Diseases, Medicines, and Innoculations for Travel in Costa Rica

Mosquito bourne illnesses

Costa Rica had been relatively free of dangerous parasite diseases (malaria, dengue, yellow fever, typhoid) for a long time. In 1996 dengue and malaria reappeared in the two port cities (Puntarenas and Limon), and is pretty much contained to those areas. There have been very few cases reported, and all cases have been related to poor sanitation/poor neighborhoods. In July, 2000 there was a small "outbreak" of dengue, which, according to the Center for Disease Control, is considered an "occupational" disease, meaning people who work in urban poor areas are the most likely to encounter the type of poor sanitation and drainage that breeds this type mosquito.

The malarial strain in Costa Rica is different from South America's newer "drug-resistant" strain, and requires a less controversial medication. There is preventive medication available, but the side effects of nausea may be worse than the risk of infection would warrant. We recommend you discuss with your doctor whether to take anti-malarial medication. For your information, none of the Serendipity guides uses anti-malaria medication nor has any of our guides contracted malaria in Costa Rica.

The best prevention for mosquito bourne illnesses is to avoid mosquito bites. Use mosquito repellant (Serendipity guides will have some on hand, but if you have sensative skin you may want to provide your own), and wear clothes that cover your skin.


Whereas the incidence of Hepatitis A and B is low in Costa Rica, there have been recent outbreaks in the USA — Detroit, Miami, New Orleans, and other cities. Worldwide, Hepatitis is a serious disease, affecting millions. There are now vaccines for both Hepatitis A and B, and we encourage everyone to get the inoculations, which protect you for 10 years to life, and will be really handy someday when you venture to Mardi Gras or the Auto Show. Some rivers in Costa Rica have had Hepatitis show up in analysis, but none of the Caribbean slope white water rivers (Pacuare, Sarapiquí, Peñas Blancas, Pejebeye) have ever tested "positive" to Hepatitis.


Be sure to have your TETANUS inoculation brought up to date. Tetanus lives in the soil, and you're virtually guaranteed to scrape a knee or the like while in Costa Rica doing silly adventure stuff.


Thanks to good sanitation and clean water supplies, Cholera is virtually unheard of in Costa Rica. It is not, however, unheard of in Nicaragua, and if you spend time in Nicaragua prior to visiting Costa Rica you may be asked for proof of immunization.


While you are the CDC site, look at their page on Leptospirosis.

Water Quality

Parasitic infections are rare in Costa Rica, and drinking water quality in Costa Rica is excellent. Bottled water is readily available, however, and we keep containers in the vehicle with us. In all the areas we travel it is completely safe to drink the water straight from the tap, unless the hotel specifically directs you to drink bottled water.


I was surprised at how bumpy the roads were and how well our guide, and 4x4, handled it. NOW we know why Serendipity uses the big SUV's -- almost every place we went had either pothole pavement or, much smoother, dirt roads.

Most important, I discovered that I need to be less afraid of everything and just get out and try it, and I WILL have fun doing it. But it will be better if I have (Serendipity guide) Catalina right next to me for the hard stuff.

—Lucy P., Toronto, Ontario, Canada, February, 2008