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Costa Rica is a paradise of gorgeous beaches, lush rainforests, and a uniquely pura vida lifestyle. Costa Rica’s high season sees over a million visitors from the US, Canada, and Europe seeking relaxation and adventure. But, how safe is Costa Rica?

Generally speaking, Costa Rica is safe for tourists and a fantastic eco-tourism destination. Costa Rica has no army and ranks #38 in the world on the 2022 Global Peace IndexThis makes it the most peaceful country within Latin America and the Caribbean, with low violent crime and virtually no political instability. 

Costa Rica is safe when compared to its neighbouring countries. However, like any country, there are some safety concerns that travelers should be aware of and take precautions to avoid. 

After spending several years living in Costa Rica and traveling across the country, here are our top tips and advice for safe travel in Costa Rica. 

is costa rica safe

Is it Safe to Travel to Costa Rica?

Short answer: yes. Costa Rica is an amazing country with friendly people and low crime rates. If you’re concerned about travelling to Costa Rica, look over some common questions and answers below for our insight.

Common Misconceptions About Safety in Costa Rica

Some people may consider Costa Rica to be unsafe due to its Central America location. However, despite unsafe neighbouring countries, Costa Rica is generally very safe to visit and to live.

Is Costa Rica Safe to Travel Alone?

Yes! As long as you apply your good travel sense and avoid problematic situations, Costa Rica is safe to travel alone. However, we always recommend taking extra care when travelling alone. Solo travelers will find it particularly useful to know a few Spanish words before the trip.

Is Costa Rica Safe for Solo Travel? Even Solo Female Travelers?

As mentioned above, solo travelers flock to Costa Rica as it’s a safe and sociable solo travel destination. For solo female travelers, exercising a bit of extra caution is always advisable. 

Avoiding isolated areas and opting to stay at hostels with other travelers is a great way to keep personal safety in mind. Unfortunately, sexual assault is a reality in Costa Rica just like in other countries, so women should always be mindful of their surroundings and take extra care when traveling alone.

If you’re a woman traveling alone, it pays just to be smart and use your common sense when making travel plans. Tell someone you trust about your travel plans, and use your cell phone’s location settings to allow friends/family to keep tabs on your whereabouts.

When choosing accommodation, be sure to do your research ahead of time to make sure you’re staying somewhere with a good reputation. If you’re taking any tours, prioritize group tours over solo tours. There is safety in numbers, of course.

As is usually the case, it’s best to simply ignore catcalling or similar behaviour, rather than try to stop the behaviour or get retribution. If you’re approached by a particularly persistent stranger, keep the fact that you’re traveling alone to yourself. Be sure to mention that you are waiting for or traveling with your husband “esposo” or friend, “amigo”. It’s unfortunate that women have to resort to this while traveling alone, but it is the reality in Latin America. 

The idea isn’t to scare you, of course. As stated, Costa Rica, in general, is safe, and most strangers you meet will likely be friendly. Unfriendly strangers, however, don’t exactly wear hats proclaiming that information.

Guide to Ecotourism in Costa Rica
Playa Grande, Costa Rica

READ NEXT: Guide To Backpacking In Costa Rica

Is Costa Rica Safe for Americans?

Absolutely! Costa Rica is a haven for expats so American travelers will feel safe across the country. Though we recommend trying to learn Spanish, you don’t need to speak the language fluently to enjoy Costa Rica. 

Is Costa Rica Safe for Families?

Yes, Costa Rica is an excellent safe travel destination for families. Costa Ricans are very family-oriented and there are lots of family-friendly activities around to enjoy.

Is Costa Rica Safe for LGBTQ+ Travelers?

Generally speaking, LGBTQ+ travelers are safe and welcomed in Costa Rica. In fact, Quepos and Manuel Antonio are actually popular gay travel destinations. Homosexuality is legal and same-sex marriage has been recognized since 2015. 

