I just returned from a visit to Cahuita on the Caribbean Coast of Costa Rica. About 8 PM our first night there, a man on a bike rode by me and grabbed the strap of my purse that I had over my shoulder and across my body. The strap didn't break at first and I was pulled to the ground where I got a bruise and scrape - and a scare. We called the police and when they came they didn't even bring a piece of paper or pen to write down information. The people living near where this happened said the police would do nothing which seemed to be the case. The rest of the trip we were told stories about other thefts in Cahuita, some involving weapons, and repeatedly warned not to walk alone at night. We frequently saw people on the street who were either drunk or on some other substance. The town felt lawless and unsafe. There's good reason that the rooms we stayed in each had a safe!
Business owners in Cahuita seemed resigned to the fact that this is the way it is. When we suggested they might hire a private security guard for their area (which wasn't well lighted), one replied that the thieves would only bribe the secuity guard to look the other way. Another hotel owner said the best thing would be not to be too attached to our things. That has a nice Zen sound to it but also could be a framed motto for the thieves! A tour guide said that the families of thieves protect them and would threaten anyone who accused one of their members of theft. While we did some fun things in the Cahuita area, we did not feel relaxed. Not what I had hoped for from a vacation in a supposedly laid back beach town. I won't go back.