Coronavirus – COVID-19. The virus that was declared a global pandemic on March 11, 2020 by the World Health Organization has rapidly reached all corners of the world, including Costa Rica.
On March 6, 2020, Costa Rica confirmed their first case of COVID-19. It was an imported case by an American woman who had previously visited Italy and Tunisia before entering Costa Rica on February 29th, 2020. On March 7, 2020, Costa Rica had a total of 5 confirmed cases.
Here is what you need to know about the Costa Rica coronavirus situation.
Costa Rica COVID-19 Confirmed Cases
As of November 27, 2020, Costa Rica has 137,0930 cases of COVID-19 (22,789 of those are Por Nexo). Por Nexo is Costa Rica’s method of counting cases without a test. They count people as confirmed cases if a person living in the same household of someone else who has tested positive starts experiencing symptoms.
Costa Rica will now have press conferences for COVID-19 on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
- 1351 new cases today, 281 of those are Por Nexo
- 1690 fatalities
- 1049 fatalities were men and 641 were woman, ages 9 – 101
- 513 people hospitalized, 220 of those in ICU
- 50,412 active cases
- 84,991 recovered
- 19,611 foreigners and 117,482 Costa Ricans
- Age range of a newborn baby to 101 years of total cases
- The first fatality was on March 18, 2020
When Will Costa Rica Open Their Borders and Costa Rica Travel Restrictions
Costa Rica closed their borders on March 18, 2020. The Costa Rican border opened on August 1, 2020 at 11:59 PM via air only.
On November 1, 2020, Costa Rica opened the border to all countries in the world via air.
Costa Rica Coronavirus Requirements to Enter the Country for Tourists
Please read our Costa Rica COVID-19 Travel so you know what the situation is like for tourists. Find out what’s open, what’s closed, restrictions, etc. There are more details in that post regarding Costa Rica COVID-19 entry requirements as well.
Costa Rica requires every visitor to complete an epidemiological survey and purchase a travel insurance that will cover medical care for acute illness and accommodation in case of quarantine. Additionally, all tourists must follow all sanitary measures for the airport and in the country including mask wearing, hand washing and social distancing. Tourists do not need to do a 14 day quarantine after arriving in Costa Rica and fulfilling all requirements.
**As of October 26th, Costa Rica NO longer requires the 72 hour COVID-19 test result for tourists. This requirement has been removed. Tourists do not need to quarantine in Costa Rica.**
You have to upload your travel insurance online 48 hours before your trip via the health pass website.
Health Pass Survey
The health pass survey is required for all tourists.
Negative COVID-19 test
This requirement has been removed as of October 26th.
Requirements: The travel insurance must cover a minimum of $50,000 USD for medical expenses in cases of COVID-19 in Costa Rica and a minimum of $2,000 USD for extended lodging expenses due to the pandemic.
Tourists have two options for international travel insurance.
- They may purchase a travel insurance policy from INS or Sagicor, two insurances approved by the General Superintendence of Insurance (SUGESE) that covers hospitalizations in a hospital for required time and a minimum of 14 days of lodging.
- INS and Sagicor are pre-approved insurance policies and are guaranteed to be accepted.
- They may use their own international travel insurance as long as it covers the requirements.
For Those Who Plan to Visit…
If you plan to travel to Costa Rica when the border is open again, please check the recommendations for international travel of your home country. Be respectful of all laws, regulations and rules Costa Rica has put in place whether you agree with it or not as you are a guest in the country. It is a privilege to travel during the pandemic, not a right and you have to be a responsible traveler to protect yourself and others.
Entry for Costa Rican Residents
Costa Rica has changed their entry requirements to now allow Costa Rican residents who left the country after March 25, 2020 to return.
That means Costa Rican residents can enter from any country via air and do not need to quarantine They also must fulfill the following requirements:
- A valid original passport
- DIMEX card
- Completed health form
- Proof of current CAJA payments OR a travel insurance covering COVID-19 for at least a minimum of 22 days. During these 22 days, the resident must complete any missing payments.
Rescheduling Your Trip
If you had to reschedule your trip but not sure for when, the following posts will help you decide.
Orange Alert areas
Currently, Costa Rica is classifying areas as Orange or Yellow Alert areas according to the number of confirmed cases. Orange Alert are areas with a high number of confirmed cases.
