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genienes Sep 13th, 2004 04:24 PM

To rent a car, or not to rent a car
My husband and I are traveling to Costa Rica in October for 8 days, staying at the Los Suenos Marriott Resort and we keep going back and forth as to rent a car in San Juan so that we can go where we want. Has anyone rented a car in Costa Rica and what were your experiences? We have also considered taxis or private drivers but didn't know what kind of money we were looking at to do that.

Any insight would be greatly appreciated.

Kwoo Sep 13th, 2004 04:56 PM

We rented a car when we were in CR last Aug & LOVED having our own car. It was very convenient; we could stop wherever we wanted to and whenever we wanted to.

The roads were better than we expected. All the roads were paved and there were some potholes; not a lot but some. The roads over the mountains are very narrow and curvy; you just have to drive slow and be patient. Sometimes we were stuck behind slow-moving trucks. Just relax and be patient. It really was a lot of fun having our own car.

We rented an SUV from Dollar & were very happy with them.

You have to follow the speed limits. Once we were stopped by a policeman for speeding; he told us if we promised not to speed, he wouldn't give us a ticket!

I think that half the people on this forum prefer renting a car & half prefer hiring a driver. You should do what you feel comfortable doing. If you prefer to rent a car, then by all means do so. Don't be afraid to.

lvk Sep 13th, 2004 05:14 PM


Kwoo is right. This subject has been discussed ad nauseum on this board, and there are many good reasons for either choice. Just do a search on private drivers, driving, etc. It really depends on your personal comfort levels.

We chose to go the driver route, and here is a thread which will give you more information:;tid=34524182

You can also do a combination of the two, ie: use a driver some days and rent a car for a few days. You can either rent a car in San Jose or get a car delivered to you at Los Suenos.

Another consideration is where you're planning to go from Los Suenos. If your travels take you along the major highways, then you should have no problem driving.

We stayed at Los Suenos last month, so I'll be glad to answer any additional questions.

TripleSecDelay Sep 13th, 2004 07:45 PM

I agree with Kwoo - we really valued the freedom of having our own car during our stay this month in CR.

For a good laugh, surf on over to los huecos dot com (the holes) where you can see extreme examples of potholes. We never encountered anything comparable, however, unpaved roads in the mountains and some potholes in less-traveled roads. Please do not be dissuaded by the website. I only mentioned it for the humor value.

On the flip side of the same coin, there were times we wished we had a driver/guide to help us understand local culture.

Elsewhere, you may find a great source for translating road signs, but I will add a few common ones that should help you or anyone else who reads this.
Despacio : Slow / Caution
No Hay Paso : No entry/One way road
Reduzca su Velocidad : Reduce your speed
Maxima Velocidad : Maximum Speed (with the Km/H in a red circle)
Escuela : School zone (generally 25 Km/H)
Alto : Stop (this one's visually obvious)

Also - I posted this earlier : If you rent a car at an airport, the gov't will charge you 12% tax. If you have the car delivered to your hotel, from the airport, you can save the 12%. If you are shuttled from the airport to an off-site rental location, you can save it also -- and don't let the car rental tiburones push you around.

maryanne1 Sep 13th, 2004 08:07 PM

We decided not to rent a car. We found the interbus perfect for getting us to Arenal from San Jose and then to Manuel Antonio-$25.00 each way. We decided to fly Sansa back into San Jose fomr manuel Antonio as we had been over those roads one time. The flight is very good-only 25 minutes. So it is also a matter of how much time you have. We hired a driver one day $125.00 at the Orquideas Inn to drive us all over the Orosi Valley from 9am to 5pm. Louis from Wadi Tours is excellent as a driver as well as us teaching us something about the culture of the area. It takes a good driver to get back into San Jose on a busy Friday afternoon.
As mentioned above it depends on how patient and comfortable you feel driving the roads. The only place I felt we might have used a car was at Manuel Antonio. There is really no one answer to this question. I met a young couple on their honeymoon who rented a car and found themselves stuck in traffic in San Jose and also driving in the heavy rainfall on those winding roads around the mountains. They were not sure the car was the best idea. I remarked if their marriage had survived that the first days then I was sure they would have make it successfully to have a good marriage.

Kwoo Sep 14th, 2004 05:36 AM

Regarding Mariann1's comment about driving in San Jose: We did spend a day in San Jose but we did not drive into the city. We stayed at Las Orquideas Inn in Alajuela and hired a driver from Wady Tours (they have an office at Las Orquideas). The cost was $5.00 pp one-way. If you want to visit San Jose, I don't recommend driving into the city. The traffic is horrible and there isn't any place to park. Other than that trip into San Jose, we drove ourselves everywhere we went & as I already stated, we loved the freedom of having our own car.

If you decide to drive, I recommend purchasing the Berndston & Berndston map at Barnes & Noble. It was very helpful, and it is laminated.

Ally Sep 14th, 2004 07:28 AM

If not renting a car, how were you going to get to Los Suenos? I assume they are arranging transportation for you? If they are getting you there by car or van, then you may be more comfortable letting them do the driving for the roads over and through the mountians, then, you can get a taxi or possibly they have a shuttle to get you into Quepos (about an hour away) where you can rent a car. Then you can explore the areas around Los Suenos, Jaco, Quepos and Manuel Antonio on your own, without the stress of the mountian pass. Or as someone else suggested, have a car delivered to Los Suenos.

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