Mosquitoes in Costa Rica are everywhere all year long and it’s a huge concern for travelers. I’ve noticed that every person who comes to visit brings at least 3 or 4 different kinds of lotions and sprays to protect against mosquitoes and it is indeed a legitimate concern.
Quick Facts about Mosquitoes in Costa Rica
- Dengue: Since the mosquitoes in Costa Rica are present all year long, it is true that there have been many cases of dengue fever. Unfortunately, Costa Rica is the leading country in Central America with over 14,000 reported cases in 2013 and nearly 8,000 in 2016 so far.
- In Guanacaste, cases of dengue fever have increased in the past few years and there is no vaccine available. There are 4 different types of this viral disease and it is carried mostly by the Aedes mosquitoes. It is treatable for acute or mild cases but many of those affected with the most severe type, hemorrhagic dengue, are fatal.
- Malaria: Malaria is not as common in Costa Rica as dengue fever. According to the Ministerio de Salud (department of health), there have been 93,030 cases of malaria since 1957 with 8 cases in 2012. They’ve reduced malaria over 90% since 2000.
- Chikungunya virus: Also present in Costa Rica and doesn’t have a vaccine or cure. It was found for the first time in the Americas in 2013, before it was only in Africa, Asia and Europe. Symptoms. The most affected provinces are Puntarenas and Guanacaste with symptoms of fever, joint paint and headache. However, a person can be infected and not know, but symptoms show up 3-12 days after getting bit.
- Zika: Zika has been around but is only now making international headlines. As of February 2016, there has been a reported and confirmed case of a tourist falling ill with Zika after visiting Playa Samara but it is not as prevalent as the news makes it to be in Costa Rica.
Do note that mosquitoes generally do not live above elevations of 6,500 feet (2,000 meters), so the worse areas are at the beach and the jungle and during rainy season as mosquitoes breed in stagnant water.
Best Insect Repellent Against Mosquitoes in Costa Rica
Here are the best products we tried and recommend that you bring for your trip to Costa Rica. We recommend bringing mosquito repellent for your trip because it is expensive in Costa Rica and there aren’t a lot of options, particularly if you prefer natural products. There are Amazon affiliate links in this post which we get a tiny commission from to help keep our blog running.
Many sprays come with 10%-30% DEET but I found that I still get bit sometimes with those. You can find sprays up to 100% and the one we used was 98.11% which worked amazing!
There is a brand called Jungle Juice you can buy at REI or this brand, Repel 100 which we really like. It’s a little bottle but you don’t need much and it’s the perfect travel size. Whenever we go to the national parks or into the jungle for hiking, we always use this one and we don’t get bit at all.
Another one we like is Ben’s Max. This one contains around 30% DEET and works great. I could see the bugs hovering over my arm but never got bit!
However, I know some people don’t want to use chemical products. For those who don’t want to use DEET, the Repel Natural is one of my favorite DEET free products because it does work and smells like lemon. It doesn’t last as long but i does the trick for about an hour so make sure you reapply frequently.
I recently found another one called Bull Frog Mosquito Coast that doesn’t use DEET and also has sunscreen that works for me. Like really works! I love it and it even works out in the dense jungle. I love that it also has sunscreen in it so I only have to apply one product one instead of two.
Mosquito Repellent Wipes
Mosquito wipes are great for those who don’t like to use sprays especially for the face and neck. It is also very convenient to carry and you can take them on on the plane with you. These are 30% and lasts up to 10 hours.
We tried these on our legs and arms and they worked very good for us but not a full 10 hours. Luckily it barely takes up any space so it’s easy to reapply and when you’re hiking, it’s much easier and lighter to carry than bottles and spray cans.
Insect Repelling Bands
These insect bands don’t contain DEET so it is also ideal for those who don’t like spraying chemicals all over their body. It contains Geraniol, a plant based material that repels mosquitoes.
These bands are for your wrists and feet and you can just snap it on and leave it for a couple days. They are water friendly and works up to 120 hours as advertised.
We used them on our ankles but we also combined it with a little bit of spray and it was quite effective. It smells good and it’s awesome because you don’t have to wash bug spray off of yourself at the end of the day.
However I found they didn’t work that as good for me e unless I combined it with some spray or wore one of each of limb.
Mosquito Repellent Lotion
This mosquito lotion comes with a sponge so you can rub in the lotion with that instead of your hands. It’s good up to 12 hours (time release) with 33% DEET and it worked great for us.
The lotion was a tad heavy so you definitely feel like you’re wearing it, it’s not as light as I’d like. I only used it on my legs and arms, none on my face (I used the wipes) and even those annoying little gnats stayed away. This one isn’t as quick as putting on a spray but you can make sure that you got all exposed areas covered.
Mosquito repellent clothing
Quite a few outdoor sports brands have developed an insect repellent technology that they put in some of their clothes.
Columbia is one of them and we have one of their bug shield shirts which we love.
However, I don’t recommend depending on solely the clothing to keep bugs away if it is a short sleeve shirt or capri pants since part of your skin will still be exposed. Get long sleeve shirts and long pants with bug shield or cover the exposed areas with something light like a wipe or a moderately low DEET spray.
Since there are several brands, it’s good to read reviews or talk to the salesperson before you invest in buying the clothing since they can get quite expensive. We love our Columbia shirts!
You can save yourself money by buying the spray and using it on all your normal clothing instead of buying specific bug repelling clothes.
One DEET alternative spray called Avon Skin so soft contains Picaridin, a DEET alternative. It’s a chemical synthetic compound, so it is still a chemical and treat it as such – don’t rub it in your eyes, on broken skin, etc.
I recently discovered this and it’s much more pleasant than DEET and it WORKS! It doesn’t work as long though, you have to reapply every hour or so but I could see the mosquitoes hovering on my arm.
Afterbite Itch Eraser
Oh no! You got some mosquito bites. This isn’t for repelling but for getting rid of the itchiness and the relief is oh-so-wonderful.
The eraser also works well on bee stings and other bites and we found that it took away the itchiness pretty fast. You just dab a little bit on and let it do it’s magic. I also love hydrocortisone cream, that stuff takes the swelling and itchy down within a day or two. Both do wonders in taking away swelling and itchiness.
These are only a small sampling of the myriads of products out there to repel mosquitoes but these are ones that we have tested and worked for us. Always be sure to read the labels first and read reviews to see which ones will work best for you and your needs.
For the best protection, cover up. That is the only surefire protection against mosquitoes. So for little ones, I highly recommend covering up instead of covering them in chemicals. Wear long pants and long shirts especially in the national parks and forests. Don’t give mosquitoes any more reason to snack on you when you’re the only one wearing shorts and tank top hiking in the jungle!
Need some tips on what to bring for Costa Rica? Check out our ultimate packing list.
Need some tips about sunscreen? Here are the best sunscreens for Costa Rica plus the different ones you can find here.