Is Costa Rica Safe?

Many people like you ask, “How safe is Costa Rica?” In general, Costa Rica is an incredibly safe country to travel through. Costa Rica’s political and economic situation is stable and strong, and the country was actually voted the “happiest nation” in the world! However, no country can be absolutely perfect.

Costa Rica Safety Information

Costa Rica Crime

Is Costa Rica safe for Americans? Yes, but you must travel smart…just as you would in other countries. Crime in Costa Rica has become an increasing concern for Costa Ricans and visitors alike, and U.S. citizens are encouraged to exercise the same level of caution they would in major cities or tourist areas throughout the world.

Americans should walk or exercise with a companion, bearing in mind that crowded tourist attractions and resort areas popular with foreign tourists are common venues for criminal activities. Travelers should ignore any verbal harassment, and avoid carrying passports, large amounts of cash, jewelry or expensive photographic equipment.

At all times have your belongings in your line of sight or in your possession. Tourists are encouraged to carry photocopies of the passport data page and Costa Rican entry stamp on their persons and leave the original passport in a hotel safe or another secure place.

Which Parts of Costa Rica are More Prone to Crime?

Once more, even though Costa Rica is considered a safe country to travel to and around, you must always be careful and smart. Some popular destinations can be more prone to crime, here are our suggestions on where to be even more vigilant.

San José

Like any “big” city in the world, San José is home to amazing things, like museums, universities, theaters, street art, government and leaders that are changing the country and the world for the better. But, it is also home to crime.

If you are walking in downtown San José, maybe doing a little museum hopping, take very little with you and avoid solitary streets and late night walks.

Always leave your passport in the safe at your hotel room and take with you just the cash you want to spend and a credit card that you can easily cancel if stolen.

It might be impossible to leave your camera behind, especially if you like people and street photography, but then take the minimum and always carry it around your neck and shoulder and try to be discreet when photographing (which is also good to get good people and street photography).

If you are walking in neighborhoods outside the city capital, always ask people at your hotel or people you know if it’s safe and what corners you should avoid.

Popular party beaches

Places like Tamarindo, Jacó, Herradura, Quepos, and in a lesser degree Santa Teresa, Montezuma and Puerto Viejo, are considered party beach towns. These places have developed a lot in the past 10+ years and turned into little cities with chain fast food restaurants, lots and lots of bars, and accommodations of every possible budget. This means you can find all kinds of people here, those who love nature and the beach, those who came to party, and those who are looking for the perfect opportunity to steal.

If you decide to party in any of those towns, be smart, always travel in groups, don’t make yourself vulnerable and try to find out more about the safety at the places you decide to party at.
Also, during the day, do not leave your belongings unattended and if you are driving do not leave visible valuables in the car and/or park where you can keep an eye on your vehicle.

Very solitary beaches

There is nothing better than walking onto a beach, looking in any direction and finding out that the whole beach is yours! This is not only romantic but refreshing.

Nevertheless, never walk on your own in these places, try to stay in groups of (hopefully) three or more and always be aware of your surroundings for people that might be spying on you.

Also, ask local people about the safety of the beach and always let somebody know that you are going to walk the beach. Lastly, leave your belongings behind in a safe area.

Driving in Costa Rica

Driving is an adventure in Costa Rica. Rules of the road may not be observed. Lane changing can be abrupt and unexpected. Make sure you drive with much caution. It is not atypical to have bikers, pedestrians, and/or stray animals pop out onto the road unexpectedly. Learn about driving in Costa Rica >>

Also, always try to leave your rental car in a safe parking area and do not leave your belongings in the open inside the car. One of the more common ways visitors get robbed in Costa Rica is by people breaking into their rental cars.

Walking in Costa Rica

Pedestrians are not given the right of way when crossing streets (or in general). Make sure to be aware and wait until traffic has subsided before attempting to walk to the other side of the road. Wear colorful or light colored clothes that make you very visible, and avoid walking on the side of the road at night.

Costa Rica’s Ocean Currents

The surrounding ocean currents, on both the Caribbean and Pacific Coasts, are swift and dangerous. There are few lifeguards or signs warning tourists of dangerous beaches. Every year, eight to twelve American citizens drown in Costa Rica due to rip tides or sudden drop-offs while in shallow water. Extreme caution is advised.

Make sure to ask locals for the safest place to take a swim in the ocean and also the best tide to do so. If you can’t communicate with locals, only go into the water when and where they do.

How to stay safe while traveling in Costa Rica?

Here are a few “Dos” and “Don’ts” to consider:

  • If you snooze you lose. Always look after your belongings, yourself and your travel companions. Costa Rica is safe, and Costa Ricans are very friendly and helpful, but there are still bad people anywhere in the world.
  • Use the safe at your hotel as much as possible. Leaving your passport, wallet, money and other belongings in the safe at your hotel is the best way to make sure you don’t lose them. But, don’t forget them at checkout!
  • Ask your local guide, a receptionist at your hotel or other locals about the safety where you are and make sure to follow their instructions of places to avoid.
  • Always let others know where you are going, what activity you plan on doing (running, swimming, hiking a particular trail), and what time you expect to come back.

Information Resources

For the latest security information about travel within Costa Rica, Americans traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs’ website and select International Travel and then the country Costa Rica.

Up-to-date information on safety and security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll-free in the U.S. and Canada. For callers outside the U.S. and Canada, a regular toll line at 1-202-501-4444. These numbers are available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays).