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Getting Around in Costa Rica – Things You Should Know

Traveling to Costa Rica with a long list of things to see? Getting around the country is as simple as choosing from the four transportation options in this article…

last updated: 01/28/2020

You’ve decided that Costa Rica is your dream destination. There are beautiful beaches, majestic volcanoes, and adventure-filled rainforests and canopies to explore — but how do you get there? The most frequent methods of getting around in Costa Rica are rental cars, shuttle buses, private vans, ferries, or domestic planes. Although Costa Rica is not big, a typical vacation will take you to different parts of the country that may be three to four hours apart. Therefore, remember to consider the distance between destinations when you start planning your travel itinerary (and here’s where our Anywhere Expert Guides can help)

While different transportation modes may vary in flexibility and comfort, each of them is an opportunity to take in Costa Rica’s amazing scenery. Here are a few frequently asked questions from Anywhere Travelers about how to get around in Costa Rica:

How convenient are shuttle transports in Costa Rica?

There are many shared shuttle transport options in Costa Rica, especially between popular destinations. They are typically air-conditioned minibus (or coasters) that have multiple departure times throughout the day. For your convenience, some of these shuttles can pick you up and drop you off at your hotel. Be sure to reserve shuttle buses in advance, and make sure you keep your vouchers on hand when you board! Expect some bumpy roads when the trips are longer distance journeys, but drivers will typically stop for breaks to let you stretch your legs!

Getting Around in Costa Rica Image: A white Anywhere shuttle drives down a tree-lined road.
Shuttles are an economical option to get around Costa Rica. You can swap stories with your fellow travelers or simply relax.

Anywhere Experts recommend this method of transport for travelers who are looking for economical ways of getting from place to place, especially for group sizes of 1 – 3 people. However, if the size of your party size is larger then you can also consider private transport with more flexible departure times and a better price.

Are there private transports I can reserve?

Getting Around in Costa Rica Image: A white Anywhere van is parked outside.
Spend more of your vacation on your own time when you choose private transportation.

Want to thoroughly relax and know that every leg of your journey is taken care of? Private transport is the easiest — and the most popular — way to go. It’s safe, convenient, and flexible for your group’s need. It allows for opportunities to enjoy Costa Rica’s beautiful scenery in a relaxed state. You can even arrange for some free stops along the way to visit souvenir stores or enjoy a meal in a restaurant. Drivers are typically knowledgeable guides who can point out things of interest on the way to your destination. Don’t miss the chance to ask for their recommendations — locals knows best!

Speaking of expert recommendations, here are “6 Costa Rican Foods You MUST Try.”

“On our way to La Fortuna to the airport, our driver was amazing and tells us all about Costa Rica and the towns we drove through. He even pulled over and helped us rescue a sloth that was trying to cross the road, which meant a lot to us and was an unforgettable experience. He pointed out some poison dart frogs as we walked back to the van. Overall he was great and we would have happily driven with him anywhere” – Hayley

Rest assured that at Anywhere, we collaborate with the most reliable vehicle providers who are professional and help you move about the country safely.

Can I rent a car to go around Costa Rica? What are the roads like?

Yes, you absolutely can. For travelers who prefer flexibility between sightseeing and discovering hidden gems, a rental car is a good option. You can rent a car for the entire trip or just part of it. However, keep in mind that road conditions in Costa Rica may not be the most ideal for first time travelers. Some travelers make the mistake of underestimating driving distances, and encounter challenges such as missing road signs or bad directions. Road infrastructure in Costa Rica is not as updated as you would expect, so it’s likely you’ll be driving on dirt roads on the way to eco-lodges or across narrow bridges.

Rugged roads often lead to great adventures, like these “5 Exciting Costa Rica Activities That Make A Great Story.”

Getting Around in Costa Rica Image: A small SUV or pickup drives over boards placed on a jungle bridge.
You can rent a car, but for some terrain, the driving is best left to the professionals.

To rent a car and drive in Costa Rica, you’ll need to be at least 21 years old and have an official state-issued driver’s license. A credit card is necessary to cover the liability deposit when you rent a car. (What do I need to rent a car in Costa Rica?)

At, you can find rental options that include compact cars, full-size cars, compact 4WDs, and more. We suggest having an idea of what destinations you’ll be visiting so you’re selecting the right vehicle for your travel needs.

What are approximate driving times between destinations in Costa Rica?

The general rule of thumb is 30 mph (50 km/hour). Take a look on Google map and estimate the approximate distance to gauge your driving time. Most main roads are two lanes with very little room to pass, and it is frequently shared by trucks that can slow down the lane. From Alajeula SJO airport to popular destinations such as Manuel Antonio, Arenal, and Monteverde, it usually takes 3 – 4.5 hours. We advise reserving private transport so you can take a well-deserved rest after a long international flight!

What is the fastest way to get around Costa Rica?

Ground transportation typically take many hours on rough and mountainous roads. Depending on your travel route, a domestic flight may be the most convenient and fastest option! Costa Rica has two domestic flight providers — Sansa and Nature Air. Both airlines operate out of Alajuela-SJO airport. If you only have limited time during your Costa Rica trip, a flight can cut travel time to just 35 minutes to your destination! Be mindful that domestic airlines have strict reservation, cancellation, and luggage restriction policies, so make sure to confirm your information with your trip planner before you book!

Getting Around in Costa Rica Image: Four people walk toward a small domestic airplane.
Domestic flights are an excellent way to visit diverse regions in the span of a single vacation.

Interested in learning more about how to get around? Here are more frequently asked questions. Don’t worry, because when you start planning a trip with Anywhere, we promise seamless transportation recommendations between destinations. Travel hassle-free and ensure peace of mind during your vacation!

Anywhere® is a modern travel agency merging real traveler insights with the ease of online booking. Our team of experts design authentic, personalized vacationsone trip at a time.

As an international company, we feature articles written in both ‘British English’ and ‘American English.’