Costa Rica Forest

Why You Should Self-Drive in Costa Rica

Costa Rica, a paradise of biodiversity, is fast becoming the hottest destination for global eco-tourists who love the laid-back “pura vida” vibe of this welcoming country. Where else can you wander deep into a tropical rainforest one afternoon and soak in hot springs overlooking a volcano the next? Don’t forget the fabulous array of luxurious seaside hotels, eco-lodges, and the coffee — the best Costa Rica tours include a visit to a coffee estate for a fresh cup of local joe.

While there are many ways to explore the gorgeous terrain, adventurous travellers often prefer to take control of their journey and travel by car. If a Costa Rica vacation is on the horizon, here are some reasons why you should self-drive.

Costa Rica Beach Self Drive

You Control the Pace
No one-size-fits-all Costa Rica itinerary exists. You may have planned to spend an afternoon at Corcovado National Park, photographing the colourful birds, but once there, you realize you could spend days lounging in the natural pool watching the hummingbirds flitter by. When you self-drive, you set the tempo that works for you.

Enjoy a zip lining tour with friends
Enjoy a zip lining tour with friends

Bring Your Friends
Some of the best adventures with Costa Rica vacation packages are better with family or friends. Feel like an adrenaline rush? Pack up your car and head to Selvatura Park for a thrilling zipline ride over the leafy green rainforest canopy. Grab a group of like-minded white-water enthusiasts and drive to Turrialba for the day (or two or three) and let one of the many outfitters set you up with a white-water rafting adventure on the Rio Pacuare. When you self-drive, you can plan more outings with friends.

You Can Get Anywhere in a Day
Costa Rica is completely manageable by car. About the size of the state of West Virginia, Costa Rica makes getting to where you want to go attainable with a fairly easy drive. Your Costa Rica tour might include hiking Arenal – in the northern lowlands – in the cooler morning breeze, and an easy drive to Bahia Salinas in the afternoon for a windsurfing adventure under the tropical sun.

Girl Learning to Surf in Costa RicaIt’s Familiar
Unlike many countries, driving in Costa Rica is like driving in the U.S. Since you drive on the right side of the road, you’ll always feel comfortable behind the wheel. With many rental vehicle choices available, from sedans to large five-passenger four-wheel-drive SUVs, you can make your way to Tamarindo for a deep-sea fishing charter or a day learning to surf. Cars are fully insured for peace of mind, and they come with maps and GPS devices to take the pain out of finding your way around. All your documents are ready for you when you arrive. Pick up your keys and you’re off.

It’s Flexible
When you choose to self-drive on your Costa Rica vacation, you can structure your adventure to sample all the different delights. For example, you could choose to start your vacation with a few nights at a serene five-star resort near Santa Teresa and learn yoga on the beach, enjoy pampering spa treatments and luxurious cuisine, and then make your way to Arenal for a tranquil stay at an earthy eco-lodge deep in the mountains.

Arenal Volcano
Arenal Volcano

For most Costa Rica travellers, a few days are spent in the Monteverde area, exploring the incredibly delicate and diverse ecosystem at the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve. The Orchid Garden, Butterfly Garden, Bat Jungle, and Monteverde Serpentarium are all must-sees. You can choose to stay in bohemian lodgings near Monteverde, or choose boutique hotels near the upscale galleries and shops in Monteverde’s vibrant arts district.

Finish your travels with a night or two at a three-, four-, or ultra-luxe five-star property in bustling San Jose. Visit the museums or take in a show.

Three-toe juvenile sloth
Three-toe juvenile sloth

When you choose a self-drive vacation in Costa Rica, you can coordinate all your favourite activities and interests, and create a custom vacation that’s perfect for you. So what are you waiting for? Start planning your vacation today!

Suggested Itineraries:
7-Day Costa Rica Self-Drive With a Twist
7-Day Costa Rica Elements Self-Drive  
7-Day Coast and Rainforest Self-Drive

11-Day Essential Costa Rica

Related Article:
Explore Costa Rica From Behind the Wheel

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Don Forster
Don Forster

Trade Training Manager — Born in Australia and raised in Canada and Papua New Guinea, Don took his first solo trip to Bali – aged just 13. Since then, Don’s travels have taken him to every continent. He’s been a backpacker in Asia, Europe and Egypt, an overland adventurer in East and Southern Africa, and an overland driver in South and Central America. He is especially fond of Peru, Patagonia and Namibia, though his longest adventure to date has been a London to Kathmandu run via the Middle East.

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