Known for volcanoes and beaches, cloud forests and jungles, Costa Rica has a little bit of everything. The best part is that with its small, compact size, you can easily visit all of the country’s major highlights in a short visit. Now most backpackers are accustom to the hop-on, hop-off bus routine but if you have a little bit of extra room in your budget, I have a better option. Rent a car!
Costa Rica is one of the few countries in Latin America where I won’t feel bad for suggesting that option. The roads, in general, are decent and the other drivers aren’t as bad as many in Central America. There are also a lot more English speaking tourists visiting Costa Rica so if you do get lost, help is a bit easier to find.
Renting a Car
Renting a car in Costa Rica is very simple and common among travelers. Your normal driver’s license, from whichever country you live in, will be fine for the duration of your visa. Most of the major rental car companies are located in San Jose. The best method is to do a loop around the country, returning your car to San Jose at the end of your trip.
A good 4WD car can run your about $70/day, including tax and insurance. Always opt for a 4WD vehicle. The roads in Costa Rica can go from perfect, newly paved to dirt and dust in a heartbeat. Thankfully, most places are within a 2 – 5 hour drive of San Jose, so even if you do end up on a lousy road, it won’t be for long.
Road Trip Benefits
Jumping on a bus or plane to see a country sure makes it easy but just think about all the things you miss. In Costa Rica, taking even a short regional flight means missing half the country. Busses are great, unless you want to stop in random, remote areas. How many times have you passed something really cool looking on a bus, with no option of just hopping off for a second or two to check it out.
Read more: Chelsea Schmidt, Two Backpackers
One thought on “A Rental Car Road Trip Through Costa Rica”
I currently live in Costa Rica and I advise friends visiting to NOT rent a car. It is way expensive and potentially dangerous. The BEST option is to rent a driver with a car…runs about $80 for a full 8 hour day and the drivers carry the insurance, speak pretty good English (and are, of course, fluent in Spanish) AND often know where the best and most inexpensive places are! Also, you can stop where you want, watch the scenery instead of the road, and your schedule is your own….SO, rent a driver with a car – the Ticos (locals) appreciate the business and you have one less thing to worry about!