How to Have an Epic Road Trip in Costa Rica

How to Have an Epic Road Trip in Costa Rica

Road trips come in many shapes and forms. Some people like to rent a car when they arrive to explore the country on their own terms while others visit as part of a larger trip. The adventurous might ride a motorbike or cycle and camp while those looking for comfort could stay in some of the Costa Rica luxury homes. It doesn’t matter what style of trip you want to take as long as you have the sense of adventure. Here are the essentials about road tripping in Costa Rica.

Why Costa Rica?

It’s said that you can get any experience you want in Costa Rica. From the lush rainforests and vast array of wildlife to the long stretches of beach and colonial towns, the diversity is sure to amaze. You get the sense of having a real adventure too. As you pass through the countryside and rural villages, it gives the feeling of being far off the beaten path. But within a few hours, you’re back in a place with a developed infrastructure. Costa Rica combines the very best of everything.

What to Expect on a Road Trip

As you drive (or cycle) around the country, you’ll pass through some of the world’s most stunning landscapes. Expect to see everything from volcanoes and mountains to monkeys trying to cross the road. Bring your camera, take things slow and embrace the environment you’re travelling through.

The next advantage is the warm and hospitable nature of the locals. Drive by and stop at some of the villages for a drink and meet the smiling and friendly Costa Ricans. Kids wave and the older ones will go to great lengths to help you out. Nothing can be more rewarding and inspiring than experiencing their world famous hospitability. After all, there must be a reason why they get rated as one of the world’s happiest nations time and time again.

This point is for those who plan to get a car when they arrive. Just be aware that car rentals are often quite expensive in Costa Rica, and you might be looking at spending several hundred dollars for a week. Insurance is mandatory too. It’s a good idea to get 4×4 to factor roads conditions especially if you want to get off the beaten path. You should also try to plan your trip in the dry season. Torrential downpours and muddy road conditions aren’t the ideal way to start a road trip!

Where to Visit

If you’re flying into Costa Rica, the chances are you’ll arrive at Juan Santamaria International Airport. From here you can rent a car and start your epic road trip. Spend a few days in the capital San Jose and explore the surroundings. Then head to Fortuna and see the famous Arenal Volcano. The primary forest has endless types of flora and fauna. After spending a night or two here, go to Monteverde. This cloud-forest reserve in a jungle paradise transforms into a mystical paradise when the clouds descend. One a clear day, you can see both the Caribbean Sea and the Pacific Ocean from the top.

Liberia should be the next stop. The town near the Nicoya Peninsula has an attractive old quarter and colonial charm. After driving over the last few days, consider spending a night or two in Liberia to recuperate and soak up the culture. You can find a range of restaurants and hotels here. The final stage of the road trip loops around the Nicoya Peninsula and heads back down the Pacific Coastline to San Jose.

If you’re driving on a pans-America road trip, you’re probably going to arrive in Liberia travelling from Nicaragua in the north. You can either follow the suggested route in reverse to San Jose or drive along the coast. If you have the time, the Caribbean Coast is worth exploring too for its beaches, culture and more laid-back approach.

Tips and Warnings

Having an epic road trip through Costa Rica is no easy task. There are challenges you’re likely to encounter and should prepare yourself. Anyone who’s passing through on a large Central American road trip will probably find the trip in Costa Rica to be slightly less hair-raising!

If you’re renting a car when you arrive at the airport, prepare yourself for the relatively poor quality of driving. The locals tend to speed, drive aggressively and ignore traffic laws when it suits them. Some of the roads also full of potholes and can be dangerous to use after dark. The next consideration with the roads is that many tend to be steep with lots of curves up the mountains. Sometimes there’s a barrier that separates you from the almost vertical drop below; other times not. And when you combine this with the driving habits of locals, it can lead to a white-knuckle experience.

Compared to other parts of Central America, Costa Rica feels very safe. But this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be careful. Petty crime and theft still happen. Use common sense and don’t leave valuables inside the car or make sure you keep your bicycle in a safe place. And when you do park, always be wary of the surroundings.

The Perfect Road Trip

There are countless reasons why Costa Rica makes the perfect place for a road trip. Breath-taking landscapes, friendly and smiling locals and the diversity in wildlife to name a few. Prepare yourself for the driving, road quality and have a rough idea of the route you want to follow. And get ready to have one of the best adventures of your life.

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