Costa Rica and the Coronavirus (COVID-19)

Last Updated: August 8, 2022

The novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) has continued to be a hot topic these days for travelers. We’ve had many readers and clients inquire about how Costa Rica is dealing with the Coronavirus, if there are any travel restrictions, and whether they should modify their plans. In this post, we will give you as much information as possible about the situation in Costa Rica along with links to official government websites and announcements so that you can ensure you have the most accurate and up-to-date news. 

Current Situation

Is Travel Allowed?

Yes, on August 1, 2020 Costa Rica’s international airports reopened to tourists from some countries. Since November 1, 2020, there has been no travel ban. Residents from all countries and all US states can now enter Costa Rica by land, air, or sea (land borders reopened April 5, 2021).  

A COVID test is not required to enter Costa Rica.

As of April 1, 2022 there are no longer any Covid related entry requirements (e.g. insurance, health pass form, etc.) 

To get an idea of what to expect once you arrive, read our post, Traveling to Costa Rica During Covid-19: Entry Requirements, Protocols & What to Expect

Some countries are requiring a negative Covid test before you fly back home. For a robust list of testing locations around Costa Rica, see our post, Where to Get a Covid-19 Test in Costa Rica

Newest COVID Stats

During week 30 (July 24 to 30) there were 13,310 new cases of COVID-19 reported in Costa Rica. This was 2,700 fewer than the previous week. 

Important: Costa Rica covid reports have changed since May/June 2022. A new Presidential administration took over at this time and procedures changed. We are now getting very generalized updates weekly or biweekly. Previously, detailed reports with numbers for each canton, deaths, hospitalizations, etc., were released weekly.   

Notable Developments

  • Travel Advisory: The US Department of State’s travel advisory for Costa Rica is currently at level 2. This level is the same as it was before the pandemic.  
  • Restrictions: Costa Rica’s new president (who took office May 8th) removed the mask mandate for indoor spaces (except medical facilities). However businesses are allowed to require a mask and refuse customers who do not comply if they choose to do so. From our experience, most businesses are not requiring masks, some are requiring only their employees to wear a mask, and very few have a mask requirement for customers.   
  • Vaccination Rate: As of August 1, 2022, 86.4% of Costa Rica’s population has had at least one Covid vaccine shot. 81.1% have two doses. 47.9% have received a third dose. 9.3% have received a fourth dose. You can read more in our post, Covid Vaccination Rates in Costa Rica

Costa Rica and Coronavirus (COVID-19)

About Coronavirus

Coronaviruses are a large group of viruses that typically cause respiratory infections. COVID-19 is the most recent addition to this group of viruses. We won’t go into detail about all of the COVID-19 symptoms here, but you can visit the World Health Organization’s website for more information. 

Costa Rica Cases of Coronavirus

Current Data

During week 30 (July 24 to 30) there were 13,310 new cases of COVID-19 reported in Costa Rica. This was 2,700 fewer than the previous week. 

Due to an administration change and a hacking event, we do not currently have new COVID-19 totals. Up until May 30, 2022 there were 904,934 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Costa Rica, 860,711 recovered, and 8,525 deceased. To see a complete breakdown by canton up until May 30, see the info-graphic on the Ministerio de Salud’s website here.

The first COVID-19 fatality in Costa Rica was recorded on March 18, 2020.

Quarantine Period

All individuals who test positive for COVID-19 are given a government issued health order to remain in their home, a hotel, or a vacation rental. Currently the length of quarantine is anywhere from 7 to 10-days (usually 7). Read our full article about testing positive for Covid-19 in Costa Rica for more details on the government’s process and to read the experiences of travelers who have tested positive themselves. 

First Cases in Costa Rica

Costa Rica’s first cases were two individuals (a couple) who traveled from New York to Costa Rica on March 1, 2020 (both age 49). The man was in contact with someone who had the virus in the US before he traveled. He did not show any symptoms, but his wife began showing symptoms during their trip and then tested positive. Both fully recovered in March 2020, finished a 14-day quarantine, and were able to return home

Shortly after the couple was diagnosed, a doctor from Alajuela (male, age 54) who returned from Panama on February 22, 2020 started showing symptoms. More than 25 of the first Costa Rican citizens who tested positive were directly linked with that man.  

Where to Get Updates

Official announcements are published on the Ministry of Health News website. They also share information to their Facebook Page.

Travel Restrictions/Travel Ban

Tourists

Costa Rica closed its borders (land, air, and sea) to all foreign travelers between March 18 and July 31, 2020. A partial reopening for visitors from some countries began on August 1, 2020. More countries and many U.S. States were slowly added to the list. Since November 1, 2020, residents from all countries and all U.S. States are allowed to enter by air or sea. As of April 5, 2021, tourists have been able to enter through land borders as well. 