Orange Alert Areas are the following cantons:
- San José: Santa Ana
- Puntarenas: Esparza, Garabito, Montes de Oro and Puntarenas (districts of Barranca, Chacarita, El Roble and Puntarenas)
- Heredia: Flores
- Alajuela: Alajuela (except Sarapiqui district), Orotina, Palmares, Poas, Sarapiqui, San Carlos and Zarcero
- Cartago: None
- Limón Limón and Talamanca
- Guanacaste: Liberia and Albangares
Everywhere else is under Yellow Alert.
The same restrictions in October will continue through November. Weekend driving hours are 5 AM to 9 PM. Weekday driving hours are 5 AM to 10 PM. The driving hours are for the whole country.
Most commercial establishments with permits may open in the Orange Alert areas with maximum capacity and seating limitations. Events such as weddings and baby showers up to 30 people maximum are allowed during the open phase. Event halls can host up to 75 people with distancing.
All beaches open 5 AM to 10 PM Monday through Friday and 5 AM to 9 PM Saturday and Sunday regardless of location starting October 15th. However, individual municipalities may open/close as they see fit.
National Parks continue to open throughout the country regardless of zones. All outside, open air activities are allowed. Rental cars are exempt from driving restrictions. Hotels can operate at 100% but only 50% in common areas.
Mass gathering events are still not allowed in November. Casinos inside hotels and bars opened on October 9th with regulations and following protocols.
Costa Rica Coronavirus Driving Restrictions
Costa Rica has instated driving restrictions since end of March. Essential workers with a letter from their employer are exempt from driving restrictions. Those driving to/from health services, hotels/Airbnbs and airports are exempt.
Rental cars are exempt from Costa Rica’s driving restrictions.
Driving Restrictions (all October)
Driving is permitted 5 AM to 10 PM Monday through Friday and 5 AM to 9 PM on Saturday and Sunday with the following restrictions:
- Monday – Vehicles with last license plate digit ending in 1 and 2 can’t drive.
- Tuesday: Vehicles with last license plate digit ending in 3 and 4 can’t drive.
- Wednesday: Vehicles with last license plate digit ending in 5 and 6 can’t drive.
- Thursday: Vehicles with last license plate digit ending in 7 and 8 can’t drive.
- Friday: Vehicles with last license plate digit ending in 9 and 0 can’t drive.
There are no more license plate restrictions for Saturday and Sunday as of October 15th so any license plate can drive within the driving hours.
Costa Rica Coronavirus Cases Locations
There are confirmed coronavirus cases in all seven provinces in Costa Rica, the most being in the San Jose province.
Costa Rica has a population of roughly 5.09 million.
Costa Rica Coronavirus Timeline
- The first confirmed coronavirus case in Costa Rica was on March 6.
- Costa Rica declared a state of emergency on March 16, 2020.
- The first coronavirus fatality was on March 18th.
- On March 18, 2020, Costa Rica closed their borders to all foreigners, applying to land, sea and air. Only citizens and residents were allowed to enter.
- On August 2, 2020, Costa Rica opened their international borders via air to certain authorized countries.
- Costa Rica implemented a 24/7 coronavirus hot line.
- Costa Rica created a hospital called CEACO specifically for COVID-19 patients a couple weeks after the first confirmed case.
Is There a Lockdown or Mandatory Quarantine in Costa Rica?
No. Since the beginning, there has never been a country wide lock down in Costa Rica. Costa Rica can’t put something like that in place so the government implements driving restrictions, closures and sanitary measures instead. They also stressed the importance of staying at home and social distancing in the beginning.
Police will give tickets for breaking any sanitary restriction.
As of November, Costa Rica is operating like normal, pretty much before the pandemic except for the businesses having to follow certain regulations like 50% maximum capacity and masks indoors. Some places still haven’t opened like the Amusement park but pretty much everything else has.
Where to Get Information About Coronavirus in Costa Rica
The government gives a press conferences everyday except Sundays with the Minister of Health reporting new number of cases and giving new information about COVID-19.
Please check the Ministerio de Salud’s (ministry of health) website for the latest up to date information about coronavirus in Costa Rica. For news, check Teletica, the main local news channel in Costa Rica. Both in Spanish, so if you need to, you can use Google Translate. They have also created a website specifically for COVID-19 in Costa Rica (covid19.go.cr). For news updates and reports in English, check Tico TImes.
We also update this post frequently to reflect new major changes and statistics.
Do You Need to Wear a Mask in Costa Rica?
Yes. Costa Rica requires masks for the general public when inside closed spaces (except at home or in hotel room), in supermarkets, convenience stores, stores, airports, public buses, shuttles, trains, theaters, movie theaters, churches, banks, offices and for all public and commercial workers. You also need to wear a mask inside public buses, taxis and at the bus stop.
