If you’re like most people who come to Costa Rica, you’re going strictly for fun in the sun. The last thing you want when abroad is to end up in the hospital. If you have some kind of an accident, however, or if you fall ill while you’re away, it’s important that you understand the basics of how the hospital systems work and that you have a general idea of the best places to go to get high-quality care. You might not think a hospital visit while you’re in Costa Rica is a likely occurrence, but think again! Many of the activities that people engage in while in the country—such as surfing, kayaking, ATV’s and snorkeling—have a moderate to high risk of injury. Plus, the change in diet and the possibility of coming across a new bacteria are also fairly high, so it’s very important to be prepared.
Where to Find the Best Care
Obviously, if you find yourself sick or injured, you are going to want the best possible medical care. If that’s the case, then you absolutely need to visit one of Costa Rica’s private hospitals. These hospitals—there are five of them in the country—tend to be of much higher quality than the local public hospitals and are much more akin to hospitals in the United States and the United Kingdom. While there’s nothing wrong with the public hospitals, they do tend to be noisy and overbooked, plus there is not always someone available who speaks English. So, if you don’t speak Spanish or if you need care quickly, the public hospitals aren’t your best bet. If you truly want the best of the best when it comes to medical attention, you should also know that three of Costa Rica’s private hospitals are considered the “top” hospitals in the country: Cima Hospital, Hospital Clinica Biblica, and Clinica Catolica.
Cima Hospital is based in Escazu, which is a large, bustling, and very industrialized city. It’s located only about a half hour from the Juan Santamaria International Airport, so obviously, it’s very easily accessible. The hospital has a long and reputable history, having been in operation for thirteen years and counting. One of the reasons the hospital is so very popular is because it is so similar to American-style hospitals and, as such, American tourists and expats alike tend to flock there when medical care is needed. The facilities are incredibly clean, the technology is the most up-to-date of any hospital in Costa Rica, and you can always find someone who speaks English fluently. Not only is the hospital akin to American hospitals in how it treats patients, but it also accepts many types of American insurance and, even better yet, tends to be much more affordable than the average American hospital. In Costa Rica terms, however, the hospital is on the expensive side—it’s one of the most costly in the entire country, but to many, the extra cost is well worth the extra care.
Clinica Catolica is based in Guadalupe, San Jose. San Jose is Costa Rica’s capital city so it makes sense that it would have a state-of-the-art hospital that caters to locals and tourists alike. The hospital is similar to Cima Hospital in many ways, namely in terms of its modern technology and American-style of doing things. However, many people have reported that the professionals at Clinica Catolica are friendlier and speak clearer, more thorough English than those at Cima. Whether that’s true or not, one thing that definitely is true is the fact that the prices at Clinica Catolica are much, much lower than those at Cima Hospital, so it’s the place to go if you want quality care without breaking the bank.
Like Clinica Catolica, Clinica Biblica is based in San Jose. However, it’s not quite as easy to get to and is hidden deep in the heart of the downtown area. The hospital has a much longer and more impressive history than either Cima or Clinica Catolica, having been in business since 1929 and being one of the first three hospitals to become accredited by the Joint Commission International. This hospital, like the other two discussed thus far, tends to be cheaper than American hospitals, and it also has a wide range of on-site amenities and features that go above and beyond the norm. Not only is there a complete laboratory on site for easy and quick testing, but there is also a pharmacy that operates twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week and an extensive x-ray center. Many types of foreign insurance are accepted here as well.
While any of these three hospitals would be a fine choice, it’s a wise idea to have the number and address of a quality hospital in each of the parts of Costa Rica that you intend to visit.