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 (tropical country), 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 now making international headlines due to its symptoms in women. 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.
Living in Costa Rica means we are wary of mosquitoes all the time and we use a lot of different products. Mosquitoes are a huge concern in tropical countries so make sure you bring plenty of bug repellent to protect yourself. You will need it!
Best Repellent Against Mosquitoes in Costa Rica
Here are the best products we tried and recommend that you bring for your trip to Costa Rica. **All these links will take you to our Amazon Affiliate, we receive a tiny commission at no extra cost to you :)**
The most popular chemical compound for insect repellent is DEET.
DEET stands for N,N-Diethyl-3-methylbenzamide, an organic carbon compound that was developed by the US army after WW2. It repels mosquitoes by increasing their dislike for the smell. It doesn’t kill them but keeps them away.
The percent DEET tells you how long the effect will last. 100% will last up to 12 hours (most concentrated), 20% lasts around 3 hours. There are no proven health risks when used safely.
Many sprays come with 10%-30% DEET but I found that I still get bit 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.
For those who don’t want to use a spray with DEET, there are some non-DEET and natural sprays out there. This is one of my favorites because it does work and smells like lemon. It doesn’t last as long as the DEET spray but does the trick for about an hour so make sure you reapply frequently.
These 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.
This one doesn’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. I suggest combining products if you don’t want to wear a band on each arm and leg.
I prefer this lotion in particular because it 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.
We use these whenever we spend an extended period of time sitting outside like for dinners, hanging out or working by the pool. These are coils that release a mosquito repelling incense when burned. You just light the end of the coil and it releases a smoke made from pyrethrum powder.
Each one lasts quite some time at around 8 hours and it’s good for keeping mosquitoes away from an area but not specifically each individual. The statistics say that each one provides around 80% protection against mosquitoes. We usually place one every few meters around the dining area outside.
I remember when I was a kid watching my dad use one of these. He would run around the house swatting the flies and you could hear a “Zzzz!” each time he got one. These are more common in Asia but are actually kind of fun. You run around with this racket, waving and swatting and it feels pretty satisfying when you hear the zap!
It does the trick and kills bugs in one light touch. You need to be careful when using it as not to give yourself a shock as well so these work great for inside the house.
Quite a few outdoor sports brands have developed an insect repellent technology that they put in some of their clothes. They have jackets, shirts (long and short) and pants. 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. Cover the exposed areas with something light like a wipe or a moderately low DEET spray.
I know a couple people who have used the shirts and swore by it, saying you don’t need to use any other products. 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. A couple of my German friends swear by Columbia.
There are also sprays that you can use on your clothes that last up to 6 weeks or 6 washings. You can save yourself money by buying the spray and using it on all your normal clothing instead of buying specific bug repelling clothes.
This one is also useful for when you are sitting outside for a long period of time. You just hang up the lamp, light the candle and it’ll keep the bugs away. It works by releasing a repellent from the strip being heated from the candle. It lasts a full 4 hours and it really keeps the bugs away!
You don’t need extra repellent to spray on yourself (unless you’re leaving the 15 X 15 area which it works in) and it makes a nice evening outside with friends much more enjoyable.
This repellent 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 for that long though, you have to reapply every 1.5 hours or so.
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.
It 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. 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.
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