Traveling in Costa Rica: 2021 Restrictions and Guidelines
Updated May 14, 2020
9 Things you can still do in Costa Rica and 3 Restrictions
If you’re reading this right now, then you’re probably one of the following people:
- You’re preparing to travel to Costa Rica and want to know what the most recent restrictions are in the country.
- You’re shopping the global market for the best places to travel in 2021 and want to know exactly what the restrictions are in Costa Rica these days.
- You’ve got the travel bug bad and can only wish that the mug of coffee keeping you warm through the cold winter were brewed from artfully cultivated Costa Rican coffee beans. I’m glad to tell you that this dream is very much a realistic possibility.
Visiting Costa Rica in Times of COVID-19
All things considered, Costa Rica is doing a pretty good job keeping the country both operating and safe. In fact, the Costa Rican government’s initiative is called, in Spanish, the Costa Rica Works and Stays Safe Model.
Are there restrictions in Costa Rica? Yes.
Is there risk of the virus in Costa Rica? Yes.
Is there still a lot of things you can do in Costa Rica despite these restrictions, while keeping as safe as possible? YES!
Let’s take a look at what you can and cannot do in Costa Rica in 2021
#1 You CAN Travel Freely Around Costa Rica
Costa Rica is a small country. It’s quite possible to drive from the Pacific coast to the Caribbean in one day. There is even a peak where you can see both seas at once on clear days. However, despite being so small, Costa Rica is also known for its incredible wealth of biodiversity, geography, and microclimates.
We’re happy to inform you that there are no restrictions to where you can travel around our country. The only travel and vehicular restrictions that there are is on when you can be on the road.
Currently, there is a driving curfew from 9pm to 5am across the entire country. That means no one is on the road during these hours of the night, except for essential workers with a special permit, public transportation, and taxis. While there are restrictions to who can drive on different days (according to the last number on the license plate), these restrictions do NOT currently apply to cars from a car rental. Consult with your car rental agency or travel agency about the regulations at the time of your trip. Of course, there is the possibility of being stopped by traffic officials, since non-rental cars are still restricted from driving based on their license plate, but with the rental contract, you will not have any problems.
You can still drive along the Guanacaste Pacific coast while enjoying the sea breeze or marvel at the lush green of the surrounding hills as you rise through the clouds into Monteverde.
#2 You CAN Go to Restaurants in Costa Rica
Whether you’re looking for our famous Caribbean Rice and Beans or excited to experience one of our many gourmet fusion restaurants, you’ll be happy to hear that restaurants are open in Costa Rica. By law, they are operating at 50% capacity, of course, but they are open.
The law governing health measures in restaurants is quite strict, requiring the following:
- People must use masks whenever in all spaces, except for when at their table
- The earliest they can open is 5am and the latest is 9pm
- The restaurant cannot fill more than 50% of their capacity
- Tables must be spaced at least 6 feet (1.8 meters)
Additionally, the health department has established detailed guidelines for restaurants and cafes, which include the following:
- Disinfect and wash tables, chairs, bathrooms, and all surfaces between use
- People are advised to keep at least 6 feet (1.8 meters) whenever not at their table
- Most restaurants let you swipe or insert your debit or credit card directly, avoiding unnecessary contact.
- Scan the temperature of everyone who enters the restaurant
#3 You CAN Stay at Costa Rican Hotels
Hotels are one of the entities that are allowed to operate during the pandemic with very few restrictions. If you have reserved a hotel in Costa Rica, you can rest assured that you will be able to complete your stay without problem. As far as other worries related to hotel bookings, many hotels and travel agencies are offering flexible reservations where you can reschedule your reservation at a later time. Check with your travel agency about the rebooking policies of your hotels.
The Costa Rican Tourism Board has established 16 sanitary protocols for hotels as well as tour operators and other activities and establishments associated with tourism. Institutions that follow these protocols strictly are awarded the Safe Travels Stamp, an internationally recognized certificate of risk-minimization best practices. Ask your travel agency about the Safe Travels Stamp status of your lodging and tour operators.
In fact, there is a good chance you will be enjoying your hotel with fewer guests than normal, allowing you to enjoy its amenities all to yourself. Many tourists are enjoying their stay so much, in fact, that many are choosing to stay, extending their vacation to a work-from-home trip.
#4 You CAN Go to the Beach in Costa Rica
Costa Rican beaches are open every day between 5am and 6pm. Our gorgeous tropical beaches are why so many people travel to Costa Rica after all!
Even when restrictions to the beaches were stricter during 2020, they were still almost always open during specific schedules of the day. There is a good chance restrictions won’t get stricter than they are now, but if they do, you will still most likely be able to visit the beach.
Some of the most beautiful and popular beaches in Costa Rica include:
- Manuel Antonio (Central Pacific)
- Tamarindo (Guanacaste)
- Conchal (Guanacaste)
- Dominical (Central Pacific)
- Montezuma (Nicoya Peninsula)
- Santa Teresa (Guanacaste)
- Manzanillo (South Caribbean)
- Tortuguero (Northern Caribbean)
The risk of infection is much less when you’re in an open-air area, making the beaches one of the best places to be. The sea breeze is both a welcome companion to the tropical heat and a risk diffuser. Maintain social distancing and use masks when in close proximity to others and you can enjoy these Costa Rican beaches almost as much as you want.
