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SJO to Pan Am Hiway 2 - how difficult?

San Antonio, tX
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SJO to Pan Am Hiway 2 - how difficult?

My husband and I arrive SJO for our first time in Costa Rica. Our car rental is at the airport; we were planning on overnighting in Alajuela and getting a fresh start the following morning. It is unclear on the map as to how we get from the SJO airport to Pan Am Hiway 2 (our second night's destination is San Isidro de General.) Should we take the outer loop, and how does one do that?

Jacksonville...
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1. Re: SJO to Pan Am Hiway 2 - how difficult?

Just did this drive for the second time last week. Go back past the airport on the Pan-Am Hwy. (also known as Autopista General Canas) and head towards San Jose.Just past the Best Western Irazu (on your left) you will see signs for Hwy 39, you will get off to the right and take 39 past Hatillo, and San Sebastion and you will see an exit for Zapote. Take this exit which will lead you to Hwy 2. You can also pass Zapote and take 39 to 2 directly, but it is a little further. The signs will say Hwy. 2 to Cartago. Before you get to Hwy 2 you will need to go through several roundabouts which are a little confusing, but easily navigated.The car rental place should provide you with a map of the local roads, so have them review this with you. Hope this helps!

San Jose, Costa Rica
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2. Re: SJO to Pan Am Hiway 2 - how difficult?

Good advice by JAXDIVER...if possible get a GPS...

Another way...is get the road to San Jose...at Paseo Colonwich is about 1 block from NISSAN dealership...make a left...that is Paseo Colon...go all the way...until you will see the San Juan De Dios Hospital...makle a right and one short block make a left...now you are in Second Avenue...drive all the way...then you will see signs for San Pedro...Curridabat...Cartago..now you are in Pan Am Hwy...

roadadvisor

Tampa, FL
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3. Re: SJO to Pan Am Hiway 2 - how difficult?

SJO is actually practically right on the PAH, which runs all the way through SJ on the route RA just described (it becomes Hwy 1 in downtown SJ but is Hwy 2 the rest of the way through CR). Actually, the PAH runs all the way from Prudhoe Bay Alaska to Ushuaia in the southern tip of Argentina with just a short gap in Panama. What you're really asking about here is how do you get through (or around) SJ in order to continue south on it to San Isidro d. Gnl. (aka Perez Zeledon). And the simplest directions would really be to "just follow the traffic" (which is a good general rule for finding your way through any town in CR). Most of the traffic actually turns at those points that RA just described so you don't really have to worry too much about figuring out where to turn (although having a GPS certainly couldn't hurt and might help you throughout your trip).

What may complicate things is that, since you'll be overnighting in Alajuela and starting out early the next morning, you'll be trying to ride into and pass through SJ during the morning rush hour, which could be the absolute worst time of the day to try and do it. That is where Jaxdiver's route could come in. There is a highway around downtown SJ ( the "Circumnavigacion" or Hwy 39 that Jax described) and it might be quicker,particularly at rush hour. A lot of people would say it is, but I'm not so sure since it gets a hell of a lot of traffic at those times too and with those crazy and confusing rotaries it can get quite backed up and slow as well. Since traffic diverges off of those in all directions (as you will at the Zapote one) you can't really follow the "just follow the traffic" rule that I gave above. OTOH, they have been in the process of replacing some of those rotaries with underpasses since I last drove on that route so it might be a lot quicker and less confusing now (Who knows? With the pace of roadwork in CR it just may have made things more screwed up until they're complete). But I think it really just comes down to a crap shoot which way will be faster and no matter which way you go you'll be wondering if you shouldn't have gone the other way. Sorry.

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BTW, when you get to Cartago (about 30 minutes past SJ), you'll want to follow the signs for Rte 2 and San Isidro (basically just stay to the right) IF you want to bypass Cartago. HOWEVER, I highly recommend you at least take a little detour and head into downtown Cartago (again following the traffic). There is a nice church to visit there that has a lot of historical and religious significance for CR (as well as the "ruins" of another one). If you start out early enough and think you have the time, I'd even recommend that you first go to the top of the Irazu Volcano for the awesome views and a look inside the crater before heading back down to check out Cartago and continue on your trip. To go directly to the Volcano (and bypass downtown Cartago until later) look for a sort of a rotary shortly after a sharp right turn in the highway then right after that take the exit that veers to the left (there should be signs indicating it is the way to the volcano). Very shortly after that there is a fork in the road with most of the traffic going to the right to head into town. Just keep to the left there and continue to follow the signs for the volcano. Coming back down, not even I would attempt to write out directions through Cartago and you're gonna need to park somewhere any way so you can get out to visit the church. It is here actually where I think that GPS system would be the most helpful. Altogether this might add 1.5-2hours max to your trip (including the volcano and the church and maybe just 30 minutes if you skip the volcano) but it will help break it up and I highly recommend you take the time to do it as long as you'll be passing by the area any way.

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Once you get past Cartago, there is not much until you get to San Isidro, at least in the way of turns where you could get messed up, just some really twisty roads and some really awesome mountain scenery when the clouds aren't moving in. Just try to keep at least one eye on the road and please drive carefully. If you don't get stuck behind a truck you should be able to make the rest of the trip to San Isidro in well under 2 hours. So if you leave Alajuela by 7AM, you should be able to make it to San Isidro by lunch time even with detouring to the volcano (or maybe a late lunch if you stop for breakfast at one of the mirador soda's near the top of the volcano).

San Antonio, tX
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4. Re: SJO to Pan Am Hiway 2 - how difficult?

Exactly the details I was looking for - thanks!

San Jose
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5. Re: SJO to Pan Am Hiway 2 - how difficult?

I'm definitely speechless after so much good info...no need to add on. Have a great time! Ohhh just one thing, if your flight arrives on daytime in San Jose and you find yourself trying to decide what to do than just sit at the hotel, Id like to recommend a place that just opened up near the airport that is good for a day visit, it's called Terrarium and it offers a nice butterfly garden, bonsais, frogs and iguanas, it just opened up and sounds nice!

San Antonio, tX
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6. Re: SJO to Pan Am Hiway 2 - how difficult?

Terrarium - it's on my must do list. Thanks so much.

San Jose, Costa Rica
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7. Re: SJO to Pan Am Hiway 2 - how difficult?

Buckle up and enjoy the ride in PARDISE!

Your are WELCOME!

roadadivsor

8. Re: SJO to Pan Am Hiway 2 - how difficult?

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9. Re: SJO to Pan Am Hiway 2 - how difficult?

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