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Crime in Costa Rica

January 6th, 2007

I get a fair number of emails asking about crime in Costa Rica… so maybe it is time to cover this topic once more.

Crime here, it is getting worse and I have no problem saying so. It is certainly different than when I first stepped off the boat. Saying that though, the crime is pretty well confined to two areas: San Jose (the city), and areas where tourists congregate. It is NOT country wide.

This is true for the US as well. A small town in Iowa is NOT the same as life in LA.

Increasing also are the areas where North Americans tend to congregate… “Gringo Enclaves” such as Escazu or Santa Ana are reporting more and more crime.

I find this pretty amusing (the irony, not the crime) that Gringos moved there in the first place to be comfortable living with other Gringos. They perceive safety (in numbers) living behind those gated communities while not actually having to deal with the “natives”. They do not want to learn Spanish and have no desire to integrate into the Latin culture. That is fine and is their right!

This, however, lets the bad guys know where the (real or perceived) wealth is located and the most convenient locations for robbery and home invasions, the two most popular pastimes! They actually moved TO a targeted area!

The irony here is that those North Americans who do NOT live in the enclaves, but rather live in any of thousands of other areas NOT known for a Gringo population almost never report break-ins, robberies or for that matter ANY crime at all! In fact, in ALL the years I have lived here, not once have I heard of a crime committed against a North American family living in… oh say… San Isidro for example. Oh I am SURE there has been of course… I just never heard about it!

However, I know a ton of people who live in areas like San Ramon, Cuidad Colon, Grecia, Zarcero, Athenas and so on who NEVER have problems. Many never even lock their doors and still leave their car keys in the car!! A bonus! Their cost of living is a fraction of what it takes to live in an enclave!

The difference??

These folks came to Costa Rica for the reason they WANTED to integrate. They WANTED to learn the language and they see the far-older Latin culture as what it is… something special. As they can speak a bit of Spanish, they make (Tico) friends and those friends then watch out for each other!

My wife and I just had dinner last week with a couple (Barb and Wally) from Canada who bought a finca in Perez Zeledon. Ask THEM about crime. It does not exist for them except on TV and La Nacion.

So if there is an answer… or a lesson… examine why you are coming here and what are your intentions.

If you want to enjoy the expatriate lifestyle to the max by learning a foreign language… immersing yourself and your family in a wonderful culture, want little (or no) problem with crime, consider NOT hiding out. Rent or buy something in an area inhabited by Ticos. You will not be sorry.

However, if you want to rent or buy a home or condo in one of the enclaves, live in San Jose or in high crime tourist areas like Jaco or Tamarindo, well… you made the choice… now accept what goes with that choice. You will be at a far higher risk of crime.


It is also possible you just LIKE to live in the city! If so… learn to deal with the every day crime and violence exactly as you would if you lived IN Miami or Chicago.

102 Responses to “Crime in Costa Rica”

  1. John on July 19, 2009 4:00 pm

    In this regard, it seems that Cuba has much less crime issue than many countries, including China. This is from my own limited experience and much reading as well.

  2. J0HN on October 21, 2011 1:39 am

    retirig soonng is there a community where black north americans would find possible learn the language,culture and be welcomed? or need for heighten concern about safety. my pension above
    costa rica requirements, really interested
    in moving there comments