August 2, 2018 6:04 PM
Every place in the world I’ve been there are animals that can kill you. In most places, humans are the most dangerous ones. This page talks about the next most dangerous ones.
When chatting with Costa Rican’s – they were terrified of the Grizzly and other bears we have back home. I hike in the mountains every month, and though I have come across Grizzlies and other bears, I know how to act around them and have never had a problem in any encounters. I’ve also come within feet of black bears (they are black, brown and light tan colored) many times and have never had a problem – again, you just know the rules. I had one Tico (the name Costa Rican’s give themselves) in Samara, Guanacaste asked in terror and sincerity if we all carried guns and shot bears on sight – I asked: do you carry guns and shoot crocodiles whenever you see them? He got the point.
Note: if you visit my area of the world and you are going into bear country – don’t be cavalier, make sure you know and follow the rules, bears are indeed dangerous. Tourists get out and try to feed them and the bear doesn’t know where the food stops and your arm starts. Tourists try to put their child on the back of the bear for a photo, too much reading Winnie the Pooh. Tourists pull the bear’s ear to try to get them to ‘look at the camera’. Locals don’t do any of those stupid things.
In my part of Canada, Elk and Moose are the most likely to kill you even though I have encountered far more bears, and there are virtually no problems with people who don’t act stupid with bears.
In Costa Rica, I’m told Crocodiles (Cocodrillos, similar to Alligators, but I’m told Crocodiles are more aggressive) and snakes are your ‘big’ worries, and more for children: Anacondas in the water. In addition, all sorts of bugs including no-see-ems, ticks (lyme disease), mosquitos and other bugs are your ‘little’ worries.
I’m not an expert but what I understand is: When at a river, look up and down for anything bumping out of the water, then take a stick and hit the water to see if anything moves. If it does, don’t go in. That handles the Crock and Anaconda problems.
For poisonous snakes – don’t go in grass unless it is cut low – simple, just don’t do it. I’ve heard there is on average 1 poisoness snake per hectare (about 1 per acre) so Let the locals, who know more details, take their snake stick and a machete, and then, when the grass is low, you go. If you insist on ignoring this, make sure you are wearing high hiking, cowboy or work boots that a snake can’t bite through*, take a snake stick and machete with you – and follow a guide and his or her instructions in detail.
You need a 17 or 18″ high boot, ideally that is designed for this, and make sure you see the statement: “That a snake can’t bite through.” Standard cowboy boots, especially the fancy dress ones for example are not that thick, you need a pair that are designed for snake bite prevention.
When you see a bunch of tourists by a river in Costa Rica, chances are they are looking at a crock. Don’t feed the crock! If you MUST ignore this – stay back 10 or more meters. I do not know if 10 meters is safe enough – crocks can move very fast. But 10 meters (10 yards) seems safer than 1 meter.
For little pests … use a DEET or Picaridin based insect repellent, if you are on the Caribbean coast (Malaria*), sleep in a mosquito net. Grab grab a tube of ‘stop itch’ from Wallmart before you leave Liberia (we tried – we never found it anywhere else, not even in the aeroporta.) Skip the home remedies and Amway lotions etc.., DEET is one of the safest, most tested chemicals ever and it is the only effective deterrent for Mosquitos etc..,
2019 Update, I understand that there is no risk of Malaria on the Caribbean coast either. It was 2008 that I was told that there was a risk. So either it was just a fear that it was getting to close in Panama or it is no longer a problem. My source of risk then and now: Canadian Blood Services. For more info see
DEET: (mosquitoes, ticks, some flies) Maximum protection is achieved at 30% DEET formulations—higher concentration levels simply make your protection last longer but it takes a lot higher concentration to get any significant increase, so better to go with 30% and reapply after 8 hours. Controlled-release formulas, though, which include just 20 to 30 percent DEET, provide protection for up to 12 hours.
Picaridin: (mosquitoes, ticks, flies) Maximum protection is provided in formulations with 20 percent picaridin. Spray versions protect for up to 12 hours against mosquitoes and ticks, and up to eight hours against flies; lotion formulations last for up to 14 hours against mosquitoes and ticks, and up to eight hours against flies.
If you want to know what the risks are: I’m told that Crocks have the greatest frequency of human attack – stupid tourists feeding the crocks chicken feet is the number 1, poisonous snake bites is number 2 and vending machines falling on you is number 3. I’ve heard the following from several sources, it doesn’t make it true: that you are more likely to be killed having a vending machine fall on you than to be killed by a shark. I’d still slowly swim away if I saw a shark, but I don’t avoid vending machines! Of course if you spend your whole life in and near the ocean, and you always stay uphill and at least 2 meters (6′) from any vending machines, then I guess the shark risk will be higher.
If swimming near coral, don’t touch it, lots of little nasty things there, and the coral can scrape you up pretty badly even if you don’t get stung or bit by something. (I received 2 stings when swimming too close to coral in Costa Rica once, painful ‘poison’ for 5 minutes, then for 10 minutes an hour later, other than that it was just the ‘physical’ non-poison pain, it healed easily, but others have not been so lucky. My wife once stepped on a spiky anemone or urchin in Jamaica – sore for a week)
If you do get sick from something in Costa Rica, get treated there, don’t return home first. This is a general rule around the world, each hospital knows both the symptoms and treatments for local health risks better than anywhere else in the world – and Costa Rica starts out as one of the top world health centers to boot. This is advice I’ve had from Canadian doctors throughout the years (I’ve traveled extensively around the world) – if you get sick, get diagnosed and at least start your treatment before you return, then bring your diagnosis with you.