What is The Legal Drinking Age in Costa Rica?

In Costa Rica, the legal drinking age is set at 18 years and above, a regulation upheld with strict penalties for those who offer alcohol to minors. This legal boundary is not exclusive to residents but extends its jurisdiction to visitors. Violating this law can lead to serious legal consequences, underscoring the country’s commitment to safeguarding the well-being of its youth population.

My family, comprised of two sons, often vacations in Costa Rica. With one aged 18 and the other 20, they were quite excited to learn that they could indulge in their first taste of alcohol.

Key Takeaways From This Article

While visiting Costa Rica, you’ll notice that alcohol is a standard beverage at most social gatherings. Despite this, Costa Rica has a lower alcoholism rate of 3.1 compared to 4.1% in the United States. There are a few critical points regarding alcohol consumption in Costa Rica.

  • Any person under the age of 18 is prohibited from consuming alcohol by Costa Rican law. 
  • Alcohol sellers are required by law to request identification before selling alcohol.
  • Some local customs restrict the sale and consumption of alcohol in certain areas and during certain holidays.
  • Drinking or carrying alcohol in public areas such as parks, beaches, streets, and sidewalks is against the law.
  • Drink responsibly and don’t give minors alcohol if you want to have a pleasant stay in Costa Rica.

What is the legal drinking age in Costa Rica? 

Costa Rica’s alcohol laws prohibit anyone under 18 years of age from drinking. Sellers will not sell minors alcoholic drinks in any bar, restaurant, or liquor store. Most liquor sellers are required by Costa Rican laws to ask for an ID before selling you any alcohol. 

As a tourist in Costa Rica, you should always carry a form of identification, such as a passport or driver’s license. Don’t be surprised when the bartender refuses to sell you alcohol if you forget your identification documents in your room!

Though most locals don’t take the law seriously, you might notice minors drinking in the presence of their parents. However, I advise you not to do the same. Considering you’re in a foreign country, you can quickly get in trouble with the local authorities.

Interestingly, not many stores in Costa Rica sell alcohol before 11:00 a.m.

Costa Rica’s Culture On Alcohol 

Costa Ricans love alcohol; you’ll find it at most weddings, funerals, and other gatherings. Alcohol consumption in Costa Rica is a cultural norm, and the locals are known for brewing their own brands.

The table below highlights some of Costa Rica’s local alcoholic drinks that my family sampled and enjoyed.

Alcohol typeCharacteristics
ChichaThe drink is inexpensive and usually made from rice, pineapple, or corn fermentation.
GuaroIt is made from sugarcane. Guaro is slightly sweet but tastes like vodka.
Guaro comes in two varieties: red and black.
Beer ( Pilsen, imperial, Bavaria, rock ice)Imperial is the most popular beer in Costa Rica.
Other craft beers in Costa Rica include ales, fruit-infused, chilli, Nitro stout, etc.
RumRon Centenario and Ron Rico are two of the most popular rums in Costa Rica.
However, there are several other rum brands in Costa Rica.
Vino de coyolThe drink is made from the sap of coyol palms.
It is sweet and light-tasting; the locals take it as wine.

 

In Costa Rica, Ticos (Costa Ricans) generally adopt a relaxed stance towards minors consuming alcohol. It’s not uncommon to see underage individuals drinking, particularly in the presence of their parents. Nevertheless, sellers risk facing substantial fines if caught by authorities.

It’s worth noting that local customs in Costa Rica impose restrictions on the sale and consumption of alcohol on certain occasions. Historically, during the holy week, alcohol sales were prohibited. However, this ban has been lifted due to complaints from businesses in tourist areas. Presently, it’s left to the discretion of municipalities to determine which holidays warrant restrictions on alcohol sales.

Regulations regarding alcohol sales vary across different regions of Costa Rica. Therefore, it’s advisable to seek guidance from locals if you’re uncertain about the specific rules governing alcohol consumption in the area you’re visiting.

 

Legal Laws On Drinking in Costa Rica

While the law allows you to drink alcohol if you’re 18 years of age or older, it is illegal to walk around with alcohol. You should only consume alcohol in licensed areas, such as bars or restaurants. Drinking or carrying alcohol in public places is against the law.

Please make sure not to provide alcohol to minors, whether they are your children or not. Costa Rican laws prohibit individuals under 18 years old from consuming alcohol.

Please be aware that drinking alcohol and driving in Costa Rica are illegal. If the alcohol level in your blood exceeds 0.05% mg, it can result in a prison sentence of three years or a $700 fine.

You must pay a fine if you break any of the abovementioned laws. The amount of the fine will depend on the severity of the offence. If you witness anyone breaking the law, you can call 911.

Tips For Responsible Drinking In Costa Rica

When visiting Costa Rica, it’s natural to crave your favourite beer, but don’t overlook the opportunity to explore the diverse range of local brands available. However, it’s crucial to consume alcohol responsibly while in Costa Rica. Ensuring compliance with local laws is paramount to avoiding legal repercussions and leaving a positive impression on those around you.

However, here are a few tips for responsible drinking:.

  • Due to the hot climate in Costa Rica, it is advisable to drink a lot of water after consuming alcohol to prevent dehydration. 
  • When in a public place, don’t leave your drink unattended. Some people might spike your drink with ill intentions. Of course, ensure the people you’re leaving your drinks with are friends. 
  • If you try new drinks, especially the local liquors, drink in moderation. Local alcoholic beverages might have a higher concentration than you are typically used to. Only try out the drinks in a licensed place. 
  • Avoid drinking until you pass out, especially if alone. While the crime rate in Costa Rica is low, it’s easy for others to take advantage and steal from you. 

Minors or young adults can still have fun away from alcohol-related events. Zip-lining, horseback riding, strolls on the beach, and surfing are some activities they can engage in. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Can a minor, accompanied by their parents, drink alcohol in Costa Rica? 

It’s important to note that the legal drinking age in Costa Rica is 18 or older. While in many tourist areas, alcohol sellers might disregard this law, it’s still illegal. 

Whether accompanied by their parents or not, anyone under 18 years old should not sell or consume alcohol.

Are there some regions in Costa Rica that allow the sale of alcohol to minors? 

The legal age is the same throughout Costa Rica. However, you might encounter lax law enforcement in certain local towns. It is possible to obtain alcohol if you appear to be older than 18.

Conclusion

While the legal drinking age in Costa Rica is 18+ years, the locals might not adhere to it. However, if you have minors, there are so many activities that are not alcohol-related that they would enjoy.

By adhering to the legal age for alcohol consumption, you avoid hefty fines and possibly a jail term.

 

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About 

Born in California, Michelle traveled extensively through the USA and Europe before moving to South Florida during the pandemic. Her career in Marketing has taken her all across the world. Her favorite country is France but she'll never turn down a beach vacation!

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