Road Conditions of Specific Routes in Costa Rica

Last Updated: May 2, 2022

If you’ve read our article on Driving in Costa Rica, then you’ve already learned the basics of what to expect when out on the road. General traffic laws, safety tips, and more are all covered in that post. It should be your first source of information for driving in the country. But if you’re wondering what road conditions are like for specific routes, this post is for you. We drive around Costa Rica a lot, and in this article, we’ll name the most commonly traveled roads and tell you about their conditions.

Keeping our information current: If you have recently driven one of these roads and have an important update to share, let us know in the comments below. Be sure to include your travel dates. We’ll update our information as necessary based on those reports as well as our own most recent drives.  

Road Conditions in Costa Rica

How to Use This Guide

It is important to note that many of the roads in Costa Rica may be numbered on a map, but they are not marked with any actual road signs. If you are planning your driving routes ahead of time, we recommend using our guide, along with Google Maps and/or this waterproof Costa Rica travel map

Once you are here, you can use GPS to make sure you are on the right road. Or, if you have an Internet connection, you can use Google Maps or the popular Waze App to cross-reference in the same way. Waze actually works very well in many places here. If you are in a rural area, the waterproof map mentioned above can be really helpful if you don’t have an Internet signal.

Tip: If you haven’t rented a car yet, check out our Rental Car Discount page, which can save you 10% with Adobe, one of the top companies in Costa Rica. You’ll also get a discount on a GPS, free second driver, and other extras. Adobe also rents Wifi hotspots, so you can use your mobile device in the car to help navigate or surf the web.

Common Driving Routes in Costa Rica

IMPORTANT: Road conditions can change quickly in Costa Rica due to weather, natural disasters, construction, and other factors. The descriptions below are accurate and updated to the best of our knowledge, but because conditions are constantly changing, we don’t guarantee our accuracy. Always check for the latest road closures on Costa Rica’s government website before you set out. And if your experience driving a certain route was different than what we said, help us get the information right by leaving a comment below.

Use the Links Below to Jump to a Specific Route

Road Conditions by Route Number

Route 1 – Inter-Americana Highway

Connects many destinations, including San Jose and Guanacaste; Guanacaste and the Central Pacific Coast; and some Central Valley towns west of San Jose.

  • Major route. Completely paved, marked with lines, has good signage for towns/cities.
  • Starts in San Jose and goes all the way to the northern border with Nicaragua.
  • In parts, this is a modern four-to-six lane highway (e.g., near San Jose and SJO International Airport and between Liberia and Canas). Other parts are two lanes or two lanes with an occasional third passing lane (e.g., between La Garita and Esparza; Barranca and Canas; Liberia and Nicaragua).
  • Section between La Garita and Esparza was the old highway from San Jose to the northern Pacific coast/Guanacaste. It is still functional but curvy and takes longer than the newer highways (Route 27 to Route 23, then back onto Route 1).
  • Traffic can be congested around San Jose. Slowdowns also occur between Barranca and Canas because of large trucks traveling slowly and no room to pass.
  • Expect construction delays south of Canas, where highway widening is underway.   
Road Conditions in Costa Rica - Route 1
Route 1 near San Jose

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Route 2

Connects San Jose to Southern Zone and is a slower way to get to the Southern Pacific Coast. Destinations on this route include San Gerardo de Dota and San Isidro de El General.

  • Major route. Completely paved, marked with lines in most places, has good signage for towns/cities.
  • Starts in San Jose and goes all the way to the southern border with Panama.
  • In parts, this is a modern four-lane highway (e.g., between San Jose and Cartago, and near San Isidro de El General). Other parts are two lanes or two lanes with an occasional third passing lane (e.g., between Cartago and San Isidro de El General, and from San Isidro de El General to the Panama border).
  • Section between Cartago and San Isidro de El General is very mountainous. This stretch is known locally as Cerro de la Muerte (Hill of Death). The road is in good condition but is narrow and very high altitude. It should not be driven at night because of thick fog and cloud cover. In the rainy season, road conditions can change quickly. Sometimes sections are closed due to landslides that block the road completely. Crews with heavy machinery can unusually clear the way within a day but sometimes it is closed for several days in a row. It is always good to check for closures ahead of time on the Transito website.
  • Route 2 was the old highway from San Jose to the Panama border at Paso Canoas and Costa Rica’s southern Pacific coast. Today, most people visiting the southern Pacific coast take the coastal route (Route 27 to Route 34), which is flatter and faster. Route 2 is a very scenic drive, however, if you have some time and are up for a little adventure. At its highest points, the landscape turns to shrubby plants and trees, typical of the high-altitude forest. It also passes huge wind turbines.
  • Pavement south of Palmar Sur to Panama border is bumpy and has potholes to navigate.
Road Conditions in Costa Rica - Route 2 near San Isidro de El General
Route 2 near San Isidro de El General

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Route 3

Connects western San Jose to Route 27 in Orotina. Passes through the cities of Heredia and Alajuela and is used to access the town of Atenas. Often used as alternative route to Central Pacific Coast if Route 27 is closed. Many rental car agencies have offices on this road, near SJO International Airport.

  • Paved two-lane road marked with lines with fairly good signage for towns/cities.
  • Has more traffic lights and congestion near San Jose, Heredia, and Alajuela.
  • West of Alajuela, road conditions become more rural and scenic. It is extremely curvy with many hills, making it a slow, but beautiful, drive.
  • Route 27 is the preferred route from SJO International Airport to the Pacific coast because it is much faster. Route 3 is functional, though, if 27 is closed for a holiday (see Route 27, below, for more info on road closures).

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Route 4

Connects very northern Guanacaste to La Fortuna/Arenal and Caribbean side of the country. Destinations accessed using this route include La Fortuna, Tenorio Volcano National Park/Rio Celeste, Puerto Viejo de Sarapiqui, and Tortuguero.

  • Secondary highway with two lanes. Completely paved, marked with lines in most places, has fairly good signage for towns/cities.
  • Easy drive, mostly flat road that passes lots of agricultural fields like pineapples, papayas, and sugar cane.
  • This is the most common route between La Fortuna and Tortuguero or Puerto Viejo de Talamanca on the Caribbean coast.

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Route 6

Connects Route 1, near Canas, to Route 4 at Upala, in Guanacaste Province. This road is used to access the town of Bijagua and the nearby Rio Celeste Waterfall from towns in northwestern Guanacaste.

  • Paved two-lane secondary road, marked with lines. Hilly at times but smooth driving on nice pavement.
  • Nice views of Miravalles and Tenorio Volcanoes when coming from the west. Also some impressive wind turbines along the road.

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Route 10

Connects Cartago in Central Valley to Siquirres on Caribbean slope. The most popular tourist destination on this route is Turrialba.

  • Paved two-lane road, marked with lines. Hilly at times but smooth driving.
  • Passes farm fields like coffee and sugar cane, as well as dairy pastures and sections of forest.
  • Traffic can be slow in Turrialba and Paraiso.
  • The old railroad from Cartago to the Caribbean port of Limon once passed through sections of this road and the old tracks are still visible in some places.
  • This was the old highway to the Caribbean coast. Today, most people visiting Caribbean towns like Cahuita and Puerto Viejo de Talamanca take Route 32 out of San Jose because it is faster and has better road conditions.

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Route 14

Connects the small city of Rio Claro to Golfito in Southern Zone. 

  • Paved two-lane road in fair condition.

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Route 17

Local road through port city of Puntarenas. You will take this if you are crossing the Gulf of Nicoya on the Puntarenas-Paquera Ferry.

  • Paved two-lane road, marked with lines. Smooth driving.
  • Residential and commercial zone with some traffic lights.

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Route 18

Connects Route 21 (near Nicoya) to the Inter-Americana Highway/Route 1. Used as a cut through between Guanacaste or Nicoya Peninsula and points east like Monteverde, San Jose, and Puntarenas. 

  • Paved two-lane road, marked with lines. Smooth driving.
  • Bridge at the mouth of the Tempisque River has a beautiful view of the Gulf of Nicoya.

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Route 21

Connects the city of Liberia to southern Nicoya Peninsula. LIR International Airport is located on Route 21. Driving part of this route is also necessary to reach most beach towns in Guanacaste like Tamarindo, Flamingo, Playa Conchal, Playa Hermosa, Samara, and Nosara

  • Major route. Secondary highway with two lanes. Completely paved, marked with lines, has fairly good signage for towns/cities.
  • Very flat, smooth driving.
  • Around town centers, locals often walk or ride bicycles along the side of this road so use caution for their safety.
  • There is often traffic near Liberia and the airport but otherwise the road is not very busy.
  • Note that Google Maps now continues Route 21 all the way down the east coast of the Nicoya Peninsula towards Montezuma and Mal Pais. This was formerly a section of Route 160, see that section below for conditions south of Naranjo (not fully paved).

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Route 23

Connects Route 27 to Route 1 near Puntarenas. This route is used in combination with Route 27 to get to destinations in northwestern Costa Rica like the Nicoya Peninsula, Guanacaste beaches, and Monteverde from San Jose (instead of taking Route 1 all the way from San Jose). Also connects to Route 17 if traveling into Puntarenas.

  • Secondary highway with two lanes and a third passing lane near Caldera. Completely paved, marked with lines. Some stoplights closer to Puntarenas in the commercial zone.
  • This road goes right next to the beach for a short stretch in Caldera. The views of the Gulf are very pretty and lots of locals visit the beach. Cruise and/or container ships often can be seen docked in Caldera or just offshore.

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Route 27 (Autopista)

Connects San Jose to all destinations on Pacific Coast. Also most common route to Monteverde.

  • Major route. Completely paved, marked with lines, has good signage for towns/cities.
  • Around San Jose, this is a modern four-to-six lane highway. Going west out of the city, road conditions change to two lanes or two lanes with an occasional third passing lane. This highway is often congested since it is a popular route and there can be truck traffic.
  • Toll road. Tolls range from 310 to 730 colones and are more frequent closer to San Jose. Have colones available or small US dollars ($1 bills).
  • The Coyol Radial connects Route 27 with Route 1 for those going to or from the SJO Airport. The sign for the airport is very small so keep a lookout. The exit name is Coyol/Ciruelas.
  • There is often construction traffic west of the town of Concepcion, where workers are stabilizing the steep slopes next to the highway. It has been going on for years.
  • On the Sunday after big holidays (Christmas, New Years, Easter, etc.), westbound traffic is often rerouted from Route 27 to Route 3 or Route 1. This occurs near Orotina, where all lanes of Route 27 are turned into eastbound lanes in the direction of San Jose in order to ease the congestion of people traveling home after the holidays. Check for updates on the Globalvia website. 
Road Conditions in Costa Rica - Route 27
Route 27 west of Escazu

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Route 32

Connects San Jose to Caribbean slope, ending at the port city of Limon. This is the newer way to access the Caribbean Coast, which was formerly through Cartago and Turrialba on Route 10.

  • Major route. Completely paved, marked with lines, has good signage for towns/cities.
  • Two lanes or two lanes with an occasional third passing lane.
  • Steep at times. Also a popular trucking route, so expect slowdowns at the steepest points.
  • Only road in Costa Rica with a tunnel. This tunnel goes under a section of Braulio Carrillo National Park. It creates an important land bridge for animals, which can safely cross over the top.
  • Sides of the road along the steep descent to Caribbean are covered with lush foliage. Sometimes landslides occur, especially during the rainy season, so use caution after heavy storms.
  • This road can get fogged in and visibility is poor in the rain. Avoid driving at night.
  • Expect some construction delays between Route 4 and Limon for road expansion project.
Road Conditions in Costa Rica - Route 32
Zurqui Tunnel going under Braulio Carrillo National Park

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Route 34 (Costanera Highway)

Connects Route 27 with Central and Southern Pacific Coast (Jaco, Quepos/Manuel Antonio, and Dominical and Uvita).

  • Major route that follows the coast. Completely paved, marked with lines in most places, has good signage for towns/cities.
  • Two lanes or two lanes with an occasional third passing lane. Some steep areas between Tarcoles and Jaco but otherwise relatively flat and smooth.
  • Starting in Parrita and going south to Dominical, much of the highway is surrounded by palm-oil plantations.
  • A police checkpoint is often set up near Dominical. The officers might request to see your passport.
  • Common stop is the Tarcoles River Bridge, where you can see very large crocodiles along the banks of the river. Bridge has pedestrian sidewalks. 
Road Conditions in Costa Rica - Route 34
Route 34 between Quepos and Dominical

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Route 36

Connects the Caribbean port city of Limon to Hone Creek and Panama Border at Sixaola. Popular destinations accessed by this route include Cahuita and Puerto Viejo de Talamanca.

  • Paved two-lane road marked with lines. Has fairly good signage for towns/cities.
  • South of Limon follows the coast for a while and has beautiful ocean views.

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Route 39 (Circunvalacion)

Loops traffic south around downtown San Jose by connecting Route 1 and Route 27 on the western side to Route 2 on the eastern side. Also connects Route 1 and Route 27.

  • Major highway around San Jose. Four lanes with some additional exit lanes. Completely paved, marked with lines, has fairly good signage for towns/cities/exits.
  • North/westbound direction is marked as Uruca and south/eastbound is marked as Hatillo.
  • Double check for motorcycles before changing lanes as they often travel between cars/lanes.
  • Typically has heavy traffic.

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Route 126

Connects the city of Heredia to Northern Lowlands near Puerto Viejo de Sarapiqui. Popular attractions along this route include Poas Volcano and La Paz Waterfall Gardens.

