House Grail is reader-supported. When you buy via links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission at no cost to you. Learn more.

25 Safest Cities and Cantons in Costa Rica (2022 Update)

Note: This article’s statistics come from third-party sources and do not represent the opinions of this website.

Often called the “Land of Ticos”, Costa Rica has close ties with the United States. Located in Central America, it is home to majestic volcanoes, lush breaches, and extremely diverse fauna. The country borders Nicaragua and Panama and is one of the most popular tourist destinations on the planet. As a tropical getaway, Costa Rica offers exotic wildlife and ancient ruins, which makes it perfect for ecotourism.

In 2019, before the pandemic, it was visited by 3.1 million foreigners. What about safety, though? Can you feel secure while traveling to the “Rich Coast”? Well, it’s the safest place to visit in Central America and the Caribbean. With that said, in 2021, the national average homicide rate was 11.5/100K, a slight increase over 11.2 in 2020.

Yes, there are lots of dangerous areas there. But, mostly, it’s a safe country. To help you stay out of harm’s way, we compiled the following list. We ranked the safest cities and cantons in Costa Rica based on the murder rate, number of violent crimes per year, and other factors. Take a look!

divider 1

The 25 Safest Cities and Cantons in Costa Rica: A Quick Look

1. Nandayure

Population: 11,787
Province: Guanacaste
Murders in 2020: 0
Violent Crimes in 2020: 1

If you’re looking for a quiet, picturesque canton in Costa Rica, Nandayure will be a perfect pick. The crystal-clear beaches, beautiful forests, and exotic fauna are the main attractions. More importantly, Nandayure is the safest place to be in the country right now. With no murders and only one violent crime in 12 months, it is, indeed, very safe. Home to under 12K people, the canton is welcoming, secure, and the prices are more than affordable, which makes it a great destination for a family vacation.


2. Dota

Iglesia Santa Maria Dota Costa Rica
Iglesia Santa Maria Dota Costa Rica (Image Credit: Rodtico21 via Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 4.0)
Population: 7,948
Province: San Jose
Murders in 2020: 0
Violent Crimes in 2020: 1

Just like Nandayure, Dota is a warm and colorful canton, a go-to place for hikers, fishers, and fans of to-die-for pictures. Located in the San Jose province, it’s not that far from the country’s capital but offers tourists a safe, secure environment. Only one violent crime was registered by the local police in the canton in 2020 (just like in 2019). This remote, little-known place in the mountains could make for a great getaway trip if you’re looking for serenity and tranquility.


3. Hojancha

Provincia de Guanacaste, Hojancha, Costa Rica
Provincia de Guanacaste, Hojancha, Costa Rica (Image Credit: kajikawa via Wikimedia Commons, CC BY 3.0)
Population: 4,640
Province: Guanacaste
Murders in 2020: 0
Violent Crimes in 2020: 2

Founded in 1971, Hojancha is one of the “youngest” cantons in Costa Rica. With a total population of 4.6K people, it’s not particularly fancy, but there’s enough to see there. The local wide-leaf tree, remnants of the Chorotega Indigenous tribe, and marvelous rivers will, most definitely, grab your attention. Hojancha is incredibly clean, too, and was recognized by the prestigious Eco-Blue Flag award. And if you travel a bit deeper into the canton, you’ll find lush fields of rice, beans, and fruit.


4. San Marcos

Pirris hydro dam San Marcos, Costa Rica
Pirris hydro dam San Marcos, Costa Rica (Image Credit: Tarrazu at English Wikipediavia Wikimedia Commons, CC0)
Population: 11,204
Province: Guanacaste
Murders in 2020: 0
Violent Crimes in 2020: 3

US tourists that want to break away from the noisy and dirty central cities will appreciate the rural atmosphere of San Marcos. No murders were reported in 2020, and only three cases of violent crime (a huge improvement over six cases in 2019). The restaurants and hotels are quite alright, but the bustling city’s main attraction is, of course, coffee. The local family farmers produce millions of pounds of this popular drink a year. You’ll see the coffee fields near the steep, grandiose mountains.


5. Montes De Oro

Iglesia SanIsidro Montes De Oro
Iglesia SanIsidro Montes De Oro (Image Credit: ArquiWHAT via Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 3.0)
Population: 12,950
Province: Guanacaste
Murders in 2020: 0
Violent Crimes in 2020: 2

Puntarenas is one of the safest districts in Costa Rica, and if you’re looking to spice things up a bit, the Montes De Oro canton could be an ideal destination. This is a protected zone, with clean streets, many farms, micro-mills, and the incredibly beautiful Miramar Church. The air is fresh, and the ocean is within reach. Safety should be of no concern to you, by the way, because only two violent crimes were reported in 12 months.


6. Puerto Jimenez

Puerto Jimenez beach
Image Credit: FelixMiranda, Pixabay
Population: 12,199
Province: Puntarenas
Murders in 2020: 0
Violent Crimes in 2020: 4

The city of Puerto Jimenez used to be a gold mining/logging community back in the day. These days, it is home to a little bit over 12K people and offers lots of attractions to foreigners, including hiking trails in the rainforest, dolphins on the gulf, and the famous Corcovado National Park. Are you a big fan of sunsets? Then you’ll definitely appreciate the views in Jimenez. Biologically rich, the city has diverse wildlife: monkeys, tapirs, and even bats.


7. San Mateo

Iglesia Catholico de San Mateo
Iglesia Catholico de San Mateo (Image Credit: NicSanburg via Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 3.0)
Population: 3,046
Province: Alajuela
Murders in 2020: 0
Violent Crimes in 2020: 3

This right here is the smallest canton on the list. Yes, San Mateo is one of those places where everyone knows each other. So, you might get surprised looks from the locals, but they’re very friendly. Located in the Alajuela province, it has one of the cheapest restaurants, cafes, and hotels in Costa Rica. Hiking in the dense forest, exciting coffee tours, and waterfalls—you’ll get to enjoy all that in San Mateo, along with breathtaking views.


8. San Vito

San Vito, Costa Rica
San Vito, Costa Rica (Image Credit: Eric T Gunther via Wikimedia Commons, CC BY 3.0)
Population: 38.453
Province: Puntarenas
Murders in 2020: 0
Violent Crimes in 2020: 10

In contrast to San Mateo, San Vito isn’t particularly small (for Costa Rica, at least). With a total population of 38K people, it’s not at all boring. There’s always something going on in this city. In 2020, police officers registered 10 cases of violent crime (-33% compared to 2019), well below the national average. San Mateo is home to some of the most amazing waterfalls (largely undiscovered). Plus, you can visit the local botanical garden or head into the forest to watch some exotic birds.


9. Acosta

Cruz Roja Acosta, Costa Rica
Cruz Roja Acosta, Costa Rica (Image Credit: Rodtico21 via Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 3.0)
Population: 20,209
Province: San Jose
Murders in 2020: 0
Violent Crimes in 2020: 5

No murders, just five VC cases, and only a few pickpockets on your way make Acosta a place worth visiting. There’s no jail in Acosta, and the locals don’t remember the last time they heard of a murder. This canton has a mean elevation of 3,300 feet, which makes it an ideal place for welcoming the sun. During the summer, it comes up over the mountains every single day, and the sky is always clear.


10. Atenas

Vacation Rental in Atenas, Costa Rica
Vacation Rental in Atenas, Costa Rica (Image Credit: Hacienda La Jacaranda via Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 3.0)
Population: 29,340
Province: Alajuela
Murders in 2020: 0
Violent Crimes in 2020: 6

Lush, green hills, plants of sugarcane and coffee, the Zoo Ave, and Central Park turn Atenas into a must-visit city. As mentioned, Costa Rica is known worldwide as the producer of some of the finest coffee beans, and Atenas is where you’ll be able to see it all with your own eyes. The climate is another big reason to visit: the temperature in this city is always hanging in the 70-degree range and there are almost no flies or mosquitoes there.


11. Bagaces

Population: 19,536
Province: Guanacaste
Murders in 2020: 0
Violent Crimes in 2020: 6

An all-time low number of violent crimes (6 cases in 2020 vs. 11 in 2019), a non-existed murder rate, and lots of tourist attractions—that’s what you can expect from the city of Bagaces. The temperate climate, gorgeous waterfalls, and reasonable prices on everything make it an even more inviting stop on your next trip to Costa Rica. This is one of the oldest settlements, by the way, and dates back to the 16th century.


12. Puriscal

Iglesia Santiago de Puriscal Costa Rica
Iglesia Santiago de Puriscal Costa Rica (Image Credit: Rodtico21 via Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 4.0)
Population: 37,983
Province: San Jose
Murders in 2020: 0
Violent Crimes in 2020: 11

The fourth canton in the San Jose province, Puriscal is a popular destination. Plus, it’s very safe (11 VC cases per 38K people). The first thing that’ll catch your attention is the marvelous church built by the Spanish centuries ago. Just like most cantons in Costa Rica, Puriscal “sits” on top of mountains and offers one-in-a-million views. Folks that travel to faraway destinations to get perfect selfies should put Puriscal on their lists.


