Is Costa Rica a Safe Place for Travelers?

Happy to be in Costa Rica!
Happy to be in Costa Rica!

Costa Rica has been called a traveler’s paradise, thanks to its lush, green forests and stunning blue waterfalls. Once you visit for the first time, you’ll see firsthand why travelers flock here year-round.

Despite the allure of its pristine beaches and gorgeous flora, I’ve heard some people question whether it’s safe to travel here. Fortunately, most people find Costa Rica a pleasantly safe place to visit and choose to return year after year. However, just like every other travel destination, there are some things you should know about before you come here.

Natural Threats

There are some elements of nature in Costa Rica that can potentially cause harm if you aren’t prepared. It’s important to learn about and protect yourself from the following dangers:

  • Excessive Sun Exposure
  • Mosquito Born Diseases
  • Dangerous Ocean Currents

The same sun that makes the sky here look incredibly blue and welcoming can also scald your skin if you aren’t careful. The UV light in this small piece of paradise is more intense than any other place in the world, so you’ll need to drink plenty of water and keep your skin slathered in sunscreen while you’re outdoors. Don’t worry, most people have no problem getting a tan, even with sunscreen on all day long.

If you like to sunbathe make sure you keep it to small doses in the direct sun and so later up on that sunscreen, I feel like I am repeating myself but it is super important. Trust me, you don’t want to walk away from your vacation with 2nd-degree burns.

There’s a tree here in Costa Rica called the gumbo-limbo tree. I like to refer to it as the “tourist tree” because the bark looks like the many crispy, sunburned tourists I see come through here. Make sure you’re not one of them!

In addition to the intense sunlight, there are also mosquito-carried diseases here. Although it’s unusual for travelers to contract sicknesses like dengue, it is still wise to protect yourself with bug spray. You’ll also want to wash your hands before each meal to minimize your risk of contracting any other diseases. You probably already do this at home, so it shouldn’t disrupt your normal routine.

Finally, some of the most overlooked and underestimated threats here in Costa Rica are the dangerous ocean currents. From rip tides that pull you out to sea in minimal time to rising tides that can cover up trails and paths, it’s important to stay aware.

Know where rip tides are located and learn the beachscape when the tide rises. If you do get stuck in a rip tide, keep yourself calm (I know, it’s much easier said than done!) Don’t attempt to swim against the current. Instead, turn your body parallel to the shore and swim at an angle until you reach calmer water and can make it back to dry land. The best piece of advice is to not panic and know you will be fine.

Crime-Related Threats

There are mischievous people all around the world, and Costa Rica is no exception. Although this country is generally safe for tourists and undesirable incidents are rare, it is possible that you could be impacted by petty theft.

Criminals especially like to target vehicles with valuables sitting out in the open. Those with high levels of skill may even attempt to grab your wallet or cash right out of your pocket!

Fortunately, you don’t have to become a victim and can deter criminals by taking a few precautionary steps, which I will outline next.

20 Tips for Staying Safe in Costa Rica

More than three million tourists enjoy Costa Rica each year. The majority of them experience no troubles while traveling in the country. However, it’s still important to take certain precautions to minimize your chances of encountering any natural or crime-related threats.

Here are a few tips for staying safe while exploring this gorgeous travel destination:

  1. Always hike on marked trails, especially if you are near any volcano or in an area with volcanic activity. It is best to hire a guide while hiking, they will help keep you safe and you will see more.
  2. Always wear sunscreen if you are going be in the sun. It is important to mention that even if you are going for a hike it is important to lather up.
  3. Wear mosquito repellent especially at dusk & dawn when the mosquitos are more active.
  4. When swimming in the ocean be aware of your surrounds to make sure you are not getting pulled in a rip current out to sea. If you are in a rip current swim parallel to the shore then once out of the rip current you can swim to the shore.
  5. Keep the doors and windows of your hotel and car closed and locked when you are not there and make sure no valuables are out in the open.
  6. Keep your passport in a secure place (preferably a lockbox or hotel safe). Take a copy of it before you leave on vacation and carry the copy around with you while you’re here.
  7. Carry the phone number and name of your hotel with you on a piece of paper. You should also have the U.S. Embassy phone number with you at all times, in case you need it.
  8. As beautiful as Costa Rica is at night, you should always avoid walking around alone at night, especially near the center of San José.
  9. Only travel with groups of people you know and avoid seeking entertainment with strangers. Plan your activities beforehand so you know exactly where to go and minimize your chances of getting lost.
  10. Don’t leave your belongings unattended on the beach when you are swimming or taking a walk. Things have tendency of walking away.
  11. Don’t accept drinks or food from strangers, even if they appear friendly.
  12. Be alert and pay attention to any suspicious people, especially if they are loitering around building doors.
  13. Avoid carrying valuables with you. If you must carry a purse around, make sure it is a cross-body purse with a secure zipper.
  14. Don’t wear jewelry, including expensive watches.
  15. Never engage in a physical confrontation with a criminal. If a criminal demands your purse or belongings, it is better to hand them over than to be injured.
  16. Park in secure parking lots whenever possible.
  17. Keep your cell phone ready and available in case you need it.
  18. Be cautious of strangers who offer to help you with car issues.
  19. Walk with confidence and avoid listening to headphones or engaging in any other distracting activities while you’re out and about. You always want to be fully aware of what’s going on around you.
  20. Always be smart about any activity you are about to do. If it does not feel right don’t do it. Trust your instincts.

These precautions will help keep you safe so you can fully enjoy your stay in this beautiful country. If you notice any suspicious or threatening activity while you’re here, report it to the police immediately. Keep in mind that these safety tips also apply to any place you travel in the world.

Enjoy Your Stay!

Costa Rica is one of the most beautiful places in the world, and everyone should see it at least once. Now that you know what precautions you can take to remain safe while here, it’s time to plan your stay. Book your trip to Costa Rica and get ready to have an experience that you won’t soon forget!

Guanacaste Escape Adventure Tour
7 Days / 6 Nights
Starting at $779 per person
Costa Rica Beach & National Park Tour
14 Days / 13 Nights
Starting at $1,727 per person
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