10 Safest Areas to stay in Costa Rica for tourists

What are the safest areas to stay in Costa Rica? Are there areas to avoid in Costa Rica? In this post, I will help you to find the safest areas and places to stay in Costa Rica for tourists and the best hotels in Costa Rica for all budgets.

Located in Central America, Costa Rica is a popular tourist destination, bordered by the Pacific Ocean to the west, and the Caribbean Sea to the east, Panama to the south, by Nicaragua to the north,. It is known for its diverse geography, including mountains, rainforests, volcanoes, and beautiful coastlines.

San José is the capital and largest city of Costa Rica, situated in the central part of the country. The official language of Costa Rica is Spanish.  

Costa Rica is known for its ecotourism, natural beauty, biodiversity, and outdoor recreational activities. Tourists visit the country for activities such as hiking, surfing, birdwatching, and exploring its many national parks and wildlife reserves.

Costa Rica is one of the world’s most biodiverse countries despite its relatively small size. It is home to a wide variety of plant and animal species, including jaguars, sloths, and various species of monkeys. The country is dedicated to conservation efforts and has numerous protected areas and national parks.

Costa Rica has a tropical climate with distinct wet and dry seasons. The country’s diverse geography results in different climate zones, ranging from humid rainforests to cooler highlands.

Costa Rican culture is influenced by Spanish colonial heritage, indigenous traditions, and Afro-Caribbean elements. The country celebrates various cultural  festivals throughout the year.

Traditional Costa Rican cuisine often includes staples like rice and beans (gallo pinto), plantains, fresh fruits, and a variety of meats and seafood. Coffee is also a significant export and an important part of the culture.

Is Costa Rica safe for tourists?

Costa Rica is overall a safe destination for tourists. But, like any other tourist destination, it’s important to take precautions to ensure your safety while visiting Costa Rica. 

Costa Rica has a stable political environment, a well-developed tourism industry, and a relatively low crime rate compared to some of its neighboring countries in Central America. 

Here are some tips to help you stay safe:

Exercise Caution in High-Tourist Areas: 

While most tourist areas are safe, petty theft and pickpocketing can occur, especially in crowded places. Keep a close eye on your belongings, and consider using a money belt or a neck pouch for your valuables.

Stay Informed: 

Research the areas you plan to visit and stay updated on current events. Some remote areas may have limited access to emergency services or could be affected by natural disasters.

Use Reputable Transportation: 

Choose reputable transportation companies and avoid unlicensed taxis. Always negotiate taxi fares before your ride, or better yet, use ride-sharing apps like Uber when available.

Public Transportation: 

While public transportation is generally safe, be vigilant when using buses, especially in crowded areas, and keep an eye on your belongings.

Avoid Walking Alone at Night: 

It’s generally best to avoid walking alone at night, especially in unfamiliar or poorly lit areas. Stick to well-traveled routes and consider taking a taxi instead.

Be Cautious with Your Personal Information: 

Be cautious about sharing personal information with strangers, especially financial information. Scams can happen in any country, so remain vigilant.

Respect Local Laws and Customs: 

Familiarize yourself with Costa Rican laws and customs, and follow them diligently. This includes respecting wildlife and natural reserves, as well as understanding local regulations.

Emergency Services: 

Know how to contact emergency services, and have a plan in case of an emergency. Costa Rica has a reliable emergency response system, and the number to dial for assistance is 911.

Environmental Safety:

If you plan to engage in outdoor activities like hiking or exploring national parks, follow safety guidelines and be prepared with the appropriate gear.

This includes wearing proper footwear, staying hydrated, and following park rules.

Travel Insurance: 

Consider purchasing travel insurance that covers medical emergencies, trip cancellations, and other potential issues. It’s a good precaution to have in case unexpected situations arise.

What are the safest areas to stay in Costa Rica?

The safest areas to stay in Costa Rica for tourists are Puerto Viejo, Manuel Antonio, Monteverde, Tamarindo, La Fortuna/Arenal, Jacó, San José, Drake Bay, Liberia/Guanacaste, and Puerto Jiménez.

