How to return to Costa Rica

HOW TO get to AND depart from COSTA RICA DURING THE PANDEMIC (updated Dec 3rd 2021)

First I should note 100% of the Pura Vida staff are now Pfizer vaccinated.  After December 1st 2021 100% of our guests over the age of 12 are required to be fully vaccinated for entrance to hotels, restaurants, parks etc.

This 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 try and be flexible with no deposits or refundable deposits.  


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. 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.
  4. 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.

Entrance to the hotel and many other things in Costa Rica after December 1st require you show a proof of vaccination through the QR code generated by the Costa Rican HEALTH PASS.  Some exceptions include minors under 12 years or an accredited medical condition (whatever the heck that is but currently undefined by Costa Rica).  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 within 1km of the hotel - open 6:30am to 4pm now only 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.


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

Starting Jan 8th all tourists over the age of 12 are required to be fully vaccinated.

Costa Rica has delayed its vaccine mandate until January 8, 2022, and established a transition period that begins in December.

As of December 1, commercial establishments may choose to operate at 100% capacity, welcoming only vaccinated guests, or they can operate at 50% capacity with no vaccination requirement.

Either way starting December 1st we will be required proof of full vaccination for all our guests over 12 years of age.


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 to include 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. You NEED this QR code to get you in the country.   You will need this QR code to enter the Pura Vida Hotel and many other things.

travel to Costa Rica
. . . Bandit will be waiting

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

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:

Here is an update for November and December 2021: From our local English speaking rag the excellent Tico Times - click here.

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