13. Buenos Aires

Embotellamiento en Buenos Aires
Embotellamiento en Buenos Aires (Image Credit: Kalificado via Wikimedia Commons, CC BY 3.0)
Population: 28,002
Province: Puntarenas
Murders in 2020: 0
Violent Crimes in 2020: 13

No, we’re not talking about the capital of Argentina. Buenos Aires in Costa Rica is a relatively small canton (28K residents) and is mostly known for the cultivation of pineapple. Located in the countryside of the Puntarenas district, Buenos Aires offers a “true’ Costa Rica experience and a safe trip. There, you’ll find some of the largest tribal reservations in the country. Plus, while this canton is a remote location, there are lots of parks and reserves nearby.


14. San Isidro

Iglesia de San Isidro de Heredia
Iglesia de San Isidro de Heredia (Image Credit: Haakon K via Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 3.0)
Population: 48,243
Province: San Jose
Murders in 2020: 0
Violent Crimes in 2020: 17

What can you expect from San Isidro, a city with a population of 48K people? Well, it’s not particularly popular among US tourists. This can be a pro, though, especially if you’re into eye-catching landscapes, a comfortable climate, and below-average prices at stores/services. The farmer’s market is also worth a visit. San Isidro is a very safe city, despite the 50% spike in VC rate in 2020 (17 vs. 11 in 2019).


15. Los Chiles

View of Caño Negro Wildlife Reserve
View of Caño Negro Wildlife Reserve (Image Credit: Rquesada via Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 3.0)
Population: 33,689
Province: Alajuela
Murders in 2020: 0
Violent Crimes in 2020: 19

Just like in San Isidro, the number of reported crimes in Los Chiles spiked in 2020 (by 55%). However, it still has a low crime rate for Costa Rica and Central America. So, what can you do over there? Situated nine miles from the country’s border with Nicaragua, it’s a wealthy and well-developed canton. Rare birds, monkeys, iguanas, turtles, and lots of fish—Los Chiles has quite a diverse fauna. Boat tours are also available.


16. Parrita

Population: 20,199
Province: Puntarenas
Murders in 2020: 0
Violent Crimes in 2020: 24

According to a local legend, Parrita got its name centuries ago from a woman named Rita. The Spanish phrase “Es par Rita”—this is for Rita—was used so often that today the canton is known as Parrita. It sits right in the middle of six different rivers and has a very warm, comfortable climate. Settled 15 meters above sea level, it’s got postcard-worthy views, a lovely mangrove forest, and lots of tiny islands that you can visit on a boat.


17. San Pablo

Iglesia de San Pablo de Heredia
Iglesia de San Pablo de Heredia (Image Credit: Victor Quirós A via Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 3.0)
Population: 31,200
Province: Heredia
Murders in 2020: 0
Violent Crimes in 2020: 32

In 2020, only 32 VC cases were reported in San Pablo—a low rate for a city with a population of 31K residents. Besides, compared to 2019, the violent crimes rate saw a 44% decline. No murders were registered, which means San Pablo is safe to visit. What can the average foreigner find there? The cuisine is delicious, and there are lots of music festivals. The spa centers are great, but they’re also expensive.

Related Read: 25 Safest Cities in Mexico (With Pictures)


18. Grecia

Chorros waterfall Grecia, Costa Rica
Chorros waterfall Grecia, Costa Rica (Image Credit: Rodtico21 via Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 4.0)
Population: 76,898
Province: Alajuela
Murders in 2020: 0
Violent Crimes in 2020: 37

It will take you an hour to reach Grecia from San Jose, and there is enough to see there. First, make sure to visit the Church of Our Lady Mercy (it’s painted red, you won’t miss it). At its core, Grecia is a farming community, and it’s one of the cleanest cantons in Costa Rica. The large, picturesque parks that host musical bands, never-ending celebrations, and welcoming people will keep you occupied for many days.


19. Corredores

Population: 52,419
Province: Puntarenas
Murders in 2020: 0
Violent Crimes in 2020: 38

Like any other city or canton in the Puntarenas province, Corredores boasts dense, tropical forests, exotic wildlife, and beautiful beaches. If that’s exactly what you’re looking for, do visit this lovely place. The local hotels are cheap, by the way, and so is the food. You won’t experience harsh winds or sudden temperature drops because Corredores has a mean elevation of 190 feet.


20. Nicoya

Landscape Nicoya Peninsula Costa Rica
Landscape Nicoya Peninsula Costa Rica (Image Credit: Milei.vencel, Hungary via Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 3.0)
Population: 56,591
Province: Guanacaste
Murders in 2020: 0
Violent Crimes in 2020: 47

Do you imagine mountainous landscapes, heavenly beaches, and a laid-back, relaxed freestyle when thinking about Costa Rica? Then you’ll like what Nicoya is all about. This canton is in Guanacaste and enjoys a long dry season. And if you’re worried about the crime rate, don’t be. It’s much lower than the national and continental average. Plus, the VC rate dropped in 2020 by 16%, making Nicoya a much safer place.


