Most women enjoy traveling in Costa Rica. The majority of Tico men treat foreign women with great respect. Still, Costa Rica is a machismo society, and women may experience certain hassles. The art of gentle seduction is to Ticos a kind of national pastime: a sport and a trial of manhood. Men might hiss in appreciation from a distance like serpents, and call out epithets such as “guapa” (“pretty one”), “machita” (for blondes), or “mi amor.” Be aware that many Ticos think a gringa is an “easy” conquista. The wolf-whistles can grate but, fortunately, sexual assault of female tourists is rare—though it does happen.
If you welcome the amorous attentions of men, take effusions of love with a grain of salt; while swearing eternal devotion, your Don Juan may conveniently forget to mention he’s married. And when he suggests a nightcap at some romantic locale, he may mean one of San José’s love motels. On the Caribbean coast, “Rent-a-Rastas” earn their living giving pleasure to women looking for love beneath the palms. Come prepared! Carry condoms; don’t rely on the man.
If you’re not interested in love in the tropics, unwanted attention can be a hassle. Pretend not to notice. Avoid eye contact. An insistent stare—dando cuervo (making eyes)—is part of their game. You can help prevent these overtures by dressing modestly. There have been reports of a few taxi drivers coming on to women passengers. Though this is the exception, where possible take a hotel taxi rather than a street cab. And beware illegal unmarked “taxis” that may be cruising for single women. Avoid deserted beaches, especially at night.
Women Travel: Adventures, Advice, and Experience, by Niktania Jansz and Miranda Davies (Rough Guides), offers practical advice for women travelers, as does Gutsy Women, by Marybeth Bond (Travelers’ Tales).
Mariah Wilderness Expeditions (tel. 530/626-6049 or 800/462-7424, www.mariahwe.com ) specializes in trips to Costa Rica for women.
In Costa Rica, CEFEMINA (Centro Feminista de Información y Acción, tel. 506/2224-3986, 2www.cefemina.com) is a feminist organization that can provide assistance to women travelers. The Women’s Club of Costa Rica (tel. 506/2282-6801, www.wccr.org ), an English-speaking social forum, is a good resource, as is the National Institute of Women (Instituto Nacional de Las Mujeres, tel. 506/2255-1368, www.inamu.go.cr ).
The Feminist International Radio Network (FIRE, tel. 506/2249-1319, www.fire.or.cr ) broadcasts online at its website.