Remember that even in these safer areas, it is always important to take common-sense precautions to ensure your safety. 

Always be aware of your surroundings, secure your belongings, and follow any local advice or guidelines to ensure a safe and enjoyable trip to Costa Rica.

Map of the Safest Areas to stay in Costa Rica:

Map of the Safest Areas to stay in Costa Rica
Map of the Safest Areas to stay in Costa Rica

What areas to avoid staying in Costa Rica?

Costa Rica is generally a safe destination for travelers, but like any other country, there are some areas that may be less safe or have specific considerations. 

Here are some areas to be cautious about or consider avoiding:


Limon, located on the Caribbean coast, has higher crime rates than some other regions in Costa Rica. Exercise extra caution when traveling here, especially in more remote areas.

Border Areas:

 Avoid traveling too close to the borders with Nicaragua and Panama, as these regions can be less developed and may have higher crime rates.

Desolate Beaches and Isolated Areas: 

While Costa Rica is known for its beautiful beaches, some remote or less-visited beaches may not have adequate security. Exercise caution when visiting less-populated areas, especially if you’re alone.

Nightlife Areas: 

In popular nightlife areas like Jaco or Tamarindo, be mindful of your surroundings, as there have been reports of petty theft and drug-related issues.

Remote Rainforest and Jungle Areas: 

When exploring remote rainforest and jungle areas, it’s essential to have a local guide who knows the terrain and potential dangers. There may be wildlife and natural hazards to consider.

Safest Areas to stay in Costa Rica for tourists
Safest Areas to stay in Costa Rica for tourists
Safest Areas to stay in Costa Rica for tourists
Safest Areas to stay in Costa Rica for tourists

The safest areas to stay in Costa Rica for tourists are:

1. Puerto Viejo de Talamanca

Puerto Viejo, a popular coastal town on the Caribbean side of Costa Rica, is generally safe, but like any tourist destination, petty theft can be a concern. Be cautious with your belongings and avoid walking alone at night in poorly lit areas.

The area boasts several beautiful beaches, including Playa Cocles, Playa Chiquita, Punta Uva, and Playa Manzanillo. These beaches are known for their golden sands and crystal-clear waters.

Puerto Viejo is a popular destination for surfers, both beginners and experienced. The consistent waves and warm waters make it an ideal spot for riding the waves. Surf schools and board rental shops are widely available.

The town has a diverse and lively culture influenced by the Afro-Caribbean, indigenous, and European communities. You can experience a mix of languages, music, and culinary traditions. Reggae music, in particular, is quite popular in the area.

The surrounding rainforests are home to diverse wildlife, including howler monkeys, sloths, toucans, and various species of frogs. Many visitors take guided wildlife tours or explore the local national parks, such as Cahuita National Park and Gandoca-Manzanillo National Wildlife Refuge.

In addition to surfing and wildlife watching, Puerto Viejo offers a range of activities such as snorkeling, scuba diving, zip-lining, horseback riding, and hiking. There’s also a vibrant nightlife scene with bars, clubs, and beachfront restaurants.

The nearest major airport is the Juan Santamaría International Airport in San José, Costa Rica’s capital. From there, you can reach Puerto Viejo by bus or shuttle service. Within Puerto Viejo, you can get around by walking, renting bicycles, or using taxis.

Best places to stay in Costa Rica in Puerto Viejo:


2. Manuel Antonio

Manuel Antonio is a popular national park and beach destination on the Pacific coast. It’s generally considered safe for tourists, but be cautious of petty theft in crowded areas and on the beach.

Manuel Antonio National Park is one of the smallest but most biodiverse national parks in Costa Rica. It’s renowned for its hiking trails, pristine beaches, and opportunities to spot wildlife such as monkeys, sloths, iguanas, and numerous bird species. 

The park can get crowded, especially during peak tourist seasons, so plan to arrive early to avoid crowds. When visiting the park, be sure to follow park rules and guidelines. Stay on designated trails, do not feed wildlife, and carry out any trash you generate to help preserve this natural gem.

The area is home to several beautiful beaches, including Playa Espadilla, Playa Manuel Antonio, and Playa Biesanz. These beaches offer opportunities for swimming, sunbathing, and enjoying the picturesque coastal scenery.