21. Garabito

Population: 26,028
Province: Puntarenas
Murders in 2020: 0
Violent Crimes in 2020: 52

The Jaco Beach, lovely waterfalls, gardens, and the Tico art house are just some of the landmarks of Garabito. Despite the modest size and population, it is one of the finest cantons in Costa Rica. The VC rate is a bit higher than you’d probably expect, but Garabito is, without a doubt, a safe place to visit. The parks, national wildlife refuges, and cozy cafes on the beaches are all worth your while.


22. Santa Cruz

Parque de Santa Cruz Guanacaste Costa Rica
Parque de Santa Cruz Guanacaste Costa Rica (Image Credit: Peloy (Allan H.M.) via Wikimedia Commons, CC-BY-SA-3.0)
Population: 68,939
Province: Guanacaste
Murders in 2020: 1
Violent Crimes in 2020: 58

Next up, we’ve got Santa Cruz, a popular destination in the Guanacaste province. The local eco and cultural tours are pretty great, and if you want to explore the canton on your own, we recommend the parks, natural/wildlife areas, and, of course, the beaches. For a city with nearly 70K residents, the number of violent crimes (58) is rather low. And there was only one murder reported in 2020.


23. Matina

Population: 46,379
Province: Limon
Murders in 2020: 1
Violent Crimes in 2020: 81

Matina is the only city on our list from the Limon province. Located 43 feet above sea level, it’s cheerful, vigorous, and known not only in the province but the entire country. It’s known for its hot springs and volcanic mud baths. In 2020, there were 81 cases of violent crime and one murder reported in Matina—reassuring rates for a large and popular city.


24. San Rafael

El Tirol, San Rafael de Heredia
El Tirol, San Rafael de Heredia (Image Credit: Victor Quirós A via Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 3.0)
Population: 42,651
Province: Heredia
Murders in 2020: 1
Violent Crimes in 2020: 85

Is San Rafael a fast-paced, vibrant city or another one of those slow, tranquil resort towns for tourists? Well, you could say that it’s the golden middle. Famous for the large, grandiose church, San Rafael has many landmarks, attractions, and a very “Latin” vibe. The steep, beautiful hills, full-fledged farming communities, and lovely architecture will instantly grab your attention.


25. San Carlos

Hotel Los Lagos, San Carlos, Alajuela, Costa Rica
Hotel Los Lagos, San Carlos, Alajuela, Costa Rica (Image Credit: Peloy (Allan H.M.) via Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 3.0)
Population: 200,151
Province: Alajuela
Murders in 2020: 3
Violent Crimes in 2020: 119

San Carlos is the biggest canton on our list. The violent crime and murder rates are lower than the Costa Rica averages, of course, especially for a canton with 200K citizens. However, you should stay away from dark, dead-zone neighborhoods. In 2020, the police registered 119 cases of violent crime and three murders (-20% and -15% vs. the previous year). As for attractions, San Carlos has it all: scenic landscapes, farms, wildlife, ancient architecture, and charming cafes/restaurants.divider 1

How to Stay Safe in Costa Rica

As we learned today, murder and violent crime aren’t a big issue in Costa Rica. It’s also a low-threat location regarding terrorism, political, religious, and ethnic violence. On the 2021 Global Peace Index, Costa Rica ranks #39. So, that leaves purse-snatchers and pickpockets as the greatest threat.

As long as you always keep your bag strapped around your shoulder or neck and don’t put anything in the back pocket, petty theft shouldn’t be a big problem. The best thing about the 25 cities/cantons on our list is they’re not the most popular destinations for tourists. Plus, they’re relatively small.

That means most of the pickpockets will be in the bigger cities. Don’t wander into dangerous neighborhoods at night, turn around if you see strangers on the streets, and don’t display signs of wealth in public. Also, always keep a phone around to call the police (the number is the same as in the US—911). And remember: Puntarenas and Guanacaste are the safest districts in Costa Rica.divider 1

Conclusion

Costa Rica is one of the most amazing places to visit 365 days a year. The forests, beaches, and the mesmerizing legacy of the Corobicís and Nahuatl tribes turn it into a magnet not only for the American but for European tourists as well. You can travel there alone, with your partner or family—Costa Rica is a safe and welcoming country.

Stay away from shady people, keep your belongings at the hotel, and make sure you enjoy every second of your trip. Safe travels!


Featured Image Credit: kmarius, Pixabay

Related posts

OUR categories

Project ideas

Hand & power tools

woodworking

Garden

Automotive