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I have heard so many mixed messages about this area of CR. Depending on who you talk to it's either a crime ridden tourist trap with lousy snorkeling and rough water or a haven for the non-traditional tourist with lovely beaches and good snorkeling opportunities. So what's the deal? Looking for some advice on places to stay and some level headed reactions from visitors or locals. Its seems people who come to visit this area either love it or hat, hence the different opinions.
Costa Rica in general is not very good for snorkeling. So that is true. Beaches here are not those very clear calm beaches you find on the islands, etc. So, if that is what you want you will not find it here. There is also quite a bit of petty crime, so one needs to be cautious there.
Violent crime is rare. Not sure what your defination is of a tourist trap but when I think of tourist traps I think of Tamarindo and Manual Antonio on the pacific side of CR. Though yes, there are lots of tourists. The area attracts a lot tourists who enjoy smoking weed. One can smoke openly here, hence this a big draw for stoners who live in other parts of the where this is not accepted. But everyone tends to be mellow and kind, not loud and overbearing types.
You can very often find yourself alone on what I consider to be some very beautiful beaches. Inside the Cahuita National park , Manzanillo and Punta uva have very swimable beaches. I love the Caribe side of Costa Rica.
I think it does fit the bill as a non traditional tourist destination. This is certainly not paradise, but parts of this area come very darn close. Come experience for yourself, then you will know. You dont have to come back if you don't like it and will come back again and again if you do!!!