The prostitutes and prostitution are tolerated in Costa Rica. Promoting prostitution, or pimping, is illegal and carries stiff prison terms if convicted. The Costa Rican Government also takes a strong stance against sexual activities, of any kind, with minors.
If you are a pedophile, or entertain thoughts of having sexual relations with anyone under the age of 18, male or female, Costa Rica is the wrong country for you. You will be severely punished if caught. First time offenders can be put in a Costa Rican prison for the rest of their life.
And the legal process in Costa Rica employs a system known as Preventative Prison. If you are under suspicion of this crime or any crime, you will spend the next six months in jail while an investigation is conducted. Unlike the United States, getting out on bail until your trial is not an option.
Let us put this very bluntly, don't try it here. It's just not worth the risk. The Night Clubs mentioned here tolerate prostitutes for various activities on their premises. There are also many other ways to meet legitimate Costa Rican women who are not part of the sex industry.
There two major web sites in Costa Rica that, for a very reasonable fee, provide introductions with beautiful, non-sex industry Ticas: www.costa-rica-women.com and www.mytica.com
I found the following text in the Lonely Planet Book on Costa Rica. We warmly recommend this book to any Costa Rica traveller:
In Costa Rica prostitution is legal for women over 18. Professional Prostitutes (or hookers) carry a health card showing how recently they had a medical check-up. Be aware however, that some women don't bother with these cards. Also, some sexually transmitted diseases can take several days or weeks before they can be detected, so even and up-to-date health card doesn't guarantee that a prostitute or hooker is disease-free. AIDS is a growing problem in Costa Rica.
An estimated 2000 children work as prostitutes in San José, hired both by foreign tourists and Costa Ricans. This is definitely illegal. Online publications promoting Costa Rica as a sex destination partly because of legal prostitution and partly for paedophiles are discouraged by Government officials, who do not consider legal sex for money to be a tourist attraction.
Many of the children working as prostitutes have drug problems and no family to turn to. One of the few resources available to them is the Fundación Oratorio Don Bosco de Sor María Romero, a shelter for homeless street kids in San José.
The Oratorio also provides food and counseling for addicted and abused kids in San José. The shelter is funded by UNICEF and private donations. You can help by depositing money in their account at the Banco Nacional de Costa Rica No 174282-4 (in Colones) or No 608592-2 (in US Dollars) or calling the shelter (506) 257-4470 for information about how to donate.
In 1999, the Costa Rican tourist board, encouraged by the Catholic church, attempted to link sex tourism with gay tourism. This is a clearly unfounded claim, as gay and straight tourists alike usually come here with partners or friends looking for a tropical vacation and aren't interested in underage prostitutes.
After protests from both straight and gay travelers and travel agencies, the official position was that sex tourism was discouraged, activity with underage prostitutes was illegal, and gay tourism remained in its usual limbo - it's legal but folks don't want to talk about it.