Drivers in Costa Rica seem to regard street markings as general guidelines. Last night as we were returning from Monteverde, our friend stopped at a few locations, just stopping in the middle of the street, while he was greeted by friends and family and made introductions.
We do take taxis to most places that we go together, as do most Ticos. Taxis are cheap and fast; the drivers seem to operate their cars with reckless abandon, but I notice that they don't crash. I don't think I will get used to the speed with which drivers dart in and out of lanes, looking for the best passage through the chaotic traffic.
I have discovered the charm of Puntarenas, the charm that seems to evade those who write guidebooks. It is the charm of common people, decent people who go about their business and take care of each other. If you just drive along the waterfront you will see the restaurants and some rundown public buildings. You could collect pieces of driftwood on the beach side if it is permitted, to decorate your home or yard or for sculpture pieces if you are talented. But this strip of commercial land doesn't have the polish of the tourist-oriented towns like Monteverde; everything there is patronized by local people. The menus feature Costa Rican cooking--the first item on the menu is rice and beans with some addition such as chicken or fish. My husband's daughters took us to their favorite place, Las Delicias del Punto, which has Costa Rican cooking that is as good as we have found elsewhere. But how it would stack up to professional travel writers who stay in a hotel room in San Jose is up to them, not the locals in Puntarenas who say they have good food.
You can read the labels of the bottled drinks like iced tea and juice cocktails, looking for the word "azucar," (sugar) as I do, but the brands themselves are all virtually unknown to visitors from the U. S. The sweetened white tea with fruit flavors is fantastic, but not sugar-free. Like Mexico, though, the rest of Latin America is not sold on loading their drinks with high-fructose corn syrup, and thanks for that. If I figure it into my daily diet, I can drink these things but not to excess.
If you are the kind of tourist who wants to experience the joys of travel, you can't beat Costa Rica. In Monteverde we saw signs advertising a butterfly garden, a reptile garden, a frog garden, a bat garden, a cheese factory, a chocolate/coffee emporium with exhibits, and more. You can do that jungle ride that is featured in a television commercial here--in fact, it may have been filmed here. Remember the commercial where the young girl goes on a ride through the air, harnessed to a cable? That is available here, along with bungee jumping and other athletic pastimes.
Motor scooters are everywhere in Costa Rica; less common are the more powerful motorcycles. They are far more economical than cars, which are simply not owned by many Ticos. Buses and taxis will be less costly and in the long run, they are better for the ecology. Emission standards may exist in Costa Rica, but if they do, they are far from stringent. Heavy trucks pass our hotel pation many times a day, belching out exhaust that they would be ticketed for in Tucson. I also notice a lot of "noise pollution," as in trucks with huge speakers behind the driver that shout out amplified advertising music and speeches. This sort of thing simply does not exist in Arizona, and would only be seen perhaps on an election day, if then.
Nevertheless, Costa Rica continues as one of the most progressive countries in Latin America, with no standing army and more teachers than policemen. There are holes in the consciousness here, such as emissions standards, but overall the level of education and the priorities of the government far surpass those of the United States, especially since Republicans lied their way into office in many states and are now dismantling voters' rights and standards. The Holy Grail of Republicans--eliminating the Departments of Education, Agriculture and the Federal Aviation Administration--spells disaster for America. While aircraft accidents become more common in our airports due to the Sequester, food-borne illnesses break out more frequently than they did before.
Arizonans have seen our Republican governor taking public health apart, while our citizens die for lack of treatment. Republicans call in to talk shows and defend the disenfranchisement of voters on the grounds that "irresponsible people" ought not to be allowed to vote.
Since when? Here's a news break for you--anyone in America who qualifies to vote has that right. You don't have to satisfy somebody's personal standards for being a good person to cast a ballot. Al Capone could have been a registered voter for all I know; there is nothing in government statutes that prevents gangsters from voting if they satisfy the requirements on paper.
So you can watch how far Republicans will haul America back into the Eighteenth Century, while Costa Rica forges ahead to surpass America right now in health care, education and standards of living.