Start planning your road trip in Costa Rica
Costa Rica is a dream destination for adventure lovers. Featuring 19,700 square miles of hills, forest, volcanoes, mountains, and plains, a road trip in Costa Rica is a great way to get to know the country.
What makes Costa Rica a great destination for a road trip?
A road trip in Costa Rica is a fantastic way to see the diverse offerings of this Central American country. Driving not only offers you the freedom to explore beaches, volcanoes, and national parks at your own pace, but it also makes for a more comfortable experience. What's more, it is easy to navigate the country thanks to its good road networks and signage, so a road trip can even be relaxing.
The best road trips in Costa Rica
Immerse yourself in buzzing cities, drive along the gorgeous coast, hike through verdant rainforests, and get inside a volcano crater. There are hundreds of things to do on a Costa Rica road trip, and these are the best routes to try.
San Jose to La Fortuna
After sightseeing in the capital, San Jose, drive towards La Fortuna. The 80-mile journey will take you through small towns and along some scenic roads. Upon arriving, explore the majestic Arenal Volcano National Park, soak in hot springs, and visit the La Fortuna Waterfall.
San Jose to Irazu Volcano National Park
The 33-mile journey to this volcano passes through the towns of San Pedro, Tres Rios, Tierra Blanca, and Chicua. Navigate the winding roads, stopping at parks and scenic hiking trails before reaching the summit of Irazu.
La Fortuna to Monteverde
This 76-mile drive is an exciting combination of paved and dirt roads. You’ll pass verdant hills, lush jungles, coffee fields, farms, and waterfalls. In Monteverde itself, hike through the rainforest, go birdwatching, or walk along the forest canopy at the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve.
San Jose to Tamarindo
This drive covers 161 miles of paved and occasional dirt roads, passing through the towns of Canas and Nicoya. It’s an enjoyable drive, but the highlight is at the end in Tamarindo, where you can enjoy surfing on the waves that lap its gorgeous sandy beaches, or go wildlife watching.
San Jose to Manuel Antonio National Park
A coastal route that spans 106 miles, driving from San Jose to this amazing national park takes you via Playa Herradura, Jaco, and Playa Hermosa before climbing up to the city of Quepos then down to Manuel Antonio. Relish the gorgeous white sandy beaches in the national park, as well as its thick rainforest and incredible views of the Pacific Ocean. There’s plenty of fascinating, colorful wildlife here too.
Tips and advice for touring Costa Rica by car
Rental cars are available at airports and locations in the major cities. Some companies will also deliver a vehicle to your hotel. Both automatic and manual cars are available. A 4WD vehicle is recommended for most trips because dirt roads are common in more remote locations. You’ll need to drive on the right, and note that signs are usually in Spanish with distances marked in kilometers.