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Updated: 1 hour 32 min ago

Brazil’s Bolsonaro completes cabinet with rightist environment chief

6 hours 32 min ago

Brazilian president-elect Jair Bolsonaro, a longtime climate-change skeptic, has named a rightist lawyer with a contentious background to be environment minister in the country whose Amazon rainforest is under threat.

As with all his major announcements, Bolsonaro used Twitter to appoint Ricardo de Aquino Salles and fill the final vacancy of his 22-member cabinet.

Comunico a indicação do Sr. Ricardo de Aquino Salles para estar à frente do futuro Ministério do Meio Ambiente.

— Jair M. Bolsonaro (@jairbolsonaro) December 9, 2018

About one-third of the ministers are from the armed forces.

Brazil’s incoming leader, who takes office on Jan. 1, 2019, had earlier reversed a decision to combine the Environment Ministry with the Agriculture Ministry, after strong resistance from ecologists and the farming sector.

Salles was environment minister of São Paulo state from 2016 to 2017, but left accused of altering plans for an environmentally protected area to favor private companies, the local press reported.

Salles, 43, has denied the accusations but he stepped down from office in August 2017, barely a year after his arrival.

Affiliated with the rightist Novo party, he ran for a seat in the National Congress in October but was defeated.

In late November the Brazilian government canceled plans to host next year’s COP25 United Nations global climate conference, a follow-on to this year’s UN conference in Poland that has underscored the severity of climate change.

In announcing the cancelation, Brazil’s foreign ministry cited “financial and budgetary restrictions” and the government transition.

Brazilian lawyer Ricardo de Aquino Salles on July 19, 2016 in Sao Paulo, Brazil. (AFP Photo / Sao Paulo state government)

But Bolsonaro, who has long questioned the value of the Paris climate agreement to cap global warming, later admitted “taking part” in the decision to withdraw its offer to host COP25.

An ex-military man of 63, he vowed during his election campaign to weaken environmental enforcement in order to boost commercial ventures in the Amazon and elsewhere.

Brazil had long been a leader in the global struggle to limit climate change, setting ambitious goals for reducing greenhouse gas emissions and slowing the deforestation of the Amazon.

Still, Greenpeace warned in late November that deforestation in Brazil has reached such epic proportions that an area equivalent to one million football pitches was lost in the year to July 2018.

The Amazon rainforest is under threat from illegal logging as well as farming, in particular from soybean plantations and pasture land for cattle.

Bolsonaro’s pick for foreign minister, Ernesto Araujo, has hit out at “climate scare-mongering.”

The president elect’s appointment of Tereza Cristina as agriculture minister also caused concerns as she heads the agribusiness lobby in Congress and is a supporter of clearing more forested area to make way for pasture land and agriculture.

Thanks for reading The Tico Times. We strive to keep you up to date about everything that’s been happening in Costa Rica. We work hard to keep our reporting independent and groundbreaking, but we need your help. The Tico Times is partly funded by you and every little bit helps. If all our readers chipped in a buck a month we’d be set for years.

Support the Tico Times
Categories: Nacionales

Costa Rica to purchase eight new trains from Chinese company

9 hours 11 min ago

The Costa Rican Railroad Institute (INCOFER) announced that it will buy eight new trains from CRRC Quingdao Sifang Co. Ltd, a Chinese company dedicated to researching, developing and manufacturing railway locomotives and rolling stock products.

The announcement, made Dec. 3, detailed that each 38-meter train consist of two Diesel Multiple Units (DMUs) —train cars with onboard diesel engines— and can hold 372 passengers.

The engines are being made to INCOFER specifications and will have noise reduction technology and comply with EU STAGE IIIA environmental standards, according to a press release from the Casa Presidencial.

“We have the obligation to modernize our railway system to guarantee sustainable, efficient and quality transportation for our population,” said First Lady Claudia Dobles, an architect and urban planner whose taken on urban mobility as a cause.

“Our medium-term goal is the electric train, and in the short term it’s essential to renovate our current rolling stock, which is exactly what INCOFER is announcing today.”

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The project will cost $32.7 million and includes maintenance equipment, workshops, spare parts and training for INCOFER employees.

“The technical proposal by CRRC Quingdao Sifang Co., Ltd. is serious and it complies with the technical parameters required by INCOFER during the bidding process,” said Elizabeth Briceño, executive president of INCOFER.

The trains, which are said to have a 30-year lifespan and include LED screens with information for passengers, air conditioning and space for two wheelchairs each, are expected to be delivered 18 months after the contract is signed.

Thanks for reading The Tico Times. We strive to keep you up to date about everything that’s been happening in Costa Rica. We work hard to keep our reporting independent and groundbreaking, but we need your help. The Tico Times is partly funded by you and every little bit helps. If all our readers chipped in a buck a month we’d be set for years.

Support the Tico Times
Categories: Nacionales

Costa Rican hotel owners demand increased security following tourist’s murder

Sat, 12/08/2018 - 18:33

Hotel owners in Costa Rica demanded Thursday that the government take greater responsibility for the safety of tourists following the murder of a Venezuelan-American, a crime that shook the Central American country.

“If the country were acting consciously in its security policy for visitors, it would have clearer migration rules, it would be imprisoning criminals and providing greater protection to sites frequented by tourists,” the Costa Rican Hotel Chamber (CCH) said in a statement.

The CCH added that “these basic premises are not being met.”

The hotel sector was dismayed by the murder of tourist Carla Stefaniak, 36, whose body was found on Monday with knife injuries and a severe blow to the head.

The police detained as a suspect a 32-year-old Nicaraguan who had been working as a security agent at the hotel where Stefaniak stayed, in the mountainous town of San Antonio de Escazú, southwest of San José.

[Editor’s Note: Stefaniak had been residing at the Hostel Villa LeMas, which she had booked through Airbnb.]

The business owners recognized that they too shoulder part of the responsibility in guaranteeing the safety of the tourists who visit the country.

The Minister of Tourism, Maria Amalia Revelo, insisted that hotels should be more cautious with the staff they hire.

“Employers need to be more careful with the people they hire for security functions,” Revelo said. “The law requires verification that the person has a regular immigration status.”

The suspect detained following Stefaniak’s death had entered Costa Rica illegally.

Last August, a Mexican and a Spanish woman were killed in separate incidents while visiting Costa Rica, cases that damaged country’s image as a tourist destination.

Categories: Nacionales

‘It happened to me’: Scammed in Costa Rica

Sat, 12/08/2018 - 09:00

Editor’s Note: The Tico Times does not regularly publish anonymous submissions but waived that requirement because of the security concerns for the writer and the importance of their message for our reading public. 

To the Editor: 

But of course I thought it never would. Smugly, I believed I was beyond the grasp of phone scammers. I have lived here in Costa Rica for over 30 years. I tend to be a bit suspicious, hanging up immediately when I get a phone call from any kind of organization.

But on this day I was already vulnerable. I was in the middle of being investigated to receive credit to buy something. Perhaps this is why I was unprepared for the call from Hacienda (Costa Rican version of the IRS). Just the fact that it was them already created a bit of fear in me. The commanding voice triggered some odd compliance in me. By the end, my thinking brain was completely hijacked. In this short article, I attempt to break down the tactics that were used to do this.

First tactic: FEAR. (Government agency, possible loss of this or loss of that — credit card, bank savings, etc.) Scammers may also use HOPE (to win something), but that is not what happened to me, and I can only share my own experience. This man’s commanding manner, and the fact that the was supposedly from Hacienda, immediately made me feel insecure, tense, scared. The fear triggered compliance.

Then, the LIES start: “Hacienda is no longer receiving electronic receipts from private companies. You have to give clients official Hacienda receipts.” Rapidly followed by, “We are sending someone to your house this Friday. What time is good for you? He will have an audio-visual explaining how to do these online receipts” (DISTRACTION). Already, you’re engaged, saying they can come by at 9 a.m.

Then the DISARMING of resistance combined with fast questions: Me, “I’d rather go in to Hacienda myself.” His response, “Don’t worry. I won’t ask any personal questions.” Immediately followed with a direct command, “I am going to direct you to three websites (he names them). Now go to you know is an official site because you already do give online receipts). You follow the order, without thinking. Nervous.

