Getting around in Costa Rica

In a small country like Costa Rica, there are plenty of easy options to travel around from place to place.

Costa Rica is about the size of West Virginia; that said, it’s easy to understand how quickly one can get from one side of the country to another. Getting around is as simple as determining your preferences when it comes to transportation. Whether you go on your own steam or choose public transport, options are plentiful and with today’s modern technology, and the apps that go with that, it’s a breeze to find your way.

That said, unless you’re planning to spend all your time in San José while visiting Costa Rica, we think that renting a car is the easiest way to get out and see the sights.

And, within San José, traffic congestion can be a challenge. Taxis and Ubers are so cheap and plentiful that it just makes sense to leave the driving to a local. A cab into San José from the airport is about US$25 (everyone takes dollars).

Flying in Costa Rica

Juan Santamaria International (SJO) is the best choice if you plan to start your visit in San José, as it serves Costa Rica’s Central Valley. Daniel Oduber Quirós International Airport (LIR) is in Liberia, in Guanacaste’s north Pacific area (closer to Pacific Ocean beaches and Nicaragua).

There are several domestic airlines flying between San José, Liberia, and regional airports. Most of the regional carriers have strict baggage limits: one bag up to 30 lbs. and a carry-on of 10 lbs. SANSA is the leading regional airline, other local airlines include Aerobell, SkyWay, and Green Airways. TAC Airlines Costa Rica (the local branch of TAGuatemala) has announced scheduled domestic service to half a dozen regional airports sometime this 2019.

Rent a car

If you want to see more of Costa Rica on your own timetable, renting a car is your best bet. You can take side trips and stop when you like at hidden beaches, local eateries, and scenic points. You don’t need a 4-WD vehicle unless you’re going through dirt roads during the rainy season in Monteverde or down the Guanacaste coast or mountains.

The oldest independent rental company is Poas Rent a Car. Another local company is Adobe Rent a Car, which has more regional sites. If you’d like the option of a portable Wi-Fi hot spot connection, Adobe offers that choice. Watch out for extra fees and insurance charges that can add up quickly.

Insider tip: When you park your car outside, pay the unofficial parking attendant a couple of dollars to keep an eye on your it for you. It’s worth the peace of mind, and it’s also customary. If it’s available get into a private parking. Also watch out if there are parkimeters or parking tickets.

Take the bus

If you’re up for an adventure, take the bus; it’s very cheap and reliable. There are direct buses and those that stop along the way (dropping and picking up passengers). Travel light and keep an eye on your luggage. You can plan your route or follow your nose. Be sure to check out Travel On Costa Rica or Visit Costa Rica for ideas about.

  • Where to go?
  • What to do?
  • Where to stay, eat and drink? and
  • How to get there?

Hail a taxi or order an Uber

Costa Rica red taxis red cabs

Again, taxis are a cheap option, even in small towns. In the SJO Airport the taxis are orange. In the rest of the country the cabs are red. This two uses a taximeter, popularly known as “María”. Outside of San José, there are other kind of taxis called “porteadores” (means “from door to door services”). This kind not uses a meter. In that case the price is usually set, but sometimes open to negotiation. Tips are optional but welcomed.

Insider tip: The taxis does not stop on the road (the typical image of somebody whistling, for a short stop and board a cab). You must look for a red taxi stop, usually near of parks, supermarkets or shopping centers. Busy places. The “porteadores” as their own locals or mini terminals. In both cases is good to get an official taxi phone number. The habit is to phone call or via WhatsApp your friendly company.

Uber is also a great option in Costa Rica, and sometimes a bit more reliable as you can order your car to your door. likewise, Uber has the added benefit of not needing to pay with cash (some taxis take cards, but mostly in the city; this is not so common in beach towns).

No matter how you choose to get around in Costa Rica, you’ll love its natural beauty, friendly people, and the Pura Vida lifestyle, which, no matter how much of a hurry you typically are in life, will encourage you to stop and smell the flowers.