The first answer to this question is: yes. Costa Rica is a wonderfully affirming, safe country for those identifying as LGBTQ+. But, like so many other countries, the real answer is more nuanced.
Costa Rica has been known as a progressive and tolerant society for many years, with extensive laws related to anti-discrimination against, and protections for gays, lesbians, and transgender persons. In fact, same-sex sexual relations have been legal since 1971, and same-sex marriage was made legal in 2020 – the first Central American country to legalize it. Yet between 1971 and 2020 there have been many challenges for the community tied to political and social bias, including in houses of worship, workplace and academic institutions, tourism, adoption, and healthcare. But as in countries in South and North America and Europe, the past several decades have seen massive strides in protections and public opinion towards homosexuality.
In 2022, the San José pride parade attracted over a million people from around Costa Rica (and the world). San José and the greater Central Valley boast a number of queer-friendly bars, nightclubs, hotels, and coffee shops. There are also smaller pride celebrations in beach communities like Manuel Antonio and Tamarindo, and thriving communities in many cities and towns.
But let’s also be clear, Costa Rica is not uniform in its acceptance of homosexuality nor its sense of safety. This is still a largely Catholic, machismo-based culture and for many politicians and commentators, homosexuality is still considered a sin. I am not writing that as a dig as much as a reality check. When traveling outside the major tourist areas, the country is much more conservative, thus you may not feel as comfortable in some areas as you do in others. And, caution is always to be used when traveling – whether you are gay, straight, man, or woman. Know your surroundings. Avoid areas known for crime against tourists and internationals, especially at night and in dark, non-populated areas.
But please feel comfortable traveling and living in Costa Rica – one of the safest and most progressive countries in Central America. This is a tourist and retreat destination for the LGBTQ+ community, and there are thriving gay scenes across the country. Identifying as a member of the community, being open at work and in day-to-day life, getting married, and having children are all growing in acceptance, and are all protected and given equal status.
We look forward to you joining us for a vacation or more permanently. If you are considering a move to Costa Rica, Your Pura Vida is here to support you.
And as always, “pura vida”!