Road trip guide around Costa Rica

1 Jeep, 2 friends and 7 cities
Road trip guide through Costa Rica 1 - UKTR blog post

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:

Costa Rica road trip 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.

Roads Quickguide:

  • 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

Costa Rica Road Trip - typical road

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:

The highlight of the stay in Monteverde was probably the Extremo Canopy zip line tour. On this zip line tour you get to do The Superman and also the gut wrenching Tarzan Swing

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!


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Rodica M Lazar
I have a great job, great friends, travel the world and enjoy my lifestyle (and still have time to organise local networking events). I believe it's all worthwhile and you can do it too. If you want to see how I juggle a career and still explore the world, follow my adventures on The UK Travel Room
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3 Comments on this post.
  • A road trip guide around Costa Rica – part 2 – UK Travel Room
    22 March 2013 at 9:56 am

    […] America started. If you want read the first post of the road trip around Costa Rica you can read it here. Now it’s time for the next part of our […]

  • Sara Ford
    25 March 2013 at 4:49 pm

    Useful driving tips! Costa Rican roads are an adventure for sure!

  • Costa Rica Road Trip Guide – La Fortuna
    11 May 2016 at 2:16 pm

    […] started. If you want read about how our road trip around Costa Rica started, you can check it out here. Now it’s time for the next part of our […]

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