Planning a trip to Costa Rica, and feeling nervous about safety? Then this is the article for you! We are here to help you learn how to stay safe in Costa Rica by listing the least dangerous places for living in the country, as well as safety tips for using public transport. We’ll also share the best times to visit to have the most enjoyable, stress-free experience.
The safest places to stay in Costa Rica are:
- Drake Bay – a good family destination
- Tamarindo – great for an all-encompassing beach experience
- Puerto Viejo – a romantic destination
- Liberia – near the wonderful Nicoya peninsula
- Jaco* – rich in expat communities (see notes)
- San Jose – experience life in Costa Rica’s capital
Whether you choose one or visit all of them, if you’ve never been to Costa Rica, this article is your general guide on safety in the country.
Is Costa Rica safe to visit?
Costa Rica, which means “rich coast” in Spanish, is the safest country in Central America according to the worldnomads website. The country, which got its name from Columbo when he reported vast amounts of gold jewelry worn by the locals in 1502, also snagged the number one spot as the most peaceful country in the region out of 12.
While this is great news, it is always a good idea to take extra steps to stay safe wherever you are. You can do this in Costa Rica by:
- Staying in places and regions that are considered safer than others that we’ll list below
- Not going out alone in isolated areas, especially at night
- Keeping your valuables in a safe at your accommodation
- Not wearing flashy, expensive jewelry and clothing
We can advise you to avoid the Caribbean shore area since some foreigners living in Costa Rica do not label it particularly comfortable for a long term stay.
The safest places to stay in Costa Rica for expats and solo travelers
Puerto Viejo – Located on the Caribbean shore, this is a hot spot for foreigners who enjoy traveling along the coast. Puerto Viejo is in the southeast of Costa Rica, and it is famous for outstanding surfing waves and some of the most spectacular beaches in Costa Rica. It is also convenient for being close to the Panama border.
Drake Bay – Located in southwestern Costa Rica, Drake Bay is well worth your visit! Locally referred to as Agutijas, this wild and isolated village in the Osa Peninsula can only be reached by plane or boat. Once you get there, you will feel like it’s heaven on Earth.
It also boasts amazing beaches, hiking trails, exotic birds and all the sunshine you will ever need.
Tamarindo – This is a perfect place for surfing, sportfishing, diving and sunbathing. From October to May, you can see giant leatherback turtles doing their thing along the beach shores. Recommended by visitors and expats alike, the town comes with other perks, including an airport, nice housing and a decent infrastructure.
Liberia – Near the wonderful Nicoya peninsula, this town is beloved due to its easy access to surrounding beaches, like Playa del Coco, as well as the national parks of Guanacaste and Santa Rosa.
Jaco* – This town is full of expat communities, and has a good mix of both the local and expat way of life. Nested between the North Pacific ocean on one side, and glorious mountains to the west, it has a lot to offer.
*UPDATE August 2022: One reader contacted us to let us know that Jaco is no longer a safe place to live. His comment is attached below. Please do your own research before deciding to move to Jaco.
Yes I agree that there are several expat’s living here. Myself as one plus retired military.
In the past 5 years Jaco has become a very rough town, gangs and drug cartel have moved in.
Monday – Thursday are not too bad. But Friday – Sunday Jaco is not a safe place to be let alone live there.
Even any day once the sunsets it is unsafe to walk solo anywhere in town. I myself moved to a near by city because Jaco became so unsafe.
San Jose – If you love a good capital city, this is it in Costa Rica! With a population of around 350,000 people, and located in the middle of the country, it is a good place to start your adventure.
The safest transportation to use in Costa Rica
Depending on your travel needs, you can choose from a variety of transportation options in Costa Rica, including:
- Public buses
Not all of those are available everywhere, but considering the overall terrain of the country, getting around is not too demanding.
It’s also important to note that, while public transportation is affordable, it’s not always reliable. Buses can be late, too crowded or simply uncomfortable. This is the way it goes in all of Costa Rica actually, and some areas are harder to reach than others. Furthermore, if you don’t speak a lick of Spanish, this can complicate things further.
Official taxis are the safest way to get around in Costa Rica. Make sure that you are using a service from a bonafide company to avoid getting scammed. But all-in-all, because taxis are not too pricey, they can be incorporated into your transportation budget.
Plane and boat travel are perfect for reaching those destinations that are a bit more remote or isolated. They are both common and available at reasonable prices. Don’t hesitate to ask around to avoid the more “touristy” services that are often overpriced.
The safest time to visit Costa Rica
If you are moving to Costa Rica, you will have the pleasure of experiencing its warm weather all year round. Its dry and rainy seasons last about six months each.
Costa Rica also has 12 hours of sunlight throughout the year and a tropical climate, as it’s close to the equator.
High season (dry months)
December to April
Green season (rainy months)
May to November
We can see an exception to these seasons in the Caribbean area. Dry months there are February , March, September and October. This is not surprising since Costa Rica has a lot of microclimates depending on the terrain.
|Time of the year||December to March||April||May to November|
|Weather||Dry and sunny||Transitory weather dry to rainy||Rainy or “green” weather|
|Good for:||Going to the beach, enjoying the sun, and visiting animal resorts||Visiting with fewer tourists and cheaper prices||Optimal surfing conditions and visiting national parks|
General tips for staying safe in Costa Rica
While many universal travel safety rules apply to living in Costa Rica, the country still has some unique ones.
Insurance – It is very important to have insurance prior to getting to Costa Rica. It will put your mind at ease and protect you from unexpected hassles and expenses when you are most vulnerable.
Mosquitos are not just annoying in Costa Rica, but they can make you sick. Always protect yourself with a bug repellent, and use nets while sleeping or camping.
Food and water is generally safe to consume in Costa Rica, but it is advised to take extra precautions, especially if you’ve just arrived. It is a good practice to buy bottled water, or at least filter it. You should also stick to eating at places that appear clean and have a good reputation.
Alcohol, especially in cocktails, is a special treat while you’re chilling on the beach of tropical Costa Rica. However, be careful and ask for store-bought alcohol rather than “domestic” or “home made” because this type of production does not always pass the safety requirements.
The beach is where everybody goes to relax. Well, not everybody. Petty theft is possible in crowded tourist places if you leave belongings unattended, so beware of that.
Tourist traps are common in popular places. Staying away from pushy promoters, merchants and guides is a great practice while in Costa Rica.
Internet connection is decent in the country as a whole, but not everywhere. The more populated places have the best internet access. But to be on the safe side, it’s smart to get a local network provider’s sim card with data as your back up.
Learning a bit of the language can take you a long way. It will help you communicate better, enrich your experience and the locals will love it too!
Working remotely in Costa Rica
Your dream life is a job away from reality! At Support Adventure, we nurture the nomadic spirit and support our global staff. We are run by a team of expats and operate fully online, hiring mostly for positions in IT help desk support and occasional admin assistance.
Don’t hesitate to apply with us here to start your adventure and learn more about our open positions!
Michelle · April 22, 2023 at 5:16 pm
This is our first time in Costa Rica. A great site that provides a lot of information! Thanks!