For such a small country, Costa Rica packs a seriously scenic punch. With national parks, volcanoes and a bounty of beautiful beaches dotted along the Pacific and Caribbean coastlines, the hardest part of Costa Rica road trips is choosing what to do. We’ll plan your perfect self-drive holiday, with highlights sure to include watching nesting sea turtles in Tortuguero National Park, soaring through the rainforest canopy on a zip line and cooking an egg on the red-hot lava rocks of Arenal Volcano. Trek along scenic trails in the Monteverde Cloud Forest and take your pick from the many eco-lodges and hotels dotted across the country.
The best thing about Costa Rica road trips is the freedom to choose where you go; our travel experts will take into account your own personal interests and craft a tailor-made itinerary to match. Whether you’re a wildlife-fanatic, an avid wave rider or an adept diver, the roads can take you to a suitable corner of the country. And as the (albeit cheesy) saying goes, ‘it’s as much about the journey, as the destination’ – something which certainly rings true for road trips in Costa Rica, where every landscape is as resplendent as the last. Costa Rica will get under your skin and leave you wanting more. You have been warned.
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What can you expect on Costa Rica road trips that you won’t find anywhere else?
Nature in abundance is the simple answer to this question. This pocket-rocket of a nation occupies only 0.03% of the planet’s surface yet boasts around 6% of its biodiversity, and a road trip is one of the best ways to see these bountiful landscapes in all their glory. Cruise past lush jungle vegetation, along its two heavenly coastlines and through some charming towns and villages. Throughout the trip, pepper your itinerary with thrilling adventure pursuits that allow you to get slightly more up close and personal with the country’s wildlife and nature. The best thing about road tripping through Costa Rica? You’re in the driver’s seat – both literally, and when it comes to designing your itinerary. You get to dictate the pace, choose where to stop and decide what you’d like to do along the way.
Who are Costa Rica road trips best for?
Road tripping is ideal for those who like seeing a lot of a country in one go. As you travel between destinations in Costa Rica, you’ll be treated to snapshots of staggering scenery. Costa Rica in general is loved by eco-conscious travellers and those with passion for outdoor adventure. Surfers can embrace the swells off both the Pacific and Caribbean coasts, while budding botanists will want to inspect the cloud forests’ flora.
Special things to do during road trips in Costa Rica:
San José to Arenal
Stop off at Rio Sarapiquí along the way, where you can white-water raft, before heading to the charming town of La Fortuna, on the edge of Arenal Volcano National Park. Relaxing in hot springs, zip lining through the forest canopy and trekking across lava fields are all on the menu during this Costa Rica road trip.
Arenal to Culebra Bay
This is one for intrepid adventurers who like to veer off the well-beaten track. Drive through the wild landscapes of the Guanacaste Province and take a detour into Tenorio Volcano National Park, home to the Celeste River. Your final destination is the white-sand shores of Culebra Bay, where you can cool off with a swim in its welcoming turquoise waters.
Manuel Antonio Park to Puerto Viejo de Talamanca
This route links Costa Rica’s coastlines and sees you travelling between two oceans in one day (however, you may wish to take your time with this one). Begin your journey on the stunning beaches of the Pacific coast, before slowly winding your way past Arenal Volcano and onwards to Puerto Viejo de Talamanca, on the Caribbean coast. Here you can swap your car for a surfboard and try your hand at catching some waves. Stay in comfortable eco-lodges along the way to really get into the pura vida (pure life) mindset – road trips in Costa Rica don’t get much better than this.
Best time to visit for Costa Rica road trips:
There’s really no bad time to take to the roads in Costa Rica, although if you’re being strategic about it, we can recommend the optimal times. The wet season runs from April to November and if you’re not so keen about driving on damp roads, you may wish to avoid planning road trips in Costa Rica during this period. While rainstorms only tend to occur for two or three hours in the afternoon, roads can remain slippery and you’ll want to plan days around the unpredictable weather. The exceptions to this rule are July and August, which see noticeably less rainfall and are often referred to as ‘little summer’. Your best bet is visiting during the dry season, which occurs between December and April. Although, again, there are anomalies and December and January tend to still see unexpected showers. Visit our guide pages on the best time to visit and what to pack for more information.