How to return to Costa Rica

HOW TO get to AND depart from COSTA RICA DURING THE PANDEMIC (updated April 1st 2022)

For Costa Rican arrivals: I am happy to announce that this web page is nearly completely useless after April 1st 2022.  The health pass and Covid travel restrictions have been lifted.  Only one item remains - how to get tested IF your country still needs it - read on if that is the case - see PART 2 below.

First I should note 100% of the Pura Vida staff are fully Pfizer vaccinated.  As of now 100% of Pura Vida Hotel guests are required to be fully vaccinated.  

This web page is a basic primer on entering or departing Costa Rica for people who may need a bit of clarity on the subject and/or have trouble with Spanish language.  No the photo is not spike protein on a covid, it is a lovely amapola flowering in the Pura Vida garden all year round, one of over 200 hibiscus species.

travel to Costa Rica
  Travel will start slowly . . . first the ever so slightly deranged . . .
yes you can travel to Costa Rica
. . . the outliers, the creative types, the adventure travelers
how to travel to the Pura Vida Hotel
 . . . and their friends will follow
Doka Coffee Alajuela
. . . .and not too long after all our orchids will be open to you

A note to the wise: when you book anything in Costa Rica try and be flexible with no deposits or refundable deposits.  

PART 1: ARRIVING IN COSTA RICA (section now obsolete but I leave it here for historical purposes)

To get in the country you need:

  1. A passport valid for at least 6 months
  2. A very good sense of humor and a tolerance of bureaucracy (if lacking in either of these you may want to stay home or have a partner who can make up for your personal limitations on bureaucracy as I do).
  3. Up until April 1st 2022, no more than 72 hours prior to entry in the country you need to fill out the Costa Rican government Health Pass online  - you will need to have stayed for more than 14 days in a country or territory to which Costa Rica has opened its air borders.  You also need to have no Covid-19 symptoms on arrival.  You will need proof of complete vaccination with either the Moderna, Pfizer-BioNTech, AstraZeneca, or Johnson & Johnson vaccines. For U.S. citizens, the “COVID-19 Vaccination Record” will be accepted.  If you are not vaccinated you are required to buy traveler insurance from companies like Trawick or our local INS office.
  4. FROM APRIL 1st 2022, the health pass and insurance requirements have been lifted. 

More details here.


There are 2 types of tests in Costa Rica to allow you to re enter your own country.  There are PCR and Rapid/Antigen tests. Some countries need PCR testing to occur within 72 hours of your exit flight. Other countries (notably the US of A) allows rapid/antigen testing BUT as of Dec 6th 2021 you must take this test within 1 calendar day of your flight to the USA (don't ask me why anyone would come up with a definition like that) if you are over 2 years old.  Currently our guests are getting PCR test results back by email within 24 hours and rapid/antigen testing within 2 hours.

There is a Labin testing lab (Labin Alajuela Automercado) within 2km of the hotel - open 6:30am to 4pm appointments preferred but take walk-ins.  Be careful of the following:

  1. Do not leave an email address for your results that you do not have access to.
  2. Do not arrive at test lab without a passport (won't work as ONLY travelers are allowed to use rapid/antigen test)

If you can't make it to Labin before 4pm we have a good Plan B. Echandi lab at SJO.  They ask that you show up 4 hours ahead of your flight for your rapid test.  They are open 24/7.  They are about 600 meters from the terminal and a little white bus has been seen ferrying people there and back from the SJO main terminal.

If you do test positive a 7 day quarantine will be imposed.


travel to Costa Rica
. . . .with apologies to one of many hibiscus

Until April 1st 2022 all tourists over the age of 12 are required to be fully vaccinated.  Commercial establishments may choose to operate at 100% capacity, welcoming only vaccinated guests, or they can operate at 50% capacity with no vaccination requirement.

Until April 1st 2022 up to 72 hours prior to arrival you will need to fill out the government Health Pass for each traveler here: COSTA RICAN GOVERNMENT HEALTH PASS .  You will also need your accommodation info on arrival in Costa Rica as well as your travel insurance policy number (not required if you are fully vaccinated or are under 18).  When you fill it out online you’re going to receive a QR code and a check mark which will flash green meaning you’re good to go, flash yellow meaning authorities need to check your paperwork or flash red meaning you’re not allowed in. 

All the entry requirements are detailed here again.

Unvaccinated persons (who cannot be accepted as guests here) must have mandatory travel insurance that covers accommodation in case of quarantine ($2,000) and medical expenses ($50,000) due to COVID-19 illness. In the case of international insurance, the tourist must request from their insurer a certification issued in English or Spanish.

travel to Costa Rica
. . . Bandit will be waiting

travel to Costa Rica
. . . . with a stick of sorts . . .

PART 4: FOR PEOPLE WHO REALLY LIKE TO READ . . . LINKS and extra resources

If you get stuck just email me at the hotel or post a question on the Costa Rica Tripadvisor Forum.  Come on down when you are comfortable traveling again, you will be very welcome back in Costa Rica.

Rental cars and tourism vans are exempt from Covid rules.  Travel within Costa Rica for normal (non tourism) traffic contains various restrictions that vary based on the state of the pandemic from province to province.  Rental cars and tourism vans are however exempt from these restrictions - if you are stopped by the police in a rental car you will only need to show your rental contract.  For Rental cars we work only with Alamo and for private tourism vans we work with Everywhere Costa Rica - both companies are committed to very high standards of hygiene and protection for their vehicles and employees.

This is a great page TWO WEEKS IN COSTA RICA for those who want to learn more about travel in Costa Rica including an updated list of countries and areas as well as a host of other useful info.

More local info on the current situation can be found at the ICT Costa Rican Tourist Board This also has a good updated list of locations that can travel to Costa Rica.  For a current local situation from our Ministry of Health on Covid-19 you can find all the details (but only in Spanish) here:

Lots of help available on the TripAdvisor forum - this particular post gives a very good description of the Health Pass process for Costa Rica.

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