  • Paved two-lane road marked with lines in most places. Has fairly good signage for towns/cities.
  • Steep and extremely curvy road conditions in some parts as the road cuts around the mountains. Some sections are very narrow with drop-offs on one side.
  • Can get fogged in and visibility is poor in the rain. Avoid driving at night.
  • Has fantastic views of the surrounding jungle, especially on the section northwest of Poas Volcano.
  • Passes the beautiful La Paz Waterfall, which practically spills into the road. Has parking alongside the road for people to stop and take pictures.
  • Was partially destroyed by an earthquake in 2009 but has since been repaired.
Road Conditions in Costa Rica - Route 126
Route 126 at La Paz Waterfall

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Route 141

Common route to La Fortuna/Arenal from Central Valley starting in Naranjo de Alajuela

  • Paved two-lane road or two lanes with an occasional third passing lane. Marked with lines and has fairly good signage for towns.
  • Curvy road conditions as you go over the mountains, but nice views.
  • Fog can be thick at higher altitudes. Avoid driving at night.

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Route 142

Connects La Fortuna to Canas in Guanacaste. Goes around Lake Arenal, Costa Rica’s largest lake. This route is also used for traveling between La Fortuna and Monteverde.  

  • Paved two-lane road marked with lines. 
  • Very curvy around Lake Arenal but also scenic. There are several interesting places to stop and eat on the lake. See our post 6 Great Eats Around Lake Arenal.
  • Be aware that GPS will often try to take you on a shortcut (to go around Tilaran), but the side closest to Lake Arenal is steep dirt and requires 4×4. This would only save a few minutes anyway so better to stay on Route 142 the whole time, which has better road conditions.
  • After heavy rainfall, small landslides can sometimes block portions of the road around the lake. Usually road crews have these cleaned up quickly, but it is always good to check for closures ahead of time on the Transito website.
Road Conditions in Costa Rica - Route 142
Cow traffic on Route 142 near Lake Arenal

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Route 145

Connects Tilaran to Route 606 and Monteverde. Used by travelers going from La Fortuna or Lake Arenal area to Monteverde/Santa Elena.

  • Paved leaving Tilaran but road conditions change to dirt after a few miles. Continues as bumpy dirt road and turns into Route 606. A 4×4 is recommended during all times of year. See our post about Driving to Monteverde for more information and a video.
  • Nice farm-pasture views, also impressive wind turbines along the ridge.
  • An attraction of interest along this route are the Viento Fresco Waterfalls
Road Conditions in Costa Rica - Route 145
Muddy rut on Route 145 between Tilaran and Monteverde

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Route 150

Connects the inland city of Nicoya to beach town of Samara in Guanacaste. Also connects with roads going west to Nosara

  • Paved two-lane road marked with lines. 
  • Hilly but smooth driving all the way from Nicoya to Samara.
  • Turnoff for Nosara is about 10 minutes before Samara (marked with a sign). This side road is partially paved and eventually connects with Route 160. Higher clearance is recommended because of the bumpy road conditions.

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Route 151

Connects Route 21 to Playas del Coco and Playa Hermosa in northern Guanacaste.

  • Paved two-lane road marked with lines. Has good signage for towns/cities.

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Route 155

Connects Belen to Tamarindo area in Guanacaste.  

  • Paved two-lane road marked with lines. Has fairly good signage for towns/cities.
  • Does not go all the way to Tamarindo but there is signage in Villareal indicating the turnoff.

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Route 160  

Important: Route 160 has two portions – (1) Naranjo to Cobano on southeastern Nicoya Peninsula. This is the best route (in combination with Route 21) to access Montezuma, Mal Pais, and Santa Teresa. (2) Pacific coastal stretch on western side of Nicoya Peninsula. Part of this is an alternative route to Nosara from Liberia, but is more remote with varying road conditions. See below for details.

Naranjo to Cobano Section of Route 160 (to access Montezuma and Mal Pais/Santa Teresa)

  • Paved two-lane road in good condition marked with lines. Very curvy. 
  • You can also connect to this section of Route 160 if taking the Puntarenas Ferry to the Nicoya Peninsula.
  • Note that on Google Maps, this section of Route 160 was recently updated and appears to continue as Route 21. Physical maps may still show it as Route 160. 
  • About 5 km before Mal Pais/Santa Teresa the road becomes dirt with some seasonal ruts and bumps. 4×4 would be handy.

Pacific Coast Sections of Route 160, from north to south (Alternative route from LIR or Tamarindo to Nosara and points south)

  • Overall, mostly dirt and some parts may not be passable in the rainy season due to river crossings, mud, and ruts. An SUV with higher clearance is recommended all times of year. During the rainy season, 4×4 may be necessary. After heavy rains sections may not be passable. 
  • Section north of Nosara/Ostional: An alternative coastal route from LIR International Airport or northern beaches in Guanacaste to Nosara. It is a more difficult drive than taking Route 21 to 150 to 160 (south of Nosara), but also more scenic, as it passes rural beach towns. This portion of road is very remote, with few businesses along the way so be sure to stock up on gas and supplies around Santa Cruz, Huacas, or Liberia. The road conditions are fairly flat with a few bumpy areas. Not recommended in the rainy season (overall muddy conditions and river between Ostional and Nosara is sometimes not passable), but usually fine in the dry season. Also has several one-lane bridges where you have to yield to oncoming traffic; however, this road is not usually very busy.
  • From Nosara to Playa Garza/Playa Barrigona: This section was paved in September 202o but already had bumpy stretches with potholes during a visit in 2022. 
  • From Playa Garza/Playa Barrigona to Samara: There is a river to cross. This section is often not passable in the rainy months due to the river’s height and muddy conditions on the northern side of the river (see photo, below). Better to drive around using Route 150, which has more reliable road conditions.
  • South of Samara along the coast: Connects to Santa Teresa/Mal Pais and is sometimes considered Route 160. We have never driven this whole stretch, but have heard that the southern sections are difficult to pass without experience. Driving on the beach and several river crossings are required. This is a very remote area and there have been incidents of crime against tourists driving this route near Santa Teresa. We strongly recommend using the Naranjo to Cobano side of Route 160 instead (see above).
Road Conditions in Costa Rica - Route 160 just north of Samara
Muddy mess on Route 160, just north of the river crossing in Samara (May). The car in the picture is actually stuck in a deep mud hole. 

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Route 164

Connects Route 1 at Bagaces to Route 4, north of Upala. Primarily used to visit the towns of Guayabo and Fortuna near the Miravalles Volcano. Also used to access the Rio Perdido Resort.

  • Paved two-lane secondary road marked with lines in most places. In fair condition with some bumps and potholes.

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Route 209 

Connects Guayabo to Desamparados (San Jose). We haven’t driven this route but a reader emailed us his experience driving the portion from Acosta to San Jose and details the road conditions. You can read it here

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Route 223

Connects Route 2 to town of Sierpe in Southern Zone. This route is used to get to the shuttle boats that go to Drake Bay. Also passes Finca 6 archeological site.

  • Paved two-lane road (as of 2019), some lines but otherwise unmarked.
  • Scenic drive through the palm-oil fields. You can also see some pre-Columbian stone spheres along the roadside.

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Route 237

Connects Route 2 to San Vito and San Vito to Ciudad Neily in Southern Zone.

  • Section between Route 2 and San Vito: Paved two-lane road marked with lines. Has fairly good signage for towns/cities. Curvy at times. Also many school zones so speed limits are lower. Beautiful valley views toward La Amistad National Park. A police checkpoint is often set up along this stretch. Officers may ask for your passport and inquire about any purchases made in Panama.
  • Section between San Vito and Ciudad Neily: Paved and mostly marked with lines. Is in good condition but some parts are narrow and very curvy so you can’t go too fast (it takes 1 hour from Ciudad Neily to San Vito). The views on the hills are very pretty and there are some special spots to stop where you can see all the way to Golfito, the Coto Valley, and the gulf. [Thanks to our reader, Grethel, for her comment on this section. We recently drove it and she was completely correct!] 

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Route 239

Connects Ciudad Colon to Puriscal and Puriscal to Pacific Coast.

  • Section from Route 34 to Mastatal has been graded and prepped for paving in the future (as of 2021).
  • We’ve never driven the section from Ciudad Colon to Puriscal, so if you have, let us know about the road conditions in the comments below.
Road Conditions in Costa Rica - Route 239
Route 239 between Puriscal and the Pacific coast

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Route 243

Connects the inland city of San Isidro de El General to Dominical on Southern Pacific Coast.

  • Paved two-lane road. 
  • Curvy and steep at times. Truck traffic can cause slowdowns.
  • Several one-lane bridges to cross. Be careful to yield to oncoming traffic.
  • Often foggy at the higher altitudes, near Alfombra.
  • Not recommended to drive at night or in heavy rain since it is hard to see the road.
Road Conditions in Costa Rica - Route 243
Construction traffic on Route 243 between Dominical and San Isidro de El General

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Route 245

Connects Route 2 at Piedras Blancas to Puerto Jimenez in Southern Zone.

  • Paved two-lane road in fair condition.
  • Curvy at times around the edge of the Gulfo Dulce but also very scenic with forest for miles.
  • Remote with few places to stop. Be sure to refuel and get any refreshments before you turn off Route 2. There is a gas station at the turnoff.

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Route 253

Connects Papagayo Peninsula to Route 21, west of LIR International Airport.

  • Paved two-lane road marked with lines.
  • Closer to Papagayo Peninsula, there are some pull-offs with beautiful ocean views.

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Route 256

Connects Route 36 to Puerto Viejo de Talamanca and Manzanillo on Caribbean Coast.

  • Paved two-lane secondary road marked with lines in most places. In fair condition, very flat and fairly straight.
  • Goes through downtown Puerto Viejo and through beach communities to the south, including Playa Cocles, Playa Chiquita, Playa Punta Uva, and Manzanillo. Many people walk or use bicycles, especially between Puerto Viejo and Manzanillo, so use caution for their safety.

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Route 303 

Connects Parrita to Acosta. We haven’t driven this route but a reader (Dennis Massion) emailed us a wonderful description of his drive and the road conditions. You can read his story here

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Route 606

Connects Route 1, north of Puntarenas, to Monteverde. Most popular route to Monteverde from Pacific Coast or San Jose.

  • From Route 1, paved all the way to Santa Elena (paving was finished late 2019). Pavement is in good condition in most places. During rainier months, small landslides and washouts can occur. 
  • Some short sections are narrow with steep embankments or drop-offs. Not recommended to drive at night. 
  • Read our post Driving to Monteverde for more information and a video of the road conditions.
Driving to Monteverde, Costa Rica: Best Routes and Road Conditions
Route 606 to Monteverde (this section is now paved as of late 2019)

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Route 702

Common route to La Fortuna/Arenal from the Central Valley starting in San Ramon

  • Paved two-lane road with occasional one-lane bridges. Marked with lines in most areas. 
  • Very curvy road conditions and somewhat narrow at times. People prone to car sickness often have a hard time on this road.
  • Pretty views of mountains and farm fields.
  • Fog can be thick at higher altitudes. Avoid driving at night.

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Route 708

Mountainous road that connects the towns of Sarchi and Bajos del Toro.

  • Not recommended!
  • Steep, narrow (one car wide in places), and curvy with sudden drop offs (cliffs).
  • This road climbs the side of Poas Volcano and there are some wonderful views, however we would consider it very dangerous. There is often fog and rain which decreases visibility.  Do not attempt at night.
  • From San Jose or Alajuela it would be better to take Route 126 to the north side of Poas Volcano.

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Route 713

Rough mountainous road that is often recommended by online maps and GPS devices when traveling between La Fortuna and Manuel Antonio.

  • A reader, Chad Kletschka, recently reported that this is an extremely steep, narrow, and heavily rutted road. It would be a difficult road in a 4×4, even in dry conditions.
  • Alternatively from La Fortuna take Route 702 to San Ramon, Route 1 (west) to Puntarenas. Connect on Route 23 to 27 and finally Route 34 to Manuel Antonio
  • Alternatively from Manuel Antonio, take Route 34 to 27 (west), 23, and Route 1 (east) to San Ramon. Then 702 to La Fortuna.

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Route 911 (Monkey Trail)

Connects Sardinal (Guanacaste) to beach towns of Playa Potrero and Playa Flamingo. Shorter stretch connects Flamingo to Potrero along the coast.

  • Coastal section between Potrero and Flamingo: Paved road in good condition.
  • Inland section between Sardinal and Potrero: An alternative route from Liberia to certain destinations in northern Guanacaste, like Playa Potrero, Playa Flamingo, and the Riu Resort.  This section was previously rough dirt but has been newly paved as of late 2019! The road is still very narrow and has experienced some washouts with heavy rain so use caution and drive slowly. There is still a small river to cross, which can be too high during rainy season. 

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Have a question about road conditions that we didn’t mention? Or do you have an update based on a recent drive? Let us know in the comments below.

Last updated: May 2, 2022

Looking for more information to help you plan? Check out these posts:

Driving in Costa Rica: What to Know Before You Go – Learn general information about driving in Costa Rica like traffic laws, safety tips, rainy season conditions, and more.  

Rental Car Discount – Save 10-25% on a reliable rental car and get free extras like delivery to your hotel, an additional driver, and discounted GPS. 

Shuttles in Costa Rica: How They Work and When to Use Them – Worried about driving? Check out this post to see how you can get around Costa Rica using shuttle vans.

Safety Tips for Your Next Trip to Costa Rica – Overview of crime and safety in Costa Rica with tips for keeping your vacation rental, hotel room, backpack, and more safe.   

