Costa Rica is a great place to travel and enjoy a memorable vacation. If you plan to visit Costa Rica with your drone, you might wonder that whether it is legally allowed or not. So, can you bring a drone to Costa Rica?
According to the DGCA (Directorate General of Civil Aviation), you can fly a drone in Costa Rica. However, you will need to follow a few guidelines to get permission for drone flying. If you do not fulfill the guidelines, you might not get approval for it.
In this article, I will share all the rules and regulations you need to know in order to safely and legally fly a drone in Costa Rica. I’ll also share some of the best places to fly your drone in Costa Rica to bring home some incredible memories of your trip.
Should you bring a drone to Costa Rica?
As long as your import is legitimate, there are no limitations on bringing drones into Costa Rica. Depending on the airline you travel with, you may have to take your drone’s batteries out and place them in a steel case during your flight.
Costa Rica drone rules
A drone operator should always check the local laws and regulations of a state before traveling with or flying a drone. These laws and rules can differ from one country to the next. Costa Rica is one country that allows the use of drones.
However, similar to in the United States, you might find that different rules apply according to the use of the drone, such as recreational use or commercial use, depending on the nature of the operation.
In Costa Rica, recreational drone users must comply with certain operational rules, but registration and licensing are not required. This applies to Costa Rican nationals as well as to visitors to the country.
Here are the general rules for drone flight in Costa Rica, with the first item applying only to commercial drone operators. I have summarized the most important guidelines in Costa Rica for flying a drone, based on our research and understanding of the law.
- Make sure to register a drone with DGCA before operation in Costa Rica.
- Flights are only permitted during clear weather and the daytime.
- Keep your drone in sight at all times, with a clear field of view.
- Before flying over cities, communities, or crowds, you must obtain a special permit from the DGCA.
- Ensure to keep your drone at a distance of (33 yards) 30 meters from buildings at all times.
- Do not fly within 5 miles (8km) of airfields and airports.
- Do not fly your drone in designated no-fly zones.
How to register your drone as a commercial drone pilot in Costa Rica
Before you can begin flying commercial drones in Costa Rica, you must register with the DGCA. An applicant must meet the following requirements to obtain an operational certificate:
- Must be 18 years or older
- The applicant should also have a high school diploma
- Complete a drone course with 48 hours of theory and 10 hours of practical experience
Note: In the case of drones that weigh less than 25 kilograms, you do not have to register them with DGCA. In Costa Rica, you must register the drones over this weight with the local authorities.
In order to register your drone as a commercial operator in Costa Rica, visit the DGCA website (link) and complete the application online. Also, be sure to bring the following documents with you to Costa Rica to show if required at any point:
- Copy of your drone remote pilot license
- Up to date drone insurance certificate
- Proof of purchase
- Another valid form of ID
Is it worth bringing my drone to Costa Rica?
Costa Rica is a vibrant and picturesque location, with plenty of opportunities to capture stunning aerial imagery with your drone. The general feeling in Costa Rica is friendly toward drones, so you won’t feel out of place flying your drone there.
You can enjoy flying drones in Costa Rica as long as you follow the appropriate regulations and rules. As well as active volcanoes, there are several extinct ones. Just be aware that some locations are designated as no-fly zones (see the next section), so pay attention to signs, and obey the rules.
When using a drone in Costa Rica, or any other place, be very careful not to disturb wildlife. Stay alert at all times and stay alert to your surroundings.
What are popular attractions in Costa Rica where you cannot fly drones?
You must not fly a drone at these places – Arenal Volcano, La Palma Passage, and Zurqui Tunnel.
You should also keep your drone away from high-security installations, specifically El Murcielago Police Training Center and La Reforma Prison.
Two other places to keep your drone away from are the Presidental House, and the Ministerio de Seguridad Publica.
Best places to fly a drone in Costa Rica
While there are innumerable locations where you can legally fly a drone in Costa Rica, and many of them are spectacularly beautiful, if you’re looking for a few recommendations of great places to fly, I’ve got some to share with you! Take your drone to these hotspots for some epic and iconic shots of Costa Rica.
1. Punta Uva in Puerto Viejo de Limón
There are many spectacular and pristine beaches in Costa Rica, but this is one of the gems in my opinion. Punta Uva is located on the Caribbean coast, about a 4-hour drive from San Jose. It might feel a bit remote, but the trip is worth it. The lush green of the tropical forest set off by the smooth sand and crystal clear water will make for some shots you’ll be wanting to show off to everyone back home.
2. Quebrada Arroyo Waterfall hanging bridge
There are in fact many hanging bridges scattered all over Costa Rica, and any of them will make for fun drone flying (as long as you’re not bothering other visitors), and for epic aerial photos and videos. One of my favorites is the Quebrada Arroyo Waterfall site, located in Los Campesinos on the Pacific Coast. It’s the longest canopy walkway in the region, taking you past natural springs and of course a cascading waterfall.
Lots of other nature and water activities and in the area will make it well worth the trip to get out there, with plenty of space to fly your drone.
3. Guanacaste Savannah
Costa Rica normally conjures images of lush tropical forests or sparkling sandy beaches, but many have never seen pictures of the grassland plains. A startling difference from what you might expect, this Savannah area is a great place to explore with your drone.
Take in the farming villages and cattle, and capture some shots of local traditions and lifestyle. Then take the time to get some shots of the natural grassland plain with stunning mountains rising behind. It’s sure to be a place you don’t forget in a hurry.
4. Arenal Lagoon
One of the places you are NOT allowed to fly a drone in Costa Rica is over the Arenal Volcano. But that doesn’t mean you should cross the entire area off your list. The Arenal Lagoon, quite close by, is the largest man-made lake in Costa Rica when the Arenal River was dammed for hydroelectric production.
A whole town was submerged, and when you fly your drone over the lake, you can catch glimpses of the remnants of the town under the water. Another perk of flying here is that you can get some shots of the Arenal Volcano in the background, even if you can’t fly over it. Stunning pictures to be sure!
One thing to beware of flying here is that the electric fields are strong in the area due to the power plant, so keep your drone near you so as not to risk losing connection with your controller.
You can fly drones in many exciting and beautiful places, and none of them is too crowded with people, making for ideal conditions for getting great drone shots. You can fly a drone in Costa Rica whether you’re a local drone fan or if you’re a visitor wanting to explore its natural and cultural resources.
Keep the above regulations in mind to do it safely. Fly a drone legally in Costa Rica by following the rules. The experience will be unforgettable.