Safety and Security
The incidence of crime in Costa Rica is higher than in many parts of the United States and has adversely affected the traveling public. Pickpocketing and theft remain the most common crimes perpetrated against tourists, with theft from vehicles or on buses being particularly frequent. U.S. citizens also have been the victims of violent crime, including sexual assaults, robberies, car-jackings and murders. Armed robberies can occur even in daylight on busy streets. U.S. citizen tourists and residents can, however, take steps to protect themselves. You should exercise at least the same level of caution in Costa Rica that you would in major cities or tourist areas in the United States. Engaging in high-risk behavior, such as excessive consumption of alcohol or drugs, can increase the vulnerability of an individual to accidents or opportunistic crime.
Demonstrations in Costa Rica generally are peaceful. However, demonstrators in Costa Rica have been known to block traffic on roads or disrupt travel, causing inconvenience to tourists. Visitors to Costa Rica may also be inconvenienced by infrequent work stoppages and strikes. The Costa Rica Constitution prohibits political activity by foreigners; such actions may result in detention and/or deportation. Travelers should avoid political demonstrations and other activities that might be deemed political by the Costa Rican authorities. U.S. citizens are urged to exercise caution if in the vicinity of any protests.
There have been no recent acts of terrorism in Costa Rica.
Beach conditions warning: On both the Caribbean and Pacific coasts, currents are swift and dangerous, and the majority of dangerous beaches have neither lifeguards nor warning signs. According to the Costa Rican Red Cross, approximately 59 people drowned in 2012 in Costa Rica due to treacherous rip currents. These rip currents have swept even strong swimmers out to sea. Visitors should carefully consider the safety of any beach before entering the water. There have been reports that beachside hotels have removed signs warning against dangerous swimming conditions for fear that they may lose business. U.S. citizens are urged to always exercise extreme caution when swimming in the ocean and to never swim alone. Eleven U.S. citizens drowned in Costa Rica in the last year. Crocodile sightings have also been reported along beaches, including those popular with swimmers and surfers.
There are many scenic areas in Costa Rica where a small incident may become life-threatening due to the rugged terrain or remote location. Foreign visitors, including one U.S. citizen, have disappeared while hiking or traveling in Costa Rica. Extreme caution, whether swimming, hiking, or driving, is advised. Adventure tourism is popular in Costa Rica, and many companies offer white-water rafting, bungee jumping, jungle canopy tours, SCUBA diving, and other outdoor activities. U.S. citizens are urged to use caution in selecting adventure tourism companies. Although the Costa Rican government regulates most of these companies and local regulations require they meet certain safety standards and have insurance coverage, there is not uniform and effective enforcement of these regulations. Even where strictly enforced, safety measures may not be as stringent or as comprehensive as what you may be familiar with in the United States. Visitors have been injured or even killed due to improper, careless, or reckless operation of scooters, jet-skis, quads, and other recreational equipment. You should rent equipment only from reputable operators, use all appropriate safety gear, and insist on sufficient training before using the equipment. In addition, travelers to remote or isolated scenic venues should be aware that they may be some distance from appropriate medical services, law enforcement, ATMs, , or consular assistance in an emergency. The Costa Rican Tourism Institute (ICT) website has contact information for licensed tour operators and travel agencies.