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Dangers & Annoyances

Costa Rica is a largely safe country, but petty crime (bag snatchings, car break-ins etc) is common and muggings do occur, so it’s important to be vigilant.

  • Many of Costa Rica’s dangers are nature related: riptides, earthquakes and volcanic eruptions are among them.
  • Predatory and venomous wildlife can also pose a threat, so a wildlife guide is essential if trekking in the jungle.

Earthquakes & Volcanic Eruptions

Costa Rica lies on the edge of active tectonic plates, so it is decidedly earthquake prone. Recent major quakes occurred in 1990 (7.1 on the Richter scale), 1991 (7.4) and 2012 (7.6). Smaller quakes and tremors happen quite often (one area that sees particularly frequent seismic activity is the Península de Nicoya), cracking roads and knocking down telephone lines.

Two of the most popular volcanoes in Costa Rica, Poás and Turrialba, have been very active recently with a number of eruptions of varying degrees since 2014 and 2015. Due to safety concerns, the national parks surrounding these protected sites were closed at the time of research. Check the status of each before you visit.

Hiking Hazards

Hikers setting out into the wilderness should be adequately prepared.

  • Know your limits and don’t set out to do a hike you can’t reasonably complete.
  • Carry plenty of water, even on very short trips.
  • Carry maps, extra food and a compass.
  • Let someone know where you are going, so they can narrow the search area in the event of an emergency.
  • Be aware that Costa Rica’s wildlife can pose a threat to hikers, particularly in Parque Nacional Corcovado.

Riptides

Each year Costa Rican waters see more than 100 drownings, the majority of which are caused by riptides (strong currents that pull the swimmer in different directions). Many deaths due to riptides are caused by panicked swimmers struggling to the point of exhaustion. If you are caught in a riptide, do not struggle. Swim parallel to shore; eventually the riptide will dissipate. Alternatively, you can float until the riptide dissipates, then swim parallel to shore and back in where there is no riptide.

Thefts & Muggings

The biggest danger that most travelers face is theft, primarily from pickpockets, but also when personal possessions are left in parked cars. There is a lot of petty crime in Costa Rica, so keep an eye on your belongings and your surroundings at all times.

Government Travel Advice

The following government websites offer travel advisories and information on current hot spots.