Considering a trip to Costa Rica?
Good choice. With truly lush beaches, unique biomes, and a diverse population of wildlife, Costa Rica is a top spot for both relaxation and thrilling adventure tourism.
Unfortunately, you do hear stories concerning violent crime and high murder rates. Crime against tourists gets a ton of publicity, and there are some nasty tales out there for sure. There is undoubtedly a contrast between Costa Rica’s mind-blowing tourism and its darker side, which can be confusing.
It may have left you with the question, “is Costa Rica safe to visit”?
Luckily, I’ve written a guide loaded with all the best tools for ensuring a super safe visit, and clueing you up to everything you should keep an eye out for in this outstanding country.
Let’s jump in!
There is no such thing as a perfect safety guide, and this article is no different. The question of “Is Costa Rica Safe?” will ALWAYS have a different answer depending on the parties involved. But this article is written for savvy travellers from the perspective of savvy travellers.
The information present in this safety guide was accurate at the time of writing, however, the world is a changeable place, now more than ever. Between the pandemic, ever-worsening cultural division, and a click-hungry media, it can be hard to maintain what is truth and what is sensationalism.
Here, you will find safety knowledge and advice for travelling Costa Rica. It won’t be down to the wire cutting edge info on the most current events, but it is layered in the expertise of veteran travellers. If you use our guide, do your own research, and practise common sense, you will have a safe trip to Costa Rica.
If you see any outdated information in this guide, we would really appreciate it if you could reach out in the comments below. We strive to provide the most relevant travel information on the web and always appreciate input from our readers (nicely, please!). Otherwise, thanks for your ear and stay safe!
It’s a wild world out there. But it’s pretty damn special too. 🙂
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- Is Costa Rica Safe Right Now?
- Safest Places to Visit in Costa Rica
- 17 Top Safety Tips for Travelling to Costa Rica
- Is Costa Rica safe to travel alone?
- Is Costa Rica safe for solo female travellers?
- Is Costa Rica safe to travel for families?
- Getting around Costa Rica Safely
- Crime in Costa Rica
- FAQs on staying safe in Costa Rica
- So, Is Costa Rica Safe?
Is Costa Rica Safe Right Now?
While the country is home to certain issues, yes, travelling to Costa Rica is generally safe.
You may be surprised to know that Costa Rica is actually one of the most stable Latin American countries. Murder rates are significantly lower than most of its neighbours, and no army (abolished in 1949!) means funding goes to better things – like amazing healthcare.
With tourism contributing majorly to the country’s GDP, tourist dollars go some way to eliminate poverty (albeit slowly). The government is focused on making the country accessible and comfortable for tourists.
Sadly, robberies are reasonably common against tourists, and there is some level of gang-related violence, especially in larger cities.
On the whole, Costa Rica visits are trouble-free, and most tourists have a great (if not awesome) time. Costa Rica is an exceptional destination, and one of the safest countries in Central America.
Like a variety of tropical Island nations, Costa Rica is subject to its fair share of natural disasters, especially hurricanes. Knowing what to do in these situations could be essential for making sure your visit is safe.
Safest Places to Visit in Costa Rica
Costa Rica is a massive tourist destination and overall pretty safe. However, there are some areas that are sketchier than others. We’ve listed Costa Rica’s best places to stay below.
- Tamarindo: Tamarindo is an incredible Costa Rican beach town that is packed with everything you wanted from Costa Rica! It has beautiful beaches, a wild nightlife, and is actually a huge hub for surfers. While Tamarindo is definitely a popular destination to visit, it doesn’t attract as many tourists as other cities, so the safety level is still quite high. There are still some great beach houses though.
- Drake Bay: Drake Bay, also called Bahía Drake, sits on the coast in the southwest of Costa Rica. This city is a top choice for families! It is a remote village, not a crazy tourist hub, and is therefore one of the safest areas in Costa Rica. That means that you and your family won’t be fighting for a place to put your beach towel down! The main beach of Drake Bay is called Playa Colorada, which has a handful of restaurants and warm, peaceful water!
