Is Now A Good Time To Travel To Costa Rica?

Updated March 23, 2021

January is upon us and with it comes winter and dreams of winter escapes. Visions of palm trees swaying in the wind and the lull of ocean waves breaking on sandy beaches dance around our head. But should we give into these visions? Is now a good time to travel to Costa Rica? Is it safe to travel? What is open and what is closed? Will the travel experience be the same? Only you can decide that for yourself. I’m here to share with you my experience of spending 7 weeks in Costa Rica during the pandemic.

I flew to Costa Rica at the beginning of November and returned to Colorado right before Christmas. I previously posted about my flights and travel to Costa Rica in my post “Pandemic travel to Costa Rica“. If you’re looking for information about what you need to enter Costa Rica please refer to that post.

Covid-19 Transportation

When we arrived in Costa Rica, we took a shuttle from the airport to the car rental center. The shuttle didn’t have seats blocked off. We arrived at the rental center, where they only allowed one person from each party in the building. There was hand sanitizer on the counters, and the employees were behind plexiglass. I brought my own pen for signing the contracts. Alamo disinfects each vehicle prior to each new rental. Alamo, also informed us that rental vehicles are not subject to the vehicle use restrictions currently imposed on regular Costa Rican vehicles. (I’d double check what the current regulations are if you opt to rent a vehicle!) Fuel is readily available.

We only kept the rental car for 3 days. After that we relied on public transportation and taxis to get around. Passengers at bus stops are required to wear masks, and of course when on the bus too. For the most part, people follow the rules. You won’t find seats blocked off on the buses, and sometimes they are full. The taxi cab drivers all seemed to be wearing masks.

One thing we soon learned about traveling during the pandemic, is that you’d better be flexible with your plans. If you are the kind of persona who can’t handle changes in plans, I wouldn’t recommend traveling to Costa Rica at this time.

Two weeks before my scheduled return to Colorado, I saw that the bus schedule from Montezuma to San Jose had changed. The new schedule made it impossible to get to the airport in time to catch my afternoon flight from Juan Santamaria. I researched my options (boat taxi, shuttles and flights) to figure out the best alternative way to get to the airport. I was just about to book a flight from the local airport to Juan Santamaria when I received an email saying that my flight from Juan Santamaria had been changed. The new departure time was a day earlier! I was really happy that I hadn’t booked the other flight yet!

I opted to cancel the rescheduled flight and booked on another airline with a departure time that I could make traveling by bus. Since then, my boyfriend has had his return flight booked for February canceled.

Be aware of your home Country’s restriction on re-entry; for example, Canada announced on Feb 12, 2021, that Canadians returning home from Costa Rica need PCR Covid-19 test upon arrival to Canada as well as completing a 14 day quarantine in a government-designated hotel (at the traveler’s expense) until they have negative Covid-19 test result. The United States will be requiring a negative PCR Covid-19 test or documentation of recovery from Covid-19 for entry effective January 26th. You’ll now need to get tested within 3 days of your return. Info on where to get a test can be found here: https://www.twoweeksincostarica.com/covid-19-test-costa-rica/

When I left Montezuma for my trip home, I took the bus to the ferry, a cab from the ferry to another bus terminal where I caught another bus to the airport. I had my temperature scanned at the ferry terminal and bus terminal. On the ferry, all passengers and employees were required to wear masks at all times. Every second seat on the ferry was blocked off.

Juan Santamaria Airport Dec 22, 2020

I arrived at Juan Santamaria airport at about 7:30 pm and it was like a ghost town. I had to wait a couple of hours for the airline to open for check-in (my flight was at 2:00 am). Going through security was the best ever, there was no one else in line. At the gate waiting area, each row of 4 seats had the middle two seats x’d off. When boarding time came, people pretty much queued up as usual, with very limited social distancing.