#5 You CAN Go to Many National Parks
Did you know that 25% of Costa Rica’s land is protected? Costa Rica is proud of its 28 national parks, 58 wildlife refuges, 32 protected zones, 15 mangroves and wetlands, 12 conservation areas, and 8 biological reserves.
The tourists who come visit Costa Rica love its protected, natural beauty. Fortunately, you can still enjoy the national parks everyone has come to know and love. Not every single park is open with such few restrictions, but the most popular and developed ones are.
Here’s a list of the Costa Rican national parks that have been opened and permitted to operate at 50% capacity, with strict regulations by the Ministry of Environment and Energy and the National System of Conservation Areas :
- Manuel Antonio National Park (Central Pacific)
- Volcán Irazú National Park (Central Valley)
- Marino Ballena National Park (Central Pacific)
- Tortuguero National Park (Northern Caribbean)
- Cahuita National Park (Southern Caribbean)
- Tenorio Volcano National Park (Northern Central)
- Arenal Volcano National Park (Northern Central)
- Rincón de la Vieja National Park (Guanacaste)
- Corcovado National Park (Osa Peninsula)
- Poas Volcano National Park (Central Valley)
- Carara National Park (Central Pacific)
- Santa Rosa National Park (Guanacaste)
Never fear, you can still go searching for the monkeys, sloths, toucans, and all the other delightful fauna that makes these protected areas their home.
#6 You CAN Go on Costa Rican Adventure Tours
Zipline. White water rafting. Kayaking. Choose your adventure and Costa Rica delivers. You’ll be happy to hear that tour operators are still open for business. The government health ministry mandates that masks must be worn when putting on and taking off security equipment and when in close proximity to tour operators and other participants.
Social bubbles must also be respected, meaning most tours either are limited to those in a specific social bubble or designed to allow sufficient social distancing between social bubbles. As most tours in Costa Rica, adventure and not, take place outside, infection risks are much lower and it is much easier to respect the 6 foot (1.8 meter) space between individuals and groups.
As a tropical country with a mild climate, Costa Rica offers good weather all year long, even when in the “rainy” season. Costa Rica experiences the most rain between May and December, however most of the rain occurs in the afternoons, leaving the mornings bright and sunny. No matter what time of year you visit, you will have plenty of time to fit in all the adventure and enjoyment you desire.
#7 You CAN Visit Costa Rica’s Museums
For being a small country, Costa Rica has a rich history and active artistic talent. Much of this history can be seen in the several history and art museums around the Central Valley. Naturally, visitors must use masks, keep to social bubbles, and respect social distancing during their tour.
Museums in Costa Rica that are currently open include:
- The National Museum
- The National Theater
- The Precolumbian Gold Museum
- The Jade and Precolumbian Culture Museum
- The Museum of Contemporary Art and Design
#8 You CAN Go to a Bar or Casino
One of the most recent updates to the restrictions and limitations in Costa Rica is the reopening of bars and casinos. All chairs and tables must be kept at a distance of 6 feet (1.8 meters), masks must be worn whenever not at your table, and the maximum capacity is 25% of the establishment.
The good news is that you can still enjoy your piña colada or ice cold beer in peace, whether in a public or hotel bar or on the beach. The curfew remains 10pm, meaning all bars and casinos must close by then, so you might just have to take your drink to go back to your hotel room.
#9 You CAN Enter the Country without a COVID-19 Test or Vaccination
Due to many regulations and guidelines provided by the Costa Rican Health Ministry and Tourism Institution, it has been deemed safe for visitors to enter the country and circulate without needing a proof of a test or vaccination. The sanitation measures applied to all establishments and institutions intend to keep everyone as safe as possible and minimize risk of infection by all parties.
You will be asked a questionnaire about recent exposure and any symptoms you may be experiencing upon travel to Costa Rica. When going through the airport, all travelers are scanned automatically for raised temperature.
Here is a list of restrictions and activities that you cannot do in Costa Rica, as of the latest update to this article
1 — You cannot visit the following:
- Public sports events
- Popular festivals
- Amusement parks
- Night clubs
See the complete list on the government’s website (in Spanish).
2 — You cannot enter enclosed spaces without a mask on
Mask use is required in all enclosed spaces and highly recommended for any other space where social distancing cannot be ensured, with the aim of keeping everyone as safe as possible and businesses up and running.
3 — You cannot drive a private car between 9pm and 5am
This vehicular restriction was implemented with the intention of keeping citizens home as much as possible. This should be taken into account when planning dinners and other late night activities. Taxis are not restricted by this curfew.
Conclusion: Costa Rica is Open for Tourism with Minimal Risk, Thanks to Detailed Guidelines and Reasonable Restrictions
As the situation with COVID-19 and international and local vaccination efforts continue to evolve, these limitations will also continue changing. If you have booked a vacation in Costa Rica, keep in contact with your travel agency, who should always have the most recent list of permissions and restrictions on hand.
At Camino Travel, we maintain a commitment to enabling you to have the best Costa Rican vacation possible no matter what. Rest assured that by booking your lodging, tours, and transportation with us, that we will ensure everything in our power to keep you and your family or friends as safe and delighted as possible.