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Erica
Kansas City (Missouri)

Costa Rica

Driving in Costa Rica?

We are looking into vacationing in CR in December or January, it will be a group of four adults... We are staying for a week, and are debating staying in two separate locations. For those who have been, how is driving in CR? Is it easy to get around? Should we try to stick to the same coast?
If local flying is better, did you make your flight arrangements online?

Thanks! Erica


11 Answers

answered by
Michael from San Diego

I've done a lot of driving in Costa Rica and it really all depends upon where you are headed.  The Pacific Coast has some good roads (e.g. between San Joseand Manuel Antonio or the Guanacaste and  area).  It also has some tricky ones (e.g. MonteverdeNicoya).  

If you are up for an adventure, you'll do just fine.  It'll help to speak Spanish (if you need help) and to have a Google Maps app on your phone (it works quite well, but not perfectly, in CR).  The locals are very friendly and there area a fair number of services on most of the roads that we've traveled. 

Car rentals are certainly available but they aren't cheap -- the cost of insurance pretty much doubles the quotes you'll see online.  Some people buy their insurance in advance from online rental services and it could cut the insurance costs a bit.  But be careful, as Insurance and Damage Waivers are a major source of income for the rental agencies because they are basically pure profit.  So read up on SLI, CDW and Zero Liability policies before you read over there. 


Mentioned in this answer:

VIEW DETAILED MAP
  1. Costa Rica (attraction)
  2. San Jose (city)
  3. Manuel Antonio (region)
  4. Guanacaste (region)
  5. Monteverde (attraction)
  6. Nicoya (city)
1 thankscomments (1)


answered by
RosalieAnn

You might want to ask for an automatic transmission car with 4WD for the trip to Monteverde.  Even if you don't actually use the 4WD because of a muddy road, usually they have more road clearance which is useful when there are deep potholes.  If there is rain, the potholes fill up with water and it is hard to tell how deep they are.


1 thanks


answered by
Watzisname from Chicago

We flew into LIB, drove from LIB to Arenal, fantastic drive, great roads!! We then drove from Arenal Volcano National Park to Monteverde- absolutely terrible driving experience. Roads are intentionally unpaved, at times, we were averaging 10kph. Took us 8 hours overall with occasional breaks, in an intermediate SUV. Drive back from Monteverde to LIB was much easier, since we were able to get back onto a highway from there. We spent a couple of nights in Guanacaste before flying back stateside. 

My recommendation: if these are your 2 locations (and they are awesome locations), don't take a rental car. Not worth the amount you pay with the cost of insurance and I hear the jeep-ferry-jeep option from Arenal to Monteverde is very scenic too!

Enjoy beautiful Costa Rica. Pura Vida!!


Mentioned in this answer:

VIEW DETAILED MAP
  1. Arenal Volcano National Park (attraction)
  2. Monteverde (attraction)
  3. Guanacaste (region)
  4. Costa Rica (attraction)
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answered by
Rocio from Costa Rica

Hello Erika! Not much to add...outstanding answers from RosalieAnn.  However, let me recommend Mal Pais and Santa Teresa beaches located in Northern Pacific of Costa Rica. They are gems...not very crowded beaches, excellent food surrounded by friendly people....outstanding sunsets! Villas Hermosas is very recommended in terms of accommodation.  They are also located pretty close to Monteverde Cloud Forest and Guanacaste province which also owns a lot of outstanding beaches.

 if you need further assistance, please let me know.

Pura vida!!



Mentioned in this answer:

VIEW DETAILED MAP
  1. Mal Pais (city)
  2. Santa Teresa (city)
  3. Costa Rica (attraction)
  4. Villas Hermosas (attraction)
  5. Monteverde Cloud Forest (attraction)
  6. Guanacaste (region)
1 thankscomments (1)


answered by
RosalieAnn

If you are not interested in going into San Jose at all, you can stay out at the Airport San José and rent a car from there.  I've stayed both at the Hampton Inn (free breakfast, shuttle to the airport and to restaurants for dinner - right across the street from the airport) and at the Trapp Family Country Inn which is about a mile from the airport.  They have breakfast and dinner, and you can get a shuttle to the airport.  I liked San Jose, but some people have no interest in going there.  