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  1. Hi, I always like to read your blog. I live near Ciudad Neily and I go to San Vito quite often, so I can tell you that the road is two lane, all paved and some parts marked. It is in good condition but some parts are narrow and heavy curves so you have to be carefull (it takes 1 hour from Ciudad Neily to San Vito althoug is only like 30 km away). And also the views up the hills are very pretty, there are some special spots where you can see all the way to Golfito, the Coto Valley and also there are some good places to eat, and you can always visit the Botanical Garden on the way to San Vito.
    So I hope my comment works for you and please excuse me about my english skills.

    1. Hi Grethel, Thanks so much for the detailed report on the conditions from Ciudad Neily to San Vito. We will update our post to include the information. And thanks too for reading us regularly. We appreciate the support.

    2. We just drove the 606 which is fully paved now. Really easy to go.

      605 is not paved – it connects 1 with 606 when coming from the North. 4×4 recommended.

  2. Hello, thanks for taking the time to do this page. I will be visiting Costa Rica in may 2017. I would love to fly into San José, drive to Cahiuta, spend a couple days and then drive to Liberia and fly home from there. What are the road that takes me to these city like? Is it safe for me to consider doing this? Your guidance is much appreciated.

    1. Hi Jackie, The route that Google Maps gives is correct for your itinerary so you can use that to figure everything out. For San Jose to Cahuita, you will take Route 32 to 241 to 36. Then to Liberia, you will go back the same way and connect to Highway 27 in San Jose, then continue on to Route 23 and 1. Most of this is highway driving and there will be city traffic around San Jose. It is definitely safe to drive, but you may want to stop for an overnight en route to Liberia as it is a very long drive from Cahuita. For conditions, I think we cover all those roads in the post, but let us know if you still have a question.

      1. Thank you so much for this information. I am feeling better about driving there. I am looking forward to my trip. I will let you know how things go.

    1. Hi Viola, None that we can think of other than what’s in this post. For Monteverde to Samara, you’ll take Route 606 to 1 to 18 to 21 to 150. Pretty straightforward, just be ready for the Monteverde portion. Then for back to SJO, you will go back the same way but connect with Route 23 near Caldera to hook up to Route 27. Could be traffic around Caldera and slow on 27 so allow extra time.

  3. Great Info man!

    Any River crossings from Tamarindo to Samara/Carrillo? Heading to Liberia on Thursday. Got a car rented.


    1. Hi Nate, You should go the inland route to get from Tamarindo to Samara because it is much, much faster (Route 152 to 21 to 150). There are river crossings if you go the coastal route during certain times of year and many of the roads this way are very rough.

      1. .My brother and I with our wives are heading to Potrero on Feb 24th 2017 for two weeks. We are arriving at noon and we have rented a 4X4. Is hwy 911 an option or should we just avoid it on our 1st day. We have a GPS with Costa Rica maps installed

        1. Hi Gary, We would avoid it and go the paved way that we provide above. When you get to Potrero, you can ask about what kind of shape 911 is currently in, but I wouldn’t recommend trying it on your way in with all your stuff in the car just in case.

  4. Hi Jenn and Matt,
    Extremely useful blog!
    What about Route 6, which is used to drive from Bijagua (Rio Celeste) to Monteverde?
    Thank you!

    1. Hi Pascal, We actually just drove Route 6 the other day and will be updating this post with detailed info. In the meantime, we can tell you that the stretch from Bijagua to Highway 1 is smooth and well paved. It loses some elevation as you leave Bijagua, which is in the mountains, but it isn’t too steep. Easy drive!

  5. Hi Jenn,
    We are staying in Monteverde for a few nights, then heading to Playa Flamingo. I would love to swing down and take a jungle cruise on the Rio Tarcoles on the way to Playa Flamingo. Is it doable to drive this whole route in one day, plus stopping for a few hours to do the cruise? I am not sure about driving between Tarcoles and Playa Flamingo after dark.

    1. Hi Sarah, That would be a really long day since Tarcoles is an hour (each way) out of the way. Plus, we wouldn’t recommend stopping for a tour like that en route between destinations since you will have all your stuff with in the car. Also, the Tarcoles River cruise isn’t too jungly (you can read our post here) so not sure it is what you’re looking for. If you’re looking for a wildlife boat tour closer to Flamingo, there is always the Tamarindo Estuary. Hope that helps with your question!

  6. Jenn,
    I really want to see crocodiles and the Tarcoles seemed the best option. Is there a tour near the Tamarindo Estuary that will let us get up close to the crocs?

    1. If you really have your heart set on it, then just go for it. You could do one of Jose’s earlier tours so that you can be on your way to Flamingo by early afternoon. If you get caught driving in the dark, the roads between those places aren’t that bad. But do be sure to take all your valuables out of the car and carry them with you (passport, money, jewelry, electronics, etc.). The parking for the tour is just right in Tarcoles. I don’t think they had a security person but you could ask. If you want any help arranging the tour, let us know because we work with Jose’s. We could ask them too if they have any ideas for keeping your bags secure during the tour.

      1. Hi! Which route is Liberia to Manuel Antonio? Trying to figure out how the road conditions are because we’re hoping to drive part of the way in the dark. Our flight arrives in Liberia at 230pm. Thanks!

        1. Hi Jeilynne, It’s all highway from Liberia to Manuel Antonio but some sections are mountainous so not great for driving at night. Here is a map with the route. If your flight doesn’t arrive until 2:30 pm, we would definitely stay in a hotel near Liberia so you’re not driving after dark. It gets dark in Costa Rica around 5:45 pm and it’s about a 6 hour drive from LIR to Manuel Antonio.

  7. Thank you so much for your reply. I think we will try it. We are not planning on bringing anything of value on the trip besides passports, money, and cameras and will keep those things with us at all times. I have really been on the fence about the driving because everyone makes it sound so scary, but I think it is the only way to get to all the stuff we want to do without paying a fortune in private drivers. I finally decided to just go for it. Your site has been very helpful.

  8. Hi there! Thank you for your very helpful blog post. People have been making us really nervous about our plans to rent a car during our visit. We planned to drive from San Jose to the Tabacon Resort in Arenal, then a few days later from there to Tamarindo and finally a few days later from Tamarindo all the way to Manuel Antonio. We know they’re long journeys, but that’s OK with us- we’re more concerned about road conditions. We plan to do all of our driving during the day, but besides that will the roads be OK?? It looks like, based on your breakdowns, they will be…

    Thank you!

    1. Hi Lisa, Yes, those are all well-traveled, paved roads. The road to Arenal is mountainous and windy, but not too bad, and the road from Arenal to Tamarindo around the lake is curvy too, but fine during the daytime. Try not to worry. You have the right idea with not driving at night and it sounds like you have your routes all planned out so you should be fine.

      1. Hi there! I am doing a similar trip to Lisa’s. LIR airport to Tamarindo, to Arenal/LaFortuna, to Manual Antonio, then to SJO airport. Do I have to rent a 4×4? Thanks for the input.

  9. Do you know anything about these routes:

    I am getting nervous about the driving conditions. We are going in early April.
    Considering driving from Samara to monteverde, but now rethinking this.

    1. Hi Alyssa, What towns are you trying to access via Routes 140 and 250?

      The drive from Samara to Monteverde isn’t too bad. You take Route 150 to 21 to 18 to Highway 1 (all paved, well traveled roads) and then take Route 606 after that. Only the last part of 606 is rough and unpaved. Our Driving to Monteverde post has detailed info about conditions on Route 606.

    1. Hi Carol, The restrictions aren’t supposed to start until 4 p.m. so if you get there before then, you can still go that way, there will just be traffic. Costa Rica doesn’t usually do detours with signs so I wouldn’t rely on that. Your best bet is to ask Adobe which way to go when you pick up the car. So you have an idea, your options are taking Route 106 back to 1 after the bridge or going all the way over to Heredia and then back south again. We did this recently to avoid the construction, but the best way with the least traffic changes a lot depending on the time of day and we don’t live local in San Jose so I would double check with Adobe.

  10. I am driving from Jaco Beach to MonteVerde. Then from MonteVerde to Arenal. Then from Arenal to San Jose. I was told that the roads leading to each of these places will be relatively new and there is no need for a big car with 4 wheel drive. How accurate is this? Also, I am quite worried about getting lost, as I heard the GPS systems aren’t the greatest. Is there an alternative?

    1. Hi Rob, The road to Monteverde coming from either direction (Jaco or Arenal) is rough dirt and we recommend an SUV with 4×4 any time of year. You can read our post about Driving to Monteverde for more specific info and videos. GPS works if the maps are good – the ones the rental companies give out are usually good, but people have problems when they bring their own. So it’s best to rent them from the rental company if you’re not sure or use Google Maps or the Waze cell phone app. Google Maps sometimes gets it wrong too, so we always recommend planning your routes in advance so that you know you’re in the right spot.

    2. Hi Rob Kerry – did you do this trip yet? We are considering the same in the next week and are looking to see what conditions are like – like you trying to avoid a 4×4. Sarah

  11. Hello Jen and Matt, this is a very interesting website. We are a group of 6 adults and 2 children travelling to Costa Riva at the end of July. Want to rent a car (either 2 SUVz or one Van) drive from San Jose to Cariari (park and take the boat to Tortuguero), then drive from Cariari to Monteverde (stay few days there) then Monteverde back to San Jose. Is this duable by renting SUV/Van. How are the driving conditions, I’ve drove from Papagayo to Arenal and back 16 years ago, it was a bit challenging but OK in the end.

    1. Hi Adrian, We think you will find the roads to be in much better condition than when you were here 16 years ago. Once you have your route planned (you can use what Google Maps says for this itinerary), you can use this post to find specific info about road conditions. We also have separate posts that apply, Getting to Tortuguero and Driving to Monteverde. These have directions and discuss the road conditions.

      4 wheel drive is recommended for Monteverde, but vans make that trip all the time so we would think that would be fine too. Make sure to check out our rental car discount as you’re shopping around. We get 10% off plus other freebies and they do have vans (but only a few so don’t wait too long to reserve).

  12. Hi, thanks for the insightful info!
    Visiting Costa Rica for the first time next week and thought the best way to experience the San Jose is through driving! How are the road conditions driving to Manuel Antonio and La Fortuna? Really worried about the windy and unpaved roads!

    1. Hi Jessica, The major roads between those destinations are all paved. Some are mountainous and curvy, but nothing too extreme. Fine for daytime driving. Once you have your routes planned, you can use this post to look up the specific roads. Try not to worry too much, most people find the roads here to be not as bad as they expected. Hope you have a great trip!

  13. Hi Jenn and Matt, first of all, thanks for beginning this site and keeping it updated. Like some of the previous folks who have posted, my family is pretty concerned about the roads in CR. We originally started with a plan to head to nasara then to monteverde (coming from Liberia airport), but that freaked my mom out. Now we’ve backtracked to a week at Flamingo (coming from Liberia airport). I assume that the road from an airport to a resort is well-traveled and thus paved, but I think a few in my family would appreciate confirmation.

    Also, any information on roads from Flamingo to Monteverde would be helpful as I am guessing that we will day trip it to see the cloud forests.


    1. Hi Hanlon, Yes, the roads are all in good shape from LIR airport to Playa Flamingo. You will take Route 21 to 155 to 180. DO NOT take Route 911, as Google has you. That is a very bad dirt road that your mom would not enjoy. The other route is the more common, easy drive. You can look up the specific conditions for those roads in this post.

      We don’t recommend Monteverde from Flamingo because it’s so far away. If you decide to do it, the drive is great except for the last hour or so once you get off the highway. It’s rough dirt but fine if you have a 4×4 with higher clearance. You can read our Driving to Monteverde post for videos, directions, and detailed info.

  14. Hi I’m glad I found your site, it takes a LOT of the concern for driving in Costa Rica especially if staying on major roads, out of my fear zone.

    I was debating between flying from SJO to Limon ( to cut down some driving time) and then renting car there to go to PV/Arenal/back to JSO, OR just renting a car at SJO for the 9 days.

    After reading too many forums and comments on what can go wrong, I was also looking at just using shuttles, I’ve done a fair amount of driving in many 3rd world countries.

    1. Hi Harlen, We would either drive the whole time or shuttle the whole time. The flight to Limon won’t save you that much driving and the road between San José and Limon isn’t so bad that it’s worth doing that. You can read about what Route 32 and all the other roads you would need to take is like in our Road Conditions post.

      Shuttles are fine too if you’re still not comfortable driving. If you decide on this, we work with one of the major shuttle companies and can get you 10% off if you book 2 or more trips. There’s more info on our Discounts page.

      You could also take shuttles between destinations for the long drives and then rent a car to get around locally. A lot of people do this who aren’t sure about driving.

  15. This page is brilliant! I am travelling to Costa Rica in April from a very small island just off France – Slightly nervous about the driving as we only ever have two lanes over here and the speed limit is 35mph! This page has given me confidence to know what to expect so thank you!

  16. Hey there,

    Great website – used it to make our final decision to rent a car on our recent trip to Costa Rica. Since we were going from Liberia to Arenal and then Arenal to El Jobo then we decided to take the plunge and were happy we did. So much more freedom which was vital with our flight times!

    Saw somewhere on your page a question regarding Route 935 up to El Jobo. It is now fully paved as far as the Dreams Las Mareas resort. The road itself is fairly quiet and has enough straights to allow overtaking if you get stuck behind a lorry (which you will).

    We downloaded maps from Google Maps before we head off and for the main part they were fine. However, be warned it will take you the ‘quickest’ route which may not be the highest quality road. Our advice is that if it looks like you are being taken off route then ignore it! Don’t be a slave to your Sat Nav! We ignored it for the main part, but on the way to Arenal it told us to cut off a loop of the 142 just before you get to Lake Arenal. It looked like a fine road, but the final kilometer or so was a potholed, dirt-track mess – wouldn’t take that route again!

    1. Hi Chanton, Thanks for the update on Route 935. I think it was in a Forum question that you saw that. We just updated that with the info you provided and gave you a shoutout:

      Yes, Google does a good job for the most part, but it doesn’t know all of the bad roads yet so you can find yourself taking some interesting detours that are shorter by distance but much longer by time due to rough terrain. That example of it telling you to cut around Tilaran and not stay on Route 142 is a good one. We took that road once when we lived in that area and never did again. Glad you had a good trip and were happy you decided to rent a car!

  17. Hi there,
    Tomorrow we are travelling from La Fortuna to Jaco, we came up on route 702 through San Ramon. Was wondering if going back on route 142 to route 1 would be a better road to travel. As route 702 was a very winding and had narrow road ways.

    Thank you

  18. This is such a gem to find! I am going to Costa Rica in 2 weeks and was super worried about the roads, but I feel more comforted now that I have this blog. One question, though, we wanted to go to the Sibu sanctuary from Playa Flamingo and I know you state that Route 160 can be rough, do you have any recommendations? We also did want to make a stop at the Tarcoles tour from Playa Flamingo on our way to Manuel Antonio, who would we contact to figure out if our belongings will stay safe in our rental car?


    1. Hi David, yes Route 160 south of Tamarindo can be a wild card since the conditions often change. It is a safer bet to go to the small city of Nicoya via Route 21, take Route 150, and then connect up with 160 south of Nosara. There is a sign for the Nosara road on Route 150 after the gas station (Servicecentro Samara). Have a great visit to the sanctuary. Oh and you can just check with the tour company that does the croc tour to ask about the security of your bags.

  19. Hi I LOVE your site. I am traveling from manuel antonio to samara we want to rent a car and will go through Adobe like you be suggested! I wanted to know if the roads are safe to drive to samara I’ve heard mixed reviews and what route would you suggest?? Thank you!

    1. Hi Manj, The roads from Manuel Antonio to Samara are all in good condition. You will take Highway 34 to 27 to 23 to 1 to 18 to 21. Then when you get near the small city of Nicoya, you’ll take 150 towards the coast. You can read this post for the specific conditions, but all these roads are paved and traveled frequently. Just don’t drive at night. Also, it can be a little tricky around Caldera/ Puntarenas and in downtown Nicoya, so have GPS or an app on your phone to make sure you’re on the right road. Thanks for renting through us!

  20. Great info, going the 1st week of june with my wife and 2 kids (3 & 8 year old). Wanted to fly into Liberia but flights were so much more expensive than SJO. Would save about $800 flying into SJO for our time. We would arrive around 3pm in SJO and would rent a car/suv and stay the night there, was thinking the Marriot but any suggestion for family friendly hotel would be great. Then would drive up that next morning. Is it a safe drive, a little nervous after reading different post. So the drive would be from SJO to Hyatt Papagayo.

    Thank you so much in advance.

    1. Hi Craig, The Marriott is a fine choice. You could also look at our post Best Hotels Near SJO Airport for more ideas. We have some options in there that are very comfortable but have a bit more of a Costa Rica feel. One that comes to mind is Hotel Buena Vista.

      The drive from SJO to the Papagayo isn’t bad at all, but is long so be prepared to make some stops with the kids. All the roads you will take are paved and in good condition. Only the highway out of San José is a bit mountainous and curvy, but not bad. Much of the drive will be flat highway.

      Be sure to check out our rental car discount for the car. Hope your family has a great trip!

  21. We just returned from 8 days in Costa Rica. We drove from the airport at Alajuela to Tamarindo on Highway 27 to Punta Arenas and then up on Highway 1 around the Gulf of Nicoya to Highway 18 west. The roads were the best from Highway 18 onward. Later we drove to Arenal and back to Alajuela. Generally I found the quality of the pavement on the roads to be fine (with a few awful exceptions) but the real challenge is the narrowness of the roads. There is usually NO shoulder and, instead, a large, deep rain gutter/trench. We saw a tour bus in one of those rain trenches and it wasn’t pretty. Also, most of the roads are very curvy, so it is slow going for such a small country. I rented our car through Adobe via your discount and all went smoothly until we started using the GPS we rented. It was AWFUL. It sent us on a labyrinth of back roads through neighborhoods for at least 15 minutes before even getting us close to Highway 27 (in contrast to the simple instructions the man at the hotel desk had given me orally) and then it directed us onto Highway 27 via an OFF RAMP. YIKES. We turned it off and relied exclusively on our phones and Google Maps. Our phones worked beautifully 99 percent of the time. Costa Rica seems to be an incredibly well-connected country for cell phones. When we returned the car and I asked for a refund, they did not accommodate me. Instead, they suggested I should have complained at the time. The men at the return counter sent in a complaint to customer service, however. There were two women returning their car at the same time and they said the exact same thing about the uselessness of the GPS they rented. I think you should consider revising your recommendation of renting the GPS if people have phones that will have data in CR. The only reason I got the GPS was because of your recommendation and a concern my phone (an i Phone 6) wouldn’t work well. Finally, although I never use GPS at home, it seemed like the GPS units Adobe was renting were outdated technologically.

    1. Hi Elaine, Thanks for letting us know about the GPS. We have never heard that before. I know that they do not work well in Costa Rica if some of the settings are changed, like avoiding toll roads or going the shortest route (which is often not the fastest here due to rough roads and mountains). I wonder if someone changed your settings before you got the device? We hope that Adobe has helped to compensate you for the trouble. Please do let us know if you still need help resolving your complaint.

      We should also note for others reading this that you have to be careful with Google Maps. It does work well in general in Costa Rica and we use it ourselves but it too will send you on roads that it thinks are faster, but can actually be much longer because of rough terrain. For longer trips between destinations, we recommend planning your route out in advance and then using something like Google Maps or GPS to make sure you’re on the right road. The Waze app is the best for turn-by-turn driving directions around San José.

  22. Hello Jenn and Matt,

    I have to say that you guys are rocking this blog!!

    I’m due to arrive in CR on June 26th and we are staying at Riu Palace in Guanacaste. I will be coming down with my parents in law, my wife and my two kids (ages 6 and 1). I want to experience CR as i drive and wanted to know if it will be safe to drive from my resort to La Fortuna. How long does it take? and is it possible to do within daylight (don’t want to drive at night time). I’m a litlle bit lost in terms of the route to take there as well.

    The other question i had was should i be doing La fortuna or Monteverde if i had to choose one. Any help in this matter will be greatly appreciated.

    Keep doing what you guys are doing!!!


    1. Hi Aziz, You can do the drive from the Riu to either La Fortuna or Monteverde during daylight hours, no problem. It is about 4 hrs to La Fortuna via Route 911 to 151 to 21 to Highway 1 to 142 and 3.5-4 hrs to Monteverde via the same route except you will keep going on Highway 1 until you get to Route 606. Road conditions for either aren’t too bad. The road around Lake Arenal is curvy, though, and rather long, and the last stretch of 606 to Monteverde is rough dirt, but fine in a 4×4 so don’t worry. Our Driving to Monteverde post has more detail.

      La Fortuna and Monteverde are very different in terms of the environment. La Fortuna is rainforest and Monteverde is cooler cloud forest. Both have a lot to do, including wildlife viewing, adventure activities, etc., and are very family-friendly. Maybe read each of our posts to see which sounds like a better fit for your family (follow links we just gave).

  23. We’re planning a trip to Costa Rica for late December/early January. We are contemplating flying in to San Jose, spending a night or two there, before heading to Lake Arenal for a few nights, and then going to the Tamarindo area for about a week and flying out of Liberia. The route descriptions seem like the roads are mostly paved in those areas. We might be a group of three woman traveling alone. Any thoughts?

    1. Hi Tracy, Yes, those roads will all be paved. Some are curvy and narrow, but most people find them fine for daytime driving. Women frequently travel alone here so don’t let that deter you. Just follow the usual precautions you would anywhere in the world. For driving, plan your routes ahead of time to avoid getting lost and don’t drive long distances after dark. You could read our Safety post for more tips too.

  24. Hey, this really is a super helpful site. Really appreciate it.
    One thing that would be really useful, would be just a general idea of how long it takes to drive from one destination to another. It’s difficult to get a sense of scale if you haven’t been to CR before.
    Could you give me some idea of time driving from Punta Arenas to Sierpe. Would you break it up into 2 or 3 half days of driving?
    Thank you for this.

    1. Hi Randal, That’s a good idea for a future post. The approx. drive time from the city of Puntarenas to Sierpe is about 4.5 hrs. You could definitely do it in one day (all the roads are in good shape and the terrain is mostly flat, following the coast), but if you wanted to break it up, you could stop for an overnight in Manuel Antonio/Quepos.

  25. Hi there. I am planning a trip in Oct 2017 and I’m very nervous about driving where I’m not familiar with the road conditions. So we are flying into SJO and staying at the Dreams Las Mareas Resort. The cost for a shuttle is ridiculous so we are considering renting a car. But what are the roads like going there? Do you recommend it safe for travelers to drive themselves? If so, which route would I follow from your list?

    I appreciate your help tremendously!!

    Thank you!

    1. Hi Kelli, That’s a long, but safe, drive and fine for visitors to do. Just keep in mind that it will be rainy season (Oct. can be quite rainy) so you could get slowed down by that. Don’t drive after dark because visibility, especially in the rain, is poor.

      You will be on highway for most of the time. You’ll go Route 27 to 23 to 1. You’ll be on Highway 1/the InterAmericana for a few hours. From Highway 1, you will take a smaller road, Route 935. We have never driven to Dreams before but I think the better road is to go up to the town of La Cruz to catch 935, rather than getting on a smaller unnamed road earlier on then connecting to 935, which Google Maps suggests. 935 is now paved all the way to Dreams, according to one of our readers (see forum thread here). You could always confirm the last part of the drive with the resort too.

  26. Hi there! I am soooo thankful for your blog but still incredibly nervous about driving. However, for the budget and the number of places we want to visit, I think it is the best deal. We are flying into Liberia, heading to the Blue River Resort near Rincon de la Veija for a few days. From there I was thinking to head down the coast stopping at Samara and then to Paquera to stay a couple of nights. From there to Monteverde before heading out of SJO. I did my best to browse through all of the comments and didn’t see anyone taking this specific route. Are the roads well paved? My biggest fear is being stuck in mud with no cell service! YIKES!

    1. Hi Tami, You can use this post to look up the specific conditions for where you are going. The only road that I don’t think we cover is from Liberia airport to Blue River Resort. We have never driven to Blue River ourselves but have heard that it is rough dirt and slow. You could contact the resort for more information. For the rest of the trip, the primary route on Google Maps should be accurate for your destinations and you can look up the different roads with this post. You will definitely want a 4×4 for Monteverde and the S. Nicoya Peninsula.

  27. Hi there, I don’t see anything here about Route 708– I am planning to drive from Alajuela to Catarata del Toro in late November and I’m trying to figure out the best way to go in a sedan (or if I might need a rental car– after Catarata del Toro we’re going La Fortuna – La Pavona – Cahuita – Manzanillo – San Jose). Do you have any advice?

    1. Hi Julie, We have to only driven from the eastern side, going around the Poas area and then accessing Route 708 from the north. You can see our Catarata del Toro post for those directions/road conditions. Not sure how the roads are from the south but you could ask the people who own the waterfall. They do have a website.

      The way we accessed the waterfall, the roads were steep in parts. We didn’t use our 4×4 but it would be good to have it just in case, especially for November/rainy season. You won’t need 4×4 for your other destinations, unless you plan on exploring in La Fortuna or your hotel is located in a 4×4 only area (a few are).

  28. Hi,

    Thank you for this website! Could you please review my itinerary and see if I really do need a 4X4? Currently I have a small sedan rented.

    SJO to Tabacon Hot Springs
    Tabacon to Arenal Volcano
    Arenal Volcano to Poas Volcano
    La Fortuna to Jaco
    Jaco to Parque Nacional Manuel Antonio

    Thank you!!

    1. Hi Diego, You should be fine with a regular sedan. The only time you need 4×4 for where you will be visiting is if you explore off the main roads. Some of the roads will be curvy and mountains, but all nicely paved, with the exception of the road to Arenal Volcano, which is bumpy dirt but flat and still fine in a car.

  29. We’ve just completed a few drives in July:
    San Jose- Puerto Viejo
    San Jose- Manuel Antonio
    Tamarindo to Monteverde
    Monteverde to La Fortuna
    I was pleasantly surprised at how quiet the roads were, how considerate drivers were ( with the exception of the odd truck) and how manageable even the most bumpy, potholed unmade roads were even in the rain and on steep inclines.
    However our gpstravelmap download onto Garmin was pretty hopeless. We found google maps much better.

  30. Hello,
    I’m so confused.
    We will be driving from Manuel António to Playa Montezuma but as I took a better look to the map I get the impression that there is no road to Playa Montezuma.
    Do they have a ferry where we can take the car?
    I should have done my homework better because I already have reservations in both places for 2 nights/each.
    Then we will return to Liberia.
    If you can help me I would really appreciate.

    1. Hi Maria, Don’t worry, there is a road. Google Maps makes it look confusing. You can either drive the whole way or take the ferry as they suggest, which is faster and what we recommend. To do this, take Highway 34 to 27 to 23 to Puntarenas. In Puntarenas, you will take your car across the gulf on the ferry (see our full post on how to do this here). Then on the other side, you’ll be on the Nicoya Peninsula and can drive south to Montezuma. The roads here will be rough and dirt in places, but fine with a 4×4 vehicle. To get back to Liberia, you will come up the peninsula and connect to Route 21 to go to Liberia.

  31. Thank you so much for your reply.
    I know that the ferry crashed into the platform and I’m not sure if they have already fixed the problem but by then I hope all is well.
    I really appreciate your help.

  32. Jenn and Matt, what a great blog. Hope you can help us. Early December 2017, we fly into Liberia and will stay at Hacienda Guachipelin. We’ll backtrack along 21 and take 155 to Playa Potrero. From there, it gets weird. We want to go to Mal Pais for a few days. Looks like 21 to 160, but most sites say that 160 is rough. Can you recommend the best way to get to Mal Pais? We have been to CR before and rented a car. We will have a 4X4 this time as well. We are retired. Also, on the way back, we want to tour Tarcoles. Recommendations? Thanks for your help!

      1. Just saw this follow up. Most tours of the Tempisque leave from the north in Guanacaste (Palo Verde National Park). There may be something to the south where the river empties but we’re not sure.

    1. Hi Jean, You’re off to a good start with directions. 21 to 155 is the best route from Hacienda Guachipelin to Potrero. But for Potrero to Mal Pais, you don’t want to take 160 along the coast (San Juanillo, Ostional, etc.) if that is what you meant. This is a scenic coastal road, but is very slow (it’s dirt most of the way) and has some river crossings, especially to the south. You will be must better off taking the inland route (Route 21) down through Nicoya and around the eastern side of the southern Nicoya Peninsula through Jicaral, Naranjo, and Paquera. This is confusing because it looks like Google Maps has changed the route number for the road around the eastern side of the Nicoya Peninsula. It used to be Route 160 (so that 160 had 2 different sections, like we talk about in our post above), but now Google is calling it Route 21 the whole way. In any case, that’s the way you will want to go. Hope that makes sense. This is a fairly fast road all the way until you reach the southern Nicoya, when it becomes dirt in places and you will need 4×4 (see our Route 160 section, above, for more detailed conditions info). For others, we’re going to look at what other maps are calling this stretch of road from Jicaral/Naranjo to Cobano and will update our blog post soon if necessary.

      For Mal Pais to Tarcoles, the fastest way is to take the ferry from Paquera to Puntarenas to connect with Route 23 and Route 27 on the Central Pacific Coast. This avoids extra driving up and around the gulf.

  33. Hello,
    We are planning a trip for next March, driving from Alajuela through San Jose on the way to San Isidro de General, etc. I’m wondering if certain days of the week are not good for attempting this due to people leaving for the weekend. Is Friday morning after commute time good? Would Saturday morning be better or worse, in your experience?
    Thank you,

    1. Hi Gordon, Either Friday late morning or Saturday morning anytime is usually fine. There will be some traffic getting over to Cartago no matter what, but as long as you avoid approximately 6 am to 9:30 am on a weekday, it shouldn’t be too bad. If possible, also try to avoid visiting during Semana Santa (Easter Week) when traffic becomes unpredictable and crazy.

  34. Hello,
    Driving from La Fortuna to Rio Celeste at the end of December. is it possible without 4 wheel drive? Also I’m curious about road conditions between Samara and Nosara and Samara and Samara and Montezuma this time of year with a standard 2 wheel drive. I appreciate any input on this. Thank you very much.

    1. Hi Sanel, You can read our Rio Celeste post for directions from La Fortuna and info about road conditions (see bottom of post). We haven’t driven it lately, but the road south of Nosara going to Samara is usually rough dirt with potholes to avoid. Having higher clearance and 4×4 is useful but you can probably get away with a 2wd in December (dry season). Also, FYI, we recently heard that they will soon be paving the main road that runs through Nosara but have doubts about if this will actually happen. 4×4 is recommended for the drive from Samara to Montezuma all times of year. Read our info on Route 160, above, for more on the specific conditions.

  35. You guys are great! I was confused by the two 160s. We will definitely be taking the 21 along the eastern coastline. I have heard that the 10 miles between Jicaral and Naranjo is tough. Again, thank you so much. Looking forward to our second trip to CR.

  36. Hello,

    Me and my partner are planning on doing a trip over Christmas Break arriving in San Jose on the 23rd at 11:30 hoping to get to Monteverde that day and staying till the 27. We are then planning on going to Manuel Antonio for 5 days and flying back into San Jose.

    What is the best option to travel to Monteverde then over to Manuel Antonio? I know this is a busy time of year.

    Thank you,

    1. Hi Lindsay, There aren’t many ways into Monteverde. You’ll take Route 27 out of San Jose to connect to Highway 1, then take Route 606 (not 605). See our Driving to Monteverde post for more details and videos.

      To get to Manuel Antonio, you’ll go back out the same way you came to connect to 1, then take 23 to 27 to 34. You’ll hit some traffic so build in some extra time beyond what Google estimates but it shouldn’t be that bad. Safe travels!

  37. Hi Jenn and Matt,

    Thanks for all the great advice I’ve gotten from your page so far. Me and my partner are planning a trip in Dec/ Jan. We are flying into SJ and landing at 11:30 am, were then planning on trying to get to Monteverde that day, then heading down to Manuel Antonio a few days later. Any advice?

    Thanks so much!

    1. Hi Lindsay, You should be able to get to Monteverde the same day as you arrive, no problem. Be sure to read our detailed post about driving to Monteverde. The drive from there to Manuel Antonio won’t be bad. You will go back to Highway 1 the same way you came, then connect to Route 23 then 27 to get on Route 34. 34 is a nice drive along the coast. There will be traffic, especially if you’re coming over the holidays, but nothing too crazy. There are some nice places to stop along the way like the Tarcoles River Bridge to see crocodiles and Jaco.

  38. Hi Friends,
    I believe the link to the government road conditions website doesn’t link to the right stuff anymore (at least that was my experience). Is it possible it’s been overwhelmed because of the crazy flooding recently (early Oct 2017)?
    Many Thanks!

  39. Hi there!

    Planning a trip to CR in December and was hoping to drive from Arenal to Manuel Antonio. Could you recommend the best route and the best rental car? Also any recommended stops and safety concerns along the way would be helpful. Thank you!

    1. Hi Sarah, The best route is Route 702 to San Ramon to Route 1 to Barranca to Route 23 to Caldera, then Route 27 to Route 34. You take the exit for Jaco/Manuel Antonio off 27 to get on the coastal highway, 34. This goes all the way to Quepos and Manuel Antonio. Allow at least 5 hrs for the drive. You can do this drive in a regular sedan (non 4×4) in December. Be sure to check out our rental car discount as you’re shopping around.

      The Tarcoles River Bridge is a fun place to stop because of the huge crocodiles that live below but be careful about leaving your bags in the car. The biggest safety tip is to not leave your belongings in your rental car unattended if you make stops. Theft from unattended vehicles is one of the most common crimes here. You can read more safety tips here. Your best bet is probably to take turns checking out the crocs so one person stays with the car. There are watchmen there to keep an eye on cars, but there are a lot of cars to watch and we’ve heard of theft happening specifically at this bridge. Jaco is a cool place to stop for lunch and you should be able to find a place to stop and eat and watch your car at the same time.

      1. We are arriving at the San Jose airport at 1:30PM. Our final destination is the Cerro Azul Hotel in La Fortuna. We are renting a SUV-not 4 wheel drive. Do we take Rte 3 to Rte 1 to Rte 702? I have been reading we should not drive at night; however it looks like we might be arriving a after 5 if all does not go perfect. Is this the best way to go?

        1. Hi Diane, If you’re arriving at 1:30, you should be arriving in La Fortuna right around dark since it’s about a 2.5-3 hour drive. So as long as you don’t have any major delays at the airport and don’t make any stops on the way, you should be fine. Yes, that is the correct route- Route 3 to 1 to 702.

  40. Hi! Thank you for your blog! I’m looking at going from San Jose to Santa Teresa for a week. I know you have to take a ferry, but do you know what the roads are like on that southern part of the Nicoya Peninsula? Thank you for your help!

    1. Hi Grace, We cover this in detail in this post. Scroll up to the section on Route 160 (note: Google Maps is now calling this road Route 21 but other maps still call is Route 160).

  41. Hi Jenn and Matt. I am planning a trip with a friend to CR in February. We are currently debating on renting a car vs. shuttle/taxi. We will only be staying in CR for 8 days. At the moment we are planning on flying into San Juan in the early afternoon and then making our way to Monteverde for 3 or so days. We are planning a travel day, followed by a few days at a beach, we are thinking Montezuma. Then traveling back to San Juan to fly home. Neither of us speak Spanish. While I have good sense of direction I’m a little freaked out by your post about driving in CR. So, if we don’t rent a car can we still get to these places by shuttle? Is there a shuttle company you recommend? Should we be adventurous and try a car? Should we consider another beach to maximize our time on the beach instead of traveling? Thanks!

    1. Hi Marla, Sorry to have freaked you out! Most people find that driving here isn’t as bad as they expected. This post is intended to tell you about what to expect and the things that could happen, but you may not encounter many of them in just 8 days. So we wouldn’t rule out driving. If you do drive, you should stay overnight near the airport since your flight doesn’t arrive until the afternoon to avoid driving at night (very bad idea for going to Monteverde). While the roads to get to Monteverde and Montezuma are rougher, you will be traveling in the dry season when they aren’t too bad. Just be sure to get a 4×4. If you would rather take a shuttle, shared and private options are available. Shared are cheaper and take longer because they make stops. They also run on a set schedule. Private shuttles are more expensive, faster, and allow you to leave whenever you want. If you need help booking either, we work with several reputable companies and do bookings like this for no extra charge. Just contact us at bookings(at)twoweeksincostarica(dot)com with your travel dates and we can help. Also, we wouldn’t swap out Montezuma for another beach town. Those two destinations are fine with 8 days, and Montezuma is a great spot.

  42. Hi

    Hi Jen and Matt, My boyfriend and I will be in CR in Feb. 2018. we are first going to Manuel Antonio for a few days , then driving from there to Nosara. Maps show to take route 34. How is this drive. Google shows it takes about 7 hrs but i think it is only about 220 miles? Does that indicate the road conditions are not very good?
    Thanks for any helpful information about this drive.


    1. Hi Kim, It shouldn’t take quite that long, maybe 5-6 hours max. The roads, including Highway 34, are all in good condition (paved and fairly fast as long as you don’t hit too much traffic), until you get near Samara. The route Google Maps currently says to take is the correct one. So right before Samara, you take a right onto a dirt/paved side road (last time we were on it, it was a mix of both) to get onto 160. Route 160 is a rough dirt road- it’s flat but not in good condition during much of the year. Scroll up to our 160 section, above, for more information.

  43. Hello, thank you for such an infomative blog.

    Can you help with this? We’re looking at staying near La Fortuna for 6 nights, we also want to go to Monteverde Cloud Forest for 2 nights. I read that it’s only 15 miles away but takes 3.5 hrs to get there.

    Ideally we’d like to stay in one place (nr LF) for the 8 days and travel out daily but do you think we should stay LF for 6 and Monte for 2 (before heading down to Anonio manuel)?


    1. Hi Colette, Monteverde is more than 15 miles from La Fortuna (driving), but you’re right that it’s not really far away in terms of distance. The reason that it takes so long is because the roads are slow- rough dirt for much of the way. You can read our Driving to Monteverde post for more details.

      And we would definitely do the 2 nights in Monteverde since it is a long drive to do as a day trip. There’s a lot to see there so it will be worth it.

  44. Hi guys,

    From 16th of december till 2nd of jan, we’ll be going on a two-week-trip on the pacific side of CR and the itinerary by rented car is: San Jose, La Fortuna, Rio Celeste, Monteverde, Papagayo Peninsula, Tamarindo, Nosara, Samara, then we leave Nicoya to Parque Manuel Antonio and head south with a few stops before hitting Drake Bay. From there, we fly back to San Jose, and then take public transport to Tortuguero, where we stay for a night (la pavona), then head back to SJO for our flight home.

    We have been researching your website lately, which has incredibly helped us plan this trip!

    However, with the aftermath of Nate’s passage, we were a little worried. We’d still love to go, especially knowing how vital tourism is to the country, and this trip is supposed to be the honeymoon we never had. But we don’t know what the state of things currently is- hotels and beaches, trails, roads, etc…

    There is still a little over a month to our flight and a lot can change with the local government/communities efforts in addressing the damages, but there might be detrimental issues which could tip the scale against this trip for us.

    So, would you know/estimate if the mentioned itinerary we sketched for the second half of december will have recovered enough for it to be fully enjoyed? (youtube videos of affected beaches, floods and road damage have given us a bit of a scare!).

    Thanks for this great website and the sincere, lovely posts you have there. Very informative and enticing!

    All the best!

    1. Hi Alan, The country has recovered quickly from the tropical storm and things are almost back to normal. In another month, there will be even more progress made. As of now, almost all roads are back open. I definitely wouldn’t postpone your trip. If you have concerns about a particular attraction, you could ask your hotel in advance of your visit. We have heard that some trails were affected at national parks, access to some waterfalls, etc. Most things are back to normal, though, or back to normal with minor adjustments. The rafting tour on the Savegre River near Manuel Antonio, for example, starts farther up the river now because of storm damage. Monteverde was hit hard but just about everything is opened back up. So you should be fine.

      Also, I know your question wasn’t about this, but that is a lot of destinations to try to fit into two weeks. We usually recommend at least 3 nights in each destination because of drive times. Some places you can do 2 nights, but we would consider cutting out a few places so you’re not running around as much.

