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Staying Safe – Traveling to Costa Rica

Take a trip this summer

‘Pura Vida’ – or ‘pure life’ as the locals say in Costa Rica! Costa Rica has long been a popular tourist destination for many North Americans and people from all over the world. 40% of the country’s 2.7 million tourists per year are Americans. The country is known for its iconic surfing culture, tropical rainforests and for its unique wildlife and biodiversity. Costa Rica is an exciting destination for any adventure-seeking traveler.

Costa Rica Safety Concerns

However, many travelers considering a trip to the idyllic Central American country of Costa Rica wonder about safety. While Costa Rica is deemed safer than some other Latin American countries like Brazil or Colombia, there are still precautions that you should take before planning your vacation. If you’re planning a trip there soon, you might be wondering ‘is Costa Rica safe’? While no country is completely safe or unsafe, there are certain precautions that every traveler should take before landing in this picturesque country.


These are our top tips for staying safe while traveling to Costa Rica.

Where To Go and What To Do – Costa Rica’s Safest Cities

Many people will fly into San Jose Airport – also called Juan Santamaría International Airport – when traveling to Costa Rica. Unfortunately, Costa Rica’s capital city consistently ranks as the most dangerous province in the country with the highest number of assaults reported. Travelers should consider limiting their time in San Jose and instead, head to other safer counties.  


Rural areas of Costa Rica are known for being safer and have residents who tend to live longer. Regions like Alajuela, Puntarenas, and Guanacaste are known for having the lowest rates of violent crimes.

Sightseeing in Alajuela, Puntarenas, and Guanacaste

See Alajuela Cathedral!

Additionally, these areas also offer different tourist experiences. If you’re heading to Alajuela, check out their weekly Central Market and the marble Alajuela Cathedral. Puntarenas is a beach town where swimming, oceanside picnic and bountiful beach clubs await you. Guanacaste is known as the regions ‘Gold Coast’ and a visit to the Tenorio Volcano and waterfall shouldn’t be missed.


Costa Rica Beaches

Year after year travelers flock to the beach-dotted country for its pristine beaches and well-known surfing culture. Whether you’re looking for a remote beach with littered with black volcanic sand or an immaculate beach resort packed with tourists and surfers looking to catch the next big wave, Costa Rica has something for you.

Manuel Antonio Beach, Manuel Antonio National Park

Manuel Antonio Beach is one of the most popular beaches in Costa Rica. Bordering the Manuel Antonio National Park this beach is a short hike from an expansive tropical rainforest, perfect for exploring and spotting exotic wildlife. This beautiful location is frequented by surfers, snorkelers, and tourists alike and is a must-see when visiting Costa Rica.

Conchal Beach, Guanacaste

Conchal Beach is considered a “must see” for anyone who is visiting Costa Rica. This beach is truly one of a kind, the glimmering shore is actually comprised of seemingly endless little shells. Surfers, locals, and tourists flock to this beach without fail for the warm blue waters and stunning sights.


Be warned, the waters of Conchal Beach are known to not be calm, additionally, due to the popularity of this beach, it can get incredibly crowded on the weekends.

Beach Safety in Costa Rica

The oceans surrounding Costa Rica claim over a hundred lives each year, many drownings are caused by strong riptides. A riptide is a type of water current which pulls swimmers in the opposite direction from which they are swimming and usually away from the shore. It is important to remain calm if you find yourself caught in a riptide and to swim parallel until the riptide dissipates. Remembering to breathe and staying calm will help to avoid exhaustion.


In order to stay safe, travelers should prioritize visiting beaches where lifeguards are present. Remember to ask your accommodation hosts (remember they are locals who know the area well) about lifeguarded beaches before venturing out.


Whether you’re traveling to Costa Rica for a casual vacation or to dive head first into watersports, water safety should be a top safety concern when traveling to Costa Rica.


Why You Should Hire a Local Guide

Always beautiful

One of the draws of Costa Rica is the numerous lush rainforests, which people come from all over the world to explore. Costa Rican travel safety should be a top priority if you are considering visiting any volcanoes, jungles or other potentially dangerous regions. In order to stay safe when traveling to such locations within Costa Rica, it is recommended that tourists hire a local tour guide from a reputable company.


Typically, remote areas including surrounding jungles can be dimly lit. Local guides will be experts in navigating these areas and potentially dangerous situations. Besides petty theft or robbery, poisonous animals such as snakes, spiders or dangerous frogs are native to Costa Rica. It is essential to hire a local guide to avoid misstepping or unknowingly entering the habitats of dangerous wildlife.


In case of an emergency, these are the local contact emergency contact numbers to know: Police Emergency – 911; Ambulance – 911 or 128; Fire Service – 911 or 118; Police Investigative Service – 911 or 2221-5337.


Getting Around: Transportation in Costa Rica

Red Taxis

Official government registered taxis in San Jose and other Costa Rican cities are red and utilize a meter system. Alternatively, orange taxis are used exclusively by The Costa Rica Airport and are only used for airport transfers. Taxis offering other than these two options are considered unofficial (known as ‘taxi piratas’ in Costa Rica) and often implement their own pricing. In general, it is safer to ride with official taxi services. To ensure safety, when you call cab companies they have a record of your call and can trace your driver if anything goes wrong.


No matter what kind of taxi cabs service you use, remember to ensure that the taxi meter is operating before the ride begins. Unfortunately, sometimes taxi drivers target tourists by purposely forgetting to start the meter and then attempt to charge double or triple the standard rate.


Rental Cars

It might be necessary to rent a car during your trip, especially if you plan to travel outside of the capital city. A great road trip can be the highlight of any trip but planning ahead addressing safety concerns about traveling in Costa Rica is essential before hitting the road.


If you plan to rent a car while traveling through Costa Rica, remember to never leave valuables in your car – not even in the trunk. Organized crime is an increasing concern in Costa Rica according to The Costa Rica 2019 Crime & Safety Report administered by the US Embassy in San José. Criminals involved in organized crime rings commonly target tourist areas and steal valuables from their parked vehicles. It is best to not leave any visible or nonvisible valuables in the car.

Ready to Visit Costa Rica?

A trip to Costa Rica should be a blissful experience full of sunkissed memories and carefree beach days. It is a beautiful country with endless opportunities to explore nature, indulge in local cuisine and immerse yourself in the local culture. If you take the proper precautions when preparing for your visit to Costa Rica, you can help reduce your chances of being a victim of crime.

When traveling abroad, US Traveler Assist is an invaluable aid, providing contacts, trusted advice and assistance when needs arise. Learn more at

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