4 wheel drive really necessary??

Old Dec 2nd, 2004, 11:12 AM
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4 wheel drive really necessary??

We are going to Costa Rica in February, which I understand to be the dry season. We will be driving from San Jose to Arenal, then Arenal to Monteverde, then Monteverde to Manueal Antonio, then Manuel Antonio back to San Jose. When I read the guidebooks they make it sound like it can be driven with a regular car, but the rental car companies (no surprise here) say you definitely need a 4WD. By the way, we live in a state with alot of unpaved roads and they can get pretty rutty, so we're used to that. We think it can be done in a regular car.It seems like the iffy part is the drive from Arenal to Monteverde...what do you guys think???
Thanks,
Lisa
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Old Dec 2nd, 2004, 12:36 PM
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We rented a 4WD last week and only needed it once (to get out of the parking lot at Karola's...a very steep hill). Our car, a Kia SUV, definitely needed more horseposwer though, so that could have been the problem with the lot. We didn't visit Monteverde, but were fine without 4WD at the other places you mentioned.
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Old Dec 2nd, 2004, 01:43 PM
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Arenal to Monteverde. Yes, with a qualifier. There is paving work underway. There will always be some roads that the locals resist paving to discourage heavy traffic flow - to preserve the nature itself. I liked having a 4WD for the ride height, the interior space for luggage and friends, and while the ground clearance on most rentals truly isn't that much greater than a sedan, 1.5 inches higher can make or break the difference when clearing the rocky roads. If it's the price variance which concerns you, why not shop around for a great price? Shillmac and others have favorites. Please search "car rental" threads here on Fodors.
- - - buen viaje!
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Old Dec 2nd, 2004, 06:13 PM
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Thanks for the info. What about gas prices there?? Is it the same as in the states??
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Old Dec 2nd, 2004, 06:21 PM
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The roads into and around Montverde are often terrible. If you happen to hit the area just after the roads have been regraded and graveled, then it's not so bad. But if not, you definitely want a 4WD SUV with every addtional 1.5" of clearance you can get.

In January, there were spots where the road was so bad--DEEP holes, large rocks sticking up several inches out of the roadbed, one side of the road totally impassable, etc.--that vehicles were moving as slowly as the driver could possibly manage and still make headway.

On the way into Monteverde from SJ, one bridge was out and vehicles were having to ford a stream.
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Old Dec 2nd, 2004, 06:26 PM
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Yes, as TripleSec mentioned, I have my favorites. We have never been able to beat Tricolor's price anywhere.

Get a 4 wheel drive. When you go to Monteverde, you'll be glad you did. There are parts of the country where you could "get by", but the extra clearance makes for a much more enjoyable ride. It's definitely worth it. We recently rented a car to drive over to the Caribbean side. While much of the road was just wonderful, parts of it were incredibly and deeply potholed. While we were able to "manage", we would have done so much more comfortably and with less stress in a 4 wheel drive!
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Old Dec 2nd, 2004, 09:48 PM
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Gas prices are relatively similar to the states, however, I live in the state with the highest avg gas price...so, my comparison is skewed.
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Old Dec 3rd, 2004, 04:51 AM
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Gas is, of course, higher there than it was a couple of years ago--same as here. It's comparable. Last month it took about $25 US to fill an Altima Sentra.

It seems like gas is less there, however, because you drive so much and don't go very far! It always amazes me how little we spend for gas and are on the go much of the time.
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Old Dec 6th, 2004, 02:06 PM
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Gas: a couple of weeks ago we spent $37 USD to fill up the tank of our Kia. I thought the gas prices were high, and I was using San Francisco prices as my comparison.
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