  45. Hi Jenn and Matt! My wife, two children are going to Playa Chiquita/Puerto Viejo area for two weeks on December 18th. We have been told to avoid car rental if you can and take a bus or private van from San Jose. Private because it affords you stop and go flexibility. We heard that, myth?, that public busses do not stop even for bathroom breaks ?.. Important when riding 4 hours to Puerto Viejo! Any pros or cons on this matter? We will likely stay local. I believe shared rides are $50 per person …so $400 round trip. Not sure if that fee is “public” meaning on a 4 hour nonstop? Or do I pay a little more fore “Private”? Looking forward to it and glad I stumbled onto your sight this morning! Thanks in advance! David and Diane

    1. Hi David, Yes, private shuttles are nice because they are with only your family, they leave at a custom time, and they are direct, meaning that they don’t stop at hotels to let people on and off like shared ones do. Usually the price is similar too for shared vs. private for a family of 4. Public buses do stop occasionally for bathroom breaks. There is a bus to Puerto Viejo, but last we knew, it stopped in the city of Limon and you had to transfer to the bus going to Puerto Viejo. This isn’t great with kids because Limon is a fairly rough place (we were hassled last time we had to wait there at the bus stop). It’s probably worth it to take a shuttle. Let us know if you need help reserving one. We know of a company who does a private shuttle for $260 from SJO to PV.

  46. Great site with excellent detail.
    Have you any insights in regards to 301 and 209 from Hwy 34 to San Jose?

    1. Hi Richard, We have never taken those roads but they are part of one of the old routes to San Jose. We’re fairly sure they are small dirt roads and they go through the mountains so would likely be a lot slower than just taking Highway 34 to 27. We recommend the highway unless you are visiting somewhere far up Route 301. We’ve been on the nearby Route 239, which shows on the map as a bigger road, and it was super slow.

  47. I am going to be driving from San Gerardo de Dota to SJO on a Sunday morning. I have lived in Florida my entire life (but have driven in mountains a handful of times) and am slightly worried about the Cerro de la Muerte stretch of Rte 2. Any pointers?

    1. Hi Derek, Just take it slow and be sure to leave early so that you’re not driving in the dark or in the rain or cloud cover, which tends to roll in in the afternoon. It’s a curvy mountainous road but if you aren’t going fast, it’s not that bad. There is a decent amount of traffic on this stretch as well so you may be able to find a car to follow. Good luck!

  48. Hi Jen & Matt, Many thanks for all this great information about the Costa Rica roads. This will be extremely helpful when we go next month. Our party of 4 are sea turtle enthusiasts from Florida and we wanted to visit the different beaches on the Pacific coast where we can see “the Arribada” or baby turtle hatchings. We will be staying in Playa Hermosa, Guanacaste and plan to rent a 4×4 SUV to get to these beaches:
    -Santa Rosa National Park, Guanacaste
    -Las Baulas National Marine Park, Guanacaste
    -Ostional Wildlife Refuge, Nicoya Peninsula
    -Hermosa Beach, south of Jaco on the Central Pacific coast
    Can you email us any tips about driving to these parks and beaches?
    Thank you very much for all your efforts on informing us who are coming to visit Costa Rica. We really appreciate it.

    1. Hi B.J., We try to answer questions publicly on our site as much as we can so that everyone benefits from the response, so here are our thoughts. First off, if turtle watching is your main interest, make sure that the places you are planning to go will have turtles when you’re there. A lot of the nesting and arribadas take place during the rainy months starting in May. As for driving between those destinations, the drive to Santa Rosa from Playa Hermosa is very straightforward and easy (use Google Maps). Same for Las Baulas near Tamarindo. For Ostional, you can either take the inland route (Route 21 to Nicoya to 150, then north on 160). That is mostly paved with the last stretch from Samara dirt. The other way, Route 21 to 160 to the coast, should be fine too in February. Much of this is slow dirt road but the river crossings should be okay that time of year. For the trip to Playa Hermosa near Jaco, this is straight highway as well so not a bad drive.

  49. Your blog has been very helpful, thank you! We are taking a family trip to CR in 2 weeks (!) with our 4-year-old. Our hiccup has been the rental car – we are going to Monteverde, as well as some day trips in Guanacaste, so we will need a 4X4. I waited too long to book, and Adobe is out of available 4X4’s. We can’t seem to find another car rental place online that is straightforward with their prices/insurance fees/etc. Any suggestions you may have?

    1. Hi Rebecca, The bigger names that you have probably heard of like Alamo, Budget, National, and Toyota would be good alternatives. Still be cautious about pricing, but they have corporate standards to abide by at least. Best of luck finding something! Another idea is to rent a car for only part of your trip, to lessen the rental length, and take shuttles for the rest.

    1. Hi Allison, That’s about a 4.5-5 hr drive along mostly smooth well-paved highway. There is often traffic getting out of San José and again on Highway 1 so expect some slowdowns but it’s not a bad drive. Your route will be Highway 27 to Route 23 to 1 to 18 across the Gulf of Nicoya to 21. In Santa Cruz, you will take Route 160, then a right to get on 152. In Villa Real, follow the signs for the left-hand turn for Tamarindo. Here’s a Google Map.

  50. We will be traveling with a private driver from the Tamirando area to La Paz. We would like to stop at the Ox Cart Factory in Sarchi that we visited while with a tour group a few years ago. Would Sarchi be on the main or best route or will we have to take a side trip ? Can you tell me how long it takes to get from Sarchi to La Paz? Also, do you happen to know the name of the gift show that has the ox cart factory ? Thanks for any information!

    1. Hi Jane, Sarchi will be on the way if your driver takes Highway 1 instead of 27. This is the older highway to San Jose so it is a little slower and curvier, but actually makes sense if you are going to La Paz because it takes you farther north. Sarchi is about 1 hour and 15 minutes from La Paz. There are a few different oxcarts factories, but one of the biggest with a gift shop is Fabrica de Carretas Eloy Alfaro. We have an article about it here.

  51. Hi,

    Thank you for this very thorough and amazing blog. It has made planning our first trip to Costa Rica both easier and more difficult as it is hard to chose from all the place we did not know existed.

    I am wondering about the road conditions between SJO and San Gerardo de Dota and then Manuel Antonio towards the end of May. Are these roads be safe for travel during the “rainy” season? What would you suggest is the safe time to leave SJO toward San Gerardo and San Gerardo towards Manuel Antonio? I am used to driving in the mountains in the Southwest in the US but my husband is not.

    Side note, is one night enough to spend in San Gerardo?

    1. May is the very beginning of the rainy season so it shouldn’t be too bad yet but you should still leave San Jose by late morning (11 am) so that you don’t risk driving in the rain/fog. It’s about a 3 hour drive or more depending on traffic around San Jose (sometimes there is a lot getting from the airport to Cartago. If you have to leave a little earlier it will probably be fine but it does usually rain in the afternoon in May.

      The rest of the way to Manuel Antonio still goes through the mountains until you get to Dominical but after that’s it’s flat smooth highway, the Costanera.

      We’d recommend 2 nights in San Gerardo. It would be hard to see anything in just one.

  52. Hi Guys, thanks for the article. We were in CR 2015 and drove everywhere in a rented car. Highways were good and had no problems. This trip is taking us to a different location to start. We are going from San Jose to Pejibaye to see a new wildlife sanctuary I am working with. I am getting mixed signals from people on the Route 2 conditions. One person say do not take this and the other says it’s fine.

    My wife and 11 year old daughter will be with me and don’t want any thrill rides. Our route is San Jose to San Isidro de El General then south to where 244 splits off. Then on to Pejibaye.

    Any insight would be greatly appreciated. Including an alternative route avoiding the road of death. LOL

    1. Hi Dave, Route 2 isn’t a horrible drive as long as you leave San Jose in the morning to avoid being clouded in in the afternoon. Rain is less of a concern this time of year but the area does still get clouded in, making visibility more difficult. From Cartago to San Isidro de El General, the road is very curvy, narrow, and mountainous, but with gorgeous views. It’s all smooth pavement. If you want to avoid Highway 2, you could just go around and take Route 27 to 34 along the coast, then up 243 to San Isidro. This route is only slightly longer (maybe 30 minutes) and the drive is a lot easier. Depending on traffic around Cartago (which can be very slow), it might even be faster to go this way.

  53. My wife and I are heading to Costa Rica next week for the first time! (Ironically, we are traveling with our good friends Jenn and Matt.) We are renting a car and driving from the San Jose airport to Dominical. This is our first trip to the country and want to make sure the trip is safe. Our plan was to take Routes 27 and 34. In addition, any thoughts on stops along the way would be awesome. Thank you.

    1. Hi Mike, That’s funny about your friends with the same names! We might be too late and you’re already here but here are some thoughts on your questions. Yes, Route 27 to 34 is the best route. For stops, the Tarcoles River Bridge is a good one to see the giant crocodiles that live below. You could also grab a drink or some food in Jaco, a popular beach town. Just be careful with your stuff in the car. Take turns at the bridge so that someone can stay with the car and park so that you can watch the car while you eat. Theft from rental cars is one of the most common crimes. Hope you have a great trip!

  54. My comment did not get published or answered about Route 2. We are leaving soon and I was hoping for some feedback.

    1. We get a lot of comments on here and do our best to keep up but sometimes it takes us a couple of weeks. We had about 30 comments ahead of you. Hope we got back to you in time for your trip.

  55. I drove 606 from Route 1 to St Elena on February 27. It is under construction. There is a section that is blocked for construction for 3 hours in the morning, open for 30 minutes at noon, and blocked for another three hours in the afternoon.

    We drove 145 from St Elena to Route 1 on February 28. The top section is still gravel, but the rest of the road is a new tarred road surface. Very nice with relatively little traffic. Much better choice.

    1. We travelled route 145 to Monte Verde one week ago. It is good Pavel and just a small piece unpaved. Good driving conditions. It is a better alternatieve than the route 6. Which we also drive but is in a worser condition.

      Thank you for all your info at this site we used it a lot!

      Despite all the info i read on internet of the bad road conditions, we experienced good roads even at place who are a bit out of touristic areas. We didn’t experience bad behaviour of Tico drivers and we fell safe during our whole roadtrip in 3 weeks.

      With regards

  56. Hello! Love your blog and I’m happy i stumbled upon it as our trip is 10 days out! We are planning to rent a car in Quepos and drive North to La Fortuna! If i may ask as I’m trying to plan my route using Google Maps for now, it tells me to take Route 34 to Route 27 to Route 3 to Route 713 and on to Route 702. Is this the best and safest way? We are leaving around 10AM. I couldn’t find any info on route 713 on here so I’m questioning it!
    Please help, and thanks so much in advance!


    1. Hi Elicia, Route 713 is actually a bad road so you will want to avoid that. It’s easiest to go around, up towards Puntarenas to connect to Route 1 to San Ramon and then 702. You’ll take 27 to 23 to El Roble, then get on Route 1. Here’s a link
      to a Google Map with the directions.

      1. I just wanted to second this. I took Route 713 today and would not recommend this road both to the faint at heart and especially those without a 4×4 vehicle.

        Some really steep roads with major potholes on them.

  57. Hi. I’m driving from San Jose to Puerto Carrillo. What is the best route to take and how are the roads?

    1. Hi Dana, All the roads are good- well paved and many are major roads. You’ll take Route 27 then near Caldera on the coast, you’ll connect to Route 23. In El Roble near the Doubletree, you’ll get on Highway 1 north. You’ll then take Route 18 West to 21. In Nicoya, you’ll get on Route 150, which will bring you all the way to Samara, just north of Playa Carrillo.

  58. Hi – Driving from Parrita in the Puntarenas Province to Manuel Antonio in early July, and taking route 235 and 618. Will I need an SUV or 4 wheel drive vehicle? Love your site so far – very informative. Thanks

    1. Hi Kurt, No, you can do the trip from Parrita to Manuel Antonio in any type of car. Route 235 is a major road that connects Highway 34 to Quepos, and 618 is just the main road that runs through Manuel Antonio. 618 is hilly and steep but nicely paved.

      1. Thanks for the reply. We added a white water rafting trip on the Savegre, does that change our need for a four wheel drive vehicle / SUV?

        1. Usually rafting trips include transportation, or if you’re driving, it would be only to the tour operator’s office in Manuel Antonio or Quepos so no 4×4 necessary.

  59. Hi there. My friends and I are planning to visit Costa Rica for the first time in June. We want to rent a car to get to and from the airport in San Jose to our hotel in Jaco. I know they’re very agressive drivers. Well be coming in later, after 7pm. Is it ill-advised for us to try and make the drives ourselves as opposed to catching a shuttle or paying for a taxi? If we should take the shuttle or taxi, what service provider would you suggest?

    1. Hi Piff, The drive from San Jose to Jaco isn’t horrible, but we still don’t recommend driving yourselves. We don’t recommend doing long distances after dark because the roads aren’t well lit, are curvy, narrow, etc. The highway from San Jose does have some really curvy/hilly spots. What you could do is take a shuttle (private will be all that will run at 7pm) and then rent a car once you get to Jaco. A private shuttle from the airport directly to your hotel in Jaco would be about $140 for up to 5 people. We work with several reputable shuttle companies if you’d like any help with the booking. Just send us a message through our Private Shuttle Van Transfers page. For the rental car, the company that we work with and get a discount through, Adobe, has an office in Jaco and could deliver the car to your hotel for free the morning after you arrive. Here’s a link to our rental car discount page where you can see the different options for cars and pricing for your dates.

  60. We are planning an 8 night trip in late November with 2 locations, La Fortuna and Papagaya, probably 4 nights at each, flying in and out of Liberia. We are thinking of renting a car and trying to figure out the best logistics. We are a bit concerned about driving but this seems like the best option. In Papagaya we will be staying at an all inclusive so maybe having a car there won’t be worthwhile. We checked out the Adobe rental car information but don’t see an appropriate drop off location in Papagaya. So our thoughts are: pick up an Adobe car in Liberia, drive to La Fortuna and use there, finally returning to Liberia after 4 nights and then get a shuttle from Liberia to Papagaya. Is that a good plan or is there some location in Papagaya for drop off? Is there a better option?

    1. Hi Mike and Michelle, That sounds like a pretty good plan. It is nice to have a car for La Fortuna, and as long as you don’t make the drive from Liberia at night, it’s not a bad trip. For your time in the Papagayo, you won’t necessarily need a car if you plan on staying mostly at the resort. But keep in mind that there’s not much around that area, so if you want to do an activity, it will be a decent drive away. You can arrange tours, of course, that will include transportation, but a lot of times it can get quite expensive. For example, tours to Rincon de la Vieja, Miravalles Volcano, etc. are around $150+ pp. If you had a car, you could just drive yourselves and save quite a bit. If you decide on the shuttle, let us know if you’d like any help making the arrangements. We work with a reliable company that does the trip from Liberia to the Papagayo for around $75 for up to 5 people. We can also guide you on tours for La Fortuna or the Papagayo. See our Tour Bookings page for more info.

  61. Hello,
    We are planning a 10 nights trip at the end of August. I came across your blog and found great information about roads and distances. We are planning to drive from Alajuela (first night) to la Fortuna and stay 3 nights, form La Fortuna to La Pavona with boat to Tortuguero for 2 nights. Our last stop is Manuel Antonio (3 nights ) but I am concerned about the long-tuff ride between La Pavona and Manuel Antonio. Should we I brake it in two days? If so, any recommendations on the best place to stop for a night? I will definitely check your link for the rental car.

    1. Hi Federica, If there’s any way to adjust your itinerary so that you go from Alajuela to Tortuguero to La Fortuna to MA, that would make for the best route to minimize drive time. If not, stopping for a night would be a good idea. Maybe look at places just west of San Jose, somewhere like Atenas or Grecia. This is between La Pavona and Manuel Antonio, but will get you on the other side of San Jose so it won’t be as long of a drive to MA.

  62. This is such a helpful blog! We are traveling to Costa Rica in mid-December and arriving at the San Jose airport and traveling to La Fortuna. We are thinking we will rent a car from the airport – is this a fairly common route? Thank you!

    1. Hi Brent, Yes, it a very common route. You don’t need 4×4 but the road is curvy and narrow so make sure to do it during daylight hours. Be sure to check out our Rental Car Discount for the car and if you have any questions about renting a car in Costa Rica, we have a detailed post about insurance, fees, etc. Here’s the link to our rental car post.

  63. Hi Jenn and Matt,
    Your website has been super helpful in planning my trip to Costa Rica. I’ll be there on Friday! I had one quick question. I am currently looking up directions (though we will have a Wifi stick in the car) from San Jose to Dominical. We are planning on going via Route 27 to Route 34 (stopping at Tarcoles River Bridge) and taking that down the coast. As I am looking up the route on google maps, it is saying Route 34 is closed or blocked near Quepos (specifically google maps shows the road is closed crossing Rio Cotos when you are entering Quepos). I can’t seem to find anything on the resources you shared about any issues with Route 34. Is this potentially a google maps mistake or is there some issue in that area that isn’t allowing people to cross the bridge? Or does that bridge get closed at different intervals (might be a one way?) Any insight you may have will be greatly appreciated.

    1. Hi Matt, We’re too late since I think you already made this trip, but that closure was because of a strike. The fishermen closed the bridge for a day or so protesting some new regulations. Everything is back to normal now.

  64. Drove 239 from the Pacific Coast all the way up to Ciudad Colon. Up t0 Puriscal it was a dirt road in fair condition. There was one narrow one lane bridge with a broken plate that was flagged with caution tape. Between Puriscal and Ciudad Colon it was a paved road which appeared to have a lot of work done on it lately. The while road seems subject to mud slides so one should be careful, but the views were well worth it. Plenty of really deep valleys with impressive drop offs from the road. I was impressed that they have buses that appear to drive the whole road while dropping off and picking up passengers. Most of the road is wide enough for 2 cars to pass but other sections are narrower. Some of the road is in rough condition with deep ruts, but the rented Toyota Rav4 had no problems.

  65. Hello Jenn and Matt,
    We will he making our first trip to Costa Rica in November and have heard mixed reviews about weather and road conditions this time of year. We are flying in to San Jose and we plan on renting a 4X4 vehicle to travel to the Arenal volcano, Jaco, and Quepos. Are the routes to these destinations known for road closures due rain washing them out? Advice on the best routes would be fantastic. Also, we have decided to wait on booking hotels and have been given advice to essentially just walk into a hotel the same day assuming there will be availability. Just wondering your thoughts on this wild idea. Thank you so much!

    1. Hi Ana, Here are the routes we’d recommend-
      San Jose to Arenal – Route 1 to 702
      Arenal to Jaco – Route 702 to 1 to Barranca, then get on 23 to connect to 27 and 34.
      Jaco to Quepos – Easy drive on 34

      These are all paved, mostly main, roads but there can be landslides on any of them. Particularly problematic areas are parts of Highway 27 and the Costanera Highway 34 around Jaco. November can be very rainy still depending on the year. Road crews do usually get things cleaned up quickly but still be sure to build in extra time to get around.

      As long as you’re not coming towards the end of the month around US Thanksgiving, hotel availability should be okay. Some of the popular hotels will fill up, though, so we usually recommend booking in advance.

  66. hi I am going to be staying just up the road from El Establo hotel at Cabanas La Pradera in a few weeks. I was looking at the directions and I am so confused why I go south for a few miles past El Establo then back track the way I came. Is there a barrier in the road which makes you have to go way down to make a left turn? Thanks SO much!!

    1. Hi Becky, The Cabanas La Pradera we know of are located on a side road off Route 606 not that close to El Establo, so not totally sure? Maybe email your hotel for good directions.

  67. Thank you for such a wonderful blog! It’s been so helpful in planning our upcoming trip (in only 10 days!) I’m trying to make sure I have our routes/maps printed so we don’t have to rely on technology. I think I have most of them figured out thanks to you!

    San Jose to Arenal – Route 1 to 702
    Arenal to Jaco – Route 702 to 1 to Barranca, then get on 23 to connect to 27 and 34.
    Jaco to Quepos – 34

    My only question – is there a different route to take from San Jose to Arenal that would let us experience more of Costa Rica (instead of taking the same 702 Route that we will be using to get to Manuel Antonio?) We aren’t in a huge hurry to get to Arenal/La Fortuna, so if there is another route that’s not significantly more rough/dangerous or hours and hours longer, we’d be interested. Maybe another road with an interesting stop/site to see? Maybe we should just stick to what I listed above? In case it matters we will be staying the night before at Hotel Aeropuerto near SJO. Thank you so much!!


    1. Hi Amanda, Yes, those are the best routes for where you’ll be going.

      For an alternative way to get from San Jose to La Fortuna, you could go up past the Poas area to see the volcano or La Paz Waterfall Gardens. This adds a little bit of time because you will hit more traffic getting out of the city but not significantly much. Catarata del Toro is also up that way – beautiful waterfall! This is the right route for that option – map.

  68. Hi,

    Thank you for all the great info you provide on your website, it has become my go to in planning my trip to Costa Rica!
    My husband and I are visiting Costa Rica in March next year and I’m worried that we are spreading ourselves too thinly!
    We are going to Arenal for 4 nights, then Monteverde for 2. After that we head to Samara for 2 nights, and then have another 2 nights spare before driving down to Manuel Antonio for our final 4 nights before heading back to San Jose. Do you have any suggestion on where to stay for the 2 nights inbetween Samara and MA, or should we just stay in Samara? I was going to drive down to Monteverde, but have been put off after reading about the roads! we plan on hiring a 4×4!
    Any help greatly appreciated! Thank you!

    1. Hi Zoe, We’d recommend either staying the extra 2 nights in Samara since you only have 2 there right now and it’s a bit far from Monteverde, or stopping in the Jaco area on the way to Manuel Antonio. Montezuma is a little off-the-beaten path due to its rough roads so we’d stick with something more directly on the way between Samara and MA.

  69. Hi! My husband and I are planning a trip to Costa Rica in January. We fly into San Jose, then rent a vehicle and drive to the La Fortuna area for 4 nights, then drive to Manzanillo on the Caribbean coast for 3 nights before driving back to San Jose. We would love your suggestions and opinions on what we have planned and things to do/ see. I am trying to determine best routes and approximate drive times to each location. I think it will take about 7 hours from the La Fortuna area to Manzanillo? Neither one of us has been to Costa Rica, so any input would be greatly appreciated!

    Thank you!

    1. Hi Ceara, That itinerary involves a bit of driving but it is totally reasonable. The drive from La Fortuna to Manzanillo will be about 6 hours or slightly more, depending on traffic. For things to do, our Puerto Viejo post would have info for Manzanillo and our La Fortuna post has lots of info for that area. Let us know if you’d like any help booking activities for either leg of your trip. We have a tour booking service now.

  70. Just drove 606 up to Monteverde and 606/unnamed/145 on the way back. Past Gaucimal to Santa Elena is not
    Paved at all – but wide and reasonably graded. Lots of signs of construction including stabilizing hillsides, culverts.
    We followed signs on the way back (and there was lots of traffic) that included an unnamed route through Cebadilla and Candelaria. This part is narrow and rough in spots but passable in a regular car. At the 145 junction it’s paved but there’s a rough 5-7 km unpaved stretch on the way down to Juntas.
    No idea if 606 to 145 would have been better – signs suggested the cutoff as did google maps.

  71. Hi, I’m planning to go to costa rica for a road trip in end of ma, start of june. Our plan is to drive from Liberia to Montezuma and going to San Jose using the ferry at Paquera.
    We would love to drive on the ruta 160 slowly, going to Tamarindo, Nosara, Samara, Manzanillo, Montezuma.
    I’ve read they start o paved the ruta 160 starting end 2013 but it’s not clear if they complete or not and which part of it if it’s not all.
    Do you have info about this road?
    Is this a good idea to drive this road from Tamarindo to Samara and from Samara to Montezuma?


    1. Hi Marc, We have driven 160 from Tamarindo to Samara and it’s doable. We haven’t heard about paving being done so not sure about that. We’d be surprised if much has been done, but the dirt road was in decent condition during the dry season. Since you will be coming during rainy season, it will be trickier. There are some river crossings. One notable one is getting from Playa Ostional to Nosara, which is definitely not paved yet and doesn’t have a big bridge (this floods often). We do not recommend driving 160 south of Samara. This area is very remote and there are multiple river crossings. Hope that helps!

  72. Hello there,

    what a nice guide for people who plan to travel to CR! Thank you for this website!

    Could you please review my itinerary and see if I do need a 4X4? or is it ok to rental a compact Sedan?. or any improvement for the travel plan?

    1. SJO to La Paz Waterfall
    2. La Paz Waterfall to Bajos del toro (for the Poas Volcano)
    3. Bajos del toro to La Fortuna
    4. La Fortuna to Rio Celeste
    5 Rio Celeste to vocalno Ricon (via Liberia)
    6. vocalno Ricon to Manuel Antonio
    7. Manuel Antonio to SJO

    Thank you!!

    1. Hi Lei, You’d be better off with a 4×4 for the Bajos del Toro area and Rio Celeste. They did pave part of the road to Rio Celeste, but depending on which way you go, not all of it. Rincon is still dirt too. Most areas around then are ok with a sedan but some are better with 4×4. So we would do 4×4 just in case. Be sure to check out our rental car discount as you’re shopping around.

  73. Hi Jenn/Matt,

    I hope this finds you well!

    I am currently planning my trip to Costa Rica, which I will be visiting in April.

    I have to say that your blog has been extremely helpful to myself and my partner. It helps us organize our itinerary, we have found valuable info on the areas we will be visiting and it generally covers all the questions a first time visitor would have! Thank you very much for all the insight and also for making your blog a pleasant read!

    However, I would like to ask for your opinion on the following problem.

    We will be spending our final days before we return home at Puerto Viejo. Our international departure flight leaves at 10:30am from San Jose International airport. We have the following 2 options for getting from Puerto Viejo to San Jose:

    A) we drive OR

    B) we fly with Sansa: the flight is schedule to leave Limon at 07:30am and arrive at San Jose at 08:10am (almost 2.5 hours ahead of our international flight)

    Option B is sligthly more expensive, however, after taking into account money spent on gas and tolls it will almost be the same, so let’s not worry about that.

    My concern is whether we should rely on Sansa.. Please note that our credit card insurance would not cover us in the event that Sansa’s flight was delayed/cancelled. In an ideal world I would prefer flying, since we will have already spent numerous hours on the road covering long distances for the previous days.

    Do you have any thoughts on how trustworthy Sansa is? Additionally, how long would it take us to drive from Puerto Viejo to San Jose airport? According to google maps it is a 4 hours drive. Does that sound realistic? Do you have any advise on that particular route or any information we should keep in mind?

    Thank you very much for your time! Any thoughts/comments would be much appreciated!


