There is no better way to sum up driving in Costa Rica than with Fitzhugh Mullan’s quote:
“Stop worrying about the potholes in the road and celebrate the journey.” – Fitzhugh Mullan
Deciding whether on self-driving Costa Rica or leaving the driving up to us, is a great dilemma to have as both will give you an unforgettable vacation experience! A natural wonderland waiting to be explored, Costa Rica is one of the most vibrant driving destinations in the world. Whether cruising along the coastal roads of the Caribbean, zigzagging your way up the mountains or passing by the dense cloud forest, there aren’t many places in the world you can see such variety.
Benefits of Self-Driving
Having your own set of wheels can of course be advantageous. You can determine the course of your day and have the freedom of where and when you visit one of the many beautiful locations in Costa Rica. The flexibility of self-driving through Costa Rica also gives you or, if you’re feeling charitable, that lucky someone in your car, full control of the radio!
Due to the diversity of landscapes in Costa Rica you can find yourself driving along winding mountainous roads, rural gravel paths or scenic coastal byways all within the same day.
Although this range of driving conditions can be challenging, it also adds to the experience and excitement of navigating the different routes. With a self-drive vacation, your trip is literally in the palm of your hand. That quaint looking local farmers market with exotic and fresh fruit can now be enjoyed instead of passing by and licking your lips from the inside of your transfer shuttle. As the country is relatively small, in fact it is only slightly smaller than the US State of West Virginia, it means that you can get from one destination to the other and if a sloth doesn’t decide to stroll out into the middle of the road, you can still have the rest of the day to take advantage of the incredible adventures on offer.
But…keep in mind
It should be noted that driving through Costa Rica is by no means a piece of cake. In some locations, the so-called ‘roads’ can be in poor condition and this is especially noticeable outside of the major cities and during the green (rainy) season with potholes filling up with rainwater. But, don’t worry as you’re not alone whilst navigating your way from one destination to the other. You will also be thankful for your new best friend, (the GPS), as Costa Rica is not known for its abundance of road signs and you will gain firsthand experience of this if you do need to ask for directions.
Whereas back home you may be told the full address of your destination, in Costa Rica, the locals do things differently; giving directions based on landmarks including some that used to exist. Our travel expert Alex, who spent time living in Costa Rica says that her favorite response when asking for directions to the University was…
“it’s 300 meters east of the central park”
…so you better get down your cardinal directions. In a country full of adventure and discovery, this is certainly one of the most exhilarated as you search for the Subaru garage rather than the name and number of the street! With the strange lack of street signs, you should make sure that you are not driving at night! The occasional bridge without guardrails as well as the lack of street lighting in rural areas means that it is best to plan to arrive to your destination during the day and to keep the evenings for exploring the local restaurants and nightlife.
It is important to remember that when driving in Costa Rica you aren’t in your home country, so you should pay special attention as always to the speed limits which are in kilometers per hour! Even though it is great to involve yourself in the culture and traditions of a country, one that should be avoided is the Tico that decides to overtake on a narrow mountain road. Instead use the time stuck behind the lorry (which you aren’t too sure how it has managed to navigate the hairpin bends) to enjoy the views around you, sing along to some of the finest Costa Rican songs on the radio or brush up on some Spanish driving phrases just in case you get lost. Due to the driving conditions, the occasional traffic jam and in order to take your time enjoying the scenery and making stops along the journey, you should probably add a couple of hours onto the suggested journey time. At the end of the day if you arrive early to your destination, that’s even better as you will be able to spend more time enjoying the adventures of Costa Rica!