- Puerto Viejo: Puerto Viejo de Talamanca sits in the southeast of Costa Rica. It’s right on the gorgeous Caribbean coast and is renowned for the black sand beach and epic surf break! With awesome mangroves and close proximity to some of Costa Rica’s most epic national parks, this is a hard place to beat.
Places to Avoid in Costa Rica
As we’ve mentioned before, not everywhere in Costa Rica is a paradise. While it’s always smart to keep your eyes open and stay aware of your surroundings, the following areas are better avoided than explored.
- Areas in San Jose: While San Jose is Costa Rica’s most popular tourist city, there are areas that you should avoid. These include any sort of parks at night. Stay away from Los Guido, Desamparados, Pavas, La Carpio, Leon XIII, the El Carmen neighbourhood in Cartago, and the “El Infiernillo,” (little hell) sector of Alajuela.
- Quepos (gateway): Quite a few robberies have been happening in Quepos, a small town which acts as the gateway to the Manuel Antonio National Park. If possible try to stay away or just keep your eyes open.
- Limon city: This port city is generally kept away from by tourists and ex-pats. With one of the highest rates of organised crime and drug trafficking in the country, it’s better to give this city a miss. Especially La Cieneguita.
- Santa Rosa de Pocosol, San Carlos: Boasting a high concentration of Nicaraguans, even humanitarian workers have been threatened at knife point. Try and avoid this area.
There is a large rift between local Costa Rican society and the tourism industry. While tourism is great for some, it has been cited as a driver of high inflation, and higher costs of living. Locals have been priced out of certain areas.
There is consequently a mixed view of tourists, and it is generally safer to stay within well-known tourist zones than to explore local districts.
Whilst Costa Rica is generally safe, there is always more you can do to make sure you’re staying safe. Here are a few top tips for staying safe in Costa Rica.
- Inquire with the staff at the hostel/hotel you’re staying at – they’ll know best about the area.
- Make friends – exploring urban areas with a group of travelers deters would-be robbers.
- Don’t walk alone at night – avoid streets that look sketchy…
- Take a taxi instead of walking at night. – remember that licensed taxis are red (or orange). Anything else is illegal and risky
- Avoid people that want to ‘help’ with your bags – this is a scam.
- Split up your cash strategically – don’t put one huge wad of bills in your luggage!
- Carry a small amount of cash when you go out – if something happens it’s a small loss. Using a money belt is an excellent way to hide cash.
- Don’t wear expensive accessories – seeming rich makes you a target for thieves.
- You HAVE to carry your passport – but avoid losing it by copying it (ID page + Costa Rica visa) instead.
- Don’t hang your bag or purse on the back of your chair – this is easy pickings for a thief.
- Don’t leave your bags unattended at the beach – this is a rookie-level mistake.
- Look busy at bus stations – looking lost is gold dust for scammers wanting a ‘tip’ for helping you.
- Don’t use the overhead lockers on buses – get a ticket for the luggage compartment under the bus.
- Use a flashlight or backpacking headlamp when walking at night in rural areas – you don’t want to step on something bitey!
- Speaking of which, don’t forget mosquito repellent! Costa Rican mozzies are relentless
- Stay away from drugs – it’s really not worth getting yourself mixed up in the gangs related to them. You’re not making the country any better by buying them.
- Know what to pack for Costa Rica – burning sun, annoying mosquitos… you have to be prepared!
Travelling smart is always the key to making sure your trips run smoothly, and there is no excuse for not doing the same in Costa Rica. That said, there is no point in ruining your trip by constantly worrying.
Keeping a balance between staying safe and having fun is the key to any top adventure!
Travelling in Costa Rica by yourself is totally doable and is one of the best ways to experience the amazing country!
Sure, it may be easy but that doesn’t mean it’s a breeze. Here are a few things you can bear in mind to make sure you optimize the safety-fun trade-off.
- Learn some Spanish. You’re in a Spanish-speaking country after all and it makes traversing the bus network much easier. Bus drivers aren’t famed for their English either. You can actually enrol in Spanish classes for a couple of days too.
- You’ll most likely want to meet other people on your travels, right? So unless you’re totally into your own company, then head to destinations where other travellers congregate. Some of the better places for solo travellers in Costa Rica are Santa Teresa, Nosara, Puerto Viejo and Tamarindo.
