For the time being, Costa Rica remains off the UK government’s corridor list, thus requiring 14 days of quarantine upon return. But the Foreign & Commonwealth Office advisory against travelling to Costa Rica is a reflection of the government’s inflexibility currently paralysing the travel sector and in no way a reflection of how safe Costa Rica is. Such negative advisories psychologically ramp-up fear that it is dangerous to travel yet once I boarded a half-empty Iberia flight, these anxieties dissipated quickly. This was reinforced in Madrid. The check-in staff for the flight to San Jose scrutinised every passenger for the mandatory negative PCR-coronavirus test certificate that must be undertaken 72 hours before travelling. Just knowing you are boarding a flight where all passengers have recently tested negative is instantly calming.
But what about Costa Rica itself? Upon arrival in San Jose I found the international airport a far cry from Heathrow in how it is tackling the coronavirus transmission effectively. There was an abundance of visor-wearing staff that allowed a smooth and well-spaced flow of passengers out of the airport to where my driver was waiting for me. Thereafter, throughout my 12-day trip around Costa Rica I would remain in the bubble of the same vehicle with the same driver.
I was of course looking for encounters with animals and less so with fellow human being, and, at the risk of sounding anti-social, Costa Rica did not disappoint on both fronts. Barring a small influx of Americans to the beaches around Guanacaste, for the most part Costa Rica is devoid of visitors and the lodges I stayed at almost empty. My driver, Walter, told me this had led to even better wildlife sighting than before as nature less disturbed by human presence. “A young woman surfing in Guanacaste recently managed to photograph a jaguar walking along the beach. You’d never see that with visitors around,” said Walter.
During my stay we drove between some of the country’s finest eco-lodges for immersive wildlife experiences along the Pacific coast and high into central volcanic cordillera. Every property I stayed at followed impressively strict anti-coronavirus protocol. Take one, the Hotel Arenal, where we were greeted outside for check-in with a temperature check and given a small kit of mask, gloves, and antibacterial spray. At the restaurant, tables were safely spaced apart and waiting staff wore visors and gloves. It was possible to order the meal by scanning a QR code on the table.