In addition to exploring Manuel Antonio National Park, you can enjoy various outdoor activities in the area, such as canopy tours, zip-lining, white-water rafting, and horseback riding. Water sports like snorkeling and scuba diving are also popular.

Manuel Antonio is easily accessible by road from San José. You can either drive or take a bus to get there. Be prepared for some winding roads if you’re driving.

Best places to stay in Costa Rica in Manuel Antonio:


3. Monteverde

Monteverde is a renowned cloud forest reserve and ecotourism activities. It’s a safe destination, but be prepared for unpredictable weather and road conditions if you plan to drive there.

Monteverde is accessible by road from San José. The road leading to Monteverde is often steep and can be challenging, so drive with caution or consider taking a shuttle or tour bus.

Monteverde is home to the Monteverde Cloud Forest Biological Reserve and Santa Elena Cloud Forest Reserve. These reserves are home to a rich diversity of plant and animal species. You can explore a network of trails and canopy tours to experience the unique cloud forest environment.

Monteverde’s cloud forests are known for their extraordinary biodiversity. You can encounter iconic wildlife like the resplendent quetzal, howler monkeys, sloths, and various species of frogs and butterflies. Birdwatching is a popular activity, and the area is a haven for bird enthusiasts.

Monteverde offers a range of adventure activities, including zip-lining, canopy tours, hanging bridges, and horseback riding. The canopy tours are particularly popular, allowing visitors to glide through the treetops for a unique perspective of the forest.

Due to its elevation, Monteverde has a cooler and more temperate climate than many other parts of Costa Rica. Be prepared for potentially chilly and misty weather, especially in the evenings and early mornings.

Monteverde has various accommodation options, including eco-lodges, guesthouses, and boutique hotels. Staying in an eco-friendly lodge can enhance your experience and help support conservation efforts.

You’ll find a variety of restaurants and eateries in the town of Santa Elena, where you can enjoy local Costa Rican cuisine and international dishes.

In addition to the cloud forest reserves, Monteverde has several botanical gardens that offer a different perspective on the region’s flora. The Monteverde Butterfly Garden is also worth a visit.

Monteverde is a paradise for nature lovers and adventurers. It offers a unique opportunity to immerse yourself in a pristine cloud forest ecosystem and experience the wonders of Costa Rica’s natural beauty.

Best places to stay in Costa Rica in Monteverde:


4. Tamarindo

Tamarindo is a well-known surf town on the Pacific coast that has beautiful beaches, vibrant nightlife, and a variety of outdoor activities. It’s generally safe for tourists, but again, be cautious of petty theft, especially on the beach and in crowded areas.

Tamarindo is renowned for its long, sandy beaches, with Playa Tamarindo being the main and most popular one. It’s an excellent spot for swimming, sunbathing, and beachcombing. Playa Langosta, located just south of Tamarindo, is a quieter and more relaxed beach.

Tamarindo is a hub for surfers of all skill levels with numerous surf schools and rental shops. The waves at Playa Tamarindo are generally suitable for beginners, while more experienced surfers often head to nearby breaks like Playa Grande.

Tamarindo has a lively nightlife scene with various bars, restaurants, and clubs. The town comes alive after sunset, offering opportunities for dancing, live music, and socializing.

Tamarindo is a gateway to numerous outdoor activities, including ATV tours, zip-lining, horseback riding, and snorkeling. Nearby Tamarindo Estuary is a great spot for wildlife watching and kayaking.

There are turtle nesting sites in the area, with the opportunity to see nesting turtles during certain times of the year.

Tamarindo is accessible by road from Liberia and other major cities in Costa Rica. The Liberia International Airport is the closest major airport, making it a convenient entry point.

You’ll find a wide range of accommodations in Tamarindo, including beachfront hotels, hostels, vacation rentals, and boutique resorts. Prices can vary depending on the season, so book in advance during peak tourist periods.

Tamarindo has a dry and wet season. The dry season (December to April) is the most popular time to visit, with sunny weather. The wet season (May to November) can bring occasional rain, but it’s still a good time to enjoy the town’s activities.