I had a quick flight connection at Fort Lauderdale. I was aghast at the long lines through immigration, and was thankful that the employees there fast tracked those who had an upcoming connecting flight. Again, not much social distancing going on in those lines. Onwards to security, another long line without social distancing, and then a sprint to my gate and I was onboard my final plane home. I arrived safely in Denver.

What’s Open and What is not?

Most commercial operations can remain open weekdays from 5 am to 10pm and on weekends from 5am to 9pm, with capacity restricted to 50%. Wearing of a mask in inside spaces is mandatory.

Costa Rica Accomodations

Most hotels and Airbnb’s are open and allowed to operate at 100% capacity though pools and common areas are restricted to 50% capacity. You can get some great deals on accommodations.

We had some shopping to do before we headed to our property in Montezuma so we stayed a night in La Garita. (Buying trees was on our agenda and there are beautiful “Viveros” (nurseries) in La Garita.) We stayed at the Uruka Lodge. A masked employee showed us to our room and we found that we were the only guests for that night. That was comforting as the shared bathroom was a bit of a worry considering Covid. I highly recommend this lodge to anyone who wants to stay close to Alajuela but not in the city itself. It’s only about 12 km from the airport and is so much nicer than staying in the city. We didn’t get a chance to explore the area much but what we saw was nice.

View
View from Uruka Lodge
Shopping in Costa Rica

Most stores are open and operating regular hours. You’ll find hand-washing stations and/or hand sanitizer outside each and every store. I believe after I went on shopping excursions, I felt cleaner leaving town than going to town! Some stores also have an employee scanning your temperature before allowing you entrance. On busy days you may find a line to enter some of the stores as they restrict the number of people allowed in at once.

Hand Washing
Hand Washing Station at entrance to Supermercado

Are groceries and supplies readily available? I didn’t observe any shortages of anything during my just completed two month stay.

Restaurants/Bars/Casinos

Restaurants are a bit hit and miss as to being open or closed. Some are on full operating schedule, some on an abbreviated schedule, and some sadly have closed permanently. Restaurants can be open until 11:00pm (but this by know means they will be, check in advance with the restaurant ).

I didn’t eat out much while in Costa Rica, as we have cooking facilities at our property, but the few times I did, most of the guests were wearing masks except for when they were eating, and the serving staff are required to wear masks. Most of the restaurants in Costa Rica are “open air” where you’re basically enjoying patio dining, and many have tables spaced far apart.

Beaches

Current nationwide rule in effect until Jan 17th, 2021, is that beaches can be open only from 5:00am until 6:00pm

National Parks

National parks are now open without capacity restrictions. Due to the pandemic tourist numbers are still very low, so in my opinions it’s a great time to get out and see the parks and wildlife without crowds.

Tours

Most tours are operating but many have restricted capacity and operating hours. My recommendation is to make contact with any tours you are interested in before commencing travel to see what services they are offering. It would be very disappointing to plan a perfect 10 day itinerary only to find that half of the planned activities are not available.

Conclusion:

So in answer to the question, “Is now a good time to travel to Costa Rica”, I feel now is a great time to visit Costa Rica. Flying is a concern due to the close proximity to so many people, but I flew in two full flights, and am pleased to say I’m out of quarantine and didn’t come down with Covid-19! With the proper precautions (good mask, hand washing and carrying sanitizer), I think you can fly safely. One thing I didn’t have with me and wished I did was a santizing wipe or at least a tissue that I could put sanitizer on and wipe my seating area.

Once in Costa Rica, you should be able to enjoy a safe trip. I’m sure you won’t miss the crowds!

Highlights:
-Be prepared to be flexible. If you’re the kind of person who doesn’t like to deal with changes, I wouldn’t recommend travel at this time.
-Keep abreast of the changing restrictions here: Covid-19 News CR
-Plan ahead: Make sure you’ll be able to enjoy the trip of your dreams by contacting tour operators in advance and confirming your itinerary.
Be sure to have health insurance and QR code before travel: What you need to travel to Costa Rica

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