Is Costa Rica Safe?

Written by Michael Simons on . Posted in Costa Rica Living, FAQ's, Guanacaste Tourism, Vacation in Costa Rica

Is Costa Rica Safe?

I get this question probably more often than any other question, and I understand why.  Safety is a big concern and it should be. Compared to the USA, Canada and other big countries Costa Rica has very little serious crime.  Like any city or country, there are good parts and not so good parts, so it depends also a lot on where you live.  San Jose is a major city with over 3 Million people.   Anytime you have that many people in one place there will be crime.  But statistically violent crime is very low in Costa Rica; it is usually what they call property crime or crime of opportunity.  I hate when they use the term Petty Theft, because when someone steals your $1,000 laptop that isn’t petty. 

Most of the time, when I hear stories of property being stolen it is almost always the fault of the tourist.  I tell everyone USE COMMON SENSE.  Don’t leave your laptop on the seat of your car out in the open.  Don’t leave your purse on the beach and go for a swim.  I mean you wouldn’t do this at home so why do people do it here?  They let their guard down.  You will find that 99% of the Costa Rican people are the most honest, hard working people you will ever meet and they would never steal anything from you.  But unfortunately that 1 % is the people you need to keep an eye out for. So, Is Costa Rica safe? Yes, 99%.


When I went back to Florida recently [more…]I went to the Boca Raton mall, which is probably one of the nicest, most expensive malls in the world.  There are dozens of security guards in golf carts and cameras in the parking lot.  Yet every aisle had a sign that said “Please don’t leave valuables in your car.  The mall is not responsible for items stolen out of your vehicle.”  So it happens everywhere in the world.

Is Costa Rica Safe?

I have lived here for over a decade and I can honestly say I have never felt safer in my life.  But I also live in a very secure area, much more so than San Jose.  Guanacaste is where the majority of foreigners live and where most of the middle and upper class Costa Rican have weekend vacation homes.  Also, there are dozens of hotels and resorts and an International airport.  So the police presence is very strong and crime is very low.  Most of the communities are gated and guarded and everyone has that Community Watch mentality, as we look after one another.  Of course the further you get away from populated areas, the higher the chance of a burglary, especially if you are leaving your house empty for periods of time.  But again that is the same as everywhere.  

My sister lives in a very remote area of the mountains in Colorado.  She can’t just leave her house unattended for months at a time and not expect to come back and find her TV missing.  For the most part though, home break-ins are very rare.  The crime that happens is usually when someone leaves something of value out in the open for someone to take.  It is the old “well it must not be too important to them since they left it right here on the beach, so I might was well take it.  I can use it more than they can” mentality.  The only thing I have ever actually had stolen from me were hiking boots from the back of my pick up.

Many times when I am showing property I take off my flip flops and put on my boots.  After trucking around in the mud, I usually don’t want them on the floor of my vehicle so I throw them in the back.  A couple times I have gone into town and forgot they were back there.  I come back later to find they are gone.  But the funny thing is the person who took them left behind their old beat up tennis shoes or sandals.  Almost as if to say, “I needed these more than you do.”  Knowing that they will be put to good use doesn’t make me so upset that I have to spend another $50 on a new pair.  If having my boots allows you to make a couple bucks to feed your family, then you can have them.

Why is Costa Rica safe in the Papagayo region? One of the reasons we have less crime than most other beach communities is because we have no surfing.  I lived in California for 9 years and I know many surfers.  For every one of my friends from that era that grew up to be a successful businessman, there are still dozens of surfers waiting tables at 40 years old and living 5 guys to a house.  Surfing tends to attract certain types of individuals, who are more likely to steal than say Scuba Divers or Fisherman, which takes a little bit of cash to be able to enjoy as a hobby.  You find dozens of teenagers and younger individuals who are just hanging out on the beach smoking pot.  If they can snag a laptop or two to allow them to stay an extra week surfing, they are more likely to do that than your average beachgoer in our area.

Also, Playas del Coco and the surrounding area have more of a family atmosphere.  Most of the local families have been here for generations.  Their great grandparents grew up on the same block, working as fisherman or farming the fields.  So the younger kids here are not transient individuals who are just hanging out for the week surfing.  They live here, work here and raise their families here and most of them have ties to the community since birth.  Playas del Coco has been a fishing community for 100 years and the Sardinal area is one of the largest agricultural areas in Costa Rica.  Also, this area of Costa Rica has a much higher caliber of investors so overall it is a much nicer place to live or invest. 

People ask me to compare Playa Hermosa to other parts of Costa Rica. I use Florida and California as examples.  I tell them we are Boca Raton while most of the other beach communities are Daytona Beach.  We are Laguna Beach instead of Venice Beach.  If you have ever visited either place you will know exactly what I mean.  You make the choice.

Violent crime overall is almost non existant in the Papagayo region.  In the 13 years I have been here, there has been one shooting and one rape.  Now I am not trying to down play the sexual assault, I am sure it was a very traumatic experience for that woman.  But compared to cities I lived in back in theUSA, it is laughable.  I lived in Los Angeles on the West Coast and Miami on the East Coast.  There is a rape or murder every 7 minutes, so one every decade is pretty good.  It is impossible to turn on the TV in North America and not hear a story about a major violent crime, whether it’s a school shooting, serial murderer or child molester.

In Costa Rica you never hear of these types of crimes.  Kids walk the streets alone without any fear of being kidnapped.  There are no missing children pictures on milk cartons and you never hear of the horror stories that are on the news everyday back home.  Women regularly hitch hike back and forth to work or the beach, and none of us have any concerns about picking people up this way either.  It’s probably a lot more like when our parents grew up.  They just didn’t worry about that kind of stuff, and we don’t worry about it here.

The one thing I notice the most here, everyday, is how I never feel intimidated or scared.  I never look over my shoulder.  I never worry like I used to in the USA.  I use common sense and keep my valuables out of sight.  I always tip the parking attendant to keep an eye on my truck and I try to remember not to leave my boots in the back when I go to get a beer.  Is Costa Rica safe? Yes, but come check it out yourself.

Pura Vida,

Michael D Simons
Co Owner/Broker
Office 011-506-2672-4100
Cell    011-506-8812-2242

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