Compared to other Latin American countries, Costa Rica is progressive but not quite at the same level as North America or Europe. That said, LGBTQ+ travelers shouldn’t have any issues but avoiding public displays of affection in rural areas might be wise.

Covid in Costa Rica

Since the beginning of the pandemic, Costa Rica has been committed to protecting residents and tourists alike. Currently, Costa Rica is open for travel and worldwide tourists are welcome. There are no additional Covid related entry requirements. You do not need a PCR test or proof of vaccination to enter Costa Rica in 2023. 

Keep up with all the latest Costa Rica Covid-19 information HERE.

is costa rica safe

Costa Rica Travel Safety by City

Is Quepos, Costa Rica Safe? 

Quepos is the gateway to Manuel Antonio National Park and a popular destination for tourists. Because of this, the Pacific Coast town sees its fair share of robberies. It’s still a safe place to visit, just exercise extra caution at night. 

Is Uvita, Costa Rica Safe? 

Uvita is a small town with paid beach access that’s regularly patrolled. The area around Punta Uvita has had some issues with robberies in the past. Keep your belongings in sight and avoid bringing anything unnecessary or valuable to the beach or waterfalls.

Uvita is a popular surfing destination, and you’re going to run into a lot of ex-pats who have settled in the area. The best surfing conditions are generally from May to November when the waves are larger and more consistent. Keep in mind that the beach can get a little crowded during this time.

Uvita, Costa Rica
Uvita coastline

Is Santa Teresa, Costa Rica Safe? 

Santa Teresa is super laid back and very safe. It’s a popular destination for solo travelers and not a hotspot for violent crime. 

Is Guanacaste, Costa Rica Safe?

Yes, the region of Guanacaste, home to Costa Rica’s beaches, is, in general, a safe part of Costa Rica. Towns like Tamarindo, Playa del Coco and Playa Flamingo are more susceptible to petty crimes, while smaller towns along the coast have even less issues. 

Is Tamarindo, Costa Rica Safe? 

Tamarindo is generally regarded as a safe destination in Costa Rica. There is visible police presence in town and the general vibe in town is pretty safe and laid back. However, visitors should be aware of potential safety concerns and take preventative measures to protect their safety, just like in any other tourist site.

Tamarindo is prone to minor crimes like stealing and pickpocketing, especially in crowded places like markets and busy beaches. Be cautious with their possessions and refrain from carrying big sums of money or flashing valuables.

Be cautious when swimming or surfing in Tamarindo, as the area is known for powerful currents and rip tides. 

moving to costa rica

Is Dominical, Costa Rica Safe? 

Similar to Uvita, Dominical has a laid-back beach town vibe that’s considered to be fairly safe. Like anywhere, don’t bring unnecessary valuables to the beach and be aware at nighttime.

Is Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica Safe? 

If you’re visiting Manuel Antonio National Parkwe don’t recommend leaving any valuables in the car. Because it’s a busy tourist destination, it’s easy for petty crimes to happen under the radar. 

Is Puntarenas, Costa Rica Safe? 

Like other rural areas, Puntarenas sees very little crime in Costa Rica. Use your common sense when visiting the port town but note that violent crime is quite rare.

Max & Oksana in Infinity Pool at Oxygen Jungle Villas in Uvita, Costa Rica
Enjoying the views of Uvita at Oxygen Jungle Villas, Puntarenas

Is Jaco, Costa Rica Safe? 

Jaco is known as a party town, and crime in Jaco, Costa Rica, is usually linked to that. There are instances of drug trafficking, robberies, and prostitution, but these things are easily avoidable.We don’t love Jaco and generally do not recommend it as a destination to visit in Costa Rica, but it’s still popular, particularly with surfers and younger travelers.

 If you are going to visit Jaco on your trip, be especially careful at night. Avoid excessive alcohol consumption and be aware of their surroundings. 

As with other beach towns in Costa Rica, rip currents do pose a risk in Jaco and can make swimming and surfing in Jaco somewhat dangerous. It’s essential to follow safety guidelines and be cautious during big swells and changing tides. 

Is San Jose, Costa Rica Safe?

Out of all the towns and destinations in Costa Rica, the capital city of San José has the highest crime rate in Costa Rica. This is particularly true in the downtown area, where you should avoid walking alone at night. 

Be extra vigilant when you visit San Jose because some areas can be less safe than others, especially at night. Use authorized taxis or ride-sharing services like Uber, particularly at night.

READ MORE: Uber in Costa Rica

The Costa Rican government has implemented security measures in key tourist sites and increased police presence in specific areas to enhance safety in San Jose in recent years. Visitors should still take precautions and pay attention to their surroundings.

Is Costa Rica’s Caribbean Coast Safe?

Costa Rica’s Caribbean Coast and the province of Limón do have higher crime rates than the rest of the country. That’s not to say you shouldn’t visit. For the most part, the region is also perfectly safe for tourists. 

Do exercise caution in Puerto Viejo and avoid being alone at night. Especially for females, try to stick with a group and take a licensed taxi where possible. 

READ NEXT: The REAL Cost of Living in Costa Rica

The Complete Guide to Costa Rica National Parks
The beautiful coastline of Corcovado National Park

Let’s get to some specifics…

Costa Rica Safety Tips

  • Always stay alert and be vigilant
  • Lock your doors no matter what hotel/Airbnb/resort you are staying at
  • Lock the doors on your car and roll up your windows whenever you leave
  • Don’t wear flashy jewelry or carry expensive items (phones and cameras are fine)
  • Don’t leave your valuables unattended, especially at the beach
  • Don’t leave valuables in sight in your parked rental car. If you park your car at an official or unofficial parking lot and someone is watching your car for you, expect to tip them.
  • Don’t carry a lot of cash on you and don’t leave it hiding in your backpack in your hotel room either. We recommend using credit cards where possible. 
  • Don’t walk alone on the streets, on the beach, or in dark alleyways—especially at night
  • Avoid downtown San Jose at night
  • Take Uber instead of taxis where possible. Taxi drivers in Costa Rica are known for trying to overcharge and scam tourists into paying more for their rides.
  • If you do take a taxi, be sure to only ride in licensed taxis. They are usually red with a yellow triangle on the door. Look out for them at taxi stands at the airports and in cities like San Jose or Liberia. 
  • Book tours on official websites and not from peddlers on the beach
  • Exchange money at the bank to get the best rate
  • Don’t drink cheap liquor. Methanol poisoning in Costa Rica has been an increasingly common occurrence in recent years. Chances are that when prices are unbelievably cheap, there’s a reason. Methanol poisoning can cause headaches, nausea, vomiting, blindness, and even death. Find a list of common sugarcane alcohols to avoid here.
  • Get a local SIM card with Kolbi or Claro or an e-sim service to have connection on your phone for calls, maps, and translation.

Other Info and FAQs: Costa Rica Travel Advice 

Costa Rican Police

The main police force in Costa Rica is called El Organismo de Investigación Judicial (OIJ), or Judicial Investigation Police in English. They are generally friendly and helpful to tourists but don’t get much done outside of that. 

If you have something stolen or damaged, you should report it to the OIJ but don’t expect the item to be found. The paperwork will help you claim the incident with your travel insurance provider.

Is it Safe to Eat Street Food in Costa Rica?

This is an area where your common sense comes in handy. If you see a stand that looks dirty or has food sitting out uncovered all day, you should probably skip it. On the other hand, local markets often have great produce and snacks that are visibly fresh and delicious.