Fourth and most effective tactic: Rapid, commanding statements and strong ORDERS. Wham-bam-wham-bam.  “Go here, go there, go here, now do this.” High tension, a lot of anxiety and stress.

Fifth and other tactics, FLATTERY, compassion, etc. He compliments you. “You are smart.” Jokes with you a bit. He gains compassion, “Now imagine having to do this with 26,000 contributors. Most of my calls take three hours.” Something happens and you are trusting this authority figure, thinking he is helping you do something complicated.

In the midst of all this, you have downloaded two sites that allow him to see what you are doing on your computer. Unbeknownst to you, you are now sharing your screen with them. (I say “them” because it is obvious that they work in teams: while one is manipulating you, the others are typing on their own screens.) They can see everything you are typing at Hacienda’s website.

More strong, direct orders. “Type these numbers here. Go back there.”’ You go back to Hacienda and are filling in the forms: cédula, date of birth, expiration date of cédula, etc. All of these forms boggle your mind, create confusion, more stress, and therefore more dependence on the orders because it is all so overwhelming.

Then they ask at which bank you tribute (pay taxes). You tell them.

You are now completely under this person’s spell, obediently following all orders. All rationality gone out the window.

More rapid commands. Then slowing down as you fill out all the legal forms. You make  mistakes. You have to start all over. (He doesn’t care. He wants to waste time while they do all the banking transfers.)

You actually type on the Hacienda form six bank token numbers, thinking Hacienda needs them for you to pay them directly.  Of course this makes no sense. But in this compliant, stressed state of mind, your mind tells you that it does. It must be the way that Hacienda will be paid by online banking. (Totally against what you already know.) Unbelievable!

Needless to say, they have added themselves as a favorite account and drained all your accounts. They ask if you have another back-up bank for tax payments. Yes, you do. They send you to your other bank, and you do the most irrational things, foggily thinking that they are doing some kind of computer tricks that are necessary for your bank to be affiliated with Hacienda. Incredible!

At the end, he commands you to close all tabs, “now.” You have been following orders all this time, so you do this as well. You are still distressed because you do not understand anything that has gone on. They say, “Don’t worry. Someone will be coming to your house on Friday. What time is good for you again? What is your exact address?” You give them this information again, still not particularly wanting anyone from Hacienda to come to your house. Phone call ends. You are relieved to finally be out from all the distress that was generated by the call. “Phew! Thank God THAT is over!” You have missed appointments. You need to get on with the day and carry on with that “I-just-came-out-of-a-storm’’ feeling.

It took one hour and 45 minutes. All your bank accounts have been drained of your savings.

After this, as you courageously share with your Facebook friends, despite your shame, you find out this kind of scam has happened to many of your good friends. And to their friends. People who are “computer techies,” and “financial wizards,” and such. Smart people who have also lived here a long time and “‘know better.’’ They say, “It happened to me.”

All of us believed we were too smart, it could never happen to us. But it did. It happened to us. And due to our shame and humiliation, many do not share about this publicly.

The total mind control is absolutely shocking and humiliating. I compliantly obeyed all of this man’s orders. When I mentioned to a friend that it was as if I was under his spell, she said that this is what her neighbor had said, that it was as if he was under a spell. It is as if all the stress and commands put us  in an altered state of consciousness where reason does not exist, only an instant following of commands. Scary. Like the Milgram experiment where the participants gave increasingly high-voltage shocks to “learners,” obeying the instructions of the authority figure. Yes. How humbling and humiliating it is to discover how easily one can become a puppet on a string.

This “Hacienda” scam is common. Imagine, over 20,000 contributors to Hacienda, all possible victims. Another common one is the bank scam, but I don’t know that one. Also, if you advertise an item in a newspaper, a person will call, insisting on depositing money into your account, without even seeing the item (car, motorcycle, etc). Then, they do some strange maneuvers where they supposedly have a bank person on call to resolve some issue that came up. (Again, I have not been a victim of this one, so I can’t give the details.) They use fake emails and phone numbers that replicate the real phone numbers and emails of  the banks.

I am lucky that I had just bought something expensive the week before, so I did not have much money to lose. Others lost hundreds of thousands, as my accountant told me. But still, I lost all the money I had to my name. All of it.

The worst thing about this kind of crime is the victim blaming and shaming. We ourselves gave away all the information. The banks shake their heads when you report it. And you know what they and your other friends who have not been victims are thinking, “How could you do something so stupid?” They instruct you, “You should never give this kind of information to anyone over the phone.” As if you don’t know that. As if you don’t hear this from your bank all the time. As if it is your fault that this happened. Tsk, tsk.

The words that capture the experience when it is over are: “Shocking,” “Unbelievable,” and — same meaning — “Incredible.” And that is also how people react: with incredulity that you could do something like that. Compassion is dimmed by this self-satisfied knowing that they would never do this. This will simply NOT happen to them.

And, yet, sadly, the truth is, too many will say, “It happened to me.”

I hope people will comment below describing some of the tactics that were used on them when they were scammed. Hopefully this will reduce the amount of scams. But it won’t eliminate them. There is too much money to be criminally gained, and these folks are brilliant at turning their victims into puppets on a string. Terrifying.

It does not help to say “Do not give any financial information over the phone.” We all know this. My only suggestion is to keep your bank token in an envelope marked “Hang Up!!” away from your computer, maybe in a box somewhere so you have to go out of your way to get it. Hopefully, this will break the spell. I am not sure it will, however, since it seems like we are hypnotized during the scam. But it may.

My last words are, “It is not your fault.” You were the victim of a brilliant psychological strategy that rendered you powerless to put up any resistance to someone’s manipulative commands. It is NOT your fault.

Categories: Nacionales

This week in the Peace Corps: Moving Out in Costa Rica

Fri, 12/07/2018 - 17:54

Upon arrival in Costa Rica, as part of our three months of training before being sent to our permanent sites, all aspiring Peace Corps Volunteers (PCVs) are placed with host families.

They are our first connection in the country we will call home for the next 27 months, and as such, they help PCVs with our language training and support us as we explore the ins and outs of the Costa Rican culture.

After we arrive at our permanent sites we live with a second host family for the first six months of service. This allows us to fully integrate into our communities, build connections, improve our language skills, and hopefully create a support system in site.

The garden (Photo courtesy of Peace Corps Costa Rica)

Costa Ricans have taught me the true value of family, they frequently all live together or near each other, and are always there to help one another no matter what, because family comes first. My second host family has seven people aging from one to 80 years old who live under the same roof, not counting myself or the numerous relatives that visit on a daily basis. This leaves very little space for privacy and independence, something I always cherished as an only child.

So, when I learned that I could move out after six months I immediately started scouting my community for the perfect place. Nine months of living with host families in a new culture can be exciting and exhausting at the same time. I learned how to live like a real local. I got to try new foods and learned how to cook some of them. I improved my Spanish and learned a few necessary words and sentences in the indigenous language.

I am immensely thankful to my host family for opening their house and lives to a complete stranger. I adapted to their culture and customs as best I could. But, growing up in a culture that values independence and personal space I knew I would be more than ready to move out as soon as I could.

PCV Savannah’s home for the final 18 months of her service (Photo courtesy of Peace Corps Costa Rica)

Finding a place where I would feel safe and that complied with all of the Peace Corps safety specifications was no easy task, but I had luck by my side. My host aunt, who no longer lives in town, agreed to sublet me her old house located in my host family’s backyard. Not only did she make the changes required by Peace Corps, but I was able to remain near to my host family – if that isn’t luck I don’t know what is.

Moving out can be costly, especially when you live in a remote area like I do. Luckily my new house came with most of the basic necessities, which allowed me to invest a little extra in things such as painting the interior of the house to cover all of the graffiti-like art my host nieces had drawn over the years. Note to self: painting a house always sounds like a good idea, but it is in fact not, you may end up with more paint on your clothes and hair than on your walls.

(Photo courtesy of Peace Corps of Costa Rica)

I have now lived in my house for a few months, and it’s been a learning experience. I’ve learned that no matter how well you seal things sugar ants will always find a way into them. I’ve learned unfortunately just how much poop geckos can produce on a daily basis. I have also learned to cook on an open fire pit and to burn my trash (which breaks my heart every time, but I have no other choice since we have no trash pick-up in my small, rural community) – it’s been a wonderful and trying experience – just like Peace Corps service.

The Peace Corps photo series in The Tico Times Costa Rica Changemakers section is sponsored by the Costa Rica USA Foundation for Cooperation (CRUSA), a proud financial supporter of Peace Corps Volunteer projects nationwide. Learn more here. To donate to support the Peace Corps Costa Rica, visit the official donation page. Volunteers’ last names and community names are withheld from these publications, per Peace Corps policy.

Connect with the Peace Corps Costa Rica on FacebookInstagram or Twitter.

Brought to you by the Costa Rica USA Foundation (CRUSA). Brought to you by the Costa Rica USA Foundation (CRUSA). Courtesy of CRUSA
Categories: Nacionales

What to do in Costa Rica in December

Fri, 12/07/2018 - 15:33

The tourism high season has begun and the holidays are upon us. December is a busy month in Costa Rica, and we’ve prepared a collection of some under-the-radar events occurring here this month.

Dec. 8: Special Exhibit of Handmade Goods, Grecia Cultural Center

The first of what organizer Mary Master hopes becomes an annual arts and crafts show in Grecia. The event has no entry fees — for the artists or the public — and provides a venue for local artisans to showcase their work.

Dec. 7-9: Bijagua Christmas Festival

The Bijagua Community Security group is organizing the second annual Christmas Festival at the Carlos Vargas Park. The event showcases the local culture, and Sunday will feature a children’s party for lower-income children.

Dec. 7-8: Christmas in the Caribbean, Puerto Viejo 

Starting at 3 p.m. both days, the local market features local goods in addition to raffles, music and other activities.

Dec. 15-16: Tropical Market, San José

The popular Mercado Tropical celebrates its 10th edition (and sixth anniversary) at the Casa del Cuño.

Dec. 21-22: “Paisajes,” San José

Contemporary Chilean dance takes Costa Rica at Gráfica Génesis in San José. The performance transforms female stereotypes into tools of empowerment.

Have an event you’d like us to feature? Contact us at

Categories: Nacionales

Santa Teresa Deep Dive: Keeping an eye on wastewater

Fri, 12/07/2018 - 10:33

SANTA TERESA, Puntarenas — It’s easy to think the ocean is infinite when you’re standing on its shore, refreshed by its cool touch and comforted by its pounding lull. Especially here, near the tip of Costa Rica’s Nicoya Peninsula, where the white sand seems to stretch forever in each direction.

But look closer, Carolina Chavarría Pozuelo asks. Please look closer. Walk the town’s roads and notice the trash dumped along their edges. Stroll the beaches and see the canals draining dirty water into the ocean.

This is Santa Teresa’s tenuous reality. The Cóbano district — which contains the beach towns of Santa Teresa, Mal País, Carmen and Hermosa — has changed dramatically over the last decade as tourists visit a region which promises a peaceful, laid-back attitude complemented by unspoiled natural beauty and surf. Those tourists bring money they’re eager to spend on food, housing and transportation — and new businesses have formed as a result.

But that growth lacks the necessary oversight and supporting infrastructure, Chavarría says, which puts the area’s biggest draws in peril.

“It frightens me that there won’t be the structure or long-term planning that could support the expansion of the town while at the same time respecting the natural resources available,” she said. “The economic development, advancement of public services and environmental protection need to go hand-in-hand. If not, how much growth can we take?”

Chavarría is the director of the Nicoya Peninsula Waterkeeper, a non-government organization that acts as a watchdog for clean water in the South Nicoya Peninsula. While the local government has been ill-equipped to oversee the area, the Waterkeeper group helps ensure new and existing establishments follow regulations.

And Chavarría is disappointed by what they’ve found. In an interview with The Tico Times, she alleged many businesses in Santa Teresa and in surrounding towns take advantage of lax oversight and follow environmentally harmful processes.

It’s a situation that frustrates many residents: How can you sustain the economic boom without fracturing the community or irreparably harming the environment that attracted the growth in the first place?

Santa Teresa can be a picture-perfect town, but if you look closer, not everything is perfect. (Alexander Villegas / The Tico Times)

* * *

Part of Santa Teresa’s allure is its relative inaccessibility. It’s more than four hours from Liberia, which houses the closest international airport. The majority of visitors from the populous Central Valley come via ferry, but even that drops passengers off in Paquera, a one-and-a-half-hour drive away — when the roads are good.

The last stretch of the journey, the 15 kilometers from Cóbano to the Pacific Ocean, is a hilly, winding pothole-filled dirt adventure better suited for an ATV than a car.

But the reward at the end is the crossroads, the single intersection that will take you to Mal País or to Santa Teresa or to any of the other beach towns, which are less “towns” in the traditional sense and more a concentration of shops and stores and hotels alongside a single dusty street.

That much hasn’t changed in the region, but what has changed is, well, just about everything else.

The Cóbano district lists a population of approximately 5,200 inhabitants, though the local government notes the number fluctuates greatly throughout the year due to visitors. In December and January, two of the busiest months in Costa Rica for tourism, residents say the main street can become virtually impassable, a backlog of traffic sharing the unmarked street with parked cars and pedestrians.

“The area has changed a lot,” Chavarría said. “From the late 90s until now, it’s a different place entirely. […] A lot of people think Santa Teresa is too full, too loud now. So people looking for peace and quiet move elsewhere.”

Until the opening of an aqueduct in earlier this year, Santa Teresa and its neighboring communities relied on tanker trucks to deliver drinkable water during the December-to-May dry season — which coincides with the busiest months for tourism in the country.

The improvements in water accessibility have allowed for larger construction projects, and there is plenty of demand for that growth. According to the Costa Rican Tourism Institute (ICT), the industry continues to expand in Costa Rica, now accounting for 6.7 percent of the country’s GDP. In 2017, the ICT estimates 29.8 percent of all tourists, or 531,304 people, spent at least a night in Puntarenas province, up from 132,768 people in 2006.

Today, you’d be hard-pressed to walk more than a couple minutes through Santa Teresa without seeing workers laboring to finish new buildings in time for the expected wave of tourism that begins this month.

But essential government services haven’t quite caught up to the private sector. There is the issue of the unpaved, potholed roads, for starters. And residents say garbage isn’t always collected on-time, if at all. Then, of course, is water consumption and treatment.

Residents say trash isn’t always collected in time.  (Alejandro Zúñiga / The Tico Times)

Hotels, a virtual necessity for tourism, are heavy consumers of water. Numbers vary, but according to a study report prepared for the city of Seattle, a hotel will typically use between 100 and 400 gallons of water per day per room — lodging with full-service restaurants and on-site laundry facilities use more. That water has to go somewhere, but according to the Municipality of Cóbano, blackwater — water polluted with food, animal or human waste — “does not yet have a network that prevents it from being directed toward the nearest streams,” leaving each business responsible for its own water treatment and disposal.

Alberto Vásquez Granados, the Environmental Manager for the Municipal Council of Cóbano, told The Tico Times that “other sites in Costa Rica have a much greater environmental impact than Santa Teresa from wastewater contamination, which has caused Santa Teresa not to be on the first or even second list of priority locations” for improved sanitation systems.

According to environmental protection agencies, blackwater contains “disease-causing bacteria and viruses that can result in human illness from direct contact, or by consumption of affected fish and shellfish.”

Meanwhile, the World Health Organization, says greywater — untreated wastewater from bathtubs, showers and sinks — also poses a risk to human health, both through direct human contact and by introducing chemicals into marine food chains. The WHO recommends careful design to “avoid greywater leaching into groundwater or surface bodies of water.”

But in Santa Teresa, the regulatory oversight is lacking. The Health Ministry, which oversees compliance with Costa Rica’s wastewater regulations, has a representative who only comes to Cóbano once a week on Thursdays. The morning I visited Cóbano’s Municipal Government offices, I was told that representative wouldn’t be in that day.

