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-   -   Rent car or drive? Mountains? (https://www.fodors.com/community/mexico-and-central-america/rent-car-or-drive-mountains-615656/)

acragle May 15th, 2006 08:42 AM

Rent car or drive? Mountains?
 
I canít decide if I should rent a car for the 8 days I will be in Costa Rica the last week in June and beginning of July or find alternate trasportation. I will be going from the airport (arrive at 12:45 pm) to Arenal Observatory for 3 days. While there, I will be spending time at Tabacon Hot Springs, Sky Trek canopy tours (my granddaughter only), hiking, etc. After that I will be traveling to Cala Luna in Tamarindo on the west coast for 3 days. Next, on to San Jose. I will be staying at the Orquideas Inn overnight and leaving the next afternoon. I am afraid of heights so driving on mountains without guard rails scares me. I know the roads are bad and have read many posts on the road conditions. I have never been to Costa Rica. I bought 2 laminated maps. A person I know from Costa Rica told me I definitely should drive. If I book a driver would I be able to stop at La Paz waterfall on the way to the Observatory? I guess there are pros and cons but itís crunch time and I need to decide.
Help! Any information you could provide would be appreciated.

sandyc May 15th, 2006 10:04 AM

If you book a driver, they'll stop wherever you want them to. On one hand, a driver can be a lot more expensive. On the other, there's a lot of peace of mind and you get to enjoy the scenery and not worry about road conditions and crazy drivers. Personally, I've enjoyed having a driver. I get to practice my Spanish, and I used Swiss Travel drivers, who get radioed when there's a landslide or washed out bridge up ahead, so I never worry about anything and I just have a good time. I leave all the pot-hole dodging and hair-pin turns w/ a car waiting on the wrong side of the road to the professionals.

Sandy

sukiduper May 15th, 2006 07:19 PM

I had a car reserved to rent for a week in June but with taxes and insurance is was $600. We cancelled the rental and our hotel booked us a taxi going all the way from the Osa Peninsula to the Nicoya Peninsula. It's a lot cheaper than renting a car and less stressful.

Also check out http://www.arenal.net/tour/transportation.htm

You could also post a message asking if anyone recommends a particular driver.

Good luck!

ewesthoff May 16th, 2006 09:11 AM

It all depends on your personality. My wife and I like to go on our own at our own pace, which is normally spur of the moment, when we want, where we want, and having a rental car in CR has always been the best for us and would not do it any other way. We ask the locals for ideas and go and do it. It has allowed us such freedoms to see more, eat more and be more adventurous. We just booked a weeks rental with Payless for $300.00. Mid-Size SUV with 4-wheel drive. Can't beat it. Either way, enjoy the adventure.

sweet_polly May 17th, 2006 03:24 PM

We rented a car and drove when we were there, but I have to admit that it was a pretty hair-raising experience at times. The roads were horrible...we got lost several times...and the local drivers are crazy. I'm afraid of heights, too...and the ride through the mountains was freaky scary. This was exacerbated by the fact that many of the oncoming drivers came whipping towards us around blind hairpin turns while taking their halves of the road out of the middle. EEK! If my husband did not speak fairly fluent Spanish, I would not have been comfortable driving through the countryside at all, as English is not commonly spoken there. I would definitely not recommend driving far from your hotel at night

Jenni_P May 17th, 2006 04:50 PM

I have been to Costa Rica twice - both times renting a car. Once with my husband and once with a girlfriend (2 women alone). We had no problem either time and really loved the flexibility. Definitely dont drive at night - the roads are not good enough. It can definitely be hair raising - so it definitely depends on how you handle things - I am adventurous and it adds to the craziness & the experience. You will be there during raining season, so roads can be worse. In the country side they do not speak English. I know a little Spanish, but even if you didnt you could still ask people the city name and point. It would be a problem though if you run into trouble - language barrier can be tough.

58smom May 21st, 2006 06:21 PM

We rented a 4x4 this time and drove from SJ to Arenal then to MA then back to SJ.
I had a difficult time with the curvey roads with no guard rails, maybe it would've been better with me behind the wheel instead of my husband. I was always on the edge looking down!!! Despacio was my most used word (slow). Once out of the mountains I loved having a car. But you can certainly get by with a driver. Next time I would probably fly to Quepos and then take taxis.
In Arenal I liked having a car to drive into La Fortuna (waterfalls) and up to Arenal Observatory etc.
My husband would say rent the car! (Jeez, my palms are getting sweaty just remembering the roads!!!) We survived and I guess I would be game to rent again.
As far as getting around, just ask for a town. Don't try to go by roads, follow signs for the city or town you're heading to. We never got lost anywhere there.
Don't drive at night, and don't pay any police!! That is illegal and a bad scam there. Insist on a ticket (you pay the ticket when returning your car).


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