As of April 1, 2022 there are no Covid specific requirements to enter Costa Rica (insurance requirement and online health form have been eliminated). A quarantine period is not required for tourists when entering. COVID-19 tests are also not required to enter (since October 26, 2020). 

Read our post, Traveling to Costa Rica During Covid-19: Entry Requirements, Protocols & What to Expect for up-to-date information and specific protocols to expect throughout the country.

Citizens, Residents, and Relatives

All Costa Rican citizens and legal residents (those with permanent or temporary residency) are allowed to enter Costa Rica. Relatives with a direct relationship to a Costa Rican citizen are also able to enter. Read our article for the entry requirements for each category.  

How is Costa Rica Dealing with Coronavirus?

Overview

Costa Rican authorities have been very proactive in helping to prevent COVID-19 from spreading within the country. Social distancing and new sanitary practices were biggest measures taking place countrywide.

Below are some of the specific actions that Costa Rica has taken during the pandemic. You might also like our post: Covid-Travel: What it is like in Costa Rica Right Now, which details what it is like to travel around the country and how locals and tourists have dealt with the situation. 

Specific Actions

Here are some notable actions taken:

• Since February, 2020 Costa Rica has had the proper laboratory test for diagnosing COVID-19. All government testing has been through INCIENSA, the country’s Center of Disease Investigation. For private testing options, see our post, Where to Get a Covid-19 Test in Costa Rica

• Hospitals as well as emergency services (like 911) have protocols in place to deal with patients showing or describing symptoms. Additionally, a dedicated COVID-19 hospital has been set up in the San Jose area. The public health system has also expanded its intensive care (ICU) bed capacity. 

A new telephone hotline (1322) was put in place that was dedicated to Coronavirus consultations. This number has now been eliminated. 911 remains available for urgent health situations and other emergencies. 

Campaigns by the government-run healthcare system (CCSS) are continuously informing the public of preventative techniques. They are delivering the information through television, radio, and social media.

The Ministry of Health issued new guidelines for businesses. These specified cleaning and sanitary procedures as well as occupancy limits. Most have since been lifted.   

The Ministry of Health regulated the use of masks in public and commercial establishments, certain public spaces, transit options, etc. Costa Rica’s new president (who took office May 8) has since removed that requirement, except for frontline workers. 

• Costa Rica has contracted with global pharmaceutical companies to supply the country with sufficient doses of COVID-19 vaccine. The majority have been through Pfizer-BioNTech but some have come from AstraZeneca. 

• The public healthcare system is currently vaccinating the general population ages 5-years old and up. As of August 1, 2022, 86.4% of the population has had at least one Covid vaccine shot. 81.1% have received two doses and 47.9% have received a third dose and 9.3% have received a fourth dose. Read our article, Covid Vaccination Rates in Costa Rica, for more information. 

Costa Rica Ministry of Health Guidance Coronavirus
Guidance from the Ministry of Health on precautions to take regarding COVID-19

Reopening Measures

Like many countries, Costa Rica closed many businesses and public areas/services at the start of the pandemic. In late April, 2020, Costa Rican officials announced that countrywide restrictions would begin to be loosened gradually and on a trial basis.

This began as a four-phase plan. Each phase opened more businesses and services, while at the same time implementing strict sanitary guidelines. For example, restaurants were allowed to reopen at 50% capacity.

Three phases of the reopening plan were implemented but the fourth phase (originally scheduled for July, 2020) was postponed due to a rise in COVID-19 cases.

Instead of going forward with the fourth phase, the government has made individual adjustments to the measures at various times. For example, in June and July 2020, local tourism was encouraged with the reopening of hotels, beaches (for limited hours), and national parks. Officials always stressed that restrictions may be put back into place if they see a rise in the number of cases. 

The original reopening measures announced by the Ministry of Health.

Current Measures  

Currently businesses can operate with normal hours. 

Masks are no longer required in closed and/or indoor spaces (inside stores, theaters, malls, banks, and shared vehicles like vans, buses, etc.). This requirement was lifted by Costa Rica’s president on May 8th but businesses still reserve the right to require a mask, if they want. 

Events and activities are allowed without changes to normal occupancy limits. 

Current Vehicle Restrictions 

Driving curfews have been eliminated (as of March 7, 2022). 

Driving restrictions based on license plate number have been eliminated as of November 1, 2020 (except for in downtown San Jose where normal traffic control restrictions, based on license plate number, still exist). 

