Planes, trains, buses, bikes, and automobiles; there are more than a few ways to get around Costa Rica!
Traveling Costa Rica is easy as it’s such a small country. In fact, it’s so tiny that we often joke that you can’t possibly get lost here because if you drive long enough, you’ll eventually end up at one border or another.
Whether you’re planning to rent a car (recommended, if possible), fly, or bus it around the country, you’ll find that it’s a snap to get around. There are regional airlines, plenty of rental car companies, a massive public transportation system of buses, taxis, and Ubers that run the entire country and in every town!
Fly Costa Rica
If you’re visiting Costa Rica from just about any other country, you’ll likely fly into one of two International Airports; Juan Santamaria International (SJO) is in the central San José valley, and Daniel Oduber Quirós International Airport (LIR) is in Liberia, which in the northern Pacific region of Guanacaste.
Several domestic airlines fly out of SJO and LIR.
- SANSA flies from San José and Liberia to several regional airports: Puerto Jimenez, Golfito, Tamarindo, Quepos (Manuel Antonio), Drum, Palmar Sur, and Drake Bay. Number 1 in the domestic market.
- With daily flights to 11 destinations, Aerobell Airline flies from Tobias Bolaños International Airport in San José instead of SJO. They offer Super Saver discounts of up to 30%, but their baggage limit is 20 lbs.
- SkyWay recently began taking reservations for flights from SJO to the Osa Peninsula, La Fortuna, Quepos, and Tamarindo. Fares are competitive with other domestic carriers.
- Green Airways, is the domestic carrier for the longstanding charter operator, Carmon Air. Currently, they fly between SJO and Tambor, a 4-hour drive north to the Caribbean coast.
- TAC Airlines Costa Rica will begin scheduled domestic service to Liberia, Tambor, Quepos, Drake, Tamarindo, and Puerto Jimenez from Tobias Bolaños Airport in Pavas at some point in 2019.
When packing for your trip, keep in mind that regional airlines will have stricter baggage restrictions than International airlines for International flights. Typically, you can have one bag of up to 30 lbs. and a carry-on of 10 lbs. In many cases, sports equipment, including surfboards, is allowed or counted as baggage.
Explore Costa Rica by car
We think that renting a car is the best way to see more of Costa Rica. With no itineraries to keep you to one plan, you’re bound to stumble upon hidden beaches, scenic places, and local treasures along the way. You’ll have a memorable trip that you wouldn’t get by flying from city to city.
You can check out cars and availability from the websites of the major, International rental car companies, but we like going local, and both of these reputable companies have offices in San Jose and Liberia near the airport:
- Poas Rent a Car is the oldest independent agency in Costa Rica. They also partner with boutique hotels and B&Bs so you could get a car delivered to your door.
- Slightly more expensive, Adobe Rent a Car offers a portable Wi-Fi hot spot connection for up to 5 devices. ARC also has more regional offices.
There are a few things to keep in mind when renting a car in Costa Rica:
- Manual transmissions are more common and slightly cheaper than automatics.
- You don’t necessarily need a 4-WD vehicle. If you’re not headed up to Monteverde or out to a remote area like Santa Teresa or Nosara, you’ll likely do just fine with a regular car.
- Be aware of extra fees and insurance charges, they can add US$200 – US$300 to your total rental cost.
- Buying the rental car company insurance plan in Costa Rica is not negotiable; it is mandatory. You won’t be able to rely on your existing plan back home or your credit card coverage.
- All car rental companies in Costa Rica will place a deposit hold on your credit card. The hold could range from $500 to $1500 depending on the company, your age, and the type of vehicle you rent.
Take the bus
If you’re on a budget, up for the adventure, have patience, and want to get a taste of local life, take the bus to get around in Costa Rica. Local buses are ridiculously cheap (US$1 – US$20), quite comfortable, and reliable. You can choose a direct (directo) or stopping (colectivo) bus. You can plan your route if you know ahead where you want to go. You can download the Costa Rica bus schedule from Essential Costa Rica, the Costa Rica Tourism Board’s travel website. Always confirm the time your bus arrives at a stop as schedules change unexpectedly. Remember that during Holy Week (Easter), there may be limited or no service. Keep an eye on your luggage; better still, travel light.
Hail a Costa Rica taxi
Taxis are plentiful in Costa Rica and cheap, especially in San José, where they operate on the meter, beginning at US$1. From the airport to the city is about US$25. All drivers take dollars. Outside the capital, several small towns have their own taxi fleets, which may or may not use meters. Tips are not usual, but are welcomed.
Does Costa Rica have Uber? You bet!
And, of course, there’s always Uber. Sign up to ride and download your Uber app before you go and you’ll be all set in most cities and rural towns throughout Costa Rica.
Ride your bike around Costa Rica
We don’t recommend bringing your own bicycle because of the danger of theft, not to mention the expense of shipping it to and from Costa Rica. If you’re up for a few weeks on the road, you’ll certainly appreciate the more leisurely pace of traveling around the country. Several companies offer tours:
If you prefer a DIY tour, visit Bikemap for route information.
However, you choose to visit Costa Rica, we know you’ll love the relaxed pace, friendly people, and natural beauty.