Coronavirus in Costa Rica: the inside scoop

Over in Costa Rica, we chatted with Roberto, our local expert, to find out how daily life has changed as a result of coronavirus.
Beautiful beach in Manzanillo, Caribbean Sea, Costa Rica. Photo: Inga Locmele/Shutterstock
Beautiful beach in Manzanillo, Caribbean Sea, Costa Rica. Photo: Inga Locmele/Shutterstock

The Central American nation of Costa Rica is known for its pristine landscapes and mind-boggling biodiversity. It’s done well at containing coronavirus, too – with well under one hundred deaths. Its borders are due to remain closed to all international tourists until at least 1 August; after that, it’s thought that select travellers will be allowed in from nations where the pandemic is under control. We chatted with our local expert, Roberto, to find out what the situation was like on the ground in Costa Rica. 

Roberto, Insight Guides local-expert. Photo: private archive

In conversation with Insight Guides local-expert, Roberto

Q: Where do you live in Costa Rica and what does an average day look like for you at the moment? Are the new mobility restrictions affecting you?

A: I live in Escazú, near the city of San José and part of the Central Valley of the country. The average day has changed significantly with Covid. The office hours decreased dramatically, and I should say that the available time is now devoted to house maintenance, gardening and yoga! I became a yoga instructor about a year ago and not only do I practice the various aspects of yoga every day, but I started to teach it to some close friends and family. I also remade the effort to grow vegetables in my garden: it is not only fun but you get to eat organically! So, I could say the garden and the house are being well kept and I am trying to stay as healthy and positive as possible. Restrictions have come and gone… and come back, depending on how the virus is behaving! The local authorities have kept a good handle on the situation: when you look at the numbers, Costa Rica has been able to maintain a very low mortality rate and the health services have been working below capacity, and all the efforts are being directed to sustain those indicators. But in a nutshell, we can still go out to buy groceries, and tourism has re-opened for locals in the past few weeks: hotels and national parks have some limitations, but also strict protocols so visitors can be safe when traveling around.

 Scarlet Macaw (Ara Macao) in San Pedrillo, Corcovado, Costa Rica. Photo: Daniel Lamborn/Shutterstock

Q: What are your favorite hidden gems in Costa Rica and how would you advise travelers to visit them (i.e. on a tour, in a rental car, etc)? 

A: Costa Rica has the great advantage of being a small country, but with an enormous offer of destinations, eco-systems, lodging and activities! It's almost like I could give you my favorite per category! What's my favorite volcano, beach, rainforest, cloudforest, river, zip-lining… you name it! But OK, I will keep it simple: if I have to choose just a few, I will stick to the South Pacific, the Osa Peninsula. This area has been named the most biologically intense place in the world by National Geographic, and it has it all. Lodging in Drake Bay in one of the many sustainable hotels, visiting the Corcovado National Park for amazing wildlife watching or scuba diving and snorkeling around the Caño Island are unforgettable experiences. Then I should say the South Caribbean is my favorite beach spot: it has a very unique Afro-Costarican culture and gastronomy, coupled with great beaches and amazing rainforest! Lodging in Punta Uva or Manzanillo, visiting Puerto Viejo town, hiking the Manzanillo trails and going dolphin watching are my favorite activities! These two are kind of remote areas: having a rental in the South Caribbean is very useful, but having a rental in Drake Bay is useless! I think the best way is to visit is to spend at least three nights and do as many activities as possible in both places!

Rio Sirena River in Corcovado National Park, Costa Rica. Photo: Hugh Lansdown/Shutterstock

Q: Do you think traveling in Costa Rica will be different post-Covid? What will the “new normal” look like in the world of travel? 

A: It might be slightly different when we reopen: it will be safer, since all these protocols will stay for an improved quality of service. And the recovery will be slow, so it will provide an amazing opportunity for the early travelers to enjoy all the beauties of the country in a crowd-free environment. It is known that wildlife watching is easier today, while things are quiet: animals notice the absence of the masses on the trails, on the beaches, in the national parks… so the sighting of wildlife has become easier, even in places that they did not frequently visit before!