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Driving from SJO to Hilton, Papagayo, Guanacaste, CR

Lakewood Ranch...
posts: 177
reviews: 176
Driving from SJO to Hilton, Papagayo, Guanacaste, CR

Has anyone done this drive recently? I hear the roads are in good condition.

We are flying into SJO on purpose as we wanted to drive and see some of Costa Rica before we get to our all-inclusive (not as thrilled about the drive back, but worth a little inconvenience to see some scenery).

We arrive at 11:30a and plan to be at the resort by 5:30p at the latest to avoid driving at night. We are seasoned travelers and not timid - just want to know if there is anything we should specifically plan for such as amazing sights along the way, tolls, or traffic jams to expect.

posts: 4
1. Re: Driving from SJO to Hilton, Papagayo, Guanacaste, CR


It is correct, all roads from SJ to Papagayo are in good condition (not US highways, but good roads).

Route 27 (less than 5 USD tolls) its the best and safest for the first half of the trip, althougt theres nothing but mountains along the way.

If you want to stop in a couple of little towns (Grecia, Palmares, San Ramon, Esparza) i suggest route 1. This towns arent so exiting for some ticos but could be something interesting and local to see for foreing visitors.

Since beaches are not the only amazing attractions in CR, it could be great if you take a tour to a volcano. There are 2 of them really close to SJ with nice towns near. (like 1:30 hours from SJ driving by yourself (you REALLY need a GPS for driving here).

Let me know if you have more questions.

Edited: 10:34 pm, April 21, 2013
Costa Rica
posts: 24,260
reviews: 26
2. Re: Driving from SJO to Hilton, Papagayo, Guanacaste, CR

From the airport, there are two ways to go for the first part of the trip: North on Rt 1 and using the new toll road Rt 27. For Rt 27, you will need some colones because there are tolls. You can get colones from an ATM at the airport before you exit the terminal. Rt 27 is somewhat faster and avoids most of the mountainous areas.

However, Rt 1 does have some scenic quality going through the mountains. There used to be a lot of big trucks on this highway that tended to slow things down, but with Rt 27 opening, a lot of them use that. (Many of the big trucks travel back and forth to San Jose from the port of Caldera which is near Puntarenas.)

A good stopping point would be Esparza. Esparza is located after Rt 27 joins back to Rt 1 or after you have left the more mountainous area if you travel all the way on Rt 1.

There are several restaurants in Esparza as well as many fruit and food vendors. There are also supermarkets, if you want to stop for something there. One of the restaurants has a great view of the Golfo de Nicoya from the back of the property. Once you have passed the traffic light, look for a reddish brick building on the left just before a long downhill. (Sorry, don't know the name.) Park in back and your luggage will be safe in your car. (Sitting inside, you can see your car the whole time - it's open air.)

After Esparza, the next stopping point would be in Limonal. This is where you would turn to go over the Friendship Bridge (Puente de Amistad) for the Nicoya Peninsula. There are several restaurants here - I highly recommend Las Tres Hermanas - they have some the best barbecue you can imagine. Or -- just for a snack. Also - there's safe parking with luggage in your car.

Now you have a choice: Cross the Friendship Bridge and head for Nicoya and go north on Rt 21 or stay on Rt 1 to Liberia and then turn left onto Rt 21. You might go one way and then return the other way.

If you go by way of Canas, you can stop at Las Pumas Wildlife Rescue Center and see the animals there, including big jungle cats. At nearby Rincon Corobici, you can arrange a float trip (for the same day) and have a meal. You can also have an excellent (although pricey) meal at La Pacifica which is almost next door to Las Pumas.

North of Canas, you can stop at Llanos del Cortes waterfall which is about 20 minutes north of Canas - it will be a left-hand turn.

Going by Nicoya and Rt 21 might be a good idea because there is road construction on Rt 1 between Canas and Liberia. It's not bad -- they are building additional lanes -- but kind of stressful to drive. (And not nearly as pretty as it used to be!)

Another option: Take one of the shared van shuttles and rent a car in Liberia. Lots less stress for you. Just sit back and enjoy the ride.

San Jose, Costa Rica
posts: 43,337
3. Re: Driving from SJO to Hilton, Papagayo, Guanacaste, CR

EAsy and nice road all the way...Just buckle up and enjoy the ride in PARADISE!


Lakewood Ranch...
posts: 177
reviews: 176
4. Re: Driving from SJO to Hilton, Papagayo, Guanacaste, CR

Thank you so much. Your suggestions were amazingly thorough and I appreciate it more than you can know. I so love trip advisor contributors. <3

5. Re: Driving from SJO to Hilton, Papagayo, Guanacaste, CR

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