Instead of relying on buses or staying trapped at a resort, renting a car and exploring Costa Rica allows you to see the whole country. Road trips can take you from the beach to the jungle and back on your schedule, and they let you go from one end of the country to the other with ease. Before going on your Costa Rican road trip, you need to keep a few driving tips in mind. After that, you can consider some of the most popular routes and see which one sounds most appealing to you.
Driving in Costa Rica
As soon as you start planning your Costa Rican road trip, it is time to learn some basics. You will be driving on the right side of the road and should expect all signs to be in kilometers and Spanish. Expect the highway speed limit to be around 90 kilometers an hour (approximately 55 miles per hour); you should avoid speeding tickets, as the fines are expensive. No matter where in Costa Rica you are driving, stay alert and drive carefully since there may be careless drivers, potholes, or even dogs wandering the roads. If you plan to drive to remote or rural areas, you should rent a vehicle with four-wheel drive. While roads in cities are nearly always paved, that isn’t always the case in more rural areas or the paved roads may simply be poorly maintained. Frankly, exploring Costa Rica in a 4×4 is part of the fun.
Keeping our driving tips in mind, these are some of our favorite routes—starting with the Nicoya Peninsula. The peninsula delivers truly impressive sights. Leaving from San Jose begins with a trip on the ferry. If you plan to drive in this area, 4×4 is a must, as the roads aren’t always in great condition, but it is well worth it. You can visit numerous secluded beaches and see cities like Cabuya, Montezuma, and Santa Teresa.
Orosi Valley is just an hour and a half away from San Jose and is filled with hillsides and winding mountain roads, all with picturesque views. While driving through the area, you will have access to waterfalls, the ruins of colonial churches, and street markets full of intriguing food, arts, and crafts.
If you have access to a truly capable car and enough experience to feel confident, then check out the beauty of the Osa Peninsula on a road trip. You will find pristine shorelines, twisting jungles, and lots of wildlife, including monkeys. There are barely any proper roads, so consult a local guide, plan your route carefully, and have fun in a 4×4.
Rio Celeste is pretty close to Arenal and ideal if you rent a car while there. The river seems to be vibrant turquoise due to concentrations of aluminosilicate particles that scatter the light in a marvelous optical illusion. It is well worth a side trip from Arenal and other nearby areas to enjoy its beauty. You can also go hiking in the Tenorio Volcano National Park. Enjoy all of your time in Costa Rica by car.