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By No owner — last modified Jul 11, 2018 09:07 AM

 Costa Rica - Formalities


Formalities can be lengthy and some visiting boats have had difficulties with the officials, particularly with Immigration at Golfito.

Ensure you have sufficient copies (up to 5 each) of all the required documents (boat papers, passports, insurance, zarpe from previous port, list of the 5 ports previously visited and crew list). Note: US cruisers have reported being asked for original documentation (in Golfito) and have had to place their boat in bond at a marina until the originals could be couriered to them.

Stopping along the coast before clearing into the country is not (officially) allowed, but in the north, at least, checks are not often made. However, you may be told to proceed immediately to a Port of Entry.

Note: See Documents for details on visiting Isla del Coco and Cana.

Because of problems which may be encountered with officials in other ports, it is essential to make sure at the first Port of Entry that all requirements are complied with, such as the temporary importation permit. Clearance papers from the last port or country must be shown, and also that the passports have an exit stamp from Immigration in the last country.

Clearance must be done with the Port Authority, then Customs, Immigration and Quarantine. Port officials will usually visit the yacht on entering Costa Rica.

You need a national Zarpe to go from one port to another (even if just going across the bay from an anchorage to a marina). In subsequent ports of entry, the captain may go ashore to clear with the port captain and show the clearance certificate (zarpe).

In Puntarenas Port authority working hours are 08:00-16:00 Monday to Friday, seven days a week. Overtime may be charged for clearance outside these hours.

Also, be aware that all forms are completed in Spanish, therefore if you don't speak the language, you might find it advantageous to employ an agent. It will certainly be necessary to employ an agent if you wish to get a permit to visit Isla del Coco.

See Fees for further details.

Procedure on departure:
The port captain at the port of departure will issue an international departure certificate (zarpe) specifying the country of destination. Those intending to stop before leaving Costa Rican waters should make this clear when clearing out.

Immigration must also be visited before departure.

Last updated March 2018.


Passports must be valid for at least 6 months.

Visas are issued on arrival to nationals of most countries.

There are no visa requirements for stays of up to 90 days for nationals of the European Union, Argentina, Australia, Bahamas, Barbados, Brazil, Canada, Chile, United States, Israel, Japan, Mexico, Montenegro, New Zealand, Panama, Paraguay, Puerto Rico, Serbia, South Africa, Republic Of South Korea, Singapore, Switzerland, Republic Of China (Taiwan), Trinidad And Tobago and Uruguay.

No visas are required for stays of up to 30 days for nationals of Antigua and Barbuda, Belize, Bolivia, Dominica, El Salvador, Russian Federation, Philippines, Fiji, Grenada, Guatemala, Guyana, Honduras, Northern Marianas, Marshall Islands, Solomon Islands, Kiribati, Maldives, Mauritius, Federated States Of Micronesia, Nauru, Palau, Kingdom Of Tonga, Samoa, Saint Kitts And Nevis, Saint Vincent And The Grenadines, Saint Lucia, Sao Tome And Principe, Seychelles, Suriname, Tuvalu, Turkey, Vanuatu and Venezuela.

Citizen of all others require visas.

See for the current details (in Spanish).

Immigration officials insist that visitors have their passports on them at all times. All crew members must be seen by the Immigration official.

A passport or at least a certified copy should always be carried.

Last updated March 2018.


Customs must be notified 72 hrs in advance of arrival to report a firm arrival location and ETA.

Length of Stay in Costa Rica

Customs on arrival will issue a Temporary Import Certificate (Certificado de Entrada) for the yacht, valid for three months. No further extensions are now permitted. It is not possible to re-enter Costa Rica again for 3 months. (see fees for costs involved.)

There is an alternative which will allow you to stay in Costa Rica for 2 years (renewable for equal periods) called a Permisode Permanencia. However this permission is only given to vessels that sign a slip agreement at marinas recognized by the Government of Costa Rica, such as Papagayo, Pez Vela and Los Suenos. Marina Papagayo for example has one slip available for boats staying in Costa Rica with a Permisode Permanencia. An agent is required to secure this permission. Costs vary between $ 900 and $ 1,500,depending on whether the yacht is owned by a company or an individual. Unlike placing the boat in bond (see below), the Permisode Permanencia allows you to go back to the boat as often as you like, to stay on board and exit and enter Costa Rica with the boat without restriction.

The other alternative is to place the yacht in bond. The bonding agent will charge a fee. There is no official fee from Customs for this procedure. It may remain in bond for as long as you wish.

If the captain of a yacht leaves the country by other means, responsibility for the yacht must be taken over by an authorised bonding agent until the captain's return, or until the yacht's departure from the country.

It is advisable to seek recommendations from other cruisers before leaving your boat with a bonding agent.

Firearms must be declared.

Last updated March 2018.


It is necessary to have documentation confirming Yellow Fever vaccination. If you are not immunized you may be denied entry.

Malaria prophylaxis recommended.

As dengue fever appears to be endemic in Costa Rica, the necessary precautions should be taken not to be bitten by the mosquito carrier.

Costa Rica is the one of the only central American country that treats its water to American/European standards. Most sailors fill their tanks directly from hoses, some places even plumb fresh spring water directly into the pipes.

ZIKA VIRUS ALERT: (March 2018) Costa Rica is still an area of interest due to mosquito transmission risk. There is growing concern about the rapid spread of the ZIKA Virus and the impact of the virus on pregnant women and babies. ZIKA is transmitted by mosquitos in tropical and sub-tropical climates, and there is currently no cure or vaccine. This situation is evolving rapidly, so please refer to - the CDC’s dedicated website if you are intending to cruise in one of the effected areas.


Original US Documentation: US cruisers have reported being asked for original documentation (in Golfito) and have had to place their boat in bond at a marina until the original could be couriered to them.

National Marine Parks

Note that National Parks are now enforcing the requirement for a permit and making the associated charges, however not all offices know the rules so finding the correct information can be hard.

Isla del Coco
Whilst there are lovely hikes here and the scenery is spectacular, this is principally a dive destination. Application for a permit to visit Isla del Coco can only be made once you have arrived in Costa Rica as clearance papers are required. It is a complicated and lengthy procedure, especially if you do not speak Spanish.

For details about the necessary permit read this Noonsite report Costa Rica, Isla del Coco: Permit Information

Isla Cano
Permits can be obtained from the park Office in Puerto Jimenez. Diving here only permitted with a local divemaster and a special permit is required for diving.

Fishing licence

Any vessel with fishing equipment on board must have a licence. Application should be made to the Agriculture Department in San José: Ministerio de Agricultura, Calle 1, Avenida 1, San José.

Last updated March 2018.


Costa Rica does not not officially have entry fees, and only nominal exit fees ($25 for boats of less than 50 ft and $50 for boats over). Fees do tend to vary depending on which port you cleared in or out from.

Cruisers checking into and out of Golfito in May 2014 reported not having to pay any fees on entering or departure.

The following fees were charged at Golfito in March 2013:

  • Customs for temporary importation of the boat - No Payment
  • Quarantine - Mandatory 65 USD for inspection, which never happened.
  • Capitania for National Zarpe - 20 USD on departure (same price as for International Zarpe).

The following fees were charged to a 44ft sailboat in Marina Papagayo in February 2012:

  • Port Captain to clear in - USD $18.00
  • MAG Quarantine to clear in - USD $75.00 (only if they come to make the inspection, if not no charge)
  • Certificado de Entrada to remain in national waters for 90 days - USD $75.00
  • Agent Fee - USD $150.00

Overtime is payable outside normal working hours, which are 0800-1600 Monday to Friday, except Customs in Golfito, which does not work on Mondays.

A park fee is payable at Isla del Coco and Isla del Cano of US$50 per person per day. The definition of a day is 24hrs and this is strictly applied.

Last updated June 2014.


Wider Caribbean's Marine Protected Areas (CaMPAM)
A useful database of MPAs in the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean region. All Marine Parks are MPAs, and therefore if wanting to find out about any marine parks in the islands you are visiting, details and location can be sourced via this website.

Clearance Agents

Panamares S A
Contact: Ernesto Andrade Conejo (Operations Manager)
Tel:(506) 2661-0948. Cell: 506 8811 7290
Shipping Agency & Ship's Chandler - Los Sueños Marina, Puntarenas, Caldera, Quepos, Playas del Coco, Golfito, Cocos Island, Papagayo Marina.


To enter Costa Rica your pet will need:
- Health Certificate issued by licensed Veterinarian which must contain Veterinarians name and license number, address of clinic/pet hospital, telephone number and e-mail in addition to the pets name, species, sex, vaccination details and dates and to show that the pet is free from any parasites and any clinical signs of infectious diseases.
- Document (or invoice) stating pets market value. Further details can be obtained from Pet Travel Store and forms from
- Document stating owners name, home address, passport number and telephone number and e-mail (if applicable).

Animals must have a valid rabies vaccination certificate and a veterinarian's health certificate (certified by a Costa Rican consul). The Department of Zoology must be notified by a special Import form, obtainable from: Departamento de Zoonosis, Ministerio de Salud, 1000 San José.

On departure:
When you leave Costa Rica, you are supposed to buy stamps and clear your pet for departure. Allow some time for this. You visit the vet, get a health certificate, and get a special form with some stamps on it. Then you have to go to the airport (Liberia) to have the airport vet sign the form (airport vet does not need to see the animal).

Dra. Sharine in Playas del Coco (tel 2670-2076) comes recommended by cruisers for vet care, speaks fluent English.

Last updated January 2015.


Suzy Carmody
Suzy Carmody says:
Jul 10, 2018 09:19 PM

Hi from Distant Drummer

We’ve just been through the process of getting a permit for Isla del Coco and thought it was worth sharing the “latest” information.

You can download the forms from www.
Fill in the application form for entry to PNIC and deliver it or send it to the Director of the ACMIC at the address below. Allow a minimum of 15 days prior to the date of expected arrival in PNIC.
Área de Conservación Marina Cocos
Parque Ecológico SINAC
Santo Domingo de Heredia (antiguo Inbio Parque)

The form must be sent with a cover letter giving the following additional information:
1. Full name, gender, passport number, nationality, date of birth for each person
2. Diving certification number of each diver
3. Itinerary of the activities planned in PNIC for each day of the visit including the number of persons carrying out each activity
Support documents:
1. Certified copies of passports for each person
2. Certified copy of certification of seaworthiness or equivalent documents which specify the range of the vessel *
3. Evidence of permission to operate in Costa Rican waters. We submitted copies of our Zarpe and our Certificate of Temporary Importation
4. An affadavit stating that the vessel complies with the following requirements:
a) effective systems for handling emergencies
b) a holding tank for sanitary waste
c) a radio with marine frequencies
5. If you are planning on diving an affadavit stating that if the vessel meets the following requirements:
a) a life vest for each passenger
b) equipment necessary for a marine rescue
* We did not have a “Certificate of Seaworthiness” so we included in the affadavit a statement outlining our sailing experience on board Distant Drummer. We included certified copies of our arrival documents in French Polynesia and Hawaii to demonstrate nautical miles covered.
They ask for an address or fax number to receive notifications but you can use an email address if you prefer.
If you deliver the documents to their office by hand they will want to see the original copies of all the support documents. If you are sending the application in by mail you will need to get all the support documents certified.
Make sure you clearly understand the fees as they are pretty high and stack up quickly. The document explaining the tarriffs is Decreto Tarifas ASP - No. 38295.pdf and is 25 pages of Spanish. Read the parts about Isla del Coco (PNIC). In summary for us:
• Admission: $50 per person per day
• Anchoring for vessel <15m: $40 per day
• Snorkelling: $10 per person per day
• Diving: sorry – not sure about this but there will be a fee
A very good contact for information and questions is Johanning Corrales Vega ([email protected]). He answers emails promptly and completely and was very helpful to us.
Hope this is useful
Suzy Carmody
S/V Distant Drummer

Sue Richards
Sue Richards says:
Dec 14, 2017 10:51 AM

Cocos Island, Costa Rica
Diver Killed by Tiger Shark
As reported by
On Thursday, Nov. 30, a tiger shark at Cocos Island, Costa Rica bit and killed a diver and injured the instructor she was diving with while they were awaiting pickup from their liveaboard’s skiff. This is the first fatal attack to ever happen in the area.

Sue Richards
Sue Richards says:
Oct 09, 2017 11:52 AM

Posted on Women Who Sail Facebook Page
Re: Tropical Storm Nate - 5 October 2017
Here in Costa Rica we are being hit hard by Nate, and it's all about the flooding. Mudslides, bridges out, roads closed, six confirmed dead so far, 600 reportedly homeless, 5000 in shelters, houses sliding off mountains. We are moored up a tidal estuary in Puntarenas, and when the tide and the river are going the same way, it's pretty intense; lots of uprooted trees going by, or sometimes getting hung up on us. Costa Rica will recover, but it's going to be grim for Nicaragua.

jtregunna says:
Sep 28, 2016 01:05 AM

Just to update Paul's comment above. If you're a CR resident and your boat isn't registered in CR, the tax is not 85%. As of 2015, it's 69%. An official telling you it's a higher rate, it may have been changed, but as of 2016 it's still 69%. Still outrageous, but mildly better.

Paul Sommers
Paul Sommers says:
Mar 29, 2015 12:35 AM

Do not enter this country on your non-CR registered vessel if you are a CR resident (pensionado, rentista, etc.). CR Customs will hit you with the import tax at 85% of the value of the boat and the news that residentes are not allowed cruising permits. I was ordered to pay up or leave immediately when I asked for a cruising permit at Golfito in March 2015. I left!

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