According to Ronny Montero, who works as the Tax and Financial Administrator for the Municipal Council of Cóbano, the Health Ministry typically doesn’t conduct investigations in Santa Teresa unless there has been a formal claim submitted against a person or business.

So last January, the Nicoya Peninsula Waterkeeper filed a claim before the Health Ministry in regards to the wastewater management of Selina, a hostel that had recently opened in Santa Teresa. It’s not so much that Selina’s setup was uniquely bad — they were properly treated, but allegedly improperly disposing of black and greywater — but Chavarría’s organization sought out the business as the largest hostel in the area.

After 15 months of legal back-and-forth, Selina was ordered to enact a corrective plan to resolve the situation. Selina did not return multiple requests for comment.

“If you don’t have money to follow environmental regulations, don’t open your business,” Chavarría said. “If you can’t afford chairs, if you can’t afford plates, you wouldn’t open a restaurant. It’s the same thing. Social responsibility starts with adhering to the laws. You have to start with that.

“Nature has a capacity to clean itself, but not at the level we’re contaminating it.”

But to Chavarría, fixing one business’s water-management issues in a rapidly changing town is akin to trying to cover the sun using only your finger. It just doesn’t fix the problem.

“Nature has a capacity to clean itself, but not at the level we’re contaminating it.” (Alejandro Zúñiga / The Tico Times)

* * *

None of these issues, or the uneasy relationship between growth and oversight, are a surprise to the Municipal Government in Cóbano. Montero said he and the Municipal Council are fighting for the ability to do more.

Even though Cóbano is relatively large — with a land area of more than 300 km2 — Montero explained any budget requests that would benefit the district have to go through the Municipality of Puntarenas, which consolidates what it submits to the Comptroller General’s Office. That means there are additional steps added to already-slow bureaucratic processes, delaying infrastructure improvements further.

“This causes us to lose four months, five months, half a year,” Montero told The Tico Times. “And by the time a budget passes, sometimes it’s too late and contracts have expired — for example, for the machinery to fix the roads.”

Vásquez, the district’s Environmental Manager, acknowledged that finding viable solutions to wastewater management is a slow process.

“We must move forward strategically and look for solutions in the short, medium and long-term, in regard to sustainable development of Santa Teresa, while safeguarding our natural resources and favoring the economic development,” Vásquez said.

A proposed law presented in April 2018 aims to elevate the status of Cóbano from a district to a canton, which, in addition to increasing accessibility to public services, would give representatives of Cóbano a bigger say in the province’s budgeting and planning.

“It would give us better representation,” Montero said. “It gives us better access to resources, both local and international. It would give us more autonomy, and help remove limitations to our growth.

“… It’s not a secret to anyone. We know the coastal towns are the ones that are responsible for a lot of tourism and growth, and they are changing quickly. But as a district, we cannot ignore the rest of the district. We need to pay attention to people throughout the district who are also living in vulnerable areas.”

Vásquez said Cóbano has conducted feasibility studies with the Costa Rican Water and Sewer Institute but found the cost of a centralized wastewater treatment center prohibitively high. The municipality is also seeking partnerships with Costa Rican university students for more innovative, more cost-efficient solutions.   

Meanwhile, groups like Nicoya Peninsula Waterkeeper have filled the void. In addition to their vigilance of potential wastewater violations and monthly beach cleanups, the non-government organization plans to open a recycling collection center for Cóbano by the end of the year. With the support of the community, they hope the center will reduce trash by 65 percent. They are also pushing for the Health Ministry to open an office in Cóbano.

And ultimately, Chavarría, Montero and Vásquez agree everyone — from residents, to business owners, to tourists — needs to remain educated and vigilant while government resources try to catch up. They welcome outsiders to enjoy the white-sand beaches, untouched islands and jungle-covered hills. But if you’re visiting, they say, make sure your actions preserve that natural beauty for those who will follow.

“We are all responsible,” Montero said. “It’s my responsibility as a hotel owner to run things well. It’s my responsibility as a hotel guest to denounce them if they are not running things well. A lot of people are afraid to speak up, so they stay quiet. You can’t stay quiet.”

For more information about the Nicoya Peninsula Waterkeeper, visit their website here. Read more about Costa Rica’s sewage systems here.

Read all of our Santa Teresa features here

This story was made possible thanks to the donations from Tico Times 5% Club. The TT5% club is a small group of readers who donate at least $2 a month to keep our newsroom operational. That’s how we’re able to bring you stories like these. Become a member of The Tico Times 5% club and helps us spread more light on issues like these.

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Categories: Nacionales

Off the eaten path: Al Masri Cocina Egipcia

Fri, 12/07/2018 - 09:41

Admittedly I have never eaten Egyptian food, so I have no reference point for good Egyptian food. But I do know food, and the food at Al Masri is good. I’m pretty sure it’s authentic too since the owner, Mohammed Hussien, only moved to Costa Rica from his native Egypt six years ago.

Mohammed’s always in the kitchen himself, making sure the food comes out in true form. It really seems to be a labor of love and one that keeps him connected to home. Even though Mohammed is on the other side of the planet, at least the smells and tastes at Al Masri are familiar.

Mohammed first came to Costa Rica from Cairo to work in kitchens at some of Costa Rica’s best hotels. Then he went into business for himself and opened one of the, if not the, only Egyptian restaurants in the country. This is truly a one-of-a-kind gastronomic offering in Costa Rica.

Al Masri is small, but delicious (William Ayre / The Tico Times)

Al Masri is literally a hole in the wall just west of the INS building in the Barrio Amon district of San Jose. An area known for its beautiful architecture, old buildings and homeless people, the restaurant occupies a small space along Avenida 7 (near Calle 13).

Very small, in fact.

The restaurant has only six tables, for a combined total of 16 seats. I was the only customer on my visit, but I can confidently say that if there were 16 people dining at once, it would be uncomfortable.

I was very comfortable, but I am told they can get busy in here on weekends.

(William Ayre / The Tico Times)

When it comes to food, I bet you couldn’t find the same menu being served anywhere within a few thousand kilometers.

The five-page menu is split into categories like appetizers, salads, traditional plates, grilled meats, soups and sandwiches. Despite the small size of the restaurant, Al Masri has quite a few options. The waitress, who was friendly if not a bit shy, was happy to recommend me a vegetarian platter to start, followed by a plate of grilled meat skewers and rice.

I followed her recommendation, without second-guessing.

The Mezcla Almasri (William Ayre / The Tico Times)

The vegetarian platter is called Mezcla Almasri and included a portion of hummus, babaganoush, falafel, pita bread, salad and french fries. Everything tasted fresh and was served in generous portions. I actually couldn’t finish it all, as I was saving myself for the main course.

When I ordered the grilled meat plate, the waitress confirmed that I wasn’t in a hurry. She warned me that it’s prepared to order and could take a while. I actually wasn’t in a rush, but it didn’t take too long for the food to hit the table.

But I guess it could be a real concern when they’re full on weekends. Anyways, take your time. Slow down. Enjoy it.

The Mezcla Kebab, as it is called on the menu, included one skewer of kofta (ground beef) and for an additional 1,000 colones, I got a second skewer of lamb meat. Both were delicious and you could really taste that flavor that comes off of the grill.

The meat came with sides of white rice, tahini and a plate of beans. This time I ate it all. I cleaned that plate. It was really delicious, especially when you consider the prices.

The Mezcla Kebab (William Ayre / The Tico Times)

On my next visit, I have my eyes on another two of the traditional Egyptian dishes on the menu; Hawawshey and Kushari.

Hawawshey is pita bread stuffed with minced meat with of mix of different herbs, spices and onion, kind of like a pastry or perhaps an Egyptian empanada. To be eaten with your hands, like a sandwich.

Kushari is a strange mix of rice, spaghetti pasta and lentils with chickpeas and tomato sauce amongst other ingredients. It is difficult to describe but when you eat it, somehow it makes sense. Or so I am assured. I look forward to trying it.

They serve Egyptian desserts, as well.

