As a tropical country, mosquitoes in Costa Rica are everywhere all year long. They are a huge concern for traveler since there are some diseases you can get from mosquitoes.
Here is what you need to know about mosquitoes in Costa Rica and we included a list of our recommended mosquito repellent. Ever since I moved to Costa Rica from the US 6 years ago, I’ve tested out lots of products!
Mosquito Borne Diseases: Dengue, Malaria, Chikungunya and Zika in Costa Rica
Dengue: Unfortunately, Costa Rica is the leading country in Central America with over 14,000 reported cases in 2013 and nearly 8,000 in 2016. 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 is treatable for acute or mild cases.
Malaria: Malaria is not common in Costa Rica. 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. 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 since the 1950’s mostly in Asia and Africa but has been showing up in North America the past couple years. As of February 2016, there has been a reported and confirmed case of a tourist falling ill with Zika after visiting Samara but it is not as prevalent as the news makes it to be. Dengue is the one to be concerned about.
We recommend purchasing Costa Rica travel insurance because just in case you do get dengue or some other disease, you can be covered when it comes to medical emergencies.
Which Areas Have the Worst Mosquitoes in Costa Rica?
Mosquitoes generally do not live above elevations of 6,500 feet (2,000 meters) so the worse areas are on the coasts. These are places like Guanacaste beaches, the Caribbean, Nicoya Peninsula, Osa Peninsula and Central/South Pacific.
You will find some mosquitoes in the Central Valley but not much. There aren’t mosquitoes in Monteverde as that area is around 1600-2000 meters in elevation.
Mosquitoes also like swimming pools so be careful when you’re laying out at your hotel pool.
Worst Time of Year for Mosquitoes in Costa Rica
In tropical countries, mosquitoes are present all year long. However, there are some times of the year when they are especially abundant.
Since mosquitoes breed in stagnant water, rainy season (end of April to beginning of December) is the worst time of year for mosquitoes. Unfortunately streets in Costa Rica do not have good drainage and when it rains hard, drains get clogged. Huge pools of water stay on the streets for days and weeks allowing mosquitoes to breed prolifically.
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. Additionally, there aren’t a lot of options if you prefer natural products.
I’m not a huge fan of DEET but personally, I found that’s the only type of repellent that really works for me for a long period of time because I am a mosquito magnet. It’s different for everyone though so what works for me may not work for you.
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!
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 super long for me though, I found it only worked for about half an hour and then I had to reapply.
I recently found another one called Bull Frog Mosquito Coast that doesn’t use DEET and also has sunscreen. It actually works for me! But I do need to reapply every couple hours but for a non-DEET product, this one is my favorite. I love that it also has sunscreen in it so I only have to apply one product one instead of two.
Another excellent insect repellent that doesn’t use DEET (it has 20% Picaridin, a non toxic ingredient) is Proven Insect Repellent. We recently discovered this one and LOVE it!
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 well 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.
We used them on our ankles but we also combined it with a little bit of spray because with the bands alone, I still got bit and it definitely didn’t work for 120 hours. At least it smells good and you don’t have to wash bug spray off of yourself at the end of the day.
I don’t recommend depending solely on these bands, still use a bit of spray if you use them.
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 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. I don’t prefer the lotion, to be honest I like the spray better.
Mosquito repellent clothing
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!
We did try a DEET alternative spray called Avon Skin so soft. It contains Picaridin which is still a synthetic chemical compound. I recently discovered this and it’s much more pleasant smelling than DEET. It also works decent for me. I recommend reapplying every hour or two.
Afterbite Itch Eraser
If you do get bit, you’ll want to put something on those bites especially if they swell. I once got bit over 20 times in Nicaragua on my calves and the only thing that saved me was hydrocortisone cream as my bites swelled up very bad!
The After bite eraser also works well 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. 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 sprays and lotions. Wear long pants and long shirts especially in the national parks and forests. And when using repellent, the key is to reapply.
Need some tips on what to bring for Costa Rica? Check out our Costa Rica packing list.
Need some tips about sunscreen? Here are the best sunscreens for Costa Rica plus the different ones you can find here.