Costa Rica: collapsed bridge and traffic cones

A collapsed bridge disrupted all.

I was in Costa Rica for two days a couple weeks ago on business, rolling on from Panama.  Costa Rica is ultra-trendy for US travelers. It never appealed much to me because I am not into diving or jungles, at least not more than a half-day hike or quick snorkel, and I did not lock in on anything that I had to see.

What I saw was traffic cones. Some major bridge had collapsed the prior day, I understand somehow no one was hurt as it was a construction crane, though all this was through my attempts to understand Spanish and limited English of people I met.

San Jose Costa Rica Traffic

Traffic cones galore

The reaction was constantly shifting road closures. First key lesson: most multinationals are in the suburbs of San Jose near the airport, not downtown. My hotel was downtown. I can’t think of much good to say about the up and down potholed roads dotted with sheds of San Jose, so I will pass on that. Taxi drivers would try street after street, only to run into more traffic cones.

By the second mid-morning with meetings concluded, against all reasonable judgement, I continued with my original plan to rent a car from the airport, stay at the Doubletree by the airport and head for something touristy. I figured the bridge was in town and wouldn’t affect the airport. Then it took 1.5 hours to cover the 3 km from National rental car to the Doubletree, as each set of directions I got led to closed roads. (Note: the rental car locations are all far off-airport and shuttles take a while.) Multiple times I saw the Doubletree across the expressway but could not reach it. Doesn’t help that traffic signs are collector’s items in Costa Rica. When I finally got there and made it through the snail’s pace check-in, I was not smiling at my Doubletree cookie.

Quixotically I then drove to Volcán Poás, I could not discard the sunk time cost of getting the car and finally reaching the hotel. I had a smooth, long drive up to the volcano, fortunately there were a number of road signs, though there was about a 10-km stretch where competing signs bounced around 18-20 km, the mountain seemed pulling away from me as rain misted and then steadily increased. I finally reached the park gate a half-hour before closing and the helpful ranger said, “No one saw anything today.”

I did a u-turn, took a picture of some trees and headed back. Now the cones had extended past the airport.


Try to smile, try to smile...


Ah well, ‘easy come, easy go,’ I say to myself. Not every trip works out and a bridge collapse presumably is not common. I can’t speak for the parts of Costa Rica that travelers rave about, though they seem wise for typically bypassing San Jose. The city has real safety issues and little to recommend it. Like much of the Greater Rice and Beans/Beans and Rice Culinary Region stretching from Guatemala to Colombia, the widespread culinary saviors are sushi and pizza, and I was happy to also locate a Mexican restaurant. Drivers are not very aggressive, I measure that by how fast they honk when I stall with a manual, but the poor roads and limited signage are a serious challenge.

In a c0uple months I may have another crack at it and perhaps I will find clear skies, smoldering volcanoes, and a shiny new bridge.

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  1. I visited the Volcano Arenal. I took a luxury bus and on the ride back to San Jose, the tour guide said, “Please relax and don’t try to drive with us. The curves are sharp and the bridges are narrow. Don’t upset yourself.” Of course I had to see that, and it felt like riding a roller coaster without a harness. I needed a drink back in San Jose. Nice post thanks!

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