Best places to stay in Costa Rica in Tamarindo:


5. La Fortuna/Arenal

The La Fortuna/Arenal area is famous for its volcano and hot springs. It’s considered safe for tourists, but be aware of the weather, especially during the rainy season, which can affect road conditions.

The Arenal Volcano, though currently dormant, is the iconic centerpiece of the region. You can enjoy breathtaking views of the volcano and its lush surroundings. It’s an excellent location for hiking, photography, and experiencing the beauty of Costa Rica’s rainforests.

The area around Arenal is famous for its natural hot springs. There are several resorts and spas offering hot spring experiences, often set against a backdrop of the volcano. It’s a relaxing way to unwind and enjoy the therapeutic properties of the warm mineral waters.

 La Fortuna and Arenal offer a wide range of adventure activities, including zip-lining, canopy tours, white-water rafting, horseback riding, and hiking.  

La Fortuna Waterfall is a popular 230-foot waterfall near La Fortuna. You can hike to the base of the waterfall and swim in the natural pool beneath it. The hike involves some steep steps, so wear comfortable shoes.

The Arenal Hanging Bridges offer a unique way to explore the rainforest canopy. Suspended bridges and walking trails allow you to observe the forest from different heights, offering excellent opportunities for wildlife spotting.

There are plenty of accommodation options in La Fortuna and the Arenal area, ranging from luxury resorts with volcano views to budget-friendly hostels and eco-friendly lodges.

La Fortuna is accessible by road from San José and other major cities in Costa Rica. The drive can take around 3-4 hours, so plan accordingly.

Best places to stay in Costa Rica in La Fortuna/Arenal:


6. Jacó

Jacó is a beach town popular for surfing. It has had a reputation for some nightlife-related issues in the past, so exercise caution, especially at night.

Jacó Beach is the town’s main attraction. It’s a long, sandy beach with consistent waves, making it a popular spot for surfing and water sports. The beach is suitable for both beginners and experienced surfers. The sunsets at Jacó Beach are particularly stunning.

Jacó is considered one of the best surf spots in Costa Rica. You’ll find numerous surf schools and rental shops where you can take lessons or rent equipment. The town often hosts surf competitions, drawing surfers from around the world.

Jacó has a lively nightlife scene, with numerous bars, clubs, and restaurants. It’s a popular destination for partygoers, especially during weekends and holidays. If you enjoy nightlife and socializing, Jacó offers plenty of options for entertainment.

Beyond surfing, Jacó offers a range of adventure activities, including ATV tours, zip-lining, canopy tours, and horseback riding. The nearby rainforests and mountains provide opportunities for hiking and exploring nature.

Jacó has a tropical climate with a dry season from December to April (the most popular time to visit), as you can expect sunny weather and perfect surfing conditions. The wet season is from May to November.

Jacó is easily accessible by road from San José. It’s about a 2-3 hour drive. Public buses also connect Jacó to other cities in the country.

Best places to stay in Costa Rica in Jacó:


7. San José

San José is the capital and largest city of Costa Rica. It serves as the country’s political, cultural, and economic center. While San José is not typically the primary destination for tourists in Costa Rica, it can serve as a starting point for exploring the country’s natural wonders, national parks, and coastal areas. 

San José serves as a gateway to many attractions in Costa Rica. You can take day trips to nearby destinations such as the Poás Volcano, Irazú Volcano, and coffee plantations in the Central Valley.

The city offers cultural experiences, shopping opportunities, and a chance to sample Costa Rican cuisine before venturing into other parts of the country.

The city is home to numerous museums including the National Museum, Jade Museum, Gold Museum, and Costa Rican Art Museum. These museums offer insights into Costa Rica’s history, culture, and art.

San José’s city center is characterized by a mix of historic and modern buildings. The central avenue, Avenida Central, is a bustling pedestrian street lined with shops, restaurants, and street vendors.

San José has a vibrant theater and performing arts scene. The National Theater (Teatro Nacional) is a beautiful historic venue that hosts performances, concerts, and ballet.  

