September will feature the return of United States tourists to Costa Rica, and it will also mark the reopening of Liberia’s international airport for commercial flights.
With the exception of humanitarian and repatriation operations, Daniel Oduber Quirós Airport (LIR) has remained closed to travelers since mid-March due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Costa Rica’s reopening process continues to be gradual. In September, Juan Santamaría International Airport near San José can expect to receive just four additional flights per week, all from the New York area.
Meanwhile, LIR will receive “one or two” flights each week, according to Tourism Minister Gustavo Segura.
La Nación reports the first Guanacaste flights will be operated by United Airlines, starting September 5, while Air Canada will follow with flights in October.
“We are taking very gradual and carefully analyzed steps in the direction of the revitalization of tourism that is very necessary for the protection of the social progress that Costa Rica has achieved through this industry,” Segura said.
The Guanacaste Tourism Chamber (CATURGUA) called the news “a small, giant step” for the reactivation of the region’s tourism industry.
“It is no secret that the economic support of U.S. tourism is most significant for the region of Guanacaste,” CATURGUA has said.
Arriving tourists must meet the following criteria:
- All people entering Costa Rica must complete the digital epidemiological form. This is known as the “Health Pass” or “Pase de Salud.” Click here for a link to the form.
- Tourists must obtain a negative PCR-RT coronavirus test. The sample for this test must have been taken at most 48 hours before the flight to Costa Rica.
- Tourists must purchase travel insurance that covers accommodation in case of quarantine and medical expenses due to COVID-19. This policy can be international or purchased from Costa Rican insurers.
- Tourists from the United States must demonstrate, via their driver’s license, that they live in one of the authorized states (New York, New Jersey, New Hampshire, Vermont, Maine and Connecticut).
A brief history of Liberia International Airport
The airport’s recent growth corresponds with the increasing popularity of tourism in Guanacaste.
“Guanacaste’s attractions were always well known and a frequent destination for tourists to Costa Rica,” we wrote in a 2004 story. “But key to taking the region’s tourism numbers to the next level of success has been maximizing the use potential of Daniel Oduber International Airport.”
In December 2002, Delta Air Lines pioneered regularly scheduled international flights to LIR. It proved Guanacaste could be a successful and profitable destination for a major airline, and others soon followed.
In 2012, Costa Rica completed a modern passengers terminal, which cost $41 million. By 2018, more than a million passengers were transiting through the airport each year.
And in October 2019, KLM inaugurated direct service to Guanacaste from Amsterdam.
The ongoing growth has helped popularize towns like Playas del Coco and Tamarindo among visitors, as both destinations are now much closer to an airport with regular international flights.
Citing data from the Costa Rica Tourism Board, CATURGUA says 74% passengers arriving at Liberia International Airport in 2019 did so from the United States.
September’s reopening is a small one, and even CATURGUA doesn’t expect any semblance of normality until 2021. But it’s a start.