Feeling like a coconut from the side of the highway? Go ahead! These are perfectly safe as they are typically opened right in front of you. But think twice before jumping on a cheap serving of ceviche from the trunk of a car, particularly if you are driving by later in the afternoon. While that ceviche was probably fresh and delicious this morning, it’s likely going a bit off by late afternoon. 

costa rica backpacking
Pollo and Carne Asada on the grill in Tamarindo, Costa Rica

Food Safety in Costa Rica

Food safety standards in Costa Rica and in Central America in general, are not what you would typically find in your home country. When eating out, choose restaurants with a good reputation for cleanliness and food safety. Read reviews and talk to locals who will offer guidance on the best restaurants in the area. Look for places that are busy and have a high turnover of food. 

Avoid undercooked meat and seafood: Make sure that meat and seafood are cooked all the way through to prevent the risk of food poisoning.

Is Tap Water Safe to Drink in Costa Rica? 

Generally, tap water in Costa Rica is safe. The government has invested in water treatment plants and has strict standards for water quality. In many cities and even some smaller rural communities water is supplied by the city and is frequently tested for potential bacteria and pathogens. Small towns, or remote communities may rely on well water for their tap water. Generally, tap water from the well is still safe to drink, but we suggest exercising a bit more caution as you never know how often that water gets tested. 

IN general, all water in Costa Rica contains a high level of calcium and other minerals. That’s not a bad thing, in fact we could all use a bit more calcium in our systems, but this makes it unsuitable for a small percentage of visitors. If you have or have had kidney stones in the past, it is not recommended that you drink unfiltered water in Costa Rica. 

Also, in case you have a sensitive stomach and often get sick from water abroad, you may find some tap water in Costa Rica to be unsuitable for you. If you don’t want to risk getting sick, we recommend that you invest a filtered water bottle, so you can be sure to drink clean water on matter the source. 

We recommend LARQ Filtered water bottle – a new insulated water bottle that will not only filter bacteria and pathogens from your water but will also keep it cold throught the day!

READ NEXT: Things To Know Before Traveling To Costa Rica

Is it Safe to Drive in Costa Rica?

Absolutely—thousands of tourists from the US travel to Costa Rica and easily drive across the country. Most roads in Costa Rica are paved so if you’re an experienced driver, you shouldn’t have any issues. Just keep in mind that speeds are posted in km/h and not miles. 

Book car rentals well in advance and know that car rental prices in Costa Rica do not include mandatory third-party or collision insurance. Book with a reputable provider to ensure that you do not pay an arm and a leg or get scammed into buying more insurance than you need. 

We recommend booking with Vamos Costa Rica – a local car rental company that offers fantastic service and NO HIDDEN FEES and get 10% of your rental rate plus FREE additional driver, FREE child seat and other perks and benefits when booking through our link below!

Be vigilant when traveling with a rental car. Keep the doors locked and the windows closed when you can, and if someone suspicious approaches the car while you’re stopped, lay on the horn. If someone tries to tell you there’s something wrong with the car while you’re driving, get to a public place before you stop.

Be sure to have a spare tire, tools, and a car jack with you, and learn how to change a tire before you go. It’s a rarity, but it’s not unheard of for supposed “good samaritans” to stop, just to then rob stranded tourists.

If you happen to get into a car accident, contact your rental company immediately.

READ MORE: Renting a Car in Costa Rica

Car stuck in a river in Costa Rica

READ NEXT: Tips for Driving in Costa Rica

Mosquitos, Zika, and Dengue in Costa Rica

Costa Rica has many resident mosquitoes, but thankfully, there is no Zika. However, there is dengue and Chikungunya, though they are rare and unlikely to be caught. Cover up with loose layers and wear sunscreen whenever you’re outdoors. 

Mosquito repellent is a must for any trip to Costa Rica. We recommend the non-DEET mosquito repellent to ensure that its not harmful to the environment. 

Swimming & Riptides in Costa Rica

Being surrounded by the ocean makes Costa Rica an amazing swimming and surfing destination. A few things to remember is that most Costa Rican beaches don’t have lifeguards, so you’re always swimming at your own risk. 

It’s wise to remember – if surfers are hitting waves in front of you, it’s probably not a great swimming spot. 

