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Rent a car or not

Los Angeles...
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Rent a car or not


Will be traveling to costa rica for the first time arrive in Liberia and will head over to Arenal for three nights. Staying at leaves and ,izards. From there we are heading to puerto viejo for two nights. Trying to figure out if we should rent a car for the whole trip.


Chicago, Illinois
Destination Expert
for Costa Rica
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1. Re: Rent a car or not

Renting a car gives you a lot more freedom. Leaves and Lizards is in an isolated location, not close to other hotels, restaurants and activities in Arenal so the car could come in handy. I have no idea why you are flying into Liberia at the NW corner of the country only to drive all the way to Puerto Viejo in the SE corner but you are going to spend an awfully lot of time on the road with this intinerary. It would be far easier to fly into San Jose.

If you don't hire a car you could use shared shuttle services like interbus which have fixed schedules, you could hire a private driver, or you could fly some legs. For instance you could take the shuttle from Arenal to Puerto Viejo, scoot over the border to Bocas del Toro for a few days and then fly back Bocas/SanJose/Liberia.

Playa Conchal...
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2. Re: Rent a car or not

Yes, definitely. You'll appreciate the flexibility to travel and stop whenever you like. Nice drive down to Puerto Viejo, but long drive back to Liberia if thats where you're departing from? If so may want to check you can get back in time.....

San Jose, CR
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3. Re: Rent a car or not

Rent! I can't imagine getting around without a car here, and buses can be a crappy experience (plus you can't stop where/when you want to). Make sure you get a GPS Navigator, they are extremely useful in Costa Rica and will get you anywhere.

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47 posts
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4. Re: Rent a car or not

my vote (after 3 trips there) is always NOT.. i'm always SO glad i hired a driver after the fact.

Toronto, Canada
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5. Re: Rent a car or not

We were very thankful for renting a vehicle. On our way to Samara, we saw a troop of howler monkeys in the trees and doubled back to take some pictures and "chat" with them (they actually howled back!). Very cool experience... unlikely we would have caught that if we had been in a shuttle van... plus it was cheaper than ferrying the four of us around.

It is a bit unnerving to drive in CR at first, but the roads are very good.. even the drive to Monteverde was not as bad as I had expected.

Tico drivers seem to be very good, courteous, but agressive drivers. I just stuck to the speed limit and pulled over once in a while to let ppl pass.

Denver, Colorado
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6. Re: Rent a car or not

Absolutey rent and I'd add make it an SUV. Make sure you have a good map and use the tripometer to help determine when to make turns.

Decent road signs are rare and you have to keep your eyes open.

San Francisco...
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7. Re: Rent a car or not

I echo all those who say drive. I just finished 10 days here and chalked up over 1,200 Km's and I had zero problem. I have a Bego SUV. With full mandatory ins and rental and gps it was $60 a day. Can't beat that. Ticos do like to pass so I just pull to the right a little and do my 80 kph and let them pass.

You'll be glad to have wheels.

Uvita, Costa Rica
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for Uvita, Ojochal
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8. Re: Rent a car or not

Rent Leaves and Lizards is an amazing lodge but away from it all so you will not regred having the freedom of your own car (4x4). Enjoy!

Chicago, Illinois
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131 reviews
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9. Re: Rent a car or not

I have been going to CR for over a decade, some 37 trips, to every park and beach you can find on the map, with the exception of north of Santa Rosa and south of Golfito.

Renting a car allows you far more freedom, and also its a wonderful and beautiful drive in 90% of the country.

LIR to Arenal via Canas/Tiburan is a scenic and slow go drive, allow 3 hours minimum. From Arenal to Pt Viejo is a major drive, so leave first thing, figure 8 hours, can be done in 7 if all goes well. Go around SJ.

Dont drive at night, gets dark at 530.

Lots of radar traps too, so dont speed.

Lots of pot holes and nutty cars to pass, trucks to pass, and all on mountain 2 lane roads with no shoulders. So go slow.

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10. Re: Rent a car or not

There are pros and cons to both renting and not renting a vehicle. I have done it both ways on my trips to Costa Rica. If this is your first time, I would recommend you take a shuttle service, like Interbus or Grayline (I've taken both), as someone recommended above.

If you're going to be spending a lot of time in Arenal doing guided tours, you shouldn't have much to worry about, as they should be providing you with transportation to and from your tours. Something to consider is that many of the hotels are far away from La Fortuna, so you get a little stuck eating at the hotel restaurants around you, which isn't necessarily a bad thing, but can add up. If you want to do some touring around on your own, a car would be pretty useful.

Consider that the drive from Arenal to Puerto Viejo is LONG and tiring, and the road to Puerto Viejo is not great. I wouldn't recommend you do it at night, and also would not recommend stopping at all in the city of Limon, as it can be dangerous. Also be very wary of getting caught speeding by policemen, as there are often speed traps set up along the side of the highway to Limon.

There are several different beaches in the Puerto Viejo area, and a great idea if you don't have a car is to rent a bicycle. Nothing is too far of a ride, and that way you can explore at your own pace instead of worrying about catching a bus or something down to the beaches further south.