Driving to La Fortuna, we stopped off at Sarchi to shop for gifts at the factory shops, and also we stopped to see the topiary in Zarcero Agricola LagunaWe actually stayed at Nuevo Arenal when we were there - within sight of the volcano.

You will need to take your time driving to Monteverde Cloud Forest I think 4WD is still advisable.  But the roads to Manuel Antonio National Park are pretty good.  We stayed at the San Bada hotel which has secure parking and is right at the park entrance.  


Mentioned in this answer:

VIEW DETAILED MAP
  1. San Jose (city)
  2. Airport San José (restaurant)
  3. La Fortuna (attraction)
  4. Sarchi (attraction)
  5. Zarcero Agricola Laguna (attraction)
  6. Nuevo Arenal (city)
  7. Monteverde Cloud Forest (attraction)
  8. Manuel Antonio National Park (attraction)
1 thanks


answered by
RosalieAnn

As for maps - Paper maps are always a good idea, but I got the Costa Rican maps put on my GPS that I brought from home.   I think you can get a GPS when you rent a car also (for an additional cost).

I think it is still good advice not to drive at night in the back country.  (where the roads are unpaved and there are no lights)

Other than Tortuguero National Park which you really cannot drive all the way to, it is possible to drive almost everwhere else in Costa Rica, but for efficiency of time, sometimes it is better to fly.


 


Mentioned in this answer:

VIEW DETAILED MAP
  1. Tortuguero National Park (attraction)
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answered by
RosalieAnn

Right - do not try to drive in San Jose

But for navigation purposes, be aware that the streets are not numbered in sequence.  The even numbered streets are on one side of the central street and the odd numbered ones on the other side.  So they go

1st, 3rd, 5th, 7th in one direction and 2nd, 4th, 6th and 8th in the other direction.


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answered by
mike

driving is very easy over most of the country however San Jose traffic can be a real challenge.  


Mentioned in this answer:

VIEW DETAILED MAP
  1. San Jose (city)
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answered by
Gary from Winston Salem

Hi. We have rented a SUV and driven each time we have visited CR. With no issues. Easy to get around. We do not speak Spanish. Waze or the old-fashioned map is needed. The biggest thing to know: the rental price sometimes doubles when they add the insurance which is required by law.


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answered by
John

Regarding flying inside CR: last summer we flew American Airlines on day 1 expecting to fly on Nature Air to Puerto Jimenez on day 2.  AA could not get us out of SLC to make our connection in Miami, so it cost us money to  reschedule Nature Air.  Departing, AA was also a day late.  Lesson: allow some time in San Jose in case your US carrier is unreliable.


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answered first by
RosalieAnn

The roads in Costa Rica are better than they were 20 years ago when I first went, and whether flying or driving is better depends on what locations you are thinking of visiting. 

For Tortuguero (which I think has the greatest animal sightings) you have to go by boat.  So it is best to take a bus tour from San Jose which takes you to the boat that takes you to the place where you are staying.  If you are thinking of staying someplace else on the Caribbean coast, you can drive.

For Arenal Volcano National Park or Monteverde you can drive but the roads are deliberately unpaved in the Monteverde area so the driving pace will of necessity be leisurely.  

For the west coast Manuel Antonio National Park is pretty easy to drive to.  Drake Bay , Corcovado National Park Ranger Station,  it is probably better to fly.  If you are going to Tamarindo, you might want to fly directly into the Liberia airport instead of going to San Jose.

For each of the trips I have done, I used a Costa Rica travel agent - Pat Hewitt of what used to be Costa Rican Travel Exchange.  He's from the USA but lives in Costa Rica.

http://www.lovecostarica.com/


Mentioned in this answer:

VIEW DETAILED MAP
  1. Tortuguero (city)
  2. Arenal Volcano National Park (attraction)
  3. Monteverde (city)
  4. Manuel Antonio National Park (attraction)
  5. Drake Bay (attraction)
  6. Corcovado National Park Ranger Station (attraction)
  7. Tamarindo (city)
1 thankscomments (1)




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