Note: Tourism related vehicles (e.g. shuttle vans/tour vans) as well as rental cars have always been exempt from any driving restrictions. 

Protecting Yourself

If you are coming to Costa Rica, consider official warnings from health officials on travel and self-care. Best practices include:

  • Regular and thorough hand washing (at least 20 seconds)
  • Disinfecting surfaces
  • Always covering the mouth and nose when coughing and sneezing.
  • Wearing a mask properly.
  • Avoiding close contact with anyone showing symptoms of respiratory illness such as coughing and sneezing
  • Staying home at the first sign of symptoms

If you fit into the category of a high-risk individual, determine if travel to Costa Rica is necessary or should be postponed. According to the CDC’s website, people of high risk may be:

o Older adults
o People who have serious chronic medical conditions like heart disease, diabetes, or lung disease

What If You Get Sick During Your Trip?

If someone comes down with symptoms of Coronavirus during their trip to Costa Rica, they can be tested for free at any public hospital (only when showing symptoms). For emergency situations use 911. 

An extensive network of private hospitals, clinics, and labs are also available for testing. Before arrival, you should notify them that you have symptoms. For information on private testing locations see our post, Where to Get a Covid-19 Test in Costa Rica

In addition, private urgent care facilities are available to provide more help. We received information from a local doctor who we trust about the process of what would happen. He said that Costa Rica has implemented international protocols for urgent care providers. If someone presents with symptoms of an upper respiratory tract infection (sore throat, fever, coughing, sneezing, headaches), the doctor will evaluate them, and if necessary, report a positive case to INCIENSA (Costa Rica’s Center of Disease Investigation).

The person will be told to remain in isolation at his or her current location (hotel or vacation rental) so as not to potentially spread the virus. After this, the doctor will work with the Ministry of Health on how to proceed with the patient. They will only transport a patient to a higher grade care center like a hospital if they have acute respiratory distress and their vital signs are not stable.

These type of private urgent care facilities are located all around the country and basically all have English-speaking doctors. You can find them in Quepos/Manuel Antonio, Jaco, Tamarindo, Monteverde, La Fortuna, Samara, and many more towns that are popular for visitors.

What if I test positive for Covid before my departure flight home? 

If you test positive for Covid-19 after a test, you will be issued a sanitary order by the Costa Rican government directing you to quarantine. Usually a 7 day quarantine is issued but technically the quarantine period can be from 7 to 10 days. 

For much more about what happens in this scenario, read our post Testing Positive for Covid in Costa Rica.  

Conclusion

We hope this post will help you understand the current Coronavirus situation in Costa Rica. While not a fun topic, it is important to share all the details as they develop. Viewing this all from Costa Rica, we have been impressed with the government’s response.  You can read more about our experience living through the early part of the pandemic in Costa Rica here.  

We plan to update this post as often as needed until Coronavirus is under control worldwide. We hope everyone stays safe and doesn’t have to change their travel plans. If you do have to postpone, we hope that you’ll be able to visit soon!

Additional Resources

World Health Organization’s (WHO) – Latest Updates on COVID-19
European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control – Latest Updates on COVID-19
Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) – Information for Travel
Johns Hopkins – Map of confirmed cases worldwide
The Tico Times – English-language online newspaper in Costa Rica

Disclaimer: We are not experts in disease prevention or doctors and are not intending to give medical or other professional advice. If you’re unsure if you should travel to Costa Rica, consult the CDC (Center for Disease Control) and WHO (World Health Organization) websites for more information or seek the advice of a medical professional.

Last Updated: August 8, 2022

Are you hoping to visit Costa Rica soon? Here are some resources to help you plan:

Rental Car Discount – Looking for a rental car for your upcoming trip. Use our discount to save 10-20% and receive free extras like a second driver, cell phone, and more. 

Traveling to Costa Rica During Covid-19: Entry Requirements, Protocols & What to Expect – This post has all of the information you will need to know ahead of time. Includes what to expect for safety protocols at the airport, hotels, attractions, and more. 

Preflight Testing for Departing Costa Rica: Logistics and Tips – Do you need a negative Covid test to return to your home country? This article will summarize the requirements and give you tips to make the process as easy as possible.  

Packing for Costa Rica – Wondering what you need to pack for Costa Rica’s mountains vs. the beach? We’ve got it all covered in this post. Includes recommendations for rainy season travel as well.

Weather in Costa Rica – Learn about the different seasons and why you can’t rely on your phone’s weather App. for accurate info. Includes charts of past weather data to help you plan.

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