If you are renting a car and driving, you will get lost at some point! Just expect it and don't worry. Someone will give you directions and help you. But it is best to avoiding all driving at night. Road signs are few and far between and often in a language you may not be familiar with. Please plan your driving to be at your desired destination before nightfall.
It is also a good idea to not wander the streets you don't know in San Jose after dark. This statement would be true of any city in the world, and you need to exercise the same caution you would at night in any city.
After just watching two excited, healthy teenagers (who never burn - ?) spend days in pain from sunburn, I have to advise everyone to wear sunscreen!
Costa Rica is located near the equator (9 degrees latitude) and some elevations are very high – these two factors can add up to a high UV radiation level. A few sessions at a tanning booth before your trip is a good idea so you will not be coming to Costa Rica in the middle of winter with white skin that hasn't seen the sun in months. But even if you decide to pre-tan, you must wear a sunscreen and apply that sunscreen often. Be especially careful with young children. Use hats and always bring cover-ups to the beach. Never try to get that tan (that will be the envy of all your friends back home) in one day!
Also, remember to drink water often to avoid dehydration and heat exhaustion. Whether you are lounging on the beach or rappelling down waterfalls, you will be losing moisture from your body that needs to be replenished. Always keep bottled water with you in your backpack or bag.
Riptides are common and dangerous. You need to become familiar with identifying riptides and what to do if you find yourself in one. Most Costa Rica beaches often do not have any lifeguards and it is up to you to be prepared and knowledgeable about riptides.
If you do find yourself in a riptide and being carried out to sea, DO NOT attempt to swim back to shore. You will need to swim PARALLEL to the shore. You will soon find yourself in calmer water and then be able to reach shore.
Some clues there may be a riptide: a channel of churning choppy water, an area of water with a noticeable difference in color, or a break in the incoming wave pattern.
Costa Rica's beaches are some of the most beautiful in the world and we want you to enjoy them. But that word common sense is coming up again….please use it and remember, NEVER swim alone!
The Costa Rican government has done a remarkable job in the area of conservation. They have made great strides in limiting the erosion that causes mudslides and floods by protecting the forests on its watersheds. But heavy rainfall can still cause rapidly rising water levels in the streams and rivers of Costa Rica, so there are some precautions you should take.
Even though it may not be raining where you are, it could be raining in high elevations near you. Be cautious about entering near canyons. If the nearest tree to the stream shore is 10 or 20 feet up the side of the hill, it probably means flooding has occurred and taken away plant life.
Flooding can cause mudslides on the roads in the mountainous regions. Watch for a pile of sticks in the road that may be warning you of a mudslide ahead. Slow down and proceed with caution. If it is the wet season and there have been heavy rains, you may want to take a route that does not go thru the mountains.
Always deal with tours operators that have the appropriate certifications, a good reputation, and use professional guides. We utilize only the best tour operators in the country which we have personally inspected.
It is also important that you only attempt physical activities you are capable of doing. Pay attention when the guides give instructions and use good judgment.
Accidents are rare and the tourism industry in Costa Rica is diligent about making sure your experience is a fun and safe one!
Bites or Stings:
Try to remember that many of you come to Costa Rica for the wildlife! We hope you see plenty of it, but there may be some wildlife you would rather not encounter. For many of you, it is the snake.
The main thing to remember about snakes is they are more interested in avoiding you than you are them! They will sense the vibrations caused by your walking and be fast about leaving the area. The main thing to remember is: DO NOT stick your hands or feet into any area you cannot see! If you do not do this, you will most likely not see a snake during your entire trip.
Africanized bees are in Costa Rica. You would rarely see them if their hive is not disturbed—so do your best not to disturb their hives! In the unlikely event you do encounter swarming bees, try to get in a car or building as quickly as possible and run in a zig-zag rather than straight line.
Mosquitoes are more of a nuisance than a health concern. They can transmit malaria or encephalitis, but this is rare. A good insect repellent should be all you will need and is rarely needed at all in the dry season.
Scorpions are snuggly little creatures; that is, they love to snuggle in your shoes and your bathing suit and your crumpled clothing! Always check those pieces of clothing and shake them out before putting them on.
Crocodiles are wonderful to spot in the wild and you will want to see them. The only precaution you need take regarding the crocodiles is not to swim in the mangroves or estuaries where they blend into the landscape so perfectly that they are hard to spot. You would probably not be tempted to swim in these areas anyway.