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How to dress and live without stress in Costa Rica


How to dress (or not) in Costa RicaCostaricans are not as prudish anymore as they used to be although they still dress quite conservatively. Television and foreign influence has opened their minds tremendously. But there are still certain things you cannot do and certain clothing you cannot wear because it is simply not done if you have any respect for their traditions. The Catholic Church has a lot to do with that influence.

When I moved to Costa Rica, it was unheard of for men to wear shorts into town and for women to dress very short and showing a lot of skin. Being Dutch, I grew up in a very liberal culture. 45 Years ago, women would leave the top of their bikini at home when they would go to the beach and there were many nude beaches. At sports, all men would take a shower together after the game, with nothing on and the women would do the same thing. We wouldn’t think any of it. When I moved here, I found that all those things were unimaginable and many still are now. There are still unwritten dress code rules that you should know about.

Formal dress at work

Due to the warm weather in Costa Rica, for quite some years, the Guayabera was customary. Apparently a Cuban invention, the Guayabera was created to eliminate the use of a more formal form of dress with a suite and tie. This was mainly because most office buildings in Costa Rica didn’t have any air-conditioning. In today’s office fashion, the Guayabera is not used and a dress shirt and tie is very common as well as a two-piece suit, depending on the business environment. I know only one Costa Rica real estate agent who uses a suit or even a tie. Most of us dress very casual, depending if our clients are locals or foreigners.

Dressed in a Guayabera in Costa Rica     Office workers in Costa Rica dress less formal now

     The “Guayabera” dress shirt                                         Office workers in Costa Rica dress less formal now

Country Club and public pool

If you are a member of a Country Club, the form of dress depends a lot on the club and if the club is located in the city or at the beach. Some clubs are very competitive socially, so members worry more what to dress and in others members dress very casual. In Costa Rica, it is not customary to show a lot of flesh. When I moved here, I wore a Speedo water polo brief once and I was told to find myself a pair of shorts or to leave the pool. Thong bikinis for men and women are unheard of in a country club or public pool in the Central Valley.


The locals, when they don’t work, dress very casual, but without showing a lot of flesh. The younger generations are of course more generous with showing what they have or have not.  As it was unheard of to wear shorts and flip flops while shopping 15 years ago, it is pretty normal now. Latins are generally vain people, so they like to dress well. They would never go into a mall “looking like crap”. We have all seen those internet photos of the people of Walmart as shown below. You will NOT see any of that in Costa Rica, the Ticos are way too proud for that and looking good at all times is very important to them, men and women alike.

Do NOT dress like this in Costa Rica   Do NOT dress like this when shopping in Costa Rica

Do NOT dress like this when shopping in Costa Rica (courtesy of People of Walmart)

In beach towns, you cannot expose any private body parts. I have never seen anybody being fined for indecent behavior but it is normal for a man to walk without a shirt on in the streets of any beach town while in other countries people get fined for that. I do not recommend anybody to walk shirtless in the streets of San Jose or any other city in the Central Valley.

Do NOT dress like this in the city  Dressing like this in the city in Costa Rica is not a problem

                               Do NOT dress like this in this in the city                                                          Dressing like this is NOT a problem               

The beaches

As you all know, the beaches in Costa Rica are all public beaches, so again there are no rules like you would have in a club. Unlike the Brazilians, it is not customary for Costaricans to wear tiny little bikinis or thong bikinis on the beach, though that is changing little by little. Not wearing a bikini top on the beach might not get you arrested, but will definitely assure you the attention of every man on the beach, especially if you are a young blonde with blue eyes. There are no nude beaches in Costa Rica either.

Not wearing a bikini top on a Costa Rica beach might get you arrested.

Not wearing a bikini top on a Costa Rica beach might get you arrested.

The law

The constitutional court of Costa Rica has sentenced: “To ensure the respect for the people’s rights, we must recognize the autonomy of each human being and accept the right of everyone to be different.

It is in this specific case, a conflict between the right of a citizen to project to others as well as you want, provided they do not violate the minimum standards of morality and decency, and social interest to perceive that person within a framework of normalcy that has imposed the traditions in our society. In accordance with the above, it is not possible to discriminate the plaintiff only by the way they chose to project as a society.”

If you’re not sure what to wear at certain occasions, once you live in Costa Rica, ask your GoDutch Realtors. We have all been here long enough to know what is acceptable and what not.  Of course, we expect you in return, to purchase your Costa Rica property through us. Contact us now if you are ready for that purchase. And we appreciate your referrals as usual.

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Ivo Henfling

If you are looking to buy a home in Costa Rica or invest in a condo anywhere in the central Valley, or looking for any property for sale in Escazu, you need to call me. I have been selling real estate in Escazu for over 20 years and can show you hundreds of happy buyers of real estate in Escazu and other areas. To me, a deal is not a good deal unless both buyer and seller are happy.

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