The Costa Rican government and the Cruz Roja are taking steps to improve the safety of tourists at the nation’s beaches.
But so far the bulk of the beaches are unprotected, and those involved in safeguarding bathers are without many resources.
The government hires lifeguards, but only for swimming pools. Lifeguards in Jacó so far are the only ones who have support from the local government.
The Instituto Costarricense de Turismo reports that it has signed an agreement with the Cruz Roja to put lifeguards on a handful of beaches frequented by tourists, but the amount involved is just 20 million colons (about $39,000) a year for three years.
The tourism institute said that this is a pilot project involving Puntarenas, Jacó, Esterillos Oeste, Manuel Antonio, Playa Ballena, Tamarindo and Playa Bonita.
The agreement also serves to bring the issue to the attention of local governments and tourism operators to provide additional resources to protect visitors, said the institute.
The problem in Costa Rica are the unexpected rip tides that can defeat even the strongest swimmer.
Some of the beaches are patrolled by the
Servicio Nacional de Guardacostas during peak tourism seasons.
That was fortunate in Limón Monday morning when a trucker decided to take a dip at the mouth of the Río Cieneguita.
The man, identified as Javier Ábrego, 39, was caught in the current.
Someone managed to contact the Guardacostas which has been on patrol off the nation’s beaches as part of a vacation security program. The boat crew was able to get a line to Abrego and tow him to safety. The agency said that there have been eight similar rescues around the beginning of the new year.
Costa Ricans make up the bulk of the water fatalities, but the U.S. State Department reports that from January 2003 to the end of 2014 nearly 100 U.S. citizens died in water accidents in Costa Rica. Only a few were in lakes and rivers, according to the statistics.
The Asociacion Nacional de Guardavidas de Costa Rica also provides training and lifeguards for some beaches. The association also says it is in need of funds. So, too, is the lifeguard corps at Dominical, which holds fund-raisers each year.
As A.M. Costa Rica has pointed out in the past, there are few signs to warn tourists that danger lurks in the surf. As many as three visitors have drowned at a time at central Pacific beaches.