Riptides are prevalent and very serious. They cause 80% of drowning deaths across the country. Check if you feel the current in knee-deep water before you enter the ocean.

If you get stuck in a riptide, stay calm and swim or float parallel to the shore to escape the rip tide.

If you’re swimming in freshwater, just be sure to double-check with the locals first. Freshwater often has crocodiles and venomous snakes. If you’re at all unsure, give it a pass.

Hiking and Wildlife Safety in Costa Rica

With dozens of National Parks all over the country, there is no shortage of hiking spots in Costa Rica. Many trails in National Parks throughout Costa Rica is accessible without a guide and enjoyed for a small fee. However, if you are planning on visiting more remote areas or hiking outside of the designated National Park trails, then going with a group or with a guide is a great way to enjoy the wilderness and stay safe. 

Be mindful of animals, particularly snakes, as they can be poisonous and dangerousAlways follow posted guidelines when visiting rainforests and national parks. If you see an animal, give it space. A frightened animal will do what it thinks it has to when defending itself, increasing your chances of getting hurt.

Keep to the trails, and don’t go wandering off into the brush. It can be easy to get lost in the jungle, there might be penalties for leaving the monitored trails, and leaving the trails makes it harder to see wildlife in the deep bush.

Bring more water than you think you’ll need. Costa Rica is very humid, and often very hot, and you’re going to sweat a lot. You don’t want to get dehydrated halfway through a hike.

READ NEXT: Buying Property in Costa Rica

Public Transportation Safety

When using public transport, never leave your belongings unattended and always pay attention. Particularly on buses in San José and even at the bus station itself. Many long-range buses between towns are convenient but can often be uncomfortable. They’re usually hot and packed with no AC but still serve as a good low-cost travel alternative. 

Bus stations and buses are generally safe during the day, and if you are travelling in a group, they are mostly fine at night as well. Solo travelers should stick to daytime travel and females should be particularly cautious if traveling on their own.

Always have your luggage and belongings in sight, with zippers and pockets facing you. Avoid putting anything in the overhead compartment, don’t accept any offers to watch your belongings, and don’t take any unexpected naps on the bus. If you do, you could very well wake up to find your belongings or valuable missing, snatched right in front of your eyes. 

Driving in Costa Rica can be a bit challenging at times
The road leading up to Manuel Antonio National Park

What to do in an Emergency in Costa Rica

If there is an emergency, call 911 immediately. They have English-speaking operators that will dispatch an ambulance. Once the ambulance arrives, have them take you to a private hospital. 

Importance of Travel Insurance

Depending on the situation, most medical emergencies will be covered under your travel insurance. Buying insurance before your departure is an essential step in planning your Costa Rican holiday. 

Petty Theft

Petty crime is the most common Costa Rica crime that affects visitors. It’s one of the safest countries but robberies can still happen anywhere, in cities, small towns, and even in your Airbnb. If you are getting robbed, give them your money and phone—it’s not worth getting hurt over $1000. Immediately report the incident to the police station and claim it on your insurance.

International Embassies in Costa Rica

If you need travel documents or legal advice, contact your country’s embassy.

US Embassy Costa Rica

Calle 98 Vía 104, Pavas

San José, Costa Rica

Phone: (506) 2519-2000


Canadian Embassy in Costa Rica

Behind the “Contraloría” in the Oficentro Ejecutivo La Sabana 

Building 5, Third floor

San José, Costa Rica

Phone: (506) 2242-4400


UK Embassy in Costa Rica

Edificio Centro Colón,

Paseo Colón and Streets 38 and 40

Apartado 815 – 1007

San José, Costa Rica

Phone: (506) 2258-2025


All in all, Costa Rica is an amazing place and a safe country for any traveler. Applying your good travel sense and avoiding dangerous situations is your ticket to a safe and enjoyable visit. 

Do you have any travel advice for Costa Rica that we missed? Let us know your best tips for travel safety in Costa Rica in the comments below! 

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