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For a relatively small country, Costa Rica has it all, whether you're looking for rest and relaxation or something more active like snorkeling or diving.
Given the geological and geographic variety, this ecosystem has a number of natural disasters to be aware of. Be aware of what might happen and understand how to stay safe with these tips.
Costa Rica has 16 volcanoes, several of which are considered active. They have been relatively quiet and stable over the last few years and haven't caused any widespread damage, but the possibility of eruptions always exists. The popular Arenal volcano has regular activity and a few others have been active in recent months.
If you wish to hike around one of the many volcanoes, you should check with the National Parks for updated information and should preferably use a guide. Refrain from entering prohibited areas, which are clearly marked. Any warnings should be seriously heeded.
The possibility of earthquakes occurring in Costa Rica is high due to its geographical location. An earthquake of magnitude 6.2 struck central Costa Rica in 2009, resulting in the deaths of 32 people. The epicenter of this quake was in Alajuela Province. There were further earthquakes in May 2010 measuring 6.1 and 6.2 near Quepos and Manuel Antonio.
Strong coastal currents, including rip tides on the Caribbean and Pacific coasts, can make swimming dangerous. Most beaches and swimming areas don't employ lifeguards, so be cautious. Keep in mind that every year there are reported deaths of travellers who drown due to riptides or sudden drop-offs in shallow water. Even the strongest of swimmers should use caution. And, of course, children should always be closely monitored.
Costa Rica is a popular destination for extreme sports enthusiasts. Check the safety standards for any operator you choose. Sufficient life jackets for rafts and adequate safety equipment for jungle canopy tours may not be provided. Additionally, two crocodile attacks have been reported on the Pacific Coast. Be extremely cautious if hiking near a river. Use of a guide for nature tours is strongly recommended.
The hurricane season lasts from June to November, but Costa Rica is fortunate to be located in an area that is usually protected from a head-on hit. The danger of hurricane season lies with the heavy rains that accompany this severe weather pattern which could result in landslides, mudslides, flooding and disruptions to essential services. Landslides and flooding occur mostly in the Atlantic section of the country.
Costa Rica is a tropical environment consisting of two seasons; rainy and dry. The rainy season occurs from May to November and the dry season from December to April. The average yearly precipitation is 100 inches nationwide. The excess rain in extremely humid areas or even in dry areas, where the soil can't handle the amount of water, may cause floods that can devastate crops, destroy houses and even result in deaths.
In November 2010 heavy rain caused deadly landslides that killed more than a dozen people and injured several others. Many roads were flooded or blocked by landslides. There were 27 deaths, 23 of which were in the Escazu area of San Jose.
Unfortunately, the nature of many natural disasters is that they are unpredictable, or leave little time to prepare. Always monitor local and international weather updates from the World Meteorological Organization and the National Hurricane Center while traveling so that you will have a better chance to prepare for anything that nature sends your way.
In light of all these warnings, it is imperative to note that Costa Rica has built an efficient disaster response system and has established an effective system of building codes, environmental standards, and adequate land usage that mitigates the impact of these natural disasters.
A trip to Costa Rica will guarantee a journey that will be filled with excitement, enjoyment and relaxation. No other place on earth can offer such an array of natural splendors. So take note of the above, plan accordingly and get ready for a trip you will never forget.
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Travel health tips from our roving medical expert, Dr. Erik McLaughlin MD, plus immunizations you need before traveling to Costa Rica.