Expat In Paradise

LGBTQ+ Rights and Experiences in Costa Rica

Costa Rica, often celebrated for its stunning natural beauty and friendly culture, has also made significant strides when it comes to LGBTQ+ rights and inclusivity. Let’s explore what it’s like to be queer in Costa Rica, the journey towards LGBTQ+ rights in the country, and the progress that has been made in recent years.

Costa Rica’s journey toward LGBTQ+ rights has seen remarkable progress in recent years, reflecting the country’s commitment to diversity and inclusivity. Here’s an overview of key milestones:


Decriminalization of Homosexuality: Costa Rica decriminalized homosexuality in 2003, finally ending the persecution and discrimination faced by the LGBTQ+ community for decades.

Legal Recognition of Same-Sex Relationships: In 2013, Costa Rica recognized de facto unions (common-law marriages) for same-sex couples, granting them legal recognition and the same rights as heterosexual couples.

Landmark Supreme Court Ruling: In 2018, Costa Rica made history when its Supreme Court ruled that the ban on same-sex marriage was unconstitutional. This decision marked a significant turning point for LGBTQ+ rights in the country.

Legalization of Same-Sex Marriage: On May 26, 2020, Costa Rica became the first country in Central America to legalize same-sex marriage. This was a historic moment not only for the country but for the entire region.

Adoption: Same-sex couple adoption was also legalized in May of 2020 and parental rights were awarded to non-biological mothers in lesbian marriages.

Discrimination Protection: In 2020, the Legislative Assembly passed protections against discrimination based on sexual orientation. Punishments for discrimination, harassment, and hate crimes can range from 1-10 years in prison based on the severity of the crime.

Gender Identity: Since 2018 all Costa Ricans and immigrants in Costa Rica have had the right to change the gender on all government documents and IDs, including their passports to match their gender identity. Hormone replacement therapy is provided by the national healthcare system.

Living as LGBTQ+ in Costa Rica

Costa Rica’s LGBTQ+ community continues to thrive and make its presence felt. The country is known for its welcoming and open-minded attitude, but like many places, experiences may vary depending on factors such as location and personal circumstances.

I have not experienced discrimination or difficulty as an openly gay man in Costa Rica. It seems to me that most Costa Ricans take a “live and let live” attitude to most things including sexuality and gender identity. Although the country is heavily Catholic they don’t make it a habit of pushing their beliefs on others.

I can honestly say I get no microaggressions from people here in CR regarding my sexuality when it was a daily occurance in the United States.

Gay bars and nightlife are pretty limited in the country. Being a total population of only five million people stretched across the whole country makes for a less dense population and so less establishments catering to the community. There are gay bars and hang outs in the capital city, San José and the beach town of Manuel Antonio. Less populated areas do still have queer meetups and events organized on social media by members of the community and the locals, expats, and tourists always have the apps to make a fast friend.

Going through the immigration process as a married gay couple has been no problem for us here in Costa Rica. There is no distinction or issues with the process for a queer couple.

As Costa Rica continues to embrace diversity, it offers hope and inspiration for other nations in the region to follow suit, promoting equal rights and a more inclusive society. Whether you’re a member of the LGBTQ+ community or an ally, Costa Rica’s strides toward a more inclusive future are worth celebrating and supporting.