For so many reasons, Costa Rica is a dream holiday destination. From its pristine beaches and stunning biodiversity to its lovely climate and laidback vibe, there’s so much to love in this small Central American country. It’s no wonder millions of vacationers flock there each year.
Of course, you’ll want to take care of selecting the perfect accommodations according to your travel preferences, and also consider your must-sees and dos while you’re in Costa Rica. But making appropriate choices when it comes to transportation can also be make or break.
Here are 7 transportation decisions to consider when booking your travel to the land of pura vida!
1. Which Airport Is Best?
First off, let’s consider flying. There are two international airports in Costa Rica: Liberia and San Jose. Liberia, the smaller of the two, is located in Guanacaste Province near the Pacific Ocean. The roads around it are smooth and well-paved for the most part, and this airport will give you quick access to the country’s gorgeous northwestern Pacific coast.
San Jose is located in Costa Rica’s capital city, and it is where you’ll want to fly into if you’re headed to central and southern regions of the country. It also tends to be considerably cheaper than flying into Liberia, but you’ll be looking at highest transfer costs if your accommodations are further afield.
Be sure to make your flight plans with budget and transfer times in mind!
Once you arrive in San Jose, these are some options to get to your final destination:
2. Do You Need To Rent A Vehicle?
It’s the age-old question for any vacation: Is a rental car or vehicle really necessary? In Costa Rica, it really depends. Think about your personal travel style. Do you like to go with the flow and make a trip up as you go along? Are you a confident driver who’s unafraid to tackle rough and steep terrain? Then perhaps the flexibility of a rental would be worth it. On the flip side, if you have a built-in itinerary and don’t feel the need to drastically change it, or if you plan on heading to the resort and staying put, you might not feel the burning desire to take on the extra responsibility of a rental in a foreign country.
Do your homework, take into account all fees and costs, and then decide what’s worth it to you. If you opt for a rental, keep in mind Costa Rica does have several toll highways and you’ll want to have cash on hand to pay!
3. Can You Rely On Public Transportation?
Costa Rica does have a cheap and reliable public bus system with several operators running routes connecting major cities and tourism sites. However, it takes some know-how to navigate it. You’ll want to have some Spanish basics down so you recognize commonly used abbreviations for the days of the week and destinations. And while buses are certainly among the cheapest modes of transportation in Costa Rica, they are also time-consuming. It’s going to take far longer to get from point A to point B when you’re stopping in small towns along rural routes. On the other hand, it’s certainly going to be more scenic!
If you prefer to use a shuttle bus to travel to your final destination in Costa Rica, here are some Bookaway bus options:
4. Will Rideshare Or Taxis Be Available?
Say you decide to not grab a rental and instead spring for private transportation to your destination. You’ll still want to find out if a rideshare service will be available, if you want to have the option of going off-resort to explore. You’ll find Uber in Costa Rica’s larger cities, including Liberia and San Jose. There are also taxis available in larger areas, but you’ll want to make sure you’re hailing and getting into an officially-sanctioned car. Keep an eye out for a yellow triangle on the door with a license number in it.
5. What Are Your Must-Not-Miss Locations?
Keep in mind, Costa Rica’s topography varies vastly, from beaches at sea level to mountains ranges that include active volcanos. It’s always a good idea to take a long look at your itinerary and craft your transportation plan from there. Heading from San Jose to the Pacific Coast, down to Manuel Antonio, and then up to Arenal? You’re going to have different needs than someone who plans to stay put on the beach for a solid week. (For the record, we’re fans of both approaches!) You might decide to use multiple modes of transportation, or just one. The bottom line is to consider your must-do list and plot out the best ways to get yourself there while staying on budget, comfortable, and above all, safe.
6. Consider The Amount Of Stress You’re Willing To Take On
This is a big one. It is stressful traveling from place to place in a foreign country, even for the most seasoned globetrotters. We rented a 4×4 while there and our 3-hour drive from San Jose’s airport to our resort was one of the most thrilling and frightening experiences ever! We loved it, but not everyone would. If the idea of white-knuckled rides and getting lost freaks you out, look into and book a care-free Bookaway transportation option that will get you where you need to be.
7. Is There A Shuttle Option?
Last but not least, contact your resort to see if it offers a direct shuttle option from and back to the airport; many do. Yes, they will come at a cost, but a shuttle service will buy you peace of mind, save you the time and paperwork of a rental, and all but guarantee your holiday will be off to a hassle-free start… even if your flight runs late.
Bookaway is your online ground transportation booking platform that takes the stress out of travel so you can enjoy the ride. From shuttle buses to private vans, from planes and ferries, they are your one-stop shop for traveling around Costa Rica and over 120 countries around the world.
For more information about what to see and do in Costa Rica: