Our decision to go to Costa Rica was on a whim, and apart from buying durable hiking shoes, we were not prepared.
As we arrived we heard many of the locals allude to the dangers of Costa Rica, I mean, it is mainly rainforest after all, but yet, no one actually ever specified what we should be wary of.
And, no, it’s not sloths.
When we checked in to our room at Blue Osa Yoga Retreat & Spa, all of the guests were given flashlights. We were instructed that any time we go anywhere after dark, flashlights were a must for our safety as wild creatures could be lurking around. We were surrounded by jungle after all.
Again, no mention as to what these creatures might be.
Johnny and I actually weren’t given flashlights because our room was attached to the brightly lit lobby, meaning we didn’t need to venture through the dark. We were told we wouldn’t be needing them.
We wouldn’t be needing them…?
Of course, we should have had a flashlight, because we did need them!
One night after dinner I decided to put my camera away before hanging out with others back in the lobby. Running upstairs I fumbled around for the light switch in our room. It was already dark outside, which meant there wasn’t enough light coming in through the windows to actually see.
Slapping my hand around on the wall like an idiot, I finally managed to hit the switch.
And there, about two inches from where I had just slapped my hand on the wall was a scorpion. Yes, a scorpion. Just chillin’ in our bedroom.
Definitely could have used that flashlight.
Then next day as we went kayaking through the mangroves, our guide briefly slipped in a joke about being careful for crocodiles before quickly moving on to a new topic. Except– he wasn’t kidding as we later maneuvered our kayaks right past some.
Again, pretty sure someone should have warned us about the crocodiles?
I guess most local Costa Ricans don’t even think about the possible dangers anymore because they’re so used to it and actually know what to look out for.
Our same guide then proceeded to have us go swimming, promising there’d be no more crocodile encounters. What he did fail to mention however, were the jellyfish.
As members of our group ran out of the water, legs swollen and in pain, they asked the guide what was happening. Was it sand fleas? A weird allergic reaction? Our guide simply laughed and said “Oh! It must be the jellyfish that are always here… they’re micro jellyfish, so you can’t see them.”
Again, why did no one warn us of this??
This seemed to be a reoccurring theme throughout our trip, until finally, someone (an American expat mind you) had the courtesy to tell us what we should be careful of.
Please note: Costa Rica is, for the most part, safe, and you shouldn’t let any these critters deter you from going. However, it is important to do your research before *any* trip to know what dangers there may be!
Here are 10 things that (no one probably ever told you) can kill you in Costa Rica:
Most spiders are nothing to fear, but there are a few venomous varieties in Costa Rica, including the Brazilian Wandering Spider– said to be the most poisonous in the world.
The spiders you do have to worry about typically live deep within the jungle, but this means you need to take the proper precautions for dress and always wear closed-toed hiking boots. Lucky for you most spiders don’t attack unless provoked, so if you do happen to encounter a scary looking spider, just try leaving it alone and walk in the opposite direction.
Jellyfish & Bull Sharks
Well, I didn’t know jellyfish were an issue in Costa Rica but I do now. I did, however, know that those who head to Costa Rica for surfing need to be wary of bull sharks.
These sharks are seemingly friendly and harmless, but they can turn aggressive very quickly.
Millipedes & Centipedes
While millipedes are mostly harmless, you do need to watch out for centipedes.
A bite from these long little guys can also send you to the hospital. The venom of a centipede is annoying and causes a lot of pain; however, it’s actually an allergic reaction that causes death in most humans.
Now scorpions won’t exactly kill you, but their sting is painful and can send you to the hospital.
There are 14 different species of scorpions living in Costa Rica and they all look different. Ranging in colors of red, yellow and brown, they also come in all different sizes.
If you’re stung by a scorpion, wash the infected area with soap and water. Usually pain will subside within an hour, but if it doesn’t and the swelling hasn’t gone down, you’ll need to consult a doctor.
Mosquitoes in Costa Rica are horrible and they’re there all year round! There’s not much you can do to prevent getting bit from these suckers. Not even high percentages of Deet seemed to deter them.
Dengue Fever and Malaria are common problems here, so make sure to still use repellent every few hours or talk to your doctor about taking medicine to help prevent this.
Frogs & Toads
You’ll see colorful frogs all over Costa Rica. While I find them cute and associate them with the fun mascot of Rainforest Cafe, these little guys are actually quite harmful.
Some species of frogs won’t kill you, but they will make you hallucinate. Others, like the various species of tiny poison dart frogs, are highly deadly to humans. So don’t let their small size fool you!
Apparently Costa Rica has more crocodile deaths and attacks than anywhere else in the Western Hemisphere.
Because Costa Rica is rapidly expanding, crocodiles keep having to move into new territories and can be found in even the unlikeliest of places. We saw a crocodile every day of our trip, and they were usually just inches from the road.
If you’re afraid of snakes, you may want to reconsider a trip to Costa Rica. You can find 140 species of snake here and 22 of those are incredibly deadly.
The main ones you need to watch our for are the fer-de-lance, coral snakes, eyelash pit vipers and bushmasters.
Be on the lookout for really colorful snakes, although if you spot any snake be sure to alert your guide right away so he can assess the situation and take care of it if need be. Snakes are the main reason most guides will carry machetes on them.
Unless the only jungle you’re visiting is the urban jungle of Costa Rica, I’m pretty sure you and anyone who visits will see ants on their trip. At almost any given time we could look down and see a ridiculously long trail of gigantic ants carrying leaves across the jungle. It was pretty cool to say the least, but don’t get in the ants’ way or else they will bite you.
Watch out for leaf-cutter ants, fire ants, and especially bullet ants. If you don’t know what bullet ants are, their bite is known to make people suffer for over 24 hours in pain described as worse than being shot– hence giving them their name.
Costa Rica is home to jaguars, cougars, pumas and more. While an attack from any of these cute cats could easily kill a human, I saved them for last because, let’s face it, it’s just not very likely.
We tried hard to even see one of these creatures in the wild, but during our week-long stay it just didn’t happen. Even if you do get lucky enough to encounter a big cat, there’s a good chance that it’ll run off rather than attack, especially if you stand still and don’t provoke it.[divider style=”solid” top=”20″ bottom=”20″]