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car or no car

Beaverton, oregon
3 posts
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car or no car

We are going to costa rica in late aug/early sept. I've read alot about the roads being terrible to drive. My husband thinks it would be part of the adventure. We will be traveling with 2 boys 12 and 9. Going to Tamarindo, sumara, monteverde and arenal. What do you think, and if no car, what?

San Jose
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212 posts
1 review
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1. Re: car or no car

Rent a Toyota Rav 4 you will be fine , the roads are not all that bad some are some are not specialy around the Lake Arenal is full of holes but that is part of the adventure ,main road from SJ to La Fortuna is good , Whne you travel there go thru San Ramon and NOT ZALSERO as you will save time and is a better road and has less fogif you need more directions just ask.

Beaverton, oregon
3 posts
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2. Re: car or no car

Thank you blue eyed monkey. We will not be in SJ at all. We are flying into liberia and plan to head to the coast, moving south, then across to Monteverde and over arenal. Any comments regarding roads on Nicoya Peninsula?

San Jose
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212 posts
1 review
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3. Re: car or no car

Well I have not driven around Liberia for over a year but from what I hear they have been working on the roads up there , never the less they are not as good as the road toward the south , around Arenal Lake I know is still like is always been full of pot holes but I think is best that way to keep the trafic slow and lets you see wild life that other wise you would miss.

when you get to Arenal be sure to visit "La Fortuna Water Fall"is located on the road from La fortuna to Chacahgua about 2 miles out of town.

canada
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76 posts
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4. Re: car or no car

We returned recently from Costa Rica and we were happy with our decision NOT to drive. The roads may not be horrible but they are not great. Bridges were flooded and impassable and lots of potholes which could happen to you as well as you are also travelling in rainy season. Besides that we were able to take in our surroundings and see the country without having to keep our eyes on the road dodging potholes and watching directions etc.

Our driver/guide's email is albertoamador@gmail.com or cell 506 827 3117 if you want to check out alternatives. Great with kids!

Whatever you decide you will enjoy this lovely country.

Pura vida!!

San Francisco...
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299 posts
8 reviews
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5. Re: car or no car

We just got back a couple of weeks ago and found the roads to be much improved. We also flew into Liberia and drove to Tamarindo but focused more on going north from there...each of the beaches and towns is great and each is somewhat different...than going south to the Nicoya Penisula. We did spend a long weekend in Manuel Antonio, a five hour drive south though beautiful country and last yeat visited Aranal and Monteverde. The drive to Aranal is not bad though there are potholes but the drive to Monteverde is a real "trip", steep and often rough but with incredible vistas. All in all, I would prefer having someone I know to be a safe and reasonable driver than a bus or commercial driver for these trips. And though you didn't ask, check out Dragonfly and Fireflay for food in Tamarindo as well as the Great Waltini's in Playa Grande's Hotel Bula Bula, accessable by free water taxi. Your sons will have a blast!

New England
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179 posts
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6. Re: car or no car

If your husband (or you) are comfortable with driving, go for it. Like he said, it is part of the adventure. My kids, of similar ages, loved it every time we drove through a river (yes, there are some to cross) and it became a challenge to see how muddy we could get the car by the end of the day. It is easy to get lost so leave extra time, try not to drive at night, make sure the driver resists the temptation to "sightsee" while moving, wear your seatbelts and stay sober. You'll love it. Security can be an issue with a car so take all the warnings you read and hear seriously! Get a small 4x4 (mostly for the added ground clearance) and save the four wheel drive for AFTER you are stuck. Sometimes it's enough to get you out for another try. If you get stuck while in four wheel drive you don't have many options left but digging or a tow.

San Francisco...
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299 posts
8 reviews
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7. Re: car or no car

Philo makes some good points. Some others: the shortest distance is not always the most time saving. Roads change a lot over a short period of time as new ones are built and old ones washed out. Don't be afraid of asking other people for directions and about their driving experiences. Given where you are going to be, I prefer Hy. 21 which runs south from Liberia rather than the Pan American (Hy 1) as it a smoother road with less traffic. Also, the road side "soda's" and gas stations make good places to take a break.

Los Angeles
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2 posts
9 reviews
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8. Re: car or no car

If you drive nice and slow, no problems. Lots of potholes off of the highways. Also, I got popped twice for speeding. The "cops" like to hide in the bushes with radar guns and pop out to wave you down. 20,000 colons was the fine ($40) into the pocket of the "cop". So, keep the speed down and you'll be fine. Drive fast and get fined, a broken jaw from potholes, or worse.

nowhere
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872 posts
9 reviews
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9. Re: car or no car

We had a car for 2+ weeks and did have 2 flats. Luckily at locations were we could get someone to change it for us. But I did need to have Toyota send a brand new tire to Monteverde because the hole was so big.

That's bad part. And yes, the roads between Arenal and Monteverde and Monteverde and the Pan Am Highway dirt and rough, but I've driven worse in the caribbean. And we did find driving and getting directions (with one 16 YO spanish student doing te broken spanglish thing), but we also found a lot of nice Ticos that way and had the freedom to come and go as we pleased once at our destination. We went to Playa Potrero, north of Tamarindo and found the roads in the area ok, even the dirt ones.

We had a Rav4 and were 2 women and twin 16 yo girls, so for us, it was the macho challenge. It was a way to enjoy CR. But if you're seriously worried and that worry will spoil your vacation, the one person almost spoiled mine with horror stories of the Pan Am going to Dominical, then take the peace of mind on your first trip and plan a second one with the car. Turns out the road to Dominical was not really bad, just foggy (these are cloud forests) and slow with trucks, not the edge of the seat fearful thing we heard about.

The most important things to pack are common sense and humor. With them, you'll manage everything.

Cincinnati Ohio
9 posts
1 review
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10. Re: car or no car

Be sure to buy the insurance . If you use your credit card insurance be sure what the deductable is . If you have an accident contact the card company as soon as you can .Don't leave it up to the rental company . Be sure you get a written copy of the accident report . If driving in a rain storm never never turn off the road to the left through traffic . I did it was not pretty . No phalt insurance . No fighting over whose fault it is . If it is yours be prepared to pay the Tico's tow bill to San Jose . The rental company will bring you a car right away and pick up the broke one . Always use your turn signals when passing . If you see fresh cut limbs or brush in the road this is a sign of someone broke down ahead . Never drive at night . Remember it gets dark at 6:00 p.m. year round . I have rented cars over 20 times with no problem other than the 8000.00 wreck which was my fault . The defrosters don't work because they mostly don't exist is southern cars . Carry something to wipe the wind shield during a bad rain . The person driving is going to see nothing if they are doing thier job . Roads that were bad last year could now be new . Don't trust security guards .They could set you up to be robbed . La Fortuna waterfall is great but a tough climb back out . Take your bathing suit . Tabacon is beautiful (touristy )you can even go on a rainy day . Don' t plan on seeing the top of Arenal (maybe Maybe not ) .