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.


The trip would not have been the same without our two chief guides, Philip and Catalina. Both of these individuals are awesome and amazing people, who made this trip unforgettable for us. It is obvious that they love what they do and are probably in my opinion, two of the top elite and professional guides in Costa Rica. Philip and Cata both won the hearts of our kids and provided us an exceptional experience. I know you take very good care of them as it is obvious from their talk how much they admire you and how much they love working with your company.

For a person who is afraid of heights and water, your guides supported me and made me experience some of these adventures, that I know I would not dream about doing without Philip and Cata by my side. Taking care of eight people for full day of challenging activities and then driving late at night back to the hotel safely takes a lot of dedication and strength. Cata is a very special girl and it is amazing to see her in action as she can do anything and everything same or even better than most of the other male guides. Philip is a leader and on the river trip I could see his popularity as each and every tour guide knew him and greeted him with respect. I admire Philip for his driving skills as on the last day I saw that he had to use everything he had to bring us safely to San Jose thorough heavy fog and land slides. Both of these individuals are an asset to your organization.

—Sam P., Mississauga Ontario, March, 2008