- And a top tip for beating the solo travelling blues, just get out and about – new experiences and people will never be too far away.
- Stay at one of Costa Rica’s hostels – it’s probably one of the best ways to get to know like-minded travellers and exchange stories and travel tips. Even if you want to continue travelling alone, it might benefit your safety!
- Go Scuba Diving with a reputable company and with proper training. It’s not to be missed so make sure you feel confident in your skills and companions when you hit the reefs.
Is Costa Rica safe for solo female travellers?
Is it safe to vacation in Costa Rica for women? Unfortunately travelling solo female can often mean you have to be extra careful.
Here are some crucial things to keep in mind when you’re out in Costa Rica!
- Be confident, even if you don’t feel like it. Looking confused and lost is a good way to attract unwanted attention – anywhere in the world. If you’re really lost, walk confidently (even if you have no clue where you are) to somewhere that looks safe – a shop, a library, etc. – and find a member of staff to ask for help.
- That’s another thing: don’t be afraid to be direct and ask for help or directions. This will most likely be better than accepting help from someone who initiates the conservation with you.
- Avoid walking alone at night. Get a licensed taxi home or walk with a big group of friends from your hostel, but don’t walk home alone, even if the distance is short.
- Once you arrive in Costa Rica, make friends – women more than men are often targeted by criminals and having a good crew with you helps to scare away attackers.
- Look at what the local women your age are doing – what they’re dressed like, how they’re behaving.
- Catcalls do happen. If you don’t want that kind of attention, ignore them and move on.
- Know the emergency numbers! Seems simple but it’s easily neglected. Keep them on your phone at the top of the list.
- Let someone know where you’re going – Even if it’s just the staff at the hostel or a friend at home – it’s necessary.
Like a lot of Latin America, advances can be a little more physical than they are in Europe or the U.S., so taking extra care in bars, clubs, and at night is super important.
Is Costa Rica safe to travel for families?
Costa Rica is a fun-packed place and a total playground for any adventure-loving family out there.
The jungle and the family-friendly beaches are great fun for you and your kids. Ask locals about where is safest to swim: riptides can be deadly. Go with a guide on hikes. They’ll spot dangerous wildlife way before you do.
Like anywhere, travelling with kids necessarily demands more of a safety-conscious approach. You can’t galavant around like you can as a solo adult. Remember that it is wayyy less stressful to book in advance, and to plan your trip carefully.
With your attention on the kids, you are more likely to be a target for petty crime, and as a family on holiday, your perceived financial status is usually quite high. Take care of your stuff!
Getting around Costa Rica Safely
Costa Rica has a strong bus system, where the destinations are posted in the front window. Hiring cars is possible too, and quite a strong idea considering some roads and destinations can be relatively remote.
If you’re going to catch a bus from San Jose to anywhere else during holiday time you’re going to have to book ahead of time at a bus station. Again, basic Spanish would be helpful.
Theft from overhead racks on buses is actually a little rampant, so if you are travelling by public transport, either keep your stuff within reach or use the under bus storage.
You can pick up taxis pretty easily from major cities, and there is usually a taxi stand to be found. Taxis are a mix of regulated taxis, and piratas (pirate taxis). Despite the ominous name, these are relatively safe, although you may be asked to pretend to know the driver if pulled over.
Crime in Costa Rica
Costa Rica is currently a level 2 rated country, according to the U.S. travel authorities. Robberies are a particularly common and nasty form of violent crime that is prevalent in the country, and Costa Rica has a murder rate of 11.19 per 100 000 (2020). This is comparable to the rate of Grenada, Namibia, and Suriname.
Costa Rican petty crime is worth watching out for as a tourist. Easy opportunities to steal possessions are taken, so just be smart about where you leave certain high-value items. There have been numerous break-ins to tourist vehicles, so be sure valuables are hidden if leaving them inside a vehicle.
Using your common sense will help you avoid a large quantity of trouble in Costa Rica, especially when going out, and walking at night.
Laws in Costa Rica
Costa Rican laws are generally pretty standard, but you should avoid removing architectural objects, and local fauna. If you are discovered on exit you could be subject to some serious payback.
Costa Rica Travel Insurance
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FAQs on staying safe in Costa Rica
For a travel destination like Costa Rica, there are lots of different things you have to consider when it comes to safety. We’ve listed the most common question, answers and facts to make your trip as easy as possible.
So, Is Costa Rica Safe?
Yes, travelling to Costa Rica is safe. Very safe if you’re using your common sense. A wealth of history, crazy good food, and literally amazing nature make it perfect for many different people. And that’s not even mentioning its stunning beaches, which are as popular for sunbathers as they are for surfers.
There are things to bear in mind, of course – taxis can be fraudulent, female travellers should exercise caution, and pickpockets are common.
Hopefully, this guide will have given you some great tips for staying safe in Costa Rica, so go on, enjoy it! (and don’t forget travel insurance)
Disclaimer: Safety conditions change all over the world on a daily basis. We do our best to advise but this info may already be out of date. Do your own research. Enjoy your travels!
And for transparency’s sake, please know that some of the links in our content are affiliate links. That means that if you book your accommodation, buy your gear, or sort your insurance through our link, we earn a small commission (at no extra cost to you). That said, we only link to the gear we trust and never recommend services we don’t believe are up to scratch. Again, thank you!
Great article, paints a pretty picture. I know all places have their issues. If I go anywhere I want to feel safe. I am looking to relocate from the US. I want to hear of everyone’s experience. I want to make an informed decision. Not one based on my fantasy or one person’s opinion. Based on some comments here and speaking with actual people that have been, I’m skeptical of CR
Looking to move to CR in the near future. Purchase some property and lay back. I have a friend doing that now he’s pretty happy
Male senior traveling solo. Being safe and limited money but would like to see the city by a trust worthy travel tour group of person. Mid Oct for about a week.
I have planned my trip to Costa Rica, staying at Marriott-Los Suenos. I reached out to a close friend who I knew had been going there for years. He stopped going 3 years ago (2019), as he was got badly mugged for his iphone and some cash on hand. He told me he would never go back, as it has deteriorated over the years and is not safe. Well, I’m a single female – he told me females are especially targeted and advised me not to go. I am heartbroken to hear all this. I visited back in 1999 with an eco tour group and had a fabulous time. Apparently, times have changed Costa Rica.
I’ve been researching on living in CR. From what I’ve read, it’s not to bad of a country. I have been all over Mexico and lived there for a bit. Loved all of it. The Caribbean and Europe plus Mexico, All have crime. Even here in the states. Where I am located, near Corpus Christi, there’s drugs, homelessness and places I do not want to be night or day.
I suggest living there for a year without buying a house. Renting instead will give you an idea on everything.
A girlfriend and I are planning a trip to one of Costa Rica’s all inclusive resorts. The Azura Resort. Is the resort itself safe? Is traveling from the airport to the resort safe? What airport do you recommend? Is there dangerous spots between the airport and the resort?
Hi there, my family and I have had a trip planned to Costa for some time now. I keep sticking it out, but every once in a while I start to worry about the advisories. If you were me, would you take your family to Costa Rica now? We are a family of 5, older kids 18, 17 and 16, traveling in July 2021. I want to have a great time, but overall safety is number one. Your feedback is greatly appreciated. Thank you in advance.
Funny how I listened to all the advice on the Internet and chose Costa Rica for my solo vacation based on those glorious reviews. Sounds like a lot of this Pura Vida stuff is sponsored by Costa Rican ministry of tourism. I did not feel safe in this country, neither I saw any happiness these promotional articles talk about. Costa Ricans are very poor, not just in material things – I haven’t seen a lot of playgrounds for kids, most people walk alongside the roads that don’t even have shoulders, forget about sidewalks, there is no music or dancing, no art scene, and in my two weeks traveling across the country I haven’t seen a single bookstore, or something like a yoga studio. I did feel tension and resentment towards me from the locals when I was simply purchasing things like water at gas stations or asking national parks clerks about their trails. About their healthcare system that’s better that the US – only someone delusional could suggest such an idea – I saw only one major medical center and it didn’t look very big or modern, and a few clinics housed in something the size of a garage. God forbid you have a medical emergency there- I didn’t feel based on what I saw that the help would be coming quickly or that it would be anything like the level of US healthcare with its helicopters and quick response. Police stations are located off unpaved roads and some of them don’t even have computers. I dealt with police there, their response time can be 4 hours (no wonder, it would take them 40 minutes just to drive to your location). Also police presence is very small, even in major tourist areas. Outside of a 3 star hotel in La Fortuna, which had a 24/7 guard and a gate (it annoyed me at the time) and plenty of staff, I didn’t feel safe anywhere. Other than my cell phone being stolen in broad daylight from a peaceful almost empty beach (they call it petty theft – not so petty if you have all your credit card apps, email, personal photos and memories, not to mention this being your only means of contacting help such as 911 and in my case figuring out where I was using maps) and being conned by a guy who sold me a pre-paid phone plan, — the desolate roads where I found myself driving alone for long stretches of time, the unpaved roads leading to world famous destinations and hotels that somehow got 9 points on Booking.com, where it was easy to damage your vehicle, and no services or gas stations for miles, the way locals stared at me getting out of my car, at my wallet when I stood in line at stores, when I walked alone in national parks, the near absence of developed areas, locals who sit around their shacks and shack like stores and watch you, people, both locals and tourists, refusing help when you are running around distressed without a phone asking somebody to let you use their phone to make a phone call- all of these things gave me a an unsafe uneasy vibe that ruined my vacation. When you have to constantly watch your back and your bag, you don’t enjoy nature so much. I don’t recommend Costa Rica for solo female travelers. I felt safer in Mexico and Peru. Read about all the crimes committed in Costa Rica, including armed robberies. P.S I’m posting this on other similar websites, as I feel I should warn solo female travelers.
You’re clearly an idiot, based purely on this – “there is no music or dancing, no art scene, and in my two weeks traveling across the country I haven’t seen a single bookstore, or something like a yoga studio” – How can you claim there is no music, no dancing, no art scene? You were obviously well out of your comfort zone and whilst I feel bad for you on that front it’s really immature to let your discomfort warp your impression of a country to such a degree.
This city is very dangerous- my daughter was threatened with her life – don’t go don’t go …..ps
She thankfully had insurance….
Hi Andrew, which city do you mean? Was she robbed there?
Sadly the idea of Pura Vida is at odds with the petty theft and dishonesty that I witnessed. Doors and windows all have grills over them and are landlocked shut from the early evening because no one can be trusted. Taxi drivers scam regularly telling you your hostel is overbooked and taking you elsewhere at great cost.
After reading this article I am very motivated to have a focus on the area… My wife and I don’t mind about the weariness and would love to open a little shop welcoming people that can enjoy seafood. Lionfish tacos are what we would specialise with a local beer.
Go live your dream! Let me know when we can swing around for a beer! 🙂
Thank you so much for providing relevant and meaningful facts about traveling to CR. My son is interested in learning Spanish, helping out in the community and also likes the opportunity to live with a family and get to know the culture. There are so many language schools. He’s a highschool graduate and wants to be there Sept thru Dec. only if possible, would you be able to recommend two or three best Spanish schools with home-stay options. Thank you
Hi! I did a Spanish school with homestays in Peru that has a branch in Costa Rica as well. You can check out Máximo Nivel. They have volunteer programs too, but I recommend doing the courses and organizing a volunteer experience on his own once he’s on the ground. Viva las aventuras!
Costa Rica has gotten way too big for its britches. Super expensive and there is some sort of road closing strike every week. It’s not what you think it is. It’s not the brochure or flashy add you’re looking at. It’s not Pura Vida. It’s not even “Green” as they use more Round Up then anywhere I’ve ever been. 26 countries. I guess if you are filthy rich, arrive in your own jet and can afford $600+ a night you’re OK. But for the average guy it’s way past over cooked.
This is the most comprehensive information about who, what, and where. I specifically appreciate the breakdown for solo travelers, women, and families. Thank you.
FINALLY A WELL WRITTEN ARTICLE. COVERING MOST POINTS OF VIEW.
Are the mosquitoes particularly bad? In all areas?
Mosquitoes will abound. Arm yourself!