Transportation in Costa Rica
The best way to move around country as a tourist is by private transportation. We recommend confirming these arrangements before arriving in Costa Rica. Tourist transportation companies have proper documentation, clean cars and vans, and insurance to transport tourists. We don’t recommend using public transportation as it is complicated and slow. Car rental is another option and driving and finding your way in Costa Rica is fairly easy.
The best option in Costa Rica is having a private transportation company to drive you around the country. They pick you up from the airport and take you wherever you want to go. This is a door to door service. They pick you up in your exact location and you let them know the place where you want to go. You can choose the pick-up time to suit your schedule and preferences. The vehicles must be registered in Costa Rica’s tourist institute, and have tourism insurance. The vehicles have stickers given by the tourist institute to identify themselves. Drivers are responsible and professional and know the safest and best roads to every destination.
The country has two airports. The main point of entry to Costa Rica is Juan Santamaria International Airport (SJO), located in San Jose. The 2nd much smaller international airport is located in Liberia (LIR) close to the beaches of Costa Rica in Guanacaste. There are regular flights between San Jose and Liberia every day in the early morning and late afternoon. Charter flights by small aircraft and helicopters are an option as well, and you can land at various other smaller airports if you book a private flight.
Most tourist destinations in Costa Rica are connected via shuttle. They circulate between the airport and all major destinations. Some routes require that you change buses at an established connection point where you will find bathrooms too. You will have to reserve your seats before arriving so you can be sure of the time and place of departure.
There are public buses and vans in every city or mayor town in Costa Rica. They all use San Jose as their gateway. Many of these bus lines do not have a fix schedule and the stops have no signs. This makes it difficult to catch them and only works if you don’t have a fix schedule. San Jose has several bus terminals from where buses head in all directions. These terminals are not inter-connected so changing buses in San Jose can be a hassle.
There are taxis in all of Costa Rica. They are a popular option for locals as well as tourists. Mainly practical for short rides, they are also great when it rains or if you prefer not to walk in the heat. Always take an official taxi. Official taxi’s in Costa Rica are always red, are recent model cars and have a taxi meter (Maria) next to the driver to calculate the fare. Besides the taxis being red, they have a yellow light on the top and a yellow triangle on the doors including their plate number which go by provinces.
There are car rental companies at both international airports. Some car rental companies have offices at hotels as well. It is better to have the car reserved prior your arrival to be sure you will have the car you need. If you want a relaxed vacation renting a car may not be the best option since driving skills of the locals lack courtesy and especially novice drivers pretend they are on a race track. Main roads are sign posted, but we recommend having a GPS to help you navigate through country.