Before booking a vacation to Costa Rica, travelers naturally want to ensure that the destination is safe. Traveling often puts us in vulnerable situations as we step outside our comfort zone, routine, and language. Safety is paramount in our minds. While we would like to give a straightforward answer and assure travelers about the safest places to travel in Costa Rica, we believe in transparency.
Although Costa Rica is generally a safe country to visit, like any place, it has its share of risks. In this article, we will provide you with detailed information about the situation in Costa Rica to help you make informed decisions. We’ll discuss not only the best areas to visit, but also their crime rates.
Crime & Personal Safety When You Travel to Costa Rica
While Costa Rica’s official crime rate is not insignificant, the majority of crimes are considered “opportunistic acts of theft.” As per the latest edition of the Global Peace Index in 2020, Costa Rica secured an impressive 32nd rank out of 163 countries evaluated for overall peace. This makes Costa Rica the top-ranking country for safety and peace in Central America, a testament to its efforts to maintain a peaceful and secure environment for its residents and visitors alike.
However, it is important to note that Costa Rica is still considered a Third World country, with a majority of its population falling into the poor category, as opposed to the middle class or wealthy.
Despite this, when compared to its neighboring countries, Costa Rica remains a safe destination for expats. However, it is advisable to exercise common sense and personal safety precautions to ensure your safety at all times. Over time, the Pacific coast of Costa Rica has maintained a lower crime rate compared to the Caribbean coast.
One safety measure you can take is to purchase a safe for your home and store your valuables, including your passport, inside it. Passport theft is a major crime targeting tourists and non-locals in Costa Rica, so it is recommended that you always carry a photocopy of your passport or local Costa Rica ID card with you.
What You Can Actively Do to Stay Safe in Costa Rica
- Keep passport in a safe place and carry a copy with you
- Go out in groups to bars and clubs
- Don’t consume unattended food or drinks or accept from strangers
- Avoid walking alone at night in certain areas
- Keep valuables out of sight when driving or avoid leaving in car altogether
- Keep a firm grip on phone and wallet in crowded areas
- Only change money in banks or legitimate financial institutions
- Use private transportation or apps with built-in safety features
- Give up belongings if threatened with violence
Where are the Safest Places to Visit in Costa Rica?
The regions of Costa Rica with well-developed tourist infrastructures, such as La Fortuna and Manuel Antonio, tend to be some of the safest places in the country. These areas have a strong police presence and the advantage of safety in numbers due to the high number of visitors.
While nothing is ever completely safe, here are some of the safest places to visit in Costa Rica based on track records:
Costa Rica’s Pacific coast is home to Tamarindo, which boasts one of the best and most tranquil beaches in the country. This tourist town is a safe place to visit, but pickpocketing is still a concern. Expats particularly enjoy living in Tamarindo because of the plethora of daily activities, including snorkeling, kayaking, sportfishing, surfing, sailing, and other water-related activities. There is also an abundance of restaurants and bars, making it easy to have a fulfilling social life in Tamarindo.
One of the safest places to stay in Costa Rica is Arenal, which is a city in Costa Rica that is well-known for its stunning lake and volcano, as well as its safe and rural way of life. If you are considering relocating to this mountainous region, you will be happy to know that Arenal has a sizable community of American expats, which can make the transition to living there much smoother. While the Arenal volcano is still active, it is carefully monitored, and the main concern for residents and visitors is petty theft related to tourism. Living in Arenal offers a fantastic lifestyle for nature and adventure enthusiasts, with plenty of hiking trails, hot springs near the volcano, and opportunities for kayaking, paddle-boarding, and zip-lining on the lake.
San Jose – Escazu
Although San Jose can be a hotspot for pickpocketing, there are some upscale neighborhoods that provide luxurious and safe living conditions, at least during the day. Santa Ana and Escazu are two such areas. Escazu is considered one of the wealthier suburbs of San Jose and features many gated communities, offering added security.
Additionally, Escazu has a lot to offer in terms of amenities, such as a great shopping mall, beautiful properties, and plenty of bars and restaurants. It’s also a short drive from the downtown area of San Jose.
Atenas is a quaint agricultural town situated between San Jose and the Pacific Ocean. Life here moves at a slower pace, making it ideal for families seeking a small-town vibe. The town is considered to be very safe and has a few established expat communities that make it easier for newcomers to settle in. Atenas is known for its perfect year-round temperature, which is neither too hot nor too cold. This ideal weather coupled with the rich volcanic soil has made Atenas a hub for coffee production, and expats moving to this area can expect to enjoy freshly brewed coffee every day!
Atenas is also a short 35-minute drive to San Jose, where one can find hospitals, airports, and other necessary amenities. Living in Atenas means being away from the hustle and bustle of big cities. Moreover, the town has a few excellent restaurants and hosts a farmers’ market every Friday.
Head Out to the Safest Places in Costa Rica Now
Embarking on a journey to a foreign land can be a thrilling experience, but it’s understandable to have concerns about safety. In the case of Costa Rica, it’s crucial to be aware of the areas to avoid and to use your common sense to stay out of harm’s way. Fortunately, reaching out to the vibrant expat communities can provide invaluable insights into the local culture and lifestyle.
Armed with first-hand information, you can make an informed decision and embark on an adventure of a lifetime in Costa Rica. So, pack your bags and get ready to explore the wonders of this tropical paradise. Best of luck on your journey!