If it isn’t already, Costa Rica should be on your list of must-visit destinations. The relatively small Central American country is a land that boasts plenty. In terms of natural attractions, few countries can compare.
On a Costa Rica vacation, make time to visit a few of the 29 national parks, protected areas, and natural reserves. You will marvel at the diverse landscapes, including winding mountains, thick mangroves, low valleys, and marshlands.
Make sure you carry a portable charger for your phone and camera. Yes, you will need both as you will be taking many pictures of wildlife and landscapes. But, the only way you will enjoy a Costa Rica travel is if you can move from place to place. And that is why we will share some of the best, most convenient, and budget-friendly ways to travel in Costa Rica.
1. Domestic Flights
International visitors will enter the country through one of the two major airports in Costa Rica. The largest one is the Juan Santamaria Airport, located in Alajuela, north of San Jose.
The other airport is the Daniel Oduber Airport, located in Liberia, the capital of the Guanacaste region. This airport focuses on northwestern Guanacaste, Arenal, and Montverde destinations.
For local tours, your interest will be in domestic flights. Such flights are excellent for getting to hard-to-reach or remote locations. These include the Tortuguero National Park, the Nicoya Peninsula, and the Osa Peninsula.
The Costa Rica international airports offer hubs for domestic airlines. There are four domestic flights, namely Air Caribe, Aerobell, Skyway, and Sansa. These cover up to 14 local destinations across Costa Rica.
A flight can cost anywhere from $80 to $120 per traveler. Please note the domestic flights are as per set schedules, which you need to be aware of.
If you want more flexibility with schedules, then chartering a private flight is the better option. As you can imagine, the cost will be significantly higher. But, you can travel as per your schedule, which is a significant attraction for people who opt for this. Charter companies include Air Caribe, Alfa Romeo Aero, and Carmon Air.
2. Car Rentals
Car rentals are a fantastic option if you don’t mind driving yourself on your Costa Rica vacation or travel. You can hire them directly from the airports as they have offices there. Car rental services are also available in the towns or via local agents.
A good tip is to hire a vehicle before you get to Costa Rica. At your request, the company can ensure the car is waiting for you at your preferred spot.
You will need a valid driver’s license from your country or an international driving permit. But if your stay exceeds 90 days, you must apply for a Costa Rica license.
The main advantage of renting a car is you can plan your schedule as you wish. That gives the convenience of enjoying the country at your own pace.
Please note that the road networks in some parts of Costa Rica need improvement. So, consider a hardy four-wheel drive if you plan to visit remote locations.
Talk to the rental company about insurance. Many will not add insurance to the initial cost to appear more competitive. Yet, mandatory insurance can drive up the price by over $25 to $40 per day.
Taxis offer the convenience of a local driving you around. They are also excellent for short trips and can be quite inexpensive. What you need to be is watchful of the meter. Some drivers can claim to have forgotten to turn it on at the start of the journey. They can end up charging higher than what you should have paid.
There is the option of shared taxis or colectivos where you pay a flat fee. The disadvantage is you share the car with other passengers. Depending on the vehicle size, it could be up to 5 others.
For longer trips, negotiate fares in advance. But do note it can change depending on road or weather conditions. A dedicated driver can charge anywhere from $200 to $400 daily. As you can imagine, it gets more expensive if they will stay with you overnight. In that case, you will have to cater for food and accommodation.
4. Bus Transportation
The hub of most bus transportation is San Jose. The main advantage of bus travel is the cost. Indeed if your Costa Rica travel is on a budget, this is the best mode. Fares range anywhere from $ 1 to $20.
For long-distance travel, you will need to book in advance. The disadvantage of bus travel for longer trips is that it is slow and can get quite uncomfortable. It doesn’t help that there are multiple stops because the buses do not have toilet facilities. On rough roads, sitting on the bus can be a nightmare.
There are plenty of buses for short-distance, town-to-town travel. They can get pretty crowded, but you get an inexpensive way to explore local attractions. Be mindful of your items, and only carry around what you need. Like in any other country, petty thieves ply their trade in such conditions. You could lose valuables to pickpockets.
A slightly more expensive option is shuttle buses. These service tourist destinations are pretty comfortable. Popular ones include the Gray Line, Tropical Tours, Easy Ride, and Interbus. Make travel arrangements via your travel agent, hotels, or online.
5. Motorbikes and Bicycles
Motorbikes are convenient, fast, and affordable. To rent one, like in the case of the car, you must have a valid driver’s license.
Enjoy your vacations in Costa Rica with bicycle trips. Indeed this is becoming a popular option with many vacationers. Some companies are even offering cycling tours around the country. Hiring a bike can cost anywhere from $10 to $20 daily.
Do note, though, the road conditions in some places could be better. Potholes, narrow or winding roads, and a lack of designated cycle lanes compound the problem.
6. Boat Rides
Boat rides are another excellent way to see the marvels of Costa Rica. Ferries are the most popular ways to get to many destinations.
The ferry crossings happen several times a day. So get to know the schedule so you can plan accordingly.
The other options are boat services and water taxis. You will need to pre-book such rides since there are no regular services.
We end the list with the most rudimentary way of travel: walking. You can explore the towns to your heart’s content this way.
There are also plenty of hiking tours that will allow you to see nature up close. For the latter, it is a good idea to hire local guides. Some of the hiking trails are in very remote locations. Further, some national parks require that visitors have a guide with them at all times.
Your Costa Rica travel can only be complete by having safe and convenient ways to move around. We have highlighted the most popular modes above.
If you are using the services of a travel agent, let them handle the travel logistics for you. Using their networks, they can get better rates for you.
Finally, please take note of essential requirements like having a valid driver’s license. This will be critical if you plan to hire a vehicle or motorbike. And read the fine print in documents to understand things like insurance.