Al Masri is very cheap, or put better, a great value meal. Dishes average around 4,000 colones (about $6.5) and some items, like sandwiches, cost less than 2,000 (about $3). This is a spot you can go to fill your stomach without spending a lot of money. They don’t sell alcohol either, which always keeps my bill down.

I had Egyptian Lemonade for 1,200 colones (about $2) and it was refreshing, but a bit sour. I couldn’t figure out what was Egyptian about it, but I do love lemonade. You can also get coffee, tea, or water.

The menu at Al Masri promises to take you back in time (William Ayre / The Tico Times)

The front cover page of the menu claims that Al Masri doesn’t just specialize in authentic Egyptian food, but also showcases a Pharaonic theme that will transport you back in time. I can imagine what Mohammed originally had in mind when he dreamed up this concept but in its execution, I assume perhaps for budget restrictions, it missed the mark.

While there are some neat pyramid, mummy and pharaoh themed decorations scattered around the restaurant, including photography and even a glass display case of imported souvenirs (available for purchase), interior design is not a draw at Al Masri.

The Egyptian music playing was a nice touch, though. I enjoyed listening to it while I ate. But let’s be clear, the only part of this restaurant that is truly an experience is the food. And that’s good enough for me.

Some of the Egyptian trinkets on sale at Al Masri (William Ayre / The Tico Times)

Al Masri is open from 12 p.m. – 8 p.m. every day of the week except for Sundays, when they close. Credit cards are accepted. Vegetarian options are available. Conveniently located directly beside the restaurant is a public pay parking lot, and pay street parking is also available nearby. Search “Al Masri Restaurante” on Waze or Uber to arrive conveniently.

William Ayre is a Canadian born chef and restaurateur who has spent the last half of his life doing business in Costa Rica, where he now considers to be home. Inspired by Anthony Bourdain, Ayre’s passion of experiencing different cultures through food has taken him to 35 different countries over five continents. Whether it’s a 20-course meal at a fine dining restaurant in Toronto, or cantina hopping in search for the best chifrijo here in San José, he fits in just fine.

Thanks for reading The Tico Times. We strive to keep you up to date about everything that’s been happening in Costa Rica. We work hard to keep our reporting independent and groundbreaking, but we need your help. The Tico Times is partly funded by you and every little bit helps. If all our readers chipped in a buck a month we’d be set for years.

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Categories: Nacionales

United Nations: Countries must triple contributions to reach global climate goals

Fri, 12/07/2018 - 07:41

Countries must triple their environmental contributions in order to cap global warming this century at 2 degrees Celsius, as established in the Paris Agreement, revealed a United Nations Environmental report presented last week in Paris.

If the international community intends to reach the 1.5 degrees Celsius objective, which would keep the planet in a safe climate environment, then national commitments should increase five-fold, concluded the 2018 Emissions Gap Report.

The report shows that in 2017, greenhouse gas emissions increased after three years of stability. It highlights the need to begin to decrease emissions before 2030 to ensure compliance with the 2 degrees Celsius target.

If current trends continue, global warming will reach 3 degrees Celsius by the end of the century and will continue to rise thereafter, the study indicates.

The annual UN Environment report evaluates the so-called “emissions gap” — the disparity between the levels of emissions foreseen in 2030 and the levels required to meet the 2 degrees Celsius and 1.5 degrees Celsius targets. It contains the most current analysis of countries’ voluntary mitigation efforts presented in their Determined Contributions, which are the basis of the Paris Agreement.

The report, presented days before the start of the 24th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP24), shows that in 2017 global emissions reached historic levels of 53.5 gigatons of carbon dioxide equivalent and that there is no evidence that they will begin to decrease in the coming years.

Just 57 countries are on track to start a downward trend before 2030, the study indicates. In general, to put the world on track to limit global warming to 2 degrees Celsius, by 2030 global greenhouse gas emissions should be about 25 percent lower than they were in 2017.

The analysis and a review of the progress of national commitments under the Paris Agreement make it clear that the current pace of national action is insufficient to meet the Paris objectives. The increase in emissions and the slow pace of action imply that the emissions gap is now greater than ever.

“The recent IPCC report on global warming of 1.5 degrees Celsius triggered global fire alarms, and this report investigates the causes of that fire,” said UN Environment Deputy Executive Director Joyce Msuya. “It’s clear: Governments must move faster and with greater urgency.

“The good news is that we have at our disposal all means to extinguish the fire.”

While the authors emphasize that there is still the possibility of closing the emissions gap and keeping global warming below 2 degrees Celsius, the assessment gives a clear warning that the necessary large-scale action has yet to be realized.

The Emissions Gap Report did present actions required to meet climate objectives.

The authors offered a road map to implement transformative measures in fiscal policy, private and subnational sectors.

Municipal, state and regional governments, companies, investors, universities, and civil society organizations are increasingly recognized as a key element to achieve global objectives and must be increasingly committed to bold climate action. Although estimates of the emission reduction potential of these sectors vary widely, some estimate up to 19 Gt CO2 by 2030.

This scenario, accompanied by carefully designed fiscal policy, has a greater potential of reducing global warming.

“When governments adopt taxes on fossil fuels and fiscal policy measures to subsidize low-emission alternatives, they can stimulate the right investments in the energy sector and significantly reduce carbon emissions,” said Jian Liu, Chief Environmental Scientist of the UN.

“Fortunately, the potential to use fiscal policy as an incentive is increasingly recognized,” Liu added. “Fifty-one carbon pricing initiatives that cover approximately 15% of global emissions are already implemented or planned. If all fossil fuel subsidies were eliminated, global carbon emissions could be reduced by up to 10% by 2030.

“It is also essential to establish the correct carbon price. At $70 per ton of CO2, in some countries, it is possible to reduce emissions up to 40 percent.”

The report describes five key principles to accelerate low-carbon innovation, among them the absorption of risks by the public sector to make possible the commercialization of technologies.

The ninth Emissions Gap Report was prepared by an international team of leading scientists who evaluated all available information, including the most recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Special Report.

This story first appeared in Latin ClimaIt was translated and republished as part of a partnership with Lagin Clima. Read the original story in Spanish here

Categories: Nacionales

Costa Rica attempts to collect taxes from companies that have reported losses

Thu, 12/06/2018 - 19:11

Thanks for reading The Tico Times. We strive to keep you up to date about everything that’s been happening in Costa Rica. We work hard to keep our reporting independent and groundbreaking, but we need your help. The Tico Times is partly funded by you and every little bit helps. If all our readers chipped in a buck a month we’d be set for years.

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Categories: Nacionales

Friends launch GOPlaya website to explore more than 200 beaches in Costa Rica

Thu, 12/06/2018 - 11:50

Costa Rica boasts hundreds of beaches across more than 800 miles of coastline. For a year, Carlos Alpízar and José Pablo Alfaro set out to explore them.

To determine the country’s best beaches, they toured Guanacaste, Puntarenas and Limón. They visited areas that were only accessible via all-wheel-drive, and others that they couldn’t reach with a car at all.

Alfaro and Alpízar found the cleanest beaches in Costa Rica, and others where they lamented the accumulated of garbage. They found virgin beaches — and often the reason they had been left unexplored.

And the friends are sharing those findings with the public.

Alfaro and Alpízar recently launched GOPlaya (, an online search engine for tourists and residents alike who want a relaxing day at the beach, or who have the desire to explore.

They also run an Instagram account, @GOPlaya, which is well worth a follow for its stunning photos.

“We believe that every beach represents a community,” Alfaro said. “Each time a tourist visits a beach, he or she collaborates with this region — from going to the grocery store and buying a bottle of water to having lunch in the village soda or staying in some cabins and living a local experience. It’s about finding new places and helping the growth of beach communities.”

Using the GOPlaya site

GOPlaya is available in both English and Spanish, and it looks great whether you’re on a computer, tablet or cell phone. The site can even use geolocation, helping you find the beaches closest to you.

Its home page mimics that of popular search engines: Just input the name of a specific beach or province, and the site will return a list of destinations. Or you can get specific, telling GOPlaya exactly what kind of beach you’re looking for and how far you’re willing to travel.

With categories such as “white sand,” “unspoiled,” and “lookout point,” GOPlaya locates beaches with your ideal landscape. It can also help you find beaches with activities (such as snorkeling, surfing and nightlife) and wildlife (turtles, whales and dolphins).

“On each beach, we give information about the access route, sand color, road conditions, waves, etc.,” Alfaro said. “We also delve into turtles, conservation areas, whales and dolphins and surfing, so that tourists receive complete information on these niches so important for Costa Rica.”

Users can get immediate directions to each beach through Google Maps or Waze. GOPlaya details amenities offered (such as parking or showers), hours of service, nearby lodging and attractions. And the site offers information about local customs, tradition and cuisine to enjoy the beach as a local.

GOPlaya also has a “Create Your Route” page in which users can input several beach characteristics and receive step-by-step directions to multiple matching locations. The user can open the route directly in Google Maps or Waze, or get the itinerary delivered via e-mail.

Finally, GOPlaya features a blog run by Alpízar and Alfaro in which they recommend places or routes based on their extensive experience. It’s a great read for locals, but they also give tips targeted to visitors — because as tourists learn, several beaches across Costa Rica share identical names.

In a recent blog, GOPlaya explores the best snorkeling destinations in Costa Rica. In another, it introduces readers to five hidden beaches on the Nicoya Peninsula.

“In the end, it is about living a complete experience, and we hope that every time a person visits GOPlaya, it’s because they dare to explore this unique country,” Alfaro said.

Getting there (and staying there)

Have a beach in mind, but not sure how to get there? Booking your rental car through GOPlaya makes the journey simple.

GOPlaya has partnered with Adobe Rent-a-Car to offer a series of benefits to its users. If you book through GOPlaya, you will receive a discounted price, a cooler to keep drinks cold at the beach, and the “GOPlaya Advisory” — personalized recommendations to help find the perfect destination for you.

Click here to go directly to their English-language car-rental portal.

It happens to the best of us: Sometimes, you fall in love with a beach and you just don’t want to leave. If you need to spend an extra night (or two) at a new favorite destination, GOPlaya helps you find nearby hotels.

Rather than booking a hotel in Costa Rica and then learning what attractions are nearby, GOPlaya helps you first find the perfect beach and then choose the lodging that best suits your needs. 

GOPlaya recommends three great beaches

You don’t need to be an expert to know Costa Rica has wonderful beaches. But you can rely on the experts to identify three of the country’s best.

Here are Alfaro and Alpízar’s picks:

3) San Josecito  

This beach is part of the Piedras Blancas National Park in the Golfito area. The turquoise ocean and the peaceful atmosphere are at the essence of this remote, unspoiled beach. Read more and get directions on GOPlaya.

2) Calzon de Pobre

Don’t be dissuaded by the name, which translates to “Poor Man’s Underwear.” This beach has all the necessities for a stress-free, relaxing day: white sand, crystal-clear water, and calm, gentle waves. Read more and get directions on GOPlaya.

1) Quesera

The water is so clear and waves so calm that you can see to the ocean floor. Quesera is one of Costa Rica’s most unspoiled places, where you can enjoy dozens of palm trees that give shade and decorate the landscape. You get a view of the Tortugas Islands and amazing sunsets. Read more and get directions on GOPlaya.

This story was sponsored by GOPlaya. To sponsor your website or event, contact

Categories: Nacionales

Santa Teresa Deep Dive: The Bakery

Thu, 12/06/2018 - 08:58

SANTA TERESA, Puntarenas — A place with great coffee is usually enough to make it stand out in a city, let alone a small beach town on Costa Rica’s Pacific Coast. If the place also happens to be open from breakfast to cocktail hour, and serve a variety of Israeli-inspired dishes and freshly baked goods, it’s bound to become a favorite for anyone.

If I had been airdropped in front of The Bakery, I wouldn’t feel as if I were in Costa Rica. My first impression of the place was a familiar, welcoming feeling of being in a cozy Portland café. Surrounded by lush green plants and a rustic, diner-like sign weathered by the elements, The Bakery is an affordable must-visit if you’re in the Nicoya Peninsula coastal village.

The Bakery was opened in 2009 by a Adi Tal, an Israeli who moved to Santa Teresa in 2009 with her husband. When asked how her restaurant has been able to survive in the small beach town amidst many other intriguing restaurants, her reply reflected the atmosphere I experienced during my breakfast meal there.

The Bakery is near the town entrance. (Duncan Anderson / The Tico Times)

“We are always trying to be better,” Tal said. “We work almost 24 hours a day.”

The Bakery opens at 7 a.m. and closes at 10 p.m. Outside of these operating hours, their evening staff bakes pastries overnight at a second location nearby to be served fresh in the morning. The selection of pastries includes croissants, banana bread, pain au chocolat, bagels, cheesecake, éclairs and breads — whole wheat, focaccia, baguette and ciabatta.

Tal said she likes to serve traditional dishes from her hometown of Tel Aviv. One standout recipe she got from her mother is the Dr. Shakshuka — eggs poached in mildly spiced Mediterranean tomato sauce served with fresh bread and tahini.

My breakfast at The Bakery. (Duncan Anderson / The Tico Times)

She recommended I try one of the most popular breakfast items on the menu, the TLV.

The fresh focaccia was warm from the oven. The selection of dippings range from another recipe from Tal’s mother — the tahini — to a North African-inspired olive tapenade, cream cheese and avocado.

The heat in Santa Teresa was one I hadn’t yet experienced in Costa Rica. It’s the kind of heat where the minute I step outside, sweat starts to pour profusely. Thankfully, The Bakery has air conditioning and a selection of freshly squeezed juices to alleviate the waterworks.

Before Tal opened The Bakery, she was in the army, after which she moved to India for two years and met her husband.

(Duncan Anderson / The Tico Times)

When Tal and her husband first arrived in Santa Teresa, they didn’t have any ambitions of opening a bakery yet.

“There was nothing to eat [in Santa Teresa], so we started to bake bread,” she said. “I started by selling bread to a supermarket in Santa Teresa. There was only one restaurant we liked and after a few years, we opened The Bakery with a Belgian partner. He was the manager; I was the baker. But a few years ago, he went to the app world to create apps. Big change.”

(Duncan Anderson / The Tico Times)

What would a bakery be without excellent coffee? The Bakery features coffee and traditional espresso drinks, iced or hot, from Café Britt, a Costa Rican company that produces gourmet coffee and chocolate. Whether you’re in the mood for a hot drink in the cooler morning air or an iced coffee to mitigate the sweat from being in the sun, you’ll find something to suit you.

What’s a bakery without some fresh coffee? (Duncan Anderson / The Tico Times)

Relax on the patio surrounded by flowers, stay inside with the AC, sit in the front and people watch or take it to-go for a trip back to the ocean. Whatever you decide, it’s a charming experience amidst the laid-back atmosphere in Santa Teresa.

This story was part of The Tico Times Deep Dive Santa Teresa series. Click here for more stories from Santa Teresa.

Thanks for reading The Tico Times. We strive to keep you up to date about everything that’s been happening in Costa Rica. We work hard to keep our reporting independent and groundbreaking, but we need your help. The Tico Times is partly funded by you and every little bit helps. If all our readers chipped in a buck a month we’d be set for years.

Support the Tico Times
Categories: Nacionales

Santa Teresa Deep Dive: Surfing in one of Costa Rica’s best beaches

Wed, 12/05/2018 - 10:16

Santa Teresa de Cóbano is one of my favorite spots on earth.

It’s a great mix between jungle and ocean with green to blue waters. There are great waves and surfing conditions. It’s surrounded by nature, too. Don’t get scared if you wake up to the sound of howler monkeys.  If you are planning on visiting, make sure you leave everything where you found it and have a great time.

Sunny season (November to April or so) is the best time to go to Santa Teresa, but if you don’t mind the rain, this could be the best beach to visit during the rainy season. The heavy rains come hand-in-hand with bigger swells – and one of the beauties of Costa Rica is that you’ll always get some sunshine, no matter the season.

It might rain heavily for a few days, but there are always breaks that deliver an incredibly beautiful day. They say that the early bird gets the worm, and it’s true when it comes to nice weather in the rainy season.

You can get some pretty great conditions in Santa Teres (Duncan Anderson / The Tico Times)

The morning session delivers glassy conditions and when the trade winds hit, you can find perfect offshore conditions and waves with wide-open sections. They are conditions you dream of and ones that others have never even witnessed. These days made me fall in love with this spot. If the offshore is on, the surf is on at any moment of the day.

This doesn’t mean you won’t be able to surf with onshore winds – you just have to wait for the right time.

There are several spots that you can check out and see if the conditions are right for you.  Playa Carmen, Santa Teresa, Banana Beach, Brunela, and Hermosa are the most mainstream spots. High tide is the best time to surf it, but things can always change from day to day, and the seasons will affect this as well.

On my last trip, I surfed Brunela, in front of the Selina hostel, and I had a blast with a right-hand peak that I had almost to myself.

Banana Beach and Santa Teresa also bring me good memories of open-faced waves with a slight offshore as the cherry on top. A sunset session at Hermosa is always a great option not only for the surfers but for those sunset lovers as well. If you get to know the locals and the surfing community, they might show you a couple of secret spots in the surrounding area.

A not-so-secret, but hidden spot near Santa Teresa. Can you find it? (Alexander Villegas / The Tico Times)

There are plenty of surf shops with all kinds of boards you can rent or buy – so if you are worried about flying your boards and all the potential mistreatment, then worry not. You will be able to find local and international brands and a diverse price range for new and used boards. There’s also apparel, gear and cool gadgets like GoPro mounts.

If you have never surfed in your life, Santa Teresa is a solid option as a place to learn. You will be able to find surf camps and several surf shops that offer lessons and rental equipment. When it comes to the surf lessons, you might end up learning with a local legend or a local champion. Listen to what they have to say: if someone knows how the ocean works there, it’s them.

If you’re in town on a Thursday night then you will be able to attend the reggae night at La Lora Amarilla. During the busiest parts of the year, especially on Christmas and New Years, there are plenty of nightlife options. If you like to party with a local and international crowd, this is the place to be. Costa Ricans are always down for a party, especially during the last month of the year.

There are plenty of surf schools and stores with gear for rent or purchase in the area. (Alexander Villegas / The Tico Times)

Getting there is an adventure that requires a car or bus with the option of a ferry ride. If you decide to drive the whole way from San Jose, you will be facing about 320 km of road.

The 17-kilometer ferry ride will cut that distance in half.

Driving the full way can be fun – once. You get to cross the Río Tempisque on the now-ironic Puente de la Amistad. It translates to “Friendship Bridge,” and was financed by the Taiwanese government before Costa Rica severed diplomatic ties with them a few years later. The deal, made to strengthen ties with China under Oscar Arias’s second term, included the 35,175-seat national stadium, completely financed and built by China.

It was easy bait for a soccer nation.

If you skip the bridge and take the ferry, the driver will get to relax and lie back for about one hour. Book your ticket online to guarantee yourself a spot. If not, make sure you arrive early since the ferry can get crowded.

Roads have improved slightly, but there are still a lot of bumpy dirt roads along the way. Once you get there, it’s like a tropical Mad Max scene. Locals and tourists with face masks ride around on motorcycles and quads, kicking up dust everywhere they go.

Listen to what locals have to say: if someone knows how the ocean works there, it’s them. (Duncan Anderson / The Tico Times)

The whole town is on a long stretch of road that has several entrances to the beach. Vehicles come in handy to go back and forth, and renting a bike is always a great option for those willing to sweat.

Santa Teresa is a small melting pot of people from all over the world who loved the place and decided to stay. It’s definitely in the top five places in Costa Rica I’d relocate to.

Montezuma and Malpaís are close by and the supermarkets have lots of local and international products. There are also great restaurants if you don’t feel like cooking. Tacos are a mandatory stop for me.

The Taco Corner has affordable tacos, burgers, fries and sides. I always have a falafel taco, some chili fries and the occasional jalapeño poppers. Careful, they’re hot and I’ve burned my mouth a few times due to a lack of patience and a fierce post-surf appetite. I might get a chicken burrito or a fish taco after that.

Just kidding. Or am I?

Till next time – see you in the water.

Manuel Martínez signing off. (Duncan Anderson / The Tico Times)

This story was part of The Tico Times Deep Dive Santa Teresa series. Click here for more stories from Santa Teresa.

Thanks for reading The Tico Times. We strive to keep you up to date about everything that’s been happening in Costa Rica. We work hard to keep our reporting independent and groundbreaking, but we need your help. The Tico Times is partly funded by you and every little bit helps. If all our readers chipped in a buck a month we’d be set for years.

Support the Tico Times
Categories: Nacionales

Body of tourist Carla Stefaniak identified, suspect detained

Tue, 12/04/2018 - 15:46

The Director General of the Judicial Investigation Police (OIJ), Walter Espinoza, said Tuesday that “all data that we have compiled” indicates the body they found is that of Carla Stefaniak, a tourist who had been visiting Costa Rica from the United States.

Espinoza said the organization has sent fingerprint samples to the FBI for absolute confirmation of the body’s identity.

OIJ found the body Monday afternoon near the Airbnb property where Stefaniak had been staying when she went missing Nov. 27 in San Antonio of Escazú, San José.

An autopsy revealed Stefaniak had died of stab wounds to the neck and extremities, in addition to a strong blow to the head.

One of the security guards working at the property has been detained as a suspect, Espinoza said. The suspect, who has a surname Espinoza Martinez, is a 32-year-old Nicaraguan immigrant who has been in Costa Rica since June. He had an “irregular” immigration record, according to the OIJ Director, who cited immigration reports they had received.

OIJ said the investigation remains ongoing.

“This is a complex case, and it’s a difficult case,” Espinoza said. “The resolution of this case is very important for the country, for the victim’s family, and for society as a whole.”

According to Stefaniak’s friends, she had messaged Tuesday evening that it was raining heavily and that the power had gone out. “It’s pretty sketchy here,” Stefaniak reportedly sent, before all communication ceased.

The property in which Carla Stefaniak, a tourist from the United States, was renting an apartment through Airbnb. Duncan Anderson / The Tico Times

Stefaniak missed her flight out of the country the next day, prompting alarm from friends and family who flew to Costa Rica to assist with the search. In addition to the OIJ, the U.S. Embassy and FBI were also alerted.

Less than a month ago, police in San Antonio of Escazú found the dismembered body of 28-year-old local Stephannye Paola Castro Mora. The OIJ has not named a suspect in the Costa Rican’s death.

Stefaniak’s disappearance also comes weeks after Costa Rica’s Tourism Board launched a campaign for tourist safety.

The property in which Carla Stefaniak, a tourist from the United States, was renting an apartment through Airbnb. Duncan Anderson / The Tico Times

Thanks for reading The Tico Times. We strive to keep you up to date about everything that’s been happening in Costa Rica. We work hard to keep our reporting independent and groundbreaking, but we need your help. The Tico Times is partly funded by you and every little bit helps. If all our readers chipped in a buck a month we’d be set for years.

Support the Tico Times
Categories: Nacionales

Santa Teresa Deep Dive: How to Surf in Santa Teresa

Tue, 12/04/2018 - 14:04

Always wanted to surf in Santa Teresa but aren’t sure how? Don’t worry, The Tico Times is here to help.

Check our instructional video on how to surf in Santa Teresa. We cover everything from how to get there by bus, to how to turtle.

This is part of our Santa Teresa Deep Dive. Check out more of our stories from Santa Teresa here.

Categories: Nacionales

UN rapporteur slams killings of Colombian rights defenders

Tue, 12/04/2018 - 09:29

A UN official called on the Colombian government to step up measures to protect human rights defenders following an upsurge in the number murdered since the signing of a peace agreement with former FARC guerrillas.

Michel Forst, UN rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, said in an interview late Monday that armed groups have filled a power vacuum left by rebels who disarmed after signing the November 2016 agreement.

Those armed groups —an amalgam of political dissidents, drug traffickers, organized crime groups and paramilitaries— “are now the main perpetrators or attacks against defenders,” he said.

“At the time there is a drastic drop in the number of homicides throughout the country, probably related to the peace process,” Forst told AFP. “There has been a sharp increase in the homicides of defenders.”

Forst said the broad spectrum of aggressors also includes members of the security forces, as well as random strangers encouraged by “relatively high” rates of impunity.

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“I have been horrified to hear the accounts of Afro-Colombian and indigenous farmers describing the attacks they face without being able to put a name to the perpetrators,” Forst said.

Right-wing President Ivan Duque, who took office in August, acknowledged the increase in activists’ murders, and pledged Monday to implement measures to prevent the killings.

“In recent years the number of murders have been growing and therefore it is very important that there is a reaction from the state,” Duque said in a joint press conference with Forst late Monday.

Forst promised to return to the country to monitor progress.

Colombia’s Ombudsman’s Office said 311 rights defenders had been murdered between January 2016 and June 30 this year —one every three days.

Thanks for reading The Tico Times. We strive to keep you up to date about everything that’s been happening in Costa Rica. We work hard to keep our reporting independent and groundbreaking, but we need your help. The Tico Times is partly funded by you and every little bit helps. If all our readers chipped in a buck a month we’d be set for years.

Support the Tico Times
Categories: Nacionales

How to become a positive leader before 2019 – at Costa Rica’s UPEACE

Tue, 12/04/2018 - 06:15

When was the last time you invested in your own professional and personal development? With increasing demands on our time and energy, it’s often difficult to find a good time to put work on hold for a few days. However, just as we take time out of the day to sleep since we know we need rest to be effective, it’s equally important to make time every year for self-renewal.

The University for Peace’s Centre for Executive Education might be able to help you take that needed pause to self-reflect, learn, network, and renew your energy before 2019 begins. Held at the University for Peace’s idyllic campus a few kilometers from Ciudad Colon, the Centre is offering a three-day Positive Leadership workshop from December 6-8 (Thursday through Saturday).

Courtesy of the University for Peace

The workshop will bring together a diverse group of participants, including local nationals as well as expats living in Costa Rica. It’s an intense experience, covering a range of topics from unpacking “happiness,” drawing from recent research in the field of positive psychology, to reflecting on how happiness relates to leadership, purpose, and awareness of our own strengths. The course looks at both self-leadership as well as leadership in the organizations we are part of.

The participants also reflect on “failures” and emerge with a new perspective on these setbacks that everyone experiences.

“We all experience self-doubt that holds us back from achieving our potential. Environments that allow us to feel comfortable being vulnerable, share one’s ‘failures’ and then reflect on what one learnt are invaluable!”, reflects Mohit Mukherjee, a Harvard Education Graduate who founded the UPEACE Centre for Executive Education 12 years ago.

Courtesy of the University for Peace

In the words of Diego Lineiro, a recent participant from a multinational company in Costa Rica, “The workshop is not an investment, it’s a gift for your mind and your soul. This is not just another workshop, it’s the beginning of a journey. We were not a group, but a team in all aspects.”

So, as the year winds down, the big question is: “Are you ready to invest in yourself before the end of 2018?” If your answer is ‘yes’, the UPEACE Centre for Executive Education looks forward to having you join a group of motivated, fellow Positive Leaders from December 6 -8th .

Note: If timing does not work, the Centre will be holding the next Positive Leadership workshop at the end of February 2019.

To sign up, please e-mail the Centre’s Program Specialist, Esmeralda Bolaños at For more info, visit the workshop website at

Courtesy of the University for Peace
Categories: Nacionales

Costa Rican Congress, President Alvarado approve controversial tax reform

Mon, 12/03/2018 - 20:41

En este momento firmo la Ley de Fortalecimiento de las Finanzas Públicas. Agradezco a quienes han apoyado al Gobierno de la República en este esfuerzo, en especial a las diputadas y los diputados que lograron consensuar una mayoría para hacerlo realidad.

— Carlos Alvarado Quesada (@CarlosAlvQ) December 4, 2018

Con la aprobación de la reforma fiscal el día de hoy, Costa Rica ha evitado una crisis y da un paso que trae estabilidad y confianza.

— Carlos Alvarado Quesada (@CarlosAlvQ) December 4, 2018

Public-sector unions had carried out a strike beginning Sept. 10 against the reform, alleging that the bill placed undue burden on the lower and middle classes.

Read more in The Tico Times about the tax reform: 

Court rejects tax reform and asks legislators to eliminate four points

Education sector strike once again ruled illegal

Cats march through streets, rats scared, milk supply runs low


Thanks for reading The Tico Times. We strive to keep you up to date about everything that’s been happening in Costa Rica. We work hard to keep our reporting independent and groundbreaking, but we need your help. The Tico Times is partly funded by you and every little bit helps. If all our readers chipped in a buck a month we’d be set for years.

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Categories: Nacionales

OIJ finds female body near where Carla Stefaniak went missing

Mon, 12/03/2018 - 16:12

Judicial Investigation Police (OIJ) on Monday confirmed to The Tico Times that they have discovered a female body near the Airbnb property where missing tourist Carla Stefaniak had been staying.

The OIJ has not yet identified the body, which will be sent for an autopsy.

Stefaniak, a tourist visiting Costa Rica from the United States, has been missing since Nov. 27. She was residing at an Airbnb in San Antonio of Escazú, San José.

Walter Espinoza, Director General of the OIJ, said in a Monday afternoon press conference that the body was found by the organization’s canine unit.

“The body was in a state of decomposition, but preliminary observations from investigators verify it is a woman’s body,” Espinoza said.

“We cannot say at this time that it is the body of Carla Stefaniak. We will first need to conduct an autopsy […] and take other necessary steps to determine with certainty whether it is her body.”

The OIJ also swept the Airbnb apartment for biological evidence and found fluids appearing to be blood that were sent for additional testing, Espinoza said.

In a statement to ABC Action News, an Airbnb spokesperson said the company is “aware of the recent development” and has reached out to law enforcement “to offer our continued support and cooperation with their investigation.”

According to friends of Stefaniak, she had messaged Tuesday evening that it was raining heavily and that the power had gone out. “It’s pretty sketchy here,” Stefaniak reportedly sent, before all communication ceased.

Stefaniak missed her flight out of the country the next day, prompting alarm from friends and family who flew to Costa Rica to assist with the search. In addition to the OIJ, the U.S. Embassy and FBI were also alerted.

Espinoza said Monday that the case remains under investigation.

Less than a month ago, police in San Antonio of Escazú found the dismembered body of 28-year-old local Stephannye Paola Castro Mora. The OIJ has not named a suspect in the Costa Rican’s death.

Stefaniak’s disappearance also comes weeks after Costa Rica’s Tourism Board launched a campaign for tourist safety.

This is a developing story. It was last updated Monday at 6:05 p.m. Stay tuned to The Tico Times for more.

Thanks for reading The Tico Times. We strive to keep you up to date about everything that’s been happening in Costa Rica. We work hard to keep our reporting independent and groundbreaking, but we need your help. The Tico Times is partly funded by you and every little bit helps. If all our readers chipped in a buck a month we’d be set for years.

Support the Tico Times
Categories: Nacionales

The Tico Times Weekly Digest: Dec. 03, 2018

Mon, 12/03/2018 - 14:09

Read the stories mentioned above:

Costa Rica celebrates 70 years without an army

Costa Rica offers to host COP25 after Brazil withdraws

The Tico Times visits Puerto Viejo

Costa Rica to host historic Gold Cup matches in 2019

US sanctions Nicaraguan first lady over abuses

Raising Coral Costa Rica aims to help rebuild the rainforests of the sea

Can it still be agua de sapo if El Portón Rojo mixes it with rum?

Off the Eaten Path – Villa Oro

Support The Tico Times and make a difference in Costa Rica

Thanks for reading The Tico Times. We strive to keep you up to date about everything that’s been happening in Costa Rica. We work hard to keep our reporting independent and groundbreaking, but we need your help. The Tico Times is partly funded by you and every little bit helps. If all our readers chipped in a buck a month we’d be set for years.

Support the Tico Times
Categories: Nacionales