At CRIE we know the importance of understanding the laws of Costa Rica before traveling to or doing business in the country. Costa Rica is known for its unique legal system and commitment to environmental conservation, and it is essential to be aware of the legal framework in place to navigate daily life smoothly.

In this article, we will provide an overview of the laws of Costa Rica, including its legal system, legislation, and key legal codes. We will delve into essential legal requirements for travelers, environmental and conservation efforts, employment and labor laws, real estate laws, and property ownership. We will also explore family law and marriage, criminal laws and legal rights, and intellectual property laws.

Key Takeaways:

  • Costa Rica has a unique legal system and a commitment to environmental conservation.
  • It is essential to be familiar with the legal framework and key legal codes in place before traveling or doing business in Costa Rica.
  • In this article, we will cover the essential laws for travelers, employment and labor laws, family law and marriage, criminal laws and legal rights, and intellectual property laws.


Costa Rica legal codes

Understanding the Costa Rica Legal System

In Costa Rica, the legal system is based on the civil law tradition, which means that laws are codified, and judges apply those specific laws to the cases they hear. The country’s legal framework is composed of three branches: the Legislative Assembly, the Judiciary, and the Executive Branch.

The Legislative Assembly is responsible for creating laws and reviewing and approving treaties. The Costa Rican legal system has a civil law system, which means that laws are created by the Legislature and codified in a list of codes dealing with specific areas of the law, such as civil law, criminal law, and labor law.

The Judiciary is responsible for interpreting and applying the laws created by the Legislative Assembly. It is made up of justices, judges, and magistrates who are appointed by the President of the Republic. The higher courts are the Supreme Court of Justice and the Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court. The lower courts include appellate and district courts.

The Executive Branch, led by the President, is responsible for enforcing the laws created by the Legislative Assembly and interpreted by the Judiciary. The Police Force and Ministry of Public Security are also part of the Executive Branch and play a crucial role in maintaining law and order.

Costa Rica’s legal framework is governed by several legal codes that outline the country’s laws and regulations. These codes include the Civil Code, Commercial Code, Penal Code, and Labor Code. The Civil Code, for example, deals with topics such as family law, inheritance, and property law. Meanwhile, the Penal Code outlines criminal offenses and their corresponding penalties.

“In Costa Rica, the legal system is based on the civil law tradition, which means that laws are codified and judges apply those specific laws to the cases they hear.”

Understanding the Structure of the Judiciary

The Costa Rican Judiciary is divided into three levels: lower courts, intermediate courts, and higher courts. Lower courts hear initial cases, while intermediate courts hear appeals. Higher courts are the final courts of appeals and hear cases related to constitutional law and human rights.

The Supreme Court of Justice is the highest court in the land and is made up of 22 justices. The Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court is responsible for ensuring that laws and regulations are in compliance with the country’s constitution. The Chamber also has the power to declare laws unconstitutional and make recommendations to the Legislative Assembly for legal reforms.

Overall, understanding the Costa Rica legal system is crucial for anyone living or traveling to the country. By acquainting oneself with the country’s laws and legal framework, individuals can ensure that they stay within the bounds of the law and avoid any legal complications.

Family Law in Costa Rica

Essential Laws for Travelers in Costa Rica

If you’re planning a trip to Costa Rica, it’s important to be aware of the country’s legal requirements and procedures for entering and exiting. Here are some essential laws you should know:

Immigration Laws

All travelers need a valid passport to enter Costa Rica, and visitors from some countries may require a visa. Visitors are typically allowed to stay for up to 90 days, but extensions can be granted in certain circumstances. It’s important to ensure that your passport is valid for at least six months beyond your planned departure date.

Customs Regulations

Costa Rica has strict customs regulations, and travelers should be aware of what items are restricted or prohibited from entering the country. Some commonly restricted items include firearms, drugs, and certain types of food. Make sure to declare all items you are carrying, including cash and valuables, upon arrival.

Entry and Exit Procedures

When entering Costa Rica, visitors will be required to fill out an entry form and present proof of onward travel. Upon departure, travelers may be subject to an airport departure tax, which can be paid in cash or by credit card.

It’s also important to note that Costa Rica has strict laws regarding the transportation of minors. If you are traveling with a minor who is not your own child, you may be required to provide additional documentation.

For more information on the legal requirements and procedures for visiting Costa Rica, visit the official website of the Costa Rican embassy or consulate in your home country.

Environmental Laws and Conservation Efforts in Costa Rica

Costa Rica is widely recognized for its commitment to protecting the environment and promoting sustainability. The country has implemented several laws and policies over the years to promote environmental conservation, which has become a model for other countries around the world.

One of the most notable aspects of Costa Rica’s environmental legal framework is its emphasis on conservation efforts. The country has a network of national parks and protected areas that cover more than 25% of its land area. These protected lands are home to a diverse range of flora and fauna, including endangered species such as sea turtles, jaguars, and macaws.

In addition to its protected areas, Costa Rica has also implemented laws and regulations to combat deforestation, promote sustainable agriculture and fisheries practices, and reduce carbon emissions. The country has set ambitious targets for achieving carbon neutrality by 2050 and has taken steps to promote the use of renewable energy sources.

Some key environmental laws in Costa Rica are:
Ley de Biodiversidad (Biodiversity Law): This law, enacted in 2018, sets out guidelines for the conservation and sustainable use of Costa Rica’s biodiversity.
Ley de Aguas: This law regulates the use and management of water resources in Costa Rica, with a focus on protecting water quality and ensuring equitable access to water resources.
Ley Forestal (Forestry Law): This law regulates forest management practices and aims to combat deforestation and promote reforestation efforts in Costa Rica.


Overall, Costa Rica’s environmental legal framework is a key factor in the country’s commitment to sustainability and conservation. By promoting the protection of its natural resources and reducing its carbon footprint, Costa Rica is setting an example for other countries to follow.

laws of Costa Rica

Employment and Labor Laws in Costa Rica

In Costa Rica, both employees and employers are protected by a comprehensive legal framework that governs various aspects of employment and labor relations. As such, it is essential for workers and employers alike to be familiar with the country’s labor laws, regulations, and legal resources.

Under Costa Rican law, employees are entitled to certain rights, such as a minimum wage, overtime pay, and benefits like paid time off and social security. Employers, on the other hand, must comply with various legal requirements and regulations to ensure fair treatment of their workers.

Employment contracts are an essential part of the Costa Rican labor law framework. These contracts must clearly outline the terms and conditions of employment, including salary, working hours, benefits, and any other relevant information. Failure to provide a written employment contract can result in legal penalties for the employer.

Employers in Costa Rica are also required to adhere to various health and safety regulations in the workplace. This includes providing a safe and healthy working environment, ensuring compliance with safety guidelines, and providing training and education to employees on proper safety procedures.

Employment and Labor Laws in Costa Rica

Employees who feel that their rights have been violated under Costa Rican labor law have legal recourse to seek redress. This can include filing a complaint with the country’s labor ministry, pursuing legal action through the courts, or seeking assistance from labor unions or other advocacy groups.

For employers, understanding and complying with Costa Rican labor law is essential for avoiding legal penalties and maintaining a positive working environment. Employers can access a range of legal resources, including legal codes, regulations, and guidance from legal professionals, to ensure compliance with the country’s labor laws.

Real Estate Laws and Property Ownership in Costa Rica

Costa Rica’s real estate market has been experiencing growth in recent years, with many expats choosing to purchase property in the country. However, it’s important to understand the legal requirements and procedures for owning property in Costa Rica.

First and foremost, non-citizens are allowed to fully own property in Costa Rica, although there are restrictions on owning beachfront property. All property transactions must be registered with the National Registry, and it’s recommended to work with a reputable lawyer to navigate the process.

When purchasing property, it’s important to obtain and review all legal documents, such as property titles and surveys, to ensure there are no issues or disputes with the ownership. It’s also recommended to conduct due diligence, such as verifying property boundaries and checking for liens or encumbrances.

Costa Rican Property

Additionally, it’s important to be aware of the taxes and fees associated with owning property in Costa Rica, such as property taxes and transfer taxes. It’s also recommended to obtain property insurance to protect against natural disasters and other risks.

Overall, owning property in Costa Rica can be a rewarding investment, but it’s essential to thoroughly understand the legal requirements and procedures. Working with a reputable lawyer and conducting due diligence can help ensure a smooth and successful transaction.

Family Law and Marriage in Costa Rica

In Costa Rica, family law and marriage are governed by the Family Code. This legal framework defines the rules and regulations surrounding marriage, divorce, child custody, and other family-related matters.

Marriages in Costa Rica must be performed by a notary public or a judge. Before a wedding ceremony can take place, the couple must obtain a certificate of legal capacity to marry. This document ensures that there are no legal impediments to the marriage.

The Family Code also outlines the legal procedures for divorce and separation. In Costa Rica, divorces can be granted on either a fault or no-fault basis. In either case, the process can be lengthy and complicated, and it is advisable to seek legal guidance.

When it comes to child custody, the Family Code prioritizes the best interests of the child. Courts will consider a variety of factors when determining custody arrangements, including the child’s relationship with each parent, the child’s age and needs, and the parent’s ability to provide for the child.

The Family Code also specifies the legal rights and responsibilities of parents in relation to their children. This includes their obligation to provide financial support and their right to make decisions about the child’s upbringing and education.

Getting Married in Costa Rica

Costa Rica is a popular destination for destination weddings and for good reason. Its beautiful beaches, lush rainforests, and year-round warm weather make it an idyllic location for tying the knot.

If you are planning on getting married in Costa Rica, there are some important legal requirements to be aware of. As mentioned, you will need to obtain a certificate of legal capacity to marry. You will also need to provide a variety of documents, including birth certificates and passports, and undergo certain medical tests.

To ensure a smooth and stress-free wedding experience in Costa Rica, it is advisable to work with a reputable wedding planner who is familiar with the local legal requirements and procedures. They can help you navigate the paperwork and logistics of getting married in Costa Rica.

Criminal Laws and Legal Rights in Costa Rica

Costa Rica has a robust legal framework in place to address criminal offenses, ensuring the safety and security of its citizens and visitors. The criminal justice system is based on the principles of due process, the presumption of innocence, and the right to a fair trial.

Under the Costa Rican legal system, criminal offenses are classified as misdemeanors or felonies, depending on the severity of the crime. Misdemeanors are punishable by up to three years in prison, while felonies carry a penalty of more than three years in prison.

Individuals accused of a crime have a number of legal rights, including the right to an attorney and the right to remain silent. They also have the right to a fair and speedy trial and the right to appeal the verdict.

Costa Rica has strict guidelines for legal procedures, ensuring that investigations and trials are conducted in an impartial and transparent manner. The country also has a number of legal codes in place to guide criminal prosecutions, such as the Penal Code and the Criminal Procedure Code.

Penalties for Criminal Offenses in Costa Rica
Misdemeanors Punishable by up to three years in prison
Felonies Carry a penalty of more than three years in prison


If you are accused of a crime in Costa Rica, it is important to seek legal assistance immediately. Our team at CRIE can provide legal resources and guidance to help you navigate the criminal justice system.

Intellectual Property Laws in Costa Rica

Intellectual Property Laws in Costa Rica

Protecting your intellectual property is crucial when doing business or creating original work in Costa Rica. The country offers legal protection for various forms of intellectual property, including copyrights, trademarks, patents, and industrial designs.

Costa Rica is a member of several international conventions related to intellectual property, including the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) and the Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property. The country also has specific legislation in place to protect intellectual property, including the Industrial Property Law, the Copyright and Related Rights Law, and the Plant Varieties Act.

If you are planning to register your intellectual property in Costa Rica, it is recommended to work with a local attorney who specializes in intellectual property law. They can assist with the application process and ensure that your intellectual property is protected under Costa Rican law.

It is also important to note that intellectual property infringement is taken seriously in Costa Rica, and legal action can be taken against those who violate intellectual property rights. If you believe that your intellectual property has been infringed upon, it is recommended to seek legal assistance as soon as possible.


Understanding the laws of Costa Rica is crucial for anyone traveling or residing in the country. We hope this article has provided you with valuable information and insights into the unique legal framework of Costa Rica. Remember to always comply with the legal requirements and procedures to avoid any legal issues during your stay in Costa Rica.

If you need further legal information or assistance, do not hesitate to contact us via WhatsApp at +506 8373 2085.

– Article by Glenn Tellier (Founder of CRIE and Grupo Gap).

[email protected]


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Frequently Asked Questions


What will be covered in this article?

In this article, we will provide an overview of the unique laws of Costa Rica, including its legal system and legislation. We will cover the key aspects of the Costa Rican legal framework and highlight important legal codes and resources.

How does the Costa Rica legal system work?

The Costa Rica legal system consists of a judiciary that interprets and applies the law. It is divided into different branches, including civil, criminal, and administrative law. The judiciary plays a crucial role in maintaining law and order in the country.

What are the essential laws for travelers in Costa Rica?

Travelers in Costa Rica need to be aware of immigration laws, visa requirements, customs regulations, and procedures for entering and exiting the country. It is important to understand these laws to ensure a smooth travel experience.

What is Costa Rica’s commitment to environmental conservation?

Costa Rica is known for its strong commitment to environmental conservation. The country has implemented several environmental laws and conservation efforts to protect its natural resources. These efforts contribute to the preservation of Costa Rica’s unique biodiversity.

What are the employment and labor laws in Costa Rica?

Employment and labor laws in Costa Rica govern workers’ rights, employment contracts, wages, and working conditions. It is important for employees and employers to understand these laws to ensure compliance and fair treatment in the workplace.

What are the laws and requirements for property ownership in Costa Rica?

When it comes to property ownership in Costa Rica, there are legal requirements that need to be followed. These include purchasing property, registering ownership, and understanding the real estate market in the country.

What is the legal framework for family law and marriage in Costa Rica?

Family law in Costa Rica covers issues such as marriage, divorce, child custody, and other family-related matters. Understanding the legal framework and procedures can help individuals navigate these matters effectively.

What are the criminal laws and legal rights in Costa Rica?

Criminal laws in Costa Rica outline offenses, penalties, legal procedures, and the rights of individuals accused of a crime. It is crucial to understand these laws to ensure fair treatment and protection of legal rights.

What are the intellectual property laws in Costa Rica?

Intellectual property laws in Costa Rica cover copyright, trademarks, patents, and other forms of intellectual property protection. Understanding these laws and having the necessary legal resources can help safeguard intellectual property rights.



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