If you’re looking to cover some of Central America on your travels then I’d strongly recommend you look at driving round Costa Rica for a couple of weeks. Here’s the route map:
The country itself is quite small so driving from place to place isn’t that far in terms of distance. If driving on rugged terrain on a 4 x 4 is your idea of an adventure then this is the trip for you So please, read on!
If you’re thinking of driving around Costa Rica then you’ll definitely need a 4 x 4. Costa Rica has some very rocky and uneven roads and even in the dry season (which tends to be between December and April) you’ll still need good ground clearance.
- There are a lot of main roads around San Jose
- There is one main highway in the country (Highway 1)
- There are numerous dirt tracks on the outskirts of towns
- Up in the mountains there are a lot of rocky mountain roads that are very slow and winding
Stage 1: The Rainforest
After landing in San Jose I’d recommend just getting an airport hotel as we discovered when returning from the 2 weeks road trip, San Jose is not a place you particularly want to spend much time in…. but more about San Jose later.
We spent the night in a hotel near San Jose airport to shake off the jetlag and set off the next morning. We decided to visit the rainforest to start off and Monteverde was the stop so Eva got for us a Toyota Rav 4 (well priced from Alamo). The main roads overlap a little in San Jose so it took a while after getting lost a little, but we were finally heading in the right direction (North West!) up the mountainous rainforest region of Monteverde. Unfortunately though, the drive was not without incident on our first day on the road as we managed to puncture a tyre on route before hitting the rocky roads, see tip below to give you an idea how we got this!
Quick Driving Tip:
Don’t try and drive like you would in your own country, people do not follow the same rules and take particular care when crossing small bridges that only fit a single car’s width comfortably on them.
Fortunately, we had some very friendly locals help us out and we soon found out that there are plenty of tyre shops in Costa Rica which is largely linked to the condition of some of the roads.
As we climbed up higher to the rainforest region of Montverde we quickly noticed that the climate changes in a short distance and this was something that became a common feature of the trip. From the relatively warm climes of San Jose at around 28 degrees C it soon dropped to a misty, rainy 15 degrees with the wind making it feel much colder. I’d compare it to being in Scotland on a poor summers’ day J
Once we got to Monteverde we stayed at a nice little hostel called Camino Verde. It’s was a very nice friendly place ran by two main guys, Andres’ and Jose.
What to do when you’re there:
For the next part of the trip we travelled over to La Fortuna and the Arenal Volcano region. I’ll leave the details of that for part II of the blog though, as I’ve realised this post is already getting a bit lengthy!