One of the major concerns when you travel abroad is if it’s safe to drink tap water. This is one of the most common questions we get from our readers and friends because there are a lot of common misconceptions about it and you’ll hear different things from different people.
So in this article we’re going to talk about water quality in Costa Rica and whether it’s safe for visitors to drink tap water in Costa Rica. Hopefully this will help clear up some confusion so you can be prepared for your trip!
Is it Safe to Drink Tap Water in Costa Rica?
As for me, being Costa Rican, I never had any problems before with the water. However, I have been drinking tap water since I was kid growing up in Heredia. For us locals, it’s not a problem.
For foreigners, it could be a different story. Many of my friends from different countries have drank the tap water and haven’t had any problems. Samantha never grew up drinking tap water in the US so it was weird for her at first, but she has no problem drinking tap water in Heredia. In the cities, the tap water is well maintained. But this does not mean that the quality of the water is the same in every part of the country.
So here are some things to know about drinking the tap water in Costa Rica.
Check Where Your Water is Coming From
The biggest water company in Costa Rica is the AyA and they have a pipe system all over the country. They do a good job continuously checking the quality of the water so if your water provider is the AyA, your water quality should be very good.
There are other smaller companies around the country that provide water service so if you are moving to Costa Rica or renting a place for the period of time, check who your water provider is (ask your property manager or landlord). Most of the companies have high quality standards as well.
The thing you need to be careful about is if your water is coming from a well or a water tank. In some areas, people pump their water from the ground or store water for regular use. We have had a couple of bad experiences in some places where the main source of water was from a water tank and it was not well maintained.
Some hotels in Guanacaste or drier areas in Costa Rica take their water from tanks or wells due to the lack of water during dry season. Hotels will have a sign in your room saying if the water is drinkable or not because many times, the water is coming from their tanks instead of the AyA.
When we lived in Playas del Coco, we used a Brita filter and sometimes boiled the water, never drinking it directly straight from the tap as is. Currently, in Villarreal near Tamarindo, we don’t drink the tap water. This is because the water in this area is “hard” water with more minerals so boiling and using a Brita filter doesn’t work. Unfortunately I got some health issues from drinking the tap water everyday (we’ve been living in this area for 4 years). So we signed up for a bottled water service and they bring us 18 liter bottles of filtered water every few weeks, reusing the bottles.
Mountain areas tend to have better drinking water and we love the tap water in Monteverde. It isn’t “hard water” like in Tamarindo and we always fill out bottles up straight from the sink in Monteverde.
Rural Areas like Golfito, Osa Peninsula, Tortuguero, Sarapiqui
Tap water is generally not safe to drink in these areas as they are rural, remote and not developed. Our hotels in Tortuguero, Sarapiqui, Golfito, Puerto Jimenez and Osa Peninsula had free filtered water stations for guests. We filled our insulated water bottles up with water everyday and drank only that. We still brushed our teeth with tap water but didn’t drink one drop of it.
What You Can Do
If you have a sensitive stomach or are having some tummy issues, you have several options:
- Buy bottled water. We don’t really like purchasing bottle water because of the plastic but it is the most convenient option. For more eco-friendly options, you can…
- Bring a water purifier or filter like SteriPEN. These will filter out the bacteria or prevent them from multiplying. Very useful for hiking or day trips too.
- Water purification tablets are also handy and small to carry. It only takes 30 minutes for them to clean the water and make it drinkable.
- Bring an insulated water bottle, buy a big bottled (6 L or bigger) water and then fill up your water bottles for days you go out.
Touristic locations are for the most part safe. But remember, it also depends on the person as some people are more sensitive. Ask your hotel how the tap water is. It’s better to play it safe than get diarrhea or get sick during your trip!
In Case You Do Get Sick or Tummy Issues
You can find anti-diarrhea pills at any pharmacy or supermarket. Here in Costa Rica, the anti-diarrhea pills are Alka-AD. Andrews (powder you dissolve in water) is also good for stomachaches. You can also find Pepto Bismo but it’s a bit expensive.
If you’re having intense or persistent problems, you can go to any pharmacy and talk to the pharmacist. They can recommend something stronger and you don’t necessarily need to go to the doctor unless you get really bad. In case you do need a doctor, here’s what you need to know about seeing a doctor in Costa Rica as a foreigner.
To Be On the Safe Side
Purchase travel insurance. Hopefully you won’t need it but you never know.
Want to read about more Costa Rica travel tips? Here they are!
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