Travel to Costa Rica during Covid-19: What you need to know before you go

CNN Staff

    (CNN) -- If you're planning to travel to Costa Rica, here's what you'll need to know and expect if you want to visit during the global coronavirus pandemic.

The basics

Costa Rica was one of the first countries to open back up for tourism, which it did in November 2020. Around 1 million travelers visited the country in 2021 -- back to almost 70% of pre-pandemic levels.

However, the Delta variant hit the country hard in 2021, with hospitals "dangerously full" at the peak, and Costa Rica ending high up on the board of the most new cases globally. Cases then dropped to some of the lowest levels seen in months, but are currently at an all time high due to the Omicron variant.

On January 24, the US CDC moved Costa Rica to its Level 4 risk -- or "do not travel" list.

What's on offer

Costa Rica is known for its "pura vida" (pure life), and, pandemic aside, the vida is still pura here. This is a country for nature lovers, with both a Caribbean and Pacific coast, and jungle covering about a quarter of the country.

Whether you're here for the cloud forests, the volcanoes or the incredible nature and wildlife, your shoulders will definitely drop a few inches.

Most visitors pass through capital San José as a mere routing point, but it's a beautiful city, with stunning architecture, public art and museums.

Who can go

Everyone. Costa Rica opened back up -- even for tourism -- on November 1, 2020. However, there are of course restrictions. And standard visa regulations still apply.

Since January 2022, many activities are restricted to those who've been vaccinated. Although entry rules aren't set to change, restrictions on the ground will make it less attractive for the unvaccinated. You now cannot enter a hotel, restaurant, bar or museum without proof of vaccination.

In August, Costa Rica's president signed a law that allows "digital nomads" to remain in the country for up to two years. To qualify, individuals must earn at least $3,000 per year and families must make at least $5,000. Benefits include the ability to open a Costa Rican bank account and their local US driver's licenses being honored locally.

What are the restrictions?

There's no need for a negative Covid-19 PCR test result as there was initially. All passengers must fill out a Health Pass within 72 hours of travel. The website gives a QR code that you should show on arrival.

From August 1, fully vaccinated adults and anyone under the age of 18 (regardless of vaccination status) have been exempt from the requirement for travel insurance. Proof of vaccination -- which must have taken place at least 14 days prior to entry -- can be added to the health pass.

Anyone not fully vaccinated must have insurancewhich covers potential quarantine accommodation up to $2,000 and medical expenses of at least $50,000 related to Covid-19. This must be accompanied by a certificate in English or Spanish, giving the policyholder's name, the dates of coverage and guarantees as stipulated above.

Residents and Costa Rican nationals may be subject to self-isolation on arrival.

The land borders, which had been closed to nonresidents, reopened April 5 to visitors not needing a visa. The previous 14-day quarantine for those entering via land has also been abolished as of April 5.

American Airlines launched flights from Chicago and Austin to San Jose on November 2, 2021. Avianca launched flights from Cancún on December 2. British Airways returned after a pandemic break on December 15.

What's the Covid situation?

Costa Rica has seen nearly 746,000 cases and 7,730 deaths as of February 10. Case numbers rose fast in April through August 2021, and although they subsequently fell, the Omicron variant has seen a sharp acceleration in infection rates.

A record 40,571 new cases were recorded in the week leading up to February 4 -- compared to just 1,696 registered in the week leading up to December 31. Pre-Omicron, the record number of new infections was 17,469 in a week, registered in September 2021.

However, there are tentative signs that the peak might have been reached. The week leading up to February 10 saw 37,389 new infections.

Along with Mexico, Costa Rica was one of the first countries in Latin America to receive vaccines in December 2020. Over 8.4 million vaccination doses have been given so far, with just under 74% of the population fully vaccinated as of February 10, according to John Hopkins University -- though local numbers rank it at over 80%.

What can visitors expect?

You need to be vaccinated to access most public places, including hotels, restaurants, bars and museums. Establishments must display outside whether a QR code is needed to enter, and those that don't require it must operate at limited capacity.

However, if you don't have a QR code on your vaccination certificate, you can use the printed certificate or card you were given by your health authority.

Minors are exempt from vaccination requirements.

Things are getting back to a relative normal.National parks and beaches are open -- the former are now back to 100% capacity. Restaurants and bars have reopened, to 75% capacity. There is a 30% capacity limit on cultural and sports activities. From January, buses will be back to 100% capacity.

There is a nightly curfew from midnight to 5 a.m..

Driving restrictions were relaxed on October 31.

Useful links

Visit Costa Rica


The Tico Times

Our recent coverage

Back in August, Costa Rica was one of the first countries to allow Americans in, opening to visitors from six US states. Or read about this reforestation project for the great green macaws. Ready to book? Check out what to do in San José.

™ & © 2022 Cable News Network, Inc., a WarnerMedia Company. All rights reserved.

Share this article: