Last updated on March 25th, 2020 at 07:29 pm EST
Important: Foreigners (i.e., non-citizens and non-residents) are not permitted to enter Costa Rica between Thursday, March 19th, 2020 and Sunday, April 12th, 2020.
Continue reading below for details.
The article below is not an official release regarding the current state of coronavirus in Costa Rica. Please see the World Health Organization (WHO)’s website for formal reports and a current list of probable and confirmed cases of coronavirus in Costa Rica.
Click here to see the WHO’s map of the current novel coronavirus (COVID-19) situation around the world (updated every 15 minutes), including a confirmation of confirmed cases of coronavirus in Costa Rica
Given our ties to Costa Rica’s tourism industry, we’ve received a flood of questions lately from potential Costa Rica travelers inquiring about the state of coronavirus in Costa Rica. Though we are neither qualified to answer questions about the virus nor capable of determining its course and impact, what we can and are willing to offer are our thoughts and experiences regarding the global pandemic. If you’re interested in learning our personal perspectives of how the coronavirus has impacted tourism in Costa Rica, continue reading below.
How Has The Coronavirus In Costa Rica Impacted Tourism?
The presence of coronavirus in Costa Rica remains small, despite the country declaring a state of emergency on March 16th, 2020
Costa Rica has a population of over 5 million people. An additional 3 million foreigners visit the country each year. For a confirmation of the current number of COVID-19 cases Costa Rica, please see the first link provided above. Costa Rica’s first reported case of the virus appeared in an American tourist. That tourist has since recovered from the coronavirus.
From an epidemiological standpoint, the presence of coronavirus in Costa Rica is small. The virus’s impact on Costa Rica’s tourism industry, however, is significant.
Up until the Costa Rican government announced on March 16th, 2020, that entry by foreigners will be prohibited until Sunday, April 12th, 2020, the biggest effect that the coronavirus had on Costa Rica’s tourism industry was the cancellation of travel and/or tourism reservations by travelers. The most cited reason we received from travelers as to why they wanted to cancel their travel and/or tourism reservations was fear of contracting the coronavirus. Since the government’s announcement, the biggest effect that the coronavirus has had on Costa Rica tourism industry is the cessation of international arrivals (excluding Costa Rican citizens and residents).
Following the Costa Rican government’s announcement, several Costa Rican tourism businesses continued to operate in order to cater to individuals already present in the country. To date, several tourism services remain open to citizens of Costa Rica, residents of Costa Rica, and foreigners who enter/entered the country before Thursday, March 19th, 2020. These services include, but are not limited to, the following:
- Some Costa Rican hotels
- Some Costa Rican car rental companies
- Some Costa Rican shared shuttle services and private transfer services
- Some Costa Rican tours, activities, and attractions
Most tourism companies have stepped up their sanitary practices in an effort to be more diligent. For example, Interbus, a leading shared shuttle service provider in Costa Rica, sent us a statement that confirms that their vehicles will be disinfected before and after each route, hand sanitizer will be available for passengers to use, and a pamphlet will be provided in each vehicle that explains how passengers should properly cough and sneeze in order to help minimize the spread of germs.
Since Thursday, March 19th, 2020, when the Costa Rican government stopped allowing foreign travelers to enter the country, it has become increasingly difficult for tourism companies to maintain their operations. There simply aren’t enough tourists (or locals participating in touristic activities) to warrant staying open. As a result, several tourism-related operations have been temporarily suspended. These services include, but are certainly not limited to, the following:
- All SINAC-operated national parks, biological reserves, and wildlife refuges (closed between Monday, March 23rd, 2020 and Sunday, April 12th, 2020)
- The Mistico Arenal Hanging Bridges Park (closed between Tuesday, March 24th, 2020 and Monday, April 13th, 2020)
- The Arenal Mundo Aventura Ecological Park (closed between Monday, March 23rd, 2020 and Sunday, April 12th, 2020)
- The Arenal Natura Ecological Park (closed between Wednesday, March 25th, 2020 until further notice)
- Some guided tours run by several local tour operators, including Desafio Adventure Company (closed between Saturday, March 21st, 2020 and Tuesday, April 21st, 2020), Exploradores Outdoors (closed from Saturday, March 21st, 2020 until further notice), and several others
- Some hotels in various destinations around the country, including the Andaz Costa Rica Resort at Papagayo Peninsula in Papagayo (closed between Thursday, March 26th, 2020 and Wednesday, July 1st, 2020), Tamarindo Diria (closed between Thursday, March 26th, 2020 and Thursday, April 30th, 2020) in Tamarindo, and Croc’s Resort & Casino (closed between Monday, March 23rd, 2020 until further notice) in Jaco, among others
In addition, due to the closure of Costa Rica’s Instituto Costarricense de Turismo (ICT), the following sites, which are overseen by the institute, are currently closed to the public:
- Mirador Orosi (Orosi Viewpoint, Central Valley)
- Mirador Ujarras (Ujarras Viewpoint, Central Valley)
- Las Ruinas de Ujarras (Ujarras Ruins, Central Valley)
- Paradero Turistico de Playas Dona Ana (Tourist Stop at Dona Ana Beach, Puntarenas)
Adjustments to nationwide operations that could impact Costa Rica’s tourism industry include, but are not limited to, the following:
- Restaurants have been asked to operate at 50% capacity to provide distance between diners
- Public buses have been asked to operate at 50% capacity to provide distance between passengers
What about mosquitoes?
Despite reports to the contrary, the WHO has confirmed that “there has been no information nor evidence to suggest that the new coronavirus could be transmitted by mosquitoes.” (https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019/advice-for-public/myth-busters)
What the Costa Rican government is doing to combat coronavirus on a national level
Beyond the tourism industry, Costa Rica as a nation is working proactively to help prevent further spread of the virus around the country and to help reduce the number of reported cases. Some of the government’s proactive measures include:
- Denying entry to Costa Rica by foreigners and restricting access to Costa Rican citizens and residents.
- Requesting that members of the public actively engage in sanitary practices, such as hand-washing and covering your mouth/nose when coughing/sneezing.
- Requesting that members of the public maintain a safe distance from one another (1.8 meters minimum) while communicating.
- Requesting that members of the public refrain from unnecessary international travel.
- Temporarily canceling mass gatherings including festivals and concerts.
- Temporarily closing non-touristy areas where people tend to congregate, including bars, discos, casinos, movie theaters, gyms, amusement parks, and more.
- Temporarily cancelling schools/classes.
- Creating a telephone hotline (dial 1322 from within Costa Rica to access the hotline; in case of an emergency, dial 911) designed to answer locals’ questions about the virus (service is provided in Spanish).
What to do if you planned to fly to Costa Rica on or before Sunday, April 12th, 2020.
The Costa Rican government has banned foreigners from visiting Costa Rica until after Sunday, April 12th, 2020. This means that you’ll need to cancel your current travel reservations.
Fortunately, several travel and tourism businesses in Costa Rica, as well as some international companies (including travel agencies, hotel booking sites, and airlines), are offering cancellations without applying penalties and/or refunds in cases where prepayments were already provided. The best course of action is to contact the company you placed your reservations through. Please be patient in awaiting a response to your cancellation request. Not only are several other travelers requesting cancellations at the same time, but March is one of the busiest times of travel during Costa Rica’s high season, which means many companies are also assisting travelers that are currently in Costa Rica. As long as we all continue to have patience with and respect for one another, we’ll get through this trying time together. 🙂
Once international travel is permitted and safe again, please reschedule your trip
Since it’s not an option to travel to Costa Rica during the coming weeks, please consider rescheduling your visit for a later date. Costa Rican locals and businesses rely heavily on travelers like you to sustain their livelihoods. Though it is 100% understandable why you might want to cancel your travel plans at the current time, we hope you’ll help Costa Rica (and the world) regain some normalcy if/when the coronavirus is no longer a concern.
Please note: The information below is outdated and no longer applies to foreign visitors.
Should you cancel your Costa Rica trip?
Unfortunately, we cannot answer this question for you. We know firsthand how many Costa Ricans (and how much Costa Rica’s economy overall) depend on a profitable tourism sector, and it’s unfortunate that fear could threaten that. We also know that, in some cases, the coronavirus can be life-threatening, which is equally if not more worrysome. Please weigh your options carefully and take various factors into consideration before making a decision either way, including (but not limited to) the following:
- Where you plan to travel to Costa Rica from (i.e., what the current state of coronavirus is in your hometown and whether it’s likely you could spread the virus to others at airports, on an airplane, or in Costa Rica)
- Where in Costa Rica you plan to travel (i.e., whether that area of Costa Rica is currently experiencing an outbreak of coronavirus)
- Whether your travel group is comprised of individuals deemed by the WHO to be more vulnerable to becoming severely ill with the virus (i.e., older people and people with preexisting medical conditions such as asthma, diabetes, and heart disease)