About Costa Rica and arrival guide
Costa Rica has two primary seasons, the rainy season and the dry season and both attract tourists all year long. However, these seasons can affect the availability and price of your car rental. September and October are the rainiest months in Costa Rica and tourism is in its slowest season. You can also save money in these months with your rental if you are versatile and can factor rainy day adventures into your trip.
If your tropical trip is planned for peak tourist months such as Christmas and Easter Week or Semana Santa as it is called in Costa Rica you will need to plan far in advance, car rentals sell out even with the higher prices. Renting a car is the most economical and time-saving option for any month you visit whether it is the green or dry season. Shuttles can be expensive especially if traveling far distances and the bus system can be very slow taking an entire day at times to reach your destination.
Many tourists’ first point of entry to this country is the Juan Santamaria International Airport which is located in the Central Valley of Costa Rica and less than 30 minutes from the country’s capital of San Jose. It is a popular airport due to its convenient proximity to many popular tourist destinations such as Poas Volcano, Manuel Antonio, and Jaco. The airport does host an area for car rental stands; however, the airport is small and your car rental agency will not have their office here. They will greet you outside with a sign and direct you to a shuttle transporting you to the office that is usually quite close.
The selection of car rental agencies is quite extensive at the Juan Santamaria International Airport with at least 12 possibilities. Enterprise, Alamo, Avis, Budget, Thrifty, Dollar, National, Hertz, Fox Rentacar, Sixt, Zipcar, and Payless Car Rental are all available at the airport.
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San Jose is the perfect base point to start your exploration in this biodiverse country because it is in the center of the country. After picking up your car rental San Jose is only a 20-minute drive where you can have time to unwind and relax in your hotel or admire the architecture of the streets stretching your legs from a long day of travel.
Choose your perfect rental car in Costa Rica
Being in the center of the country can make it difficult to choose where you want to go because there are so many options. The closest beach destination is Jaco and is 4 km of black sand beach that you can walk from one end to the other if you are in the downtown area. The highway on this route is well maintained and in good condition making the economy or compact car a suitable rental for this drive.
The Fiat Panda, Volkswagen Polo, Renault Clio, Lancia Ypsilon, Ford Fiesta, Citroen C3, Smart Forfour, Fiat 500X, Fiat Punto, and Jeep Renegade are all examples of economy car rentals that can make getting to Jaco a breeze. They are economical and with the minimal mountainous incline to this seaside town, this type of car rental will help you save fuel.
With Jaco being a little over an hour away, depending on traffic this vehicle is perfect for short-distance trips. The medium-sized compact car rentals such as Fiat 500L, Volkswagen Golf, Peugeot 308, Renault Captur, Fiat Bravo, Audi A3, Volvo V40, Alfa Romeo Giulietta, Nissan Versa, Hyundai Accent, and the Ford Focus can also be good rental investments. These compact cars can offer more space than the economy car if you are traveling with more than 2 or 3 people. You may want more than one day to explore this destination taking one day to enjoy the sun, waves, vibrant sunsets, and lively nightlife of restaurants and bars.
The next day can be a day of exploring, venturing to the Carara National Park where you can find scarlet macaws, sloths and hosts the Crocodile Bridge famous for seeing all the free-roaming crocodiles in the Tarcoles River. The compact car is perfectly suited for longer trips if you wanted to continue on your journey to Manuel Antonio National Park. It is only an hour and twenty minutes from Jaco allowing you to see monkeys in their natural habitat and swim in one of Costa Rica’s best-known swimming beaches.
Costa Rica is home to several amazing volcanoes which is always a popular tourist attraction, one of which is the Poas Volcano. This active volcano is known for having one of the largest craters in the world and is located in Poas Volcano National Park. It is just under an hour’s drive from the Juan Santamaria International Airport and is a must-see when vising Costa Rica.
You will want to look at the intermediate car rentals for this undertaking. Ford Fusion, Chrysler 200, Toyota Corolla, Toyota Camry, Volkswagen Jetta, Chevrolet Cruze, Chevrolet Impala, Skoda Octavia, Opel Vectra, Citroën C5, Hyundai i40, and the Ford Mondeo are capable of handling the demands of the winding and inclining roads to reach the volcano. If several people are traveling together these options can fit up to 5 people offering space and comfort while you travel into the clouds.
La Paz Waterfall is on the route to the volcano as well as a coffee plantation and is definitely worth the visit. Knowing your car rental can sustain the trip will ease your mind and allow you to focus on visiting all the amazing stops along your way.
The Nicoya Peninsula is on the Pacific Coast with some of the most laid-back beach towns such as Samara, Nosara, Montezuma, Mal Pais, and Santa Teresa. The coast displays the most beautiful and colorful sunsets in the country and world-class surfing. The Nicoya Peninsula draws in people seeking healthy lifestyles with every imaginable yoga class available and an overall desire for wellness. The area offers waterfalls, a coast full of tide pools, and miles upon miles of jungle full of monkeys. If you are visiting this part of the country, you will most likely be flying into the Liberia International Airport in Guanacaste Costa Rica.
The Liberia Airport is also known as Daniel Oduber Quiros International Airport and hosts an extensive list of car rental companies with a mixture of well-known agencies as well as local dealers. You can choose from Budget, Apex, Enterprise, National. Alamo, Economy, Advantage, Avis, Hertz, or even a local company such as Poas and Vamos Car Rental just to name a few. It is very easy to find as it is at the baggage claim area, however, not all car rental companies will have an actual counter since the Liberia Airport is small.
If your car rental company does not have a physical location here, the process is still effortless. Simply exit the airport once you retrieve your baggage and clear customs, you will then find someone to help guide you by holding a sign with the name of the company. They will escort you to a shuttle taking you to the office, finishing any necessary paperwork, and then your vehicle is ready. It is best to inquire prior if there is a fee for this shuttle service as it is not always complimentary with all agencies.
Renting a 4 x 4 should be your top choice for exploring the Nicoya Peninsula of Costa Rica as this terrain can be off the beaten path with rural and complicated unmaintained roads. The 4 x 4 will remove much of your stress and worry knowing you and your family are safe.
An economy or compact car would not be in your best interest as these sit lower to the ground. There is an enormous amount of deep potholes throughout this area of the county that can damage the underside of the vehicle causing undue stress even before you reach your holiday destination.
Many of the 4 x 4’s such as the Mitsubishi Montero, Suzuki Grand Vitara, Toyota Land Cruiser, Chevrolet Tahoe, and Land Rover Defender are perfect for the Nicoya Peninsula. If you are visiting during the rainy season which is May – November you won’t want any other type of vehicle rental. The roads can become difficult at times if you are not accustomed to flooding or muddy roads. The 4 x 4 can defend itself against this tricky terrain and keep your family on the road and out of the ditch. A great characteristic of the 4 x 4 is that it offers wide visibility which is perfect for your drive into the jungle giving you a full view of your memorable adventure.
If you are not traveling in the rainy season the SUV is another great option for exploring this side of the country. The Ford Kuga, Nissan Qashqai, Hyundai ix35, Toyota RAV4, BMW X3, BMW X5, Audi Q5, Ford Escape, Mazda CX-5, and the Hyundai Tucson are all capable of maneuvering these roads. They will clear the never-ending potholes without issue and provide plenty of space inside for your family to enjoy the journey.
Regardless of where your wanderlust takes you in Costa Rica, there are countless options for every terrain on your journey. Car rentals are always going to be your best investment when exploring this tropical paradise whether it be the rugged roads to unknown beaches or the urban jungle of its capital city San Jose.
Continue reading the Best car rental companies in Costa Rica, or plan your Road Trip in Costa Rica.