Do you need to rent a car in Costa Rica? Well, this is a large country in a relatively small territory (51100 km2). There are many beaches, mountains, natural and cultural attractions, activities and tours to do. Some doubts might arise as to the ideal means of transportation to travel the country. The answer is “it depends”. It is necessary, to take into account the length of the stay, which areas would you like to visit and how comfortable do you feel driving.
DISTANCE IS NOT THE SAME AS TIME
Many visitors often think that getting from point A to point B is fast, because of the size of the country. However, Costa Rica’s geography and geology could make the simplest trip a bit more complicated. Plus, there are no wide highways so reaching those paradisiacal beaches or tropical forests will take some time.
Many of the roads in Costa Rica drive through our beautiful mountains, so if you are not used to driving on curvy roads, slopes, a lot of rain or even fog, consider hiring a shuttle service or travel by public bus to the main touristic points. If required, you can rent a car to move only in the area you visit, but consider that these services only exist in the main touristic areas like La Fortuna, Manuel Antonio, Tamarindo or Monteverde. Some areas by the coast such as Puerto Viejo, for example, can easily cruised on a bicycle. But if you go to Guanacaste, you will prefer to travel by car from one beach to another, since the distances are longer.
A trip of 3 to 6 hours to reach that hidden paradise that you want to visit can be an adventure. If you go to the beach, or the mountain the most recommended is a four-wheel drive car since you will probably find unpaved roads. Go off the beaten path and seize your Costa Rica adventure!
The public transportation service outside the capital is quite extensive. So if you’re willing to sacrifice some comfort, this is a fairly good and very economic option. With some patience and a explorer spirit you can get to almost anywhere in Costa Rica by public bus.
WHEN YOU ARE IN THE CAPITAL, YOU DO NOT NEED A CAR
Getting around San Jose Costa Rica is quite easy. It’s a small city, and downtown can be walked without a problem. You can visit the museums, go to the parks and the main attractions by foot. There are also bicycles that you can rent to move into the city and there’s also a bike lane. You can see our article about the use of bicycles in San José.
If you want to go out at night, there are many activities to enjoy the nightlife in San Jose, you can take a taxi or Uber that will not be expensive.
If you are going to rent a car in San José, you should consider that parking is not that easy. An hour of parking can cost around $2 in a private parking lot or $1 on the street. You should also consider if the accommodation where you are going to stay has parking spaces for the car since downtown hotels or hostels do not necessarily have this facility.
HOW MUCH SHOULD YOU PAY?
The prices of car rentals fluctuate depending on the time of the year, the type of car, the company, the supply, and demand.
Generally, prices are higher during the high season (December to April and also July). If you are going to visit the country in the busiest time (especially at Christmas, New Year and Easter) rentals may be sold out, so be sure to rent your car with enough time in advance.
Prices in the low season (green season) can be very attractive, especially between September or October. Check out Matt & Jenn blog explaining with great detail the car rental process in Costa Rica.
SOME CAR RENTAL RECOMMENDATIONS
Mapache Rent-a-Car: Local company focused on quality and customer service.
Adobe Rent a car: It is the largest local car rental company in Costa Rica.
Flamingo Rent-a-Car: They offer a personalized service to tourists, businessmen and locals.