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Driving in Costa Rica

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Oakland, Ca
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Driving in Costa Rica

We're planning on going to CR next week for 10 days. Landing in San Jose, then going to Arenal, Monte Verde, Cahuita, and back to San Jose. The question is, should we rent a car or use local buses and shuttles? I drive a 4WD truck here in the US, but almost never actually use the 4WD, and we're a bit concerned about driving in the rainy season there. Anyone have advice about which alternative they would choose?

San Jose, Costa Rica
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1. Re: Driving in Costa Rica

You can do it without 4x4...nice to have a car...BUT of course you can save some money with public buses and shuttles...


Chicago, Illinois
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for Costa Rica
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2. Re: Driving in Costa Rica

I hope you're not doing this trip in the order presented as it makes a lot more sense to drive San Jose/Monteverde/Arenal/Cahuita/San Jose and will save you significant driving time.

You're covering a lot of ground in 10 days so I wouldn't rely on public buses except perhaps for the last leg back to San Jose, as the buses are definitely slower than shared shuttle buses or driving yourself. No public bus from Monterverde to Arenal. You'd need to transfer buses to get from Arenal to Cahuita making a long day's travel really longggg.

I think whether you drive or not depends on how you feel about driving in a foreign country where signage is not particuarly good and you will have to stop on occasion and ask locals for directions. The only unpaved roads you will encounter are to and from Monteverde which is steep and again around Cahuita which is all dead flat and easy driving. Renting a GPS would help with wayfinding but is not essential if you have a good map.

I've traveled both ways in Costa Rica and liked both options.

Belgium, Wisconsin
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3. Re: Driving in Costa Rica

We just got back from Costa Rica. Our itinerary was similar: San Jose/Monteverde/Arenal/Puerto Viejo/San Jose. We rented a 4wd vehicle and loved it. Had no regrets with driving in Costa Rica and for the most part felt comfortable. We also had beautiful weather. It barely rained the three weeks we were there. The only rained we encountered driving was on the way back to San Jose on 32 as we went through Braulio Carrillo. I would not hesitate renting if you can afford it.

Cahuita, Costa Rica
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for Cahuita
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4. Re: Driving in Costa Rica

If you are concerned about driving in the rain; try to plan to drive in the mornings as it mostly rains in the afternoons. Renting a vehicle allows you a lot more freedom in your travels. You can stop when you see a beautiful view, inviting beach or simply to eat when you feel hungry, rather than being tied to a bus schedule.

Your itinerary sounds managable and will allow you to see lots of the country. Have a great vcation!

Central Penna
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5. Re: Driving in Costa Rica

It also helps to know how many people are in your party and the number of suitcases. Many of the autos are on the small size and can't carry many bags. We rented a Mitsubishi Montero for two weeks, it was a 4x4, but also important that it could hold five full size suitcases and five passengers.

6. Re: Driving in Costa Rica

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