I wanted to post a trip report to pay back the advice I received on this forum prior to our trip. In hind sight, I wish I had asked more questions. We arrived at the Liberia airport on Sat. June 5. We rented a car (actually reserved 2, an SUV and a corolla). After talking to the tourist info girl at the airport, we decided to go with the SUV. I'm glad we did, though it was not actually necessary but it was nice to not worry about clearance so much. We headed out for the Barcelo Langosta hotel. First stop was to get gas at a Total station. Due to being tired and kind of stressed, we got taken for an xtra $8. Guess it was a tip. :) Lesson learned, figure out the exchange rate prior to going! On to our hotel, a little of the road in Tamarindo was very bumpy but the rest was fine. We loved the Barcelo Langosta. Food was good to great, depending on the meal. The cooked to order station and pool bar were fabulous. Drinks were not so great. We're not big drinkers, so taste matters, and they just weren't good. We walked to the National park across the river. Very deserted and beautiful. The cvurrent was pretty strong though. The beach hotel was not swimmable at all. This was very disappointing. Too many currents and big waves. But we drove up the coast to Brastilitos(?) and Flamingo. They were uncrowded and perfect. Nice sized waves that our twins "surfed" in those inflatetable rings. We also stopped to see the monkey's at Captain Suzios, the baby monkey loved my kids blonde hair and climbed all over them! Very cool.
Wednesday a.m, we left Tamarindo for Arenal. Here's where things went south. We had a gps and 2 maps. But there are no signs! Let me repeat that, there are no signs, not highway, not town, not any! My hubby's route had us take hwy 6 then turn onto Hacienda something road, which turned to a 1 lane mud road about 2 miles in. The gps and maps showed that it was a road, but not 1 we wanted to take a chance on. Since we had no info on the other roads, we drove all the way up 6 to 4 and then down. Even this was very difficult because we would drive into a town and somehow get on the wrong road. We speak very little spanish and no one we asked to spoke English. Anyway, we finally made it to La Fortuna, took about 5 1/2 hours. The volcano was beautiful and in full view. Too cool! Our hotel was the Volcano Lodge, it was amazingly beautiful Very private feeling with gardens all around. We relaxed and hung out at the pool with the volcano peeking in and out. About 5pm it poured rain but had stopped by 6:30 pm. We ziplined with Skytram the next day. Another wonderful experience. The Arenal area is so beautiful, I wish we had stayed another day or 2. So Thursday about 2:00, we headed for San Jose. It rained the whole way, the road was very curvy but we were able to find our way. Then we got to San Ramon where I swear they drive the craziest I've ever seen! After too many near misses we got near the SJO airport, but we could not find our hotel. (Holiday Inn Express). Traffic was stopped in every direction and again, no road signs at all. We did not have an address so we could not put it into the gps, and the phone # I had did not work. I was pretty well in hysterics. Finally a very nice lady gave us directions and we got to the hotel, which again was very nice. Thrifty was right across the street, so no more driving! YAY!
In hind sight, get better info on the roads, get better directions, get phone #'s or maybe take buses. Absolutely LOVED Costa Rica, but the driving made me temporarily hate it. Hope this helps someone to plan better. PS Get the full insurance, yes it's $$ but worth the peace of mind. And Thrifty was wonderful too.