Can you guess what danger is hiding in plain sight in this photo of a room with a view in Costa Rica…?
There are a lot of candidates for the most treacherous, risky, menacing peril awaiting visitors to Costa Rica – crocodiles in the estuaries, dengue mosquitoes in the swamps, deadly vipers in the rainforest, and psychos behind the wheel of cars, trucks and buses. Plus earthquakes are almost a daily occurrence and floods are common in the rainy season.
If you’re a cautious driver and use DEET you can reduce those risks to almost infinitesimally small odds but there’s another danger you’ll face several times a day that requires almost constant vigilance.
It can strike down the old and the young and if you’re not careful while visiting a victim who’s in the hospital you may end up in the hospital.
Some of the most dangerous locations are swimming pools, terraces, reception areas, and bathrooms but it can be nearly anywhere. Have you guessed the culprit yet?
Wet tile or polished wood floors can be like walking onto an ice skating rink wearing silicone slippers and they are everywhere in Costa Rica.
Piso Mojado signs may greet you at the entrance to your lodge, in front of the restrooms at the service station or by the hot springs pool at Arenal Volcano.
High gloss tile is cheaper and easier to wipe clean so it’s surprisingly common as flooring – in bathrooms (even in the shower), around pools and in open air restaurants, lounges and terraces where the roof keeps the rain off but the wind can blow in mist.
Wood floors are usually a little better because they provide some natural traction but when they’re polished shiny with polyurethane or wax then get a little wet you’ll slip around like greasy bacon in a brand new Teflon frying pan. Concrete usually provides some traction unless it’s been painted with high gloss enamel.
Be extremely cautious when entering or exiting any structure especially in the rainy season.
Outdoor tile can be especially dangerous because it often grows a thin film of algae when the wet is exposed to sunlight. The algae acts as a lubricant making the already slippery tile a skating rink. Frequent power washing helps remove the growth and increase the coefficient of friction back to a reasonable level.
Not surprisingly the moss and algae covered rocks encountered on rafting, canyoning and waterfall rappelling tours are slick. What does surprise many people is just how slick.
I’ve been standing stock still, both feet firmly planted only to suddenly discover myself flat on my back. Be extremely cautious, wear your helmet and when possible stand or walk in the sand, gravel or mud instead of on rocks.