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Driving in Costa Rica

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Englewood, Florida
posts: 3
reviews: 1
Driving in Costa Rica

We are flying into the San Jose Airport (SJO) on Dec. 18, 2013. We are renting a car and driving from the airport to the city of Liberia in the Guanacaste Province via Hwy. 1. This is our first visit to Costa Rica. What is the condition of Hwy.1? We would appreciate any driving advice (especially about this highway) from more experienced travelers. Thank you!

San Jose, Costa Rica
posts: 41,965
1. Re: Driving in Costa Rica

Hway one going North is in good condition....but maybe you can try road 27 all the way pass Caldera...Barranca ..back to Hwy 1 all the way to Liberia..

Hway 1 by San Ramon can be slow...a lot of heavy trucks most of the time..

Roadadvisor

Edited: 1:43 am, August 02, 2013
Slovenia
Destination Expert
for Costa Rica
posts: 7,013
reviews: 57
2. Re: Driving in Costa Rica

It is true that driving on PanAm 1 (Hwy 1) is slower, and there are several trucks on road. But thus you will have time to enjoy spectacular views. Driving on Road 27 is faster, yet also put more pressure on first time driver in Costa Rica.

Costa Rica
posts: 22,777
reviews: 26
3. Re: Driving in Costa Rica

HIghway 1 is paved and in good condition - with a few exceptions, just like any highway anywhere. It's two-lane with very limited passing lanes in a couple of areas.

It is a main artery for transportation, including tractor trailers, little trucks, motorbikes and you will sometimes encounter pedestrians in the road.

The highway goes gradually up and up until you reach a mountainous area that can be slow going if there are a lot of big trucks. But, as Xelas said, the scenery is beautiful.

Highway 27 is an alternative that will take you from Alajuela (where the airport is located) and re-join Highway 1 near Puntarenas. It is new and has more passing lanes and no mountainous areas and so is a bit faster - although there are toll booths.

From the airport to the town of Liberia is about 4 hours. There are convenient stopping points along the way but be careful if you stop at an obvious tourist restaurant or tourist stop because there are sometimes thieves who will do a "smash and grab" if you leave your luggage in your car. Avoid these places or cover up your luggage or park your car very near your table if stopping at a restaurant. (Most restaurants are open-air) Never leave ANYTHING valuable in your car. Bring a daypack and keep all your valuables in that and keep that with you.

Portsmouth, Virginia
posts: 250
reviews: 75
4. Re: Driving in Costa Rica

If I were you I would take Hwy 1. It might take a little longer but it is the most direct, easy to navigate and scenic choice. You may want to rent a GPS also, it takes almost all of the stress out of navigating.

While no one else has mentioned it, please take your time, drive slowly, give plenty of room to the other vehicles on the roads, and stay at or below the speed limit. The transit police vigorously enforce speed and set up on the roadside with handheld radar, they will flag you over if you are speeding. Better to arrive without incident than to get a ticket or worse.

The roads overall are good, but you aren't in the US. The other drivers can do extraordinarily illogical things on the road, and that occasional large pothole or missing manhole cover can really mess up your day.

Stay vigilant, drive slowly, and enjoy the scenery, you are in for a treat.

Fort Collins...
posts: 907
reviews: 1
5. Re: Driving in Costa Rica

Not trying to cause people to drive recklessly, or get a $600 speeding ticket. Even driving 10-15km over the speed limit I still noticed locals on my butt. A speeding ticket will cost you a lot, but the locals seem to know when and where to push the limit, watch your speed near towns

Portsmouth, Virginia
posts: 250
reviews: 75
6. Re: Driving in Costa Rica

I notice the locals driving like demons. When one gets on my bumper, I slow a bit, ease to the right and wave them around to pass. More than once I've done that, let them pass and passed them a few minutes later, pulled over by the transitos getting a ticket . They DO NOT always know.

Costa Rica
posts: 22,777
reviews: 26
7. Re: Driving in Costa Rica

Don't pay any attention to how the "locals" drive - except to stay out of their way! lol Just drive sensibly and sanely and don't speed or pass on the double line.

Nowhere
Destination Expert
for Playa Samara
posts: 2,801
reviews: 62
8. Re: Driving in Costa Rica

Yes, SOME locals know where the cops are. I used to drive the same stretch of road (roughly 300 km) at least twice a week for ten years - sometimes more often. Not only did I know where cops would likely be waiting, but I also knew where they could potentially wait - that is, where speed checks would make sense or yield a good "harvest." Heck, some of the cops knew me from seeing me drive by so often...

When I first moved to CR, I would occasionally speed in order to make my trips shorter. It took me just a few times to realize that, even given the length of my drive, I would save ten minutes at best. For the benefit of those ten minutes, I endangered others and myself - not to mention that I arrived completely stressed out. Ever since, I embrace a very slow pace while driving. I just don't care about the few minutes I might potentially save.

The reality is that you NEED to stick to the speed limit. It's there for a reason and the few minutes you can potentially save are not worth the risks you are taking.

Grecia, Costa Rica
Destination Expert
for Province of Alajuela
posts: 6,475
reviews: 36
9. Re: Driving in Costa Rica

Agree with Framp & Hattie, go the speed limit and you will have no issues. As mentioned roads are in good shape for the most part.

Englewood, Florida
posts: 3
reviews: 1
10. Re: Driving in Costa Rica

Appreciate the advice from everyone. Thanks very much taking the time to reply!