We always get asked if Costa Rica is safe for traveling? This could mean a lot of things. You might be wondering if it is safe to drink the water in Costa Rica or if you are concerned about insects and other animals in the rainforest.
We have been running tours in Costa Rica for almost 20 years, and we have a pretty good idea of what is safe and what is not when traveling in Costa Rica.
Ironically I often have Costa Rican’s ask me if the US is safe with all the school and mass shootings? Of course, being from the US, I know you can not generalize an entire country, and even with horrifying headlines of shootings, for the most part, I feel pretty safe when visiting the US. The same goes for Costa Rica.
Instead of saying yes or no, I am just going to use personal data. I have lived here for 20 years, and my retired parents have lived for ten years, and a cousin has a house on the beach for 10 years. That’s a total of 40 years of immediate family data.
During that time, my cousin had copper electrical cables stolen from his house, my parents had copper electrical cables stolen from their home, and I was mugged and had my wallet and phone stolen. Not bad for 40 years and my mugging incident; I was asking for it. I was on a beach I should not have been on after hours after a night of dancing. Rookie mistake, and I paid for it.
The reality is 99% of people will come to Costa Rica and not have any safety issues. The other 1% will talk about their unfortunate situation, and it can be a rabbit hole of negative reviews. Like any foreign country, be alert and listen to locals’ suggestions on where and what you can and should do?
But What About Traveling?
Since the first part was more about living in Costa Rica, I wanted to travel to Costa Rica.
First, we need to divide it into two categories of safety. The first is a crime, and the second is accidents.
If you hear about crime on tourists in Costa Rica, I can almost always tell you where before I even read the article. Chances are it happens in one of the more touristy areas.
Crime vs. Accidents
The topic most people probably think of first when wondering if Costa Rica is safe for traveling is, crime. There are a few different types of crimes targeting a few unlikely tourists in Costa Rica. Often, it’s petty theft, and other times, it’s more planned robberies. Rental cars have probably been the victim of most of the tourism crimes in Costa Rica. Those thieves looking for laptops, cameras, and some cash know the rental cars are probably their best bet.
There have also been violent crimes in Costa Rica on tourists. Over the years, there have been a few murders as part of the robbery and even kidnappings and rape. While immeasurable to their families, the number of violent crime cases is meager and shows no deterrent to visiting Costa Rica. Most of these crimes happened in Costa Rica areas where the tourism industry has attracted prostitution and drugs.
Another type of danger tourist face in Costa Rica are accidents. These accidents are due to tourists not educating themselves on rip tides, driving conditions, and hiking trails.
The roads in Costa Rica are much safe than they were ten years ago, but you always want to drive carefully and preferably not at night due to the fog on many mountain roads.
The rip tides can be a major killer on some of the beaches of Costa Rica. With so many different beaches, the rip tides change between every beach. Those tourist that trust too much in their swimming ability can be surprised and end up being swept out to sea.
There have also been incidents of tourists getting lost on hikes they decide to take without a guide.
Another reason for accidents in Costa Rica due to certain tour operators. The industry, for the most part, has good outfitters that focus on safety first. Like anywhere, you will always find a few bad apples. It is always best to do your research on the company you travel with, even more so when it is an adventure company.
What Costa Rica has done for Tourist Safety
The crime rate in Costa Rica began to rise in 2012 at a rate that had everyone on edge. The Costa Rican government addressed this issue and got control of an issue they really hardly had to deal with the last 50 years.
One part of this was more police force and also a special police force just for tourism. This force was placed in multiple touristy hot spots where most of the incidents were occurring.
Along with the tourism police force, they were able to launch an educational campaign. This really helped tourists learn what they needed to know. It taught them how to avoid situations that might result in a crime. As a result, crime in the tourism sector dropped dramatically.
With that said, we have almost 20 years in the tourism industry and thousands of clients; we have only had one client have one laptop stolen that they left on a table.
Costa Rica has also worked with local companies to bring them up to international operating tours.
The truth is that many companies like the POC feel that even extra work needs to be done. This is why the POC looks for third-party courses for their guides. You will want to go with the company that takes the extra step and isn’t just satisfied with regulations that need to be modernized.
When you get to Costa Rica, you will want your naturalist guide to tell you everything if you are like me. Learning about the Fer de Lance, one of the most poisonous and energetic vipers on the planet calls Costa Rica home. The Jaguar, which is the King of the Jungle, roams the rainforest of Costa Rica. Mosquitos that carry tropical diseases like Zika, Dengue, or Popolomollo fly around Costa Rica.
Costa Rica is a very biodiverse place, so the list can actually go on of animals you don’t want to get in the ring with.
This is another one of those numbers games that you have to see to ease your mind. The chances that you will encounter any of these animals are slim. Then if you actually encounter them and are hurt by them is even slimmer.
This is another one of those questions we get. I wish I had an answer for this one. In my 20 years here, I have lost three coffee mugs due to earthquakes. That’s not to say a bigger earthquake isn’t around the corner.
Costa Rica has a pretty good response team to earthquakes. One essential thing about Costa Rica is when on the coast, you have access to higher land. So in the event of a Tsunami, Costa Rica has the ability to alert, and people can move to higher land very quickly.
Volcanologists seem to be able to monitor much better than earthquakes. The volcanos tourist visit in Costa Rica is closely monitored and closed if any changes are noticed.
In closing, if Costa Rica is safe for a living, it is surely safe for traveling.