The health risk information presented here is summarized from Shoreland Travax®, a decision-support tool used by health care providers to perform a detailed health risk analysis based on specific locations, individual travel styles, and traveler risk behaviors. Travax provides practitioners current, independently researched malaria risk and prevention recommendations in a map-based format that goes beyond the annual WHO and CDC statements included here. Not included here are current reports from Travax of disease outbreaks or environmental events that may pose elevated risks to travelers’ health and safety. The Providers section of this site offers a directory of health care providers who utilize Shoreland Travax for travel health counseling. Learn more about the detailed reports and maps available from these practitioners (includes links to samples).
Costa Rica is a developing nation classified as upper middle income. Located in Central America between the Caribbean Sea and the Pacific Ocean (south of Nicaragua and north of Panama), the climate classifications range from humid equatorial (long dry season) in the west to humid equatorial (no dry season) in the northeast.
See also: Library article for Yellow Fever
Although yellow fever does not occur in Costa Rica, an official yellow fever vaccination certificate may be required depending on your itinerary.
- Requirement: A vaccination certificate is required for travelers aged ≥ 9 months coming from countries with risk of YF transmission (except Argentina and Panama). Note: This does not apply to airport transit stops (no exit through immigration checkpoint) in risk countries.
Depending on your itinerary, your personal risk factors, and the length of your visit, your health care provider may offer you vaccination against hepatitis A, hepatitis B, influenza, measles, mumps, rubella, rabies, or typhoid fever. Routine immunizations, such as those that prevent tetanus/diphtheria or "childhood" diseases, should be reviewed and updated as needed.
See also: Library article for Malaria
The following is current information as reported by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC):
WHO—International Travel and Health (current online update, Country List)(2018) Very low malaria risk was historically due almost exclusively to P. vivax. Negligible or no risk of malaria transmission exists in the country.
- Recommended prevention in risk areas: A - Very limited risk of malaria transmission. Mosquito bite prevention only.
WHO Country List footnote: When available, the date of the most recent update or confirmation is indicated in parentheses in the country list. If no date is indicated, the most recent update or confirmation was provided before 2013.
CDC—Health Information for International Travel (current online edition)Areas with malaria: Outbreak reported in Matina Canton in Limón Province, Sarapiquí Canton in Heredia Province, and Pital District in San Carlos Canton in Alajuela Province.
- Recommendation: Mosquito avoidance.
- Estimated relative risk of malaria for US travelers: Very low.
See also: Library article for Travelers' Diarrhea
High risk exists throughout the country, with moderate risk in deluxe accommodations. Food and beverage precautions may reduce the likelihood of illness.
Travelers should carry loperamide for self-treatment of diarrhea and, if risk is moderate to high, an antibiotic to add if diarrhea is severe. Consult a knowledgeable health care provider regarding which antibiotic is appropriate for you and most effective for your destination.
Insect- and Arthropod-Borne Diseases
Other Disease and Health Risks
The material below includes information from the U.S. Department of State (DOS), U.K. Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO), Global Affairs Canada (GAC), and Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT), as well as from additional open-source material. Standard safety precautions that apply to all international travel can be found in the Library article Safety and Security.
No intrinsic risk of attack by terrorist groups exists, but unforeseen attacks are possible.
High risk of violent crime (armed robbery, home invasion, sexual assault, carjacking, and murder) exists throughout the country, especially in coastal areas of Limón Province (from Tortuguero to Puerto Viejo de Talamanca) and Puntarenas Province; on main highways in Central Valley region; in San José. Theft of valuables from unattended rental vehicles is common.
High risk of petty crime exists throughout the country, especially in areas frequented by tourists, including San José (particularly the Coca Cola bus terminal, public parks, and downtown), national parks, and beaches; the following areas along the Caribbean: Cahuita, Limón, and Puerto Viejo de Talamanca; the following areas of Puntarenas Province: Dominical, Jacó, Manuel Antonio National Park, Quepos; Cobano area (including Mal País, Montezuma, and Santa Teresa), the port of Puntarenas, and areas near the popular crocodile viewing area along the Tárcoles River near Jacó.
Express kidnappings to force cash withdrawals at ATMs may occur throughout the country.
Risk exists of robberies and/or assaults occurring after consuming intentionally drugged food or drink; tourists are frequently targeted.
Protests and demonstrations occur and have the potential to turn violent without warning. Bystanders are at risk of harm from violence or from the response by authorities.
Hazardous water conditions (including currents, tides, and undertows) may occur along the Pacific and Caribbean coasts. Heed posted warnings, and avoid beaches that are not patrolled. Do not swim alone or after dark, and do not walk on any beach after dark.
Passenger boats may be unsafe, including small crafts. Decline water transportation in vessels that appear overloaded or lack personal flotation devices or life jackets.
Basic safety standards for recreational water activities (including scuba diving and rafting) are often not in place. Rent water sports equipment from reputable operators. Scuba dive only with personnel certified by PADI or NAUI, and use equipment only from PADI- or NAUI-certified dive operators.
Basic safety standards for adventure activities (including bungee jumping and canopy tours) are often not in place. Travelers should only use reputable adventure-sport operators for activities and equipment rentals.
Other Safety Threats
Risk exists for fatal wildlife attacks from crocodiles in coastal areas of the Pacific Ocean, especially in Playa Azul, Guanacaste Province and Playa Esterillos, Puntarenas Province. Travelers should closely follow regulations from local authorities and always maintain a safe distance from wildlife.
High risk of traffic-related injury or death exists. The road-traffic death rate is 12 to 24 per 100,000 population. The rate is less than 10 in most high-income countries. Seek local advice before traveling on roads outside urban areas after dark. Driving at night is not advised.
Traffic flows on the right-hand side of the road. Travelers (including drivers and pedestrians) accustomed to traffic moving on the opposite side should be vigilant when navigating traffic.
Many taxis are unsafe. Use taxis from official ranks or dispatched via smart phone app or radio from a reputable company and ascertain the license or identification number of the dispatched vehicle.
U.S. Federal Aviation Administration has determined that the civil aviation authority of this country does not oversee its air carriers in accordance with minimum international safety standards.
The hurricane season is from June through November. The rainy season is from May through November. Floods, mudslides, and landslides may occur.
Seismic and volcanic activity frequently occurs.
Selected Embassies or Consulates in Costa Rica
- United States: [+506] 2519-2000; cr.usembassy.gov
- Canada: [+506] 2242-4400; www.costarica.gc.ca
- United Kingdom: [+506] 2258-2025; www.gov.uk/world/organisations/british-embassy-in-costa-rica
- Australia: [+506] 2201-8700
Costa Rica's Embassies or Consulates in Selected Countries
- In the U.S.: www.costarica-embassy.org
- In Canada: www.costaricaembassy.com
- In the U.K.: www.costaricanembassy.co.uk
- In Australia: [+02] 9262-3883
HIV testing is not required to obtain a tourist, work, or residence visa.