people). Take a flashlight if needed, but at times on fuller moons you will actually see more if your eyes adjust to the night sky. And shining your flashlight around attracts attention. What I do at times is walk closer to the water so that I am are harder to see and hear from the beach tree line. If they don’t know I’m there, they can’t rob me.  And most importantly, tell a friend (or text them) where you are going before you leave so if you are gone for too long, someone will know where to look for you.

If something does happen, be sure to report it. There are police stations in Quepos, Dominical, Uvita, and Ojochal. Even if there is little chance of an arrest, conviction or recovery of assets an official report will be required for insurance, credit card coverage (some credit cards will replace anything stolen in the first 30-90 days after purchase), or to claim the theft loss deduction on your income taxes.

99% percent of the time you will be fine, and walking on the beach at night under a bright canopy of stars is a magical experience. Just take a few precautions to make sure you and your companions stay safe.

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