Yes. Holders of U.S. (American) passports may currently travel to 186 countries without having to obtain a visa in advance of travel. These countries allow either visa-free entry or issue visas on arrival.
But, a U.S. passport does not guarantee entry to any country. Each country’s border control is still free to decide whether or not to allow entry to a particular individual.
Travel to some countries, or regions is also restricted beyond the typical need for a visa. For example:
- North Korea. To travel to North Korea one must have special validation from the U.S. Department of state- North Korea International Travel.
- Cuba. Travel to Cuba requires special authorization – Cuba International Travel.
- Mecca. U.S. citizens who are not Muslim are not allowed to visit Mecca and certain parts of Medina in Saudi Arabia – Hajj and Umrah.
Wikipedia does a great job at listing places that restricted or require special permission. The prudent traveler will inquire before heading out to the airport, better yet, before buying a ticket.
Costa Rica is not one of those countries that require U.S. passport holders have a visa to enter the country.
Typically, to enter Costa Rica trouble free, the individual must not be on the Interpol list of wanted or suspected of having ties to drug trafficking or organized crime, for example.
The passport should have at least six months of life and be in good condition, though the two items are not necessarily strictly enforced and all depends on the immigration official.
An example of that is an article by Claus, posted in June 2017, where he was denied entry into Costa Rica and had to buy a ticket to Guatemala, in order to continue my trip in Central America.
Though Claus is not an American, he was born and raised in a small village in southern Denmark, another country that does not require a visa to enter Costa Rica, the same experience could apply to a U.S. passport holder.
“At the immigration in San Jose, I was greeted by a friendly young man who welcomed me to Costa Rica. He took my passport and flipped a little through the pages. Then he started inspecting it more closely. My passport is quite battered as I travel +300 days a year and have done so for more than a decade. It’s not broken though and has worked fine for me when visiting 75 countries around the world. I have crossed borders more than 500 times without ever having problems.
“I could not have been denied entry to Costa Rica by a friendlier bunch,” wrote .
Another issue often faced by Americans and many other no visa required countries is the length of time one can stay as a visitor.
The rule is a maximum of 90 days – not three months as is often said. For example, the month of February always has less than 30 days. If you came in today, February 10, 2019, you would be incorrect to say you can stay to May 10, 2019. Your visitor visa would actually expire on May 12, 2019. However, if you came in on June 1, for example, you 90 days are up on August 29.
Of course, your visitor time granted is up to the immigration official at the time of entry. I have seen (sent to me) entry stamps of Americans for 7 and 14 days.