Likewise, establishments may prohibit anyone from entering if not wearing a masks. You don’t have to wear a mask when walking outside on the street as long as you are 1.8 meters (6 feet) apart from other people but if you are waiting at a bus stop, you do need to wear a mask.
This applies to everyone in Costa Rica, tourist or local.
Face shields are no longer accepted as the only form for indoor protection. If a face shield is worn, a mask must also be worn.
Is Costa Rica Flattening the Curve?
Costa Rica has focused on prevention since the very beginning. Costa Rica has flattened the curve for the most part for the first wave, preventing the overwhelming of the health care system in the country since the virus entered the country.
Even though we’ve been in the peak of the second wave for some time, the healthcare system has not yet had to turn away any patients an ICU or hospital bed.
What It’s Been Like Where We Live (Tamarindo area)
We live in Guanacaste in the Tamarindo area. Since about July, the weekends have gotten very busy and now in November, it looks like a normal day. Pretty much everything is open and there are actually a lot of people out and about. Beaches are full of people watching the sunset on the weekends, restaurants are full (although they are supposed to be at 50% maximum capacity).
I went shopping in town on a Friday afternoon back in August and nearly all stores were open. However, 3 out of the 4 stores we visited required us to wear masks (the owner wasn’t even wearing a mask) and only 1 offered hand sanitizer. (I wore my mask at all stores and used my own hand sanitizer).
Although international tourism of course will not go back to how it was pre-pandemic for awhile, local tourism has helped this area a lot.
Nowadays, there are many more local tourists thanks to the government’s new 3 day weekend law (vacation days for holidays will now be on Monday so that people have 3 day weekends) to promote local tourism. For this reason, the weekends have been especially busy.
That brings in at least a little something for the businesses here which is great. August and September had many holidays and at the beach, it looks like a normal day with many surf lessons and visitors. For the local economy here, it’s sorely needed. The only thing is that I would say maybe half the people are wearing masks (mostly the young people are not) and not all establishments respect the 50% maximum capacity rule, masks or social distancing. Although it does seem that the visiting families are at least trying to stay in their bubble.
Independence day (Sept 15) weekend was very busy and it looked like it was Christmas or Easter on the beach. But on a weekday morning, the beach isn’t crowded. It’s mostly locals surfing or walking their dogs and some surf lessons going on.
I have to say that surfing in Tamarindo has been awesome. Not many people, the beach is finally open all day and even in the rain the surf is good!
Protests in Costa Rica
There have been many more protests in Costa Rica in September and October. However, they aren’t specifically about the pandemic, it’s about the economy and the new taxes, mostly about the $1.75 USD billion loan Costa Rica has requested from the IMF (International Monetary Fund). During the 2 weeks of October, people protested, held strikes and blocked roads in over 20 parts of the country. On October 12th, there was a large protest in San Jose which unfortunately did result in some violence and arrests.
The Impact on Tourism in Costa Rica
As the border closed for almost 5 months, tourism companies have not fared well during that time.
Now that the government has opened their borders to many countries, the tourism sector is up and running again. They are still focusing strongly on local tourism but with the border now completely open, they are eager and ready to receive tourists again. But it will be a long and slow road to recovery for the Costa Rican tourism industry.
What Have We Been Up To?
Since end of March, Yeison and I had a lot of time on our hands since the border was closed for 6 months. However, now that the border has been completely open since November 1st, it is picking up a bit, especially for 2021. So we want to say a big thank you for those who have kept with us this entire time!
Additionally, we’ve been surfing as much as possible, especially now that beaches are open all day which has been great. We’ve been doing some day trips to explore beaches we haven’t been to yet which has been really fun. And we finally finished equipping our truck for overlanding and we’ve already gone on a few trips.
Overlanding is 4×4 driving and camping and it’s the perfect social distancing trip for us since everyone’s in their own car and we all have our own camp area. It’s been so much fun and we’ve gotten to see parts of Costa Rica we’ve never seen before.
I also got my PADI open water scuba diving certification in September which I’m stoked about. Can’t wait to explore the underwater world!
Starting this month, we’ll start going on more overnight trips to get more content for the blog to help you plan a fun and safe trip to Costa Rica. You can follow our Facebook and Instagram to see photos and videos.
Let’s All Do Our Part to Stay Safe and Healthy
Wherever you are in the world, let’s all do our part to stay safe and healthy. We hope to see you in Costa Rica soon though and we greatly appreciate everyone who has rescheduled their trip.