Are you excited about embarking on a memorable road trip by driving in Costa Rica? Renting a car is the ideal option to explore the beauty of this country. However, before you hit the road, it’s essential to know a few things.

If you’ve been dreaming of visiting Costa Rica for a long time and have finally planned your own road trip, then you’re in for a treat! Despite being a small country, Costa Rica boasts mountainous terrains with winding dirt roads and occasional river crossings, which can make your first driving experience an adventure. But fret not, as I have visited this country several times and always opted for a rental car.

If you’re looking for an unforgettable vacation, the best way to experience Costa Rica’s stunning landscapes is to rent a car and explore the country on your own. This gives you the freedom to stop at every waterfall, volcano, beach, and national park along the way.

To help you make the most of your road trip, here are some important tips I learned about driving in Costa Rica that will ensure you’re ready to hit the road and explore the “Rich Coast” with confidence.

Is Driving in Costa Rica a Good Idea?

If you prefer independent travel, renting a car in Costa Rica can offer you the freedom to stop at any cool place you find along the way without being tied to a set schedule or timetable. While there is a public bus system available, it may not always be the most efficient way to get around the country as some of the back roads can be very rough and muddy. Moreover, some local drivers may not follow the traffic rules. Nevertheless, with some practice, you can gain confidence in driving in Costa Rica. One of the benefits of having a car is the ability to store things in the trunk, allowing you to explore towns with just a small travel backpack instead of hauling luggage everywhere. On the other hand, if you prefer group tours, booking a bus tour is also an option for experiencing Costa Rica.

Many visitors to the country are drawn to the idea of exploring all that it has to offer through self-driving. However, the question remains: is driving in Costa Rica a good idea?

The answer is not straightforward, as it depends on several factors, including your driving experience, comfort level, and the type of trip you are planning. In this article, we will discuss the pros and cons of driving in Costa Rica, so you can decide whether it is the right choice for you.

Renting a car can be a cost-effective option if you are traveling in a group or planning an extended trip. It eliminates the need for expensive tours or taxis, and you can save money on transportation costs in the long run.

Having a car in Costa Rica is convenient, especially if you plan to visit multiple destinations or stay in remote areas. It allows you to carry your luggage with you, and you won’t have to worry about public transportation schedules or finding a taxi.

Where do i rent a Car in Costa Rica?

If you’re planning to rent a car in Costa Rica, there are several rental companies to choose from, including Enterprise, Sixt, Hertz, Adobe Rent-a-Car, and more. However, the easiest and most convenient way to rent a car is through Discover Cars, which searches both local and international rental companies to find the best prices.

We personally rented our car from the San Jose Airport in Alajuela, which served as the starting point of our road trip in Costa Rica. If you plan to rent a car from San Jose Airport, expect to pick up your car about an hour after your flight arrives. When departing, make sure to allocate at least three and a half hours before your flight leaves, as returning your rental car and taking the shuttle back to the airport can take up to 30 minutes.

On the other hand, if you plan to rent a car from Liberia Airport, expect to pick up your car about 30 minutes after your flight arrives. When departing, make sure to allocate at least two and a half hours before your flight leaves, due to the shuttle.

Car rental insurance in Costa Rica is a topic that many travelers are concerned about. It’s important to note that car rental companies in Costa Rica are required by law to provide basic liability insurance. However, this basic insurance does not cover all potential damages or losses, and you may be held responsible for any damages or losses that exceed the basic coverage.

Because of this, it’s highly recommended to purchase additional insurance coverage when renting a car in Costa Rica. Most car rental companies offer a variety of insurance options, including collision damage waiver (CDW), theft protection, and personal accident insurance.

CDW is the most common type of insurance coverage offered and covers damage to the rental car in case of an accident. Theft protection covers the loss or theft of the rental car. Personal accident insurance provides coverage for medical expenses and other related costs in case of an accident.

It’s important to read the terms and conditions of the insurance coverage carefully to understand exactly what is and is not covered. Some policies may have exclusions or deductibles that you need to be aware of.

While purchasing additional insurance coverage can add to the cost of renting a car in Costa Rica, it’s worth considering as it can provide peace of mind and financial protection in case of an accident or other unexpected event.

What is the cost of renting a car in Costa Rica?

To rent a car in Costa Rica, you can expect to pay between $25 and $40 USD per day, depending on the type of vehicle you choose. For instance, a 4-door sedan will cost approximately $25 per day, whereas a 4-wheel drive SUV can run between $40 to $70 USD per day. If you opt for a 4X4 campervan or a truck with a tent attached, it will cost you over $100 USD per day, but you can sleep in it too!

It’s recommended to rent a car with a trunk instead of a hatchback to hide your luggage from potential thieves and avoid break-ins. Gas prices are higher in Costa Rica than in the United States, currently at about $4.75 USD per gallon ($1.25 per liter), with diesel fuel costing slightly less at $4.20 per gallon.

Automatic cars are pricier to rent than manual ones, but manual cars are more common in Costa Rica. If you’re not familiar with driving a manual car, it’s safer to opt for an automatic. Keep in mind that there may be an additional fee for one-way car rentals if you plan on dropping off the car in a different city than where you picked it up. However, since Costa Rica is a small country, you may not need to do this.

Age Requirements for Car Rental

To legally drive in Costa Rica, you must be at least 21 to 25 years old, depending on the rental car company you choose. Additionally, if you’re under 25 years old, the company may charge an extra fee of approximately $10 per day.

Extra Tips for Renting a Car and Driving in Costa Rica

While driving in Costa Rica, it’s important to lock your doors and never leave valuable items visible in your car. Pedestrians do not have the right of way in Costa Rica, so stopping for them can cause confusion and even accidents. This is similar in other parts of Central America, like Mexico. Before booking a car, read reviews from previous customers to choose the most reliable company. However, it’s possible that you may not get the exact make, model, or type of car you requested. If this happens, be assertive and request an upgrade if possible.

Before leaving with your rental car, inspect it thoroughly and record video using your smartphone to document any existing damage. This is crucial in case the rental company tries to charge you for pre-existing damage, which is a common scam in Costa Rica. Also, make sure to pay attention to whether the car takes regular gasoline or diesel fuel so that you can fill up with the correct type.

When it comes to navigation, using Google Maps on your smartphone is a better option than renting a GPS device. Simply use a hands-free car mount and ensure you have a good international cell phone plan.


Welcome to our blog, a platform where you can explore a diverse range of topics that include travel, tech, business, lifestyle, and biography content. We are a team of passionate writers, editors, and...

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *