Costa Rica’s Dumb New Restriction On Tourist Activity

Costa Rica has been one of a handful of places to welcome Americans in recent months. They’ve been dealing with significant spread of Covid-19 since August. So far over 160,000 Costa Ricans have been confirmed to have the virus, and about 2000 have died.

The country has new restrictions going into effect December 31 and the one that affects American tourists most is that beaches will close at 2:30 p.m.

Other restrictions include a capacity limit of 25% for bars and casinos and 50% for national parks, as well as night time curfews for vehicles (excluding rental vehicles). Local vehicles will also have restrictions on alternating weekend days.

The beach closure, though, makes very little sense.

  • There’s no serious scientific analysis that suggests people maintaining social distancing at the beach are spreading Covid-19.

  • Costa Rica is effectively telling people to Leave their outdoor activity in favor of something more likely to be indoors, which the virus spreads far more easily.

Beach at the Andaz Papagayo

I’m in favor of taking action that delays the spread of the virus, because we’re on the cusp of broadly available vaccines. It makes sense to hold out a few more months, delaying activities into the future. I am not in favor of restrictions that appear to do something, that limit freedoms without a meaningful relation to limiting spread of the virus.

To be sure even Florida closed beaches at the start of the pandemic. But we know a lot more now about how Covid-19 spreads.

(HT: Ron L.)

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Well, beaches. There are bars, there are parties, at beaches. By closing the beaches they are preventing that parties where social distancing is not respected pop up randomly on beaches. Simple, when you actually think about the problem. But that’s simple logic, not the “field of miles, points, and frequent business travel”.

  2. @Dumbar – beaches are an outdoor activity where distancing is possible. even less-distanced parties at beaches are safer than 25% capacity bars and casinos which are still permitted (after 230pm!).

    And more parties happen at private residences than on the beach! But “that’s simple logic”..

  3. Puerto Rico has done this which never made sense to me except to completely discourage tourists from coming to the island at all (which might have some merit if that was the rationale).

  4. Very good measures. Discourage foreigners/Spreaders to come to Costa Rica. It is your country and laws. Those eho go not obey them should be penalised.

  5. No Dumbar, they’re not preventing parties. They’re just pushing them indoors…where COVID is far more likely to spread.

  6. “There’s no serious scientific analysis that suggests people maintaining social distancing at the beach are spreading Covid-19.”

    I don’t think scientists that take Covid seriously are focusing on “Covid at the beach” – that’s more of a Chad and JT thing.

  7. They’re not “welcoming” Americans, rather enduring them. And given that the cost of an infection far outweighs the meagre income from tourism, this may not be a bad thing for Costa Rica, a country to which Americans shouldn’t be traveling to begin with according to the CDC:

    Also, I searched for sex and COVID found that “There’s no serious scientific analysis that suggests people having sex are spreading Covid-19” — but that’s because nobody wrote a paper on this. Your statement about beach transmission is a total joke: absence of research doesn’t prove a thing.

  8. most of the restrictions everywhere are not making a difference. Compare the numbers between CA and FL, and try to tell me restrictions make a difference. If you dont see this is all about control now, then you are just not looking or listening.

  9. I live in a popular tourist area of Costa Rica . We were covid free until the government lifted restrictions.

    In place of being grateful , people criticizing the government ? For that?

    I lived at the beach in Manuel Antonio , I
    Moved to my farm to avoid exposure to covid because no one was using masks OR observing social distancing at the beach . I am 65 and do not want to catch it . Tourism brings the virus , now we have had more than a thousand cases . Thanks to tourism . Follow the protocols or stay home .

  10. The argument you’re trying to make is akin to the argument made about people going skiing. Things involved in enjoying such a travel-related activity are where the risk is greater than just being outdoors and dozens of feet away from others.

    Doesn’t Trump’s CDC advise that travel from the UK — at least by the many exempted from the US travel ban (until maybe he de facto pulls it) — be allowed to travel to the US with a recent negative Covid-19 test? That kind of public health security theater doesn’t make for more than an estimated 5%-9% reduction in travelers spreading or getting infected by this coronavirus. Some say it’s like trying to use a school yard chainlink fence to stop mosquito-borne diseases.

  11. The dumbest thing Costa Rica did was to let covidiot Americans from covid infested states in without even requiring testing or any sort of quarantine. I notice they won’t even require testing of people from the UK. Expect a bunch of unnecessary deaths as a result.

  12. @Jake: The “cure,” as implemented, is worse than the disease.

    @Scott: Precisely.

    It is like the TSA: security theater–not security.

  13. Sounds about right, and not dumb at all.
    People have proven to be unable to be responsible for their own wellbeing and they will just break distancing at a wym. Serves everyone right, too bad for the workers tho.

  14. I don’t think Gary knows enough about Costa Rica nor Covid.
    Costa Rican’s drive to beaches during this summer months a lot, to the point where there is no way to keep social distancing.
    This restriction is mostly to prevent local people from visiting beaches during this month, so foreigners can have more room.
    It usually rains a bit during the afternoons, so people practice indoor activities.
    This publishing looks so misinformed.

  15. @Scott: “most of the restrictions everywhere are not making a difference.” Really? The combination of governments that listen to science and people who actually comply with government guidelines/restrictions/lockdowns have prove very effective, thank you very much! Just look at New Zealand and Australia. You got to widen the circle of who you look to or listen to…

  16. The data is incorrect…Costa Rica has had more than 160,000 cases and more than 2000 deaths. The stated data said 16,000. I have been tracking CR data since March and their spread has been very light throughout. Their deathrate is under 1.5% and has been for most of the pandemic. I have been to CR and most restaurants are open-air, so the spread is less likely. It’s crazy to think the beaches would be closed—except for the fact that people do gather at sunset. I’d say close the beaches at 5PM and let people surf! Pura Vida.

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