Costa Rica is reopening to travel ©Emma Shaw/Lonely Planet
Costa Rica is reopening to travel ©Emma Shaw/Lonely Planet

What travel looks like in Costa Rica in 2020

TripFalcon September 09, 2020

Last Update: 2024-01-22 11:15:45

Although initially low in infection rates, Costa Rica has recently seen an increasing spread of COVID-19. However, the resumption of travel to the country is beginning, with travelers from some countries arriving since August, and travelers from select US states arriving since September 1.

Travel restrictions in Costa Rica

Travel restrictions have been in place since mid-March due to the coronavirus pandemic. On June 26, the country's health minister announced that foreign travelers from countries that have "controlled the spread of the coronavirus" would be allowed to enter the country beginning August 1. Currently, that list includes travelers from the UK, Canada, the EU and Schengen area. 

The US, which accounted for nearly half of all international visitors to Costa Rica last year, was not initially included in the list of permitted countries. However, in late August, Costa Rica announced that US travellers from New York, New Jersey, New Hampshire, Vermont, Maine, Connecticut, Maryland, Virginia and Washington D.C., would also be allowed to visit from September 1, while travelers from Colorado, Massachusetts and Pennsylvania are permitted from September 15. The selection of states is due to their similar infection rates and is subject to change over time. Tourists from these states must present their driver's licence or state ID at the borders as proof of residence.

As of September 1, private yachts will be allowed to enter Costa Rica, and, according to the tourism board: "If passengers do not have a negative PCR test, or if they sailed from a city or port that has not been authorized to date, they will receive a health quarantine order which will deduct the number of days on the high seas, counting from the last port departure date recorded in the yacht’s log". Private flights from the US will also be allowed into the country, as they have been deemed a lower epidemiological risk due to the number of passengers. 

Foreign visitors who entered the country after December 17, 2019, have had their visa extended automatically to November 18, 2020.

Will I have to quarantine when I arrive in Costa Rica?

Travellers from the permitted countries and states will not need to quarantine. A negative PCR COVID-19 test will be mandatory in 72 hours before the trip. When visitors arrive, they will need to complete a digital epidemiological form and purchase travel insurance that covers accommodation in case of quarantine and medical expenses for acute illness. 

Volcan Arenal was one of the national parks to reopen to domestic tourists in May ©Sorin Vacaru/500px
Volcan Arenal was one of the national parks to reopen to domestic tourists in May ©Sorin Vacaru/500px

Current lockdown status in Costa Rica

An "Orange Alert" is in place for major metro areas throughout Costa Rica. For these areas, including San José, Alajuela and Liberia, non-essential businesses like hotels and restaurants must remain closed, and a curfew is in place from 5pm to 5am. All other areas in Costa Rica are considered under a "Yellow Alert," where most businesses can remain open, and beaches are open from 5-9:30am every day. 

The country has entered into a controlled reopening that will continue until the end of September. This will see restrictions eased to some degree by the end of the month, including for hotels, restaurants and more.

You might be wondering about...

San José - As with most areas under an Orange Alert, San José remains on lockdown. Only essential businesses and services like grocery stores, pharmacies and child-care centers are open. A controlled easing of the restrictions will continue through September. 

Parque Nacional Manuel Antonio - On May 18, Parque Nacional Manuel Antonio was one of 12 national parks that reopened at 50% capacity. As of July 13, Parque Nacional Manuel Antonio remains open, with limits on parking spaces and closures of viewpoints, cafeterias, gift shops and camping areas.

Montezuma - The beach town of Montezuma on the Nicoya Peninsula is under a Yellow Alert, meaning hotels and restaurants are permitted and beaches are open 5-9:30am every day. A nighttime curfew is in effect after 5pm on weekends and 7pm on weekdays.

What they’re saying in Costa Rica about COVID-19 and travel

For the most part, Costa Rica has been praised in its efforts to combat the virus, thanks to a robust health system and rapid response to the pandemic.

With much of the country's economy reliant on tourism, however, many are eager to reopen the country's borders to foreign travelers. The head of the Costa Rican Tourism Institute (link in Spanish) said the industry was "in a state of total emergency," and extensions on travel bans for foreigners leave local tour operators and restaurant owners with murky months ahead. Unemployment in Costa Rica has hit a historic high of 20.1%.

Source: lonelyplanet