What to Expect When Traveling to Costa Rica Right Now

First some great news.  As of November 1st, there will be no more state by state restrictions in place in terms of which US citizens can travel to Costa Rica.  We will soon welcome travelers from all of the United States and every other country in the world! 

I love traveling.  It’s part of why I decided to create the Cayuga Collection.  And I miss traveling internationally a lot.  Several trips that I had planned for 2020 were canceled because of COVID. 

But there is a bright side to this as well.   I have taken at least 25 domestic leisure or family trips within Costa Rica in the last six months.  I have visited hotels in all corners of the country.  I have taken my wife and kids out to places where we had never been.  And we had some of the greatest wildlife encounters and beautiful, tranquil beach experiences due to the fact that we were almost “alone” wherever we were. 

Lots of miles of beaches and few people around make for a great nature experience.

As more and more people are considering visiting Costa Rica later this year or early next year, I get asked a lot of questions like “how is it to travel right now”?  So here is a rundown of what to expect right now and during the next months.  I am sharing some of my personal pictures in this blog that I have have taken during the past months of travel.

  • The flight:  The trip from abroad might be a bit of a pain.  Wearing the mask in the airport and on the plane might be uncomfortable and some health requirements for immigration entry might be a turnoff.  I have not been on a plane myself since earlier in the year, but my sons have flown back to Europe in August to attend University and they say it is “Ok”.   I talked to several guests from the US and Europe who stayed at Cayuga Collection Hotels in the past weeks and they all thought the trip was not great, but after all, it was “totally worth it”.  And most flights from the US are not too long – so that helps.  

It will be all worth it when you are there. Promised!
  • The entry requirements: Travellers must show proof of a negative Covid-19 Test taken with 72 hours of arrival, complete a Health Pass, and show proof of Travel Insurance that covers medical treatment or trip interruption due to COVID.    All details & specifics are found at this link.  https://www.visitcostarica.com/en/costa-rica/planning-your-trip/entry-requirements 

    If travelers are unsure about their Travel & Health Insurance coverage inclusions, the Sagicor Desk in the International Airport can examine their policy and issue the needed certificate, or sell the needed additional coverage on the spot. Or just chat with us on our website and we will help you figure this out.

Hiking in nature has been a great family activity that is safe and healthy for us.
  • Getting around:  I have driven my own car or a rental car to the hotels around the country.  There is a lot less traffic on the road – so that is a good thing.  Most of the guests who I have spoken with have opted to rent a car or our sales team arranged a private transfer from the airport to our hotels.  Both are easy to arrange and are safe ways to move around the country.  Private domestic charter flights are also an option and ideal for groups of 4 or more.  The regular scheduled domestic flights (Sansa, Aerobell, etc) are starting to get scheduled again bit by bit.

We often travelled during the week so I could work at our hotels. My daughter had to do Zoom School from Puerto Viejo on Costa Rica’s Caribbean Coast. Tough life…
  • Driving restrictions:  There are some “nighttime” driving restrictions (between 10 pm and 5 am) in place, but they never caused any issues with my own leisure travels.  There are also some restrictions in place depending on the numbers on your license plate, but that is not an issue if you have a rental car or are using private hotel shuttles. 
  • Use of masks:  In Costa Rica, you are required to wear a mask in closed spaces, businesses and public transport.  You will also see that people wear masks on busy streets in San Jose.  Nobody is really questioning wearing masks.  Almost everybody understands that it really helps to stop the virus from spreading.  My daughter even dances ballet several hours each week while wearing a mask.  Not sure how she does it, but I guess you can get used to anything.  In the rural areas and outdoors in nature, it is very easy to keep a safe distance from others, so you don’t have to wear a mask all the time – especially not on the beach or in the forest. 

COVID-19 Polices
Wearing masks has become second nature to us at the Cayuga Collection.
  • Beaches:  There were some restrictions in place on when you can be at the beach in the past months. But as of today, Beaches are open all day.

Those Pacific Sunsets. This picture of me and my wife was taken at a friend’s hotel in Guanacaste in August.
  • Tours & Activities:  The National Parks are open and have adapted to the Covid reality with new protocols.  And within the boundaries of national parks or on private reserves, all of the adventure activities are possible – everything from rainforest hikes and ziplining to whale watching to river rafting. My daughter and I shared one particularly amazing hike in the cloud forest reserve at Monteverde with literally nobody else around – just us, the trees, the mist, and the animals.  Now is the time to get out and soak up the healing, restorative power of nature.  Wildlife viewing is at its best. 

Hiking the Continental Divide in the Monteverde Nature Reserve in July with my daughter.
  • Hotels, Resorts & Lodges:  Hotels have been allowed to operate at limited capacity since June.  Hoteliers, especially for high-end boutique hotels, around the country have done a very good job of implementing the new health protocols.  I have stayed with my family at our Cayuga Collection hotels as well as hotels of friends and colleagues.  We always felt safe.  Since we have been operating the Cayuga Hotels for over three months now, we have become quite good at executing the protocols.  In one instance we had an employee test positive and in another one guests tested positive, but the virus did not spread further to any other people due to our preventive measures & ability to contact trace.  This has given me a lot of peace of mind.   

A trip to the Osa Peninsula. Wild…
  • Restaurants:  Restaurants across the country are open.  They have restrictions in terms of capacity, mask-wearing by staff, and distance between tables.  What certainly helps in Costa Rica is that much of our dining is outdoors and very well ventilated.  I have mostly had very good experiences in restaurants, but have seen a couple of instances in which the restaurant was not strictly adhering to protocols. Ask us.  We can recommend the ones that are doing things right. 
  • The Covid-19 Situation in General:  Costa Rica has had a significant rise in cases in July and August, but things stabilized in September and cases have gone down in October. According to the authorities, the R-Factor is now below 1.  The hospitals and health care system have been able to deal with the situation well and while every death from this virus is one too many, the death rate in Costa Rica has been among the lowest worldwide.  Check here for the latest numbers.

I have found that planning weekend trips to explore different parts of my adopted country with my family has really helped me keep a positive spirit during this hard time.  And according to National Geographic, there is some scientific evidence that planning vacations actually increases your happiness. 

My twin sons who study in Germany got “stuck” in Costa Rica for six months. A great treat for their parents and their sister.

But what really made the difference for me and helped drive my decision to travel like this was to see the economic impact of domestic tourism.  Every dollar spent in those local communities helped tourism businesses increase payroll and help support community needs and projects.  Just for the Cayuga hotels, we have been able to increase our payrolls by more than 50% due to domestic tourism in the past weeks and months. 

We just reopened our National Geographic Unique Lodge in Panama.  I hope to visit there soon.  Maybe with my family.  Isla Palenque with its 400 acres, seven beaches, dense rainforests, and endless opportunities to forget yourself for the moment and revel in the perfection of nature is really the place to be during all of this. 

Let’s plan our next trip. I am going to the Costa Rican Caribbean Coast. Where are you going?

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