You can find a wide range of dining options, from traditional Costa Rican dishes like gallo pinto to international cuisine. The Mercado Central is a great place to sample local food and snacks.

The city has several markets and shopping districts where you can buy souvenirs, crafts, and local products. The Central Market and National Artisan Market (Mercado Nacional de Artesanías) are popular choices for shopping.

San José is generally safe during the day, but it’s important to exercise caution at night in some neighborhoods. Stick to well-lit areas and avoid walking alone after dark.

San José offers a variety of accommodation options, including hotels, hostels, and boutique guesthouses. Many international hotel chains have a presence in the city.

Best places to stay in Costa Rica in  San José:


8. Drake Bay

Drake Bay is a remote and less touristy destination on the Osa Peninsula. While it’s generally safe, it’s essential to plan your trip carefully and be prepared for more rustic conditions.

Drake Bay is often used as a base for exploring Corcovado National Park, which covers a vast area of primary rainforest. The park is home to an incredible array of wildlife. You can explore the park on guided hikes and discover its natural wonders.

 Drake Bay is known for its opportunities to spot dolphins and whales, including humpback whales, which migrate to the area seasonally. There are boat tours and excursions available for wildlife enthusiasts.

The area has several beautiful beaches, including Playa Drake and Playa San Josecito. These beaches offer a tranquil setting for sunbathing, swimming, and picnicking.

Access to Drake Bay can be challenging. Most travelers reach the area by taking a domestic flight from San José to the nearby Drake Bay Airport. Alternatively, you can take a combination of a domestic flight and boat ride or use ground transportation, which can be time-consuming due to the rugged terrain.

Best places to stay in Costa Rica in Drake Bay:


9. Liberia/Guanacaste

Liberia is the capital of Guanacaste province, which is known for its beautiful beaches, national parks, and a rich cultural heritage. It’s considered safe, just be cautious of the sun and stay hydrated.

Guanacaste boasts some of Costa Rica’s most famous beaches, including Playa Tamarindo, Playa Conchal, Playa Flamingo, and Playa Hermosa. These beaches offer opportunities for swimming, surfing, snorkeling, and sunbathing.

Guanacaste is home to several national parks and protected areas, such as Rincon de la Vieja National Park and Santa Rosa National Park. These parks offer hiking trails, waterfalls, hot springs, and opportunities to observe wildlife and volcanic activity.

Liberia has an international airport, Daniel Oduber Quirós International Airport, making it easy to access Guanacaste. You can also reach the region by road from San José. Renting a car is a convenient way to explore the area.

Best places to stay in Costa Rica in Liberia/Guanacaste:


10. Puerto Jiménez

Puerto Jiménez is a gateway to the Osa Peninsula and Corcovado National Park, one of the most biodiverse places on Earth. It’s relatively safe, but keep in mind that it’s a small, rural town, so services may be limited.

Puerto Jiménez is located on the shores of Golfo Dulce, a tropical fjord-like gulf. It’s a great spot for kayaking and dolphin watching. The calm waters of the gulf also make it a popular place for stand-up paddleboarding.

Sportfishing is a popular activity in the area. You can book fishing charters for a chance to catch species like marlin, sailfish, and roosterfish.

Puerto Jiménez is accessible by road, although it’s a remote destination. You can drive from San José or take a domestic flight to Puerto Jiménez Airport. The flight offers stunning views of the coast and rainforest.

Best places to stay in Costa Rica in Puerto Jiménez:


See more: Where to Stay in Costa Rica First Time

In conclusion, Puerto Viejo, Manuel Antonio, Monteverde, Tamarindo, La Fortuna/Arenal, Jacó, San José, Drake Bay, Liberia/Guanacaste, and Puerto Jiménez are the best and safest places to stay in Costa Rica for tourists. It’s always essential to exercise caution wherever you stay. 

About Author: Linda Smith

I'm Linda Smith, the Hotel Expert, an experienced travel blogger who passionate about traveling. I'm here to share with you all my travel experiences and tips. I cover a wide range of travel topics, specializing in sharing information about the best areas, neighborhoods, and hotels in each city. I hope all these things will make your travel easier.

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