    1. Hi Nikos, We are not recommending small planes at all right now, unfortunately, due to reliability problems. We haven’t heard of any specific problems with flights leaving from Limon, but at least where we live and where our clients have traveled recently, there have been problems with last minute cancellations. So we would recommend driving even though we totally understand that you will have had enough of that by the end of your trip! The drive to San Jose will be around 4.5 hours. There is usually traffic on Highway 32 because it’s a major trucking route. Hope that helps!

  74. We will be driving from SJO to Casa Corteza in Atenas, then from Atenas to Vista Lapas Hermosa Beach, Playa Hermosa,, from Playa Hermosa to Manuel Antonio and finally back to our hotel in Alajuela. Any advice or things we should know about the roads in our travel? Your website is a wealth of information, by the way….

    1. Hi Terrie, I think we are too late for advice on the first leg of your trip, but none of those drives will be bad. They are all on well-traveled, paved roads and the drives won’t be terribly long. Hope you’re having a great trip so far!

  75. hi thanks for all your info…
    we will be in Quepos ending with an 11 am departure flight march 31,, the estimates of time are confusing,,how long of a drive do you think? better to stay near airport night before?
    also, driving from SJO to Golfito,, dont want to drive at night and wont leave airport until 3:30 pm , would Jaco area be a safe bet to saty?

    1. Hi Larry, It’s about 2.5 hours from Manuel Antonio/Quepos to San Jose Airport and you will want to arrive 2 hours in advance of your flight. That has you leaving MA around 6:00 in order to have time to drop off the rental car and not be too rushed, so maybe better to stay overnight near the airport unless you’re ok with early mornings. Here’s a link to the hotels near SJO that we recommend.

      Yes, Jaco would be a good stopover on the way to Golfito to avoid driving at night. It’s about 1.5 hours from the airport with traffic.

  76. Hey guys! Thanks so much for this post and all the info.
    We want to drive from San Jose to La Fortuna and from La Fortuna to Santa Teresa Beach. Would we need a 4×4 for this trip? And do you have any recommended routes?
    Thank you so much in advance!


      1. Hello! Currently in route to punta uva/ Caribbean coast from san Jose airport 7/23/19…route 32 is closed through the braulio Carrillo national park. Not sure why. There have been trucker strikes this month, blockading roads to draw attention to their cause. We ultimately decided to hire a taxi for this journey and SO GLAD WE DID! It will have taken close to 7 hours with a speed demon driver. I am quite certain that if I had rented a car I would either still be in san jose attempting to make a left hand traffic merge from the airport…or dead…Haha! Being able to pass multiple semi-tractor trailers on a two lane road seems to be a requirement if you have any plans of reaching your destination in a reasonable time. I dont want to be a negative Nelly but if you’ve never been to costa rica before do yourself a favor and just pay for the taxi!

  77. Hi! We are travelling for 3 weeks to Ojochol, Uvita, Dominical and we like to hike, surf, etc. We’ve been to CR 4 other times but not to the SW side beyond Manuel Antonio… Our first trip we got a small car. All of the other times, we’ve gotten a SUV. Would we need one for these areas we are visiting this time?

    1. Hi Casey, Yes, we highly recommend a 4×4 SUV for visiting the Dominical-Uvita area because many hotels, attractions, and restaurants are located on steep dirt mountain roads.

    1. I understand now why a 4×4 is recommended in all Costa Rica because roads are often not in good shape at all (except main one) but from San Jose airport to Uvita taking route 27 and route 34 all the way there we did it without issues.

      We stayed in Uvita for our first 3 days then Esterillo Oueste 3 days and we drive a regular car and had ZERO problem! Paquera area was a bit harder wihtout 4×4

      Going to samara was great and now in Playa Del coco, staying on main route a regular car is fine! Hoping we doing as great for the rest of the trip with this little car!

      Thanks for your blog and help!

  78. Hi, great information here so thanks for your efforts. I’m traveling to Costa Rica for the first time and will be renting a car. I’m a bit nervous about it. I’m staying near Ocotal Beach, but I’m thinking of making a day trip to Arenal Volcano, leaving super early in the morning (Google says its about a 3 hour drive). From your guide it seems like most, if not all, of the roads going there will be paved, and I saw your note to stay on rt 142 when the GPS selects a short cut.

    Do you have any additional suggestions or warnings about this trip? I’ve heard that traveling can be a pain because any little accident gums up the roads for hours. Is that a bit alarmist?

    1. Hi Tom, It’s about 3.5 hours from Ocotal to the volcano so definitely doable as a day trip if you leave very early like you said. The roads will all be paved and in good condition. The road around Lake Arenal is curvy but still in really good shape. We have traveled a lot in Costa Rica and have not been held up by accidents on very many occasions. Major accidents do take some time to clear because they do an investigation, but thankfully, most accidents are more minor in nature and clear fairly quickly. If you’d like any help book a guide for your Arenal hike, please let us know. We work with an excellent company in that area.

  79. Hi Jenn and Matt,

    We are landing December 23rd in San Jose at 2:30, getting our rental car, and driving part way to the Osa Peninsula. ( I know that is far away, but as a teacher I have more time now to research : ) Do you recommend the beach road 34 over route 2? Thanks,


  80. Hi! Route 160 currently has certain hours that it is open and closed.We arrived a little after 4pm to get to Mal Pais from La Fortuna and had to wait until 6pm for the road to open back up. The sign says that the road from Playa Naranjo to Paquera is closed from 8:30am to 12:00; 13:00 to 15:00; and 16:00 to 18:00. The worker recommended we hang out at Roma Del Mar down the road and, while it looked beautiful, the restaurant was closed on a Tuesday. The sign also says the road from Rio Grande to Paquera is closed from 9:00am to 12:00 and 14:00 to 16:30. Just thought you may want a heads up!

  81. Hi
    great article and fun blog

    we are in Costa Rica for 24 days driving a huge part and exploring this extraordinary Nature country !

    We love it!

    Currently (Sept 2019) Route 21 have HUGE construction starting on the part turning to get to Paquera (it least over 12KM long) they even close the road (the day we were going, they open it at 3PM while construction guys was on break or something like it) and happy us it was independence day on Sunday Sept 15th, so no one worked, we could get out

    Also we learned (trying to avoid this construction on our way out of Paquera) that there are NO other way out with a 2 wheels car … the only other option from Santa Teresa area is for 4×4 car only!

    I’m checking out all the routes we are planning to drive on for the rest of our trip here and you didn’t write nothing about route 619 anyone have information?

    Between route 1 and route 142

    Thank you!

    1. Yes! we experienced the same on our way up to Paquera, happily they opened the road at 3 PM so we had to wait at the restaurant for 2 hours but is it not route 21? And we left on Sunday (Independence day so not one worked road was open) on google map 160 doesn’t appear!


  82. Hi! Thank you for all this information. We are planning to drive from San Jose’s international airport to Turrialba. I believe that should be Rout 1 and then Route 10. The route should take 2-3 hours. My question is: in case of delays/traffic/etc. would it be safe to complete the drive after sunset? From what I read Route 10 is paved and marked and there are no cliffs or similar dangers. Hopefully this won’t be needed, but just wanted to check if we must absolutely avoid driving even half an hour past sunset on this route, in case things don’t go according to plans. Thank you

    1. Hi Pat, We haven’t been on Route 10 in a while but my memory is that it’s a little curvy and has some hills. I don’t think there are any steep drop offs though. It would be much better not to have to drive it at night because it probably isn’t well lit but if you have to do a half hour in it, it won’t be the end of the world. Just remember that it will take around 1.5 hours to get through the airport then you will have to go off site to pick up the rental car since none of the companies have an office right there. There can also be heavy traffic around Cartago.

  83. Hello,
    I am planning on solo travelling to Costa Rica in late October. Flying into SJO and planning on travelling to Arenal for 3 days and then Jaco for three days. I was considering booking a trip through a rain-forest tour website. They drive you to all locations and take care of hotels and day tours. I would much much rather rent a car, go on my own to save money and have the freedom of having my own car. I’m just worried about rainy season and driving by myself. I consider myself a great driver and am capable of making rational decisions, but still worried that I will run into issues with the season driving. I would do all the long drives in the early morning and keep a good look at the weather radar. Should I be okay to rent a car?

    1. Hi Michael, We’d day to go for it and drive yourself. It will be height of rainy season but it sounds like you know how to handle that in a smart way. And that itinerary will take you on only common, well paved roads. The one thing is that the radar isn’t too reliable here. What we’d recommend is following the national meteorological Institute on Facebook. They will post about any big systems coming through the country. Be sure to check out our Rental Car Discount if you do decide to drive.

      1. Hi Jenn & Matt! I do not see the form to request the Rental Car discount on the car discount page, just the direct link to Adobe’s site… Am I missing it?

        1. Hi Meghan, We just checked and it’s there now. About 1/4 of the way down the page next to the picture of the car. Sometimes Adobe is doing updates so it may not have been working the moment you tried. Let us know if you keep having problems.

  84. We plan to drive from San Jose airport to Uvita Beach and make day trips to Piedras Blancas and Manuel Antonio National Parks. Will we be okay with a minivan? Do you have any other suggestions for day trips from Uvita?

    1. Hi Karen, Piedras Blancas National Park doesn’t have a ton to offer. We’ve been there once before and it was actually closed during rainy season because of all the mud. It is open in dry season but not very many people visit. From Uvita, you can do any of the activities available out of Dominical (see our post 8 Things to Do in Dominical) and the Finca 6 archaeological site in Palmar Norte to the south. Our Costa Ballena post has more ideas for activities. Be sure to check out our post about Manuel Antonio National Park for tips before you head there too. It’s best to have a 4×4 if you want to explore the Uvita area because many of the attractions are located up steep dirt roads. Hope that helps!

  85. We were told the driving conditions from Liberia airport to Santa Teresa are almost impossible/roads may be flooded and terrible driving conditions. From the route listed, it doesn’t appear that way.. thoughts on if this drive would be possible this time of year and why everyone acts like it would be next to impossible?

    1. Hi Kerri, The roads in the Southern Nicoya are rougher. Many are still dirt and get filled with potholes during rainy season. We recommend a 4×4 year-round so that you don’t get stuck on any of the hills. It is possible to drive to Santa Teresa this time of year, though, many people do it, but you just have to be ready for the unexpected. About a month ago, we heard about a giant sinkhole in that region.

  86. Hello Jenn and Matt!
    We are planning a trip to Costa rica in January 2020 and wondered if the trip from San Jose to Playa Carillo is worth driving vs. flying ? We wouldn’t mind the 4.5 hour trip if it was a reasonably pleasant one.

    1. Hi Jennifer, That’s not an especially scenic drive but it’s nice if you’ve never done it before. Towards the end you drive through Nicoya, a small city filled with locals where you can get a sense of the local culture.

  87. Hi! We are in Costa Rica now. Planning to go to Arenal from Manuel Antonio on Thursday, departing around 9am. We have 3 kids with us (ages 6-11) so bathroom breaks, food stops and least perilous drives are important for us. What route is best?
    Option 1: 34 to 27 to 1 and around lake on 142? Or
    Option 2: 34 to 3 to 713 to 702?
    It sounds like option 2 has especially curvy roads and areas of dense fog, is that correct? This is definitely not appealing to us. Is there anything about Option 2 that’s better?
    For the recommended route, best places to stop for bathrooms and food? Thanks for your help!!

    1. Hi, Sorry we weren’t able to reply to your comment in time. Sometimes it takes us a while to get back to everyone during busy times of year. Hope you had s good drive to La Fortuna and enjoyed your trip!

    1. Hi Carla, Definitely better to go the coastal route, which is Highway 23 out of San Jose to Route 34. Going over the mountain via Highway 1 is a harder, longer drive.

  88. Hi Jenn & Matt,
    We will be visiting Costa Rica in February 2020, and will be driving from Atenas to Puerto Viejo. What do you think is the best route? Also on our departure from Puerto Viejo to the airport in San Jose, should we drive, fly from Limon, or take the Caribe shuttle? Our flight out leaves at 2 pm and the shuttle mentions a lot of construction on 32 and even says the shuttle may not arrive till 2pm, in which case we would miss our flight. Rent a towncar ( but if there are road delays that wouldn’t help either although fewer stops than with the shuttle.. Flying would be quicker, but we would end up waiting 6 hrs at the airport and have a 7 hr. flight home and another long drive – to much for us old folks! ? Leave a day early and stay at the airport? Just wondering what your thoughts are? Any recommendations would be greatly appreciated! ?

    1. Hi Cynthia, We would recommend this route to get from Atenas to Puerto Viejo. For the return, we aren’t recommending small plane flights right now. Since the drive is around 5 hours, we would just stay overnight near SJO the night before so that you’re not stressed about making your flight. Current recommendations call for getting to the airport 3 hours before your flight. Here’s a link to our Best Hotels Near SJO Airport if you decide to do this. Hope that helps!

  89. Hi Jenn & Matt. What is the best route to drive from San Jose to Nuevo Arenal? We will be coming the end of next month to check out locations for retirement. Is Grecia on the way from San Jose to Nuevo Arenal?

    Thank you!

  90. We drove route 2 from Manuel Antonio to Cartago. Route is well paved, many parts lately. Easy to drive but take care of the trucks

  91. This is a phenomenal website, thank you SO much for putting in the effort to help us all! We’re travelling to Coco Beach area and Tamarindo in April and will be renting a car to get to and from. Do you have any current suggestions/thoughts? We’re excited to experience Costa Rica! Thank you!

    1. Hi Erica, We know that everything has changed now with visiting Costa Rica since you commented, but please let us know if you reschedule for a later date and we’d be happy to help with your question.

  92. Hi Jenn and Matt!
    Great blog and very useful! Thank you for creating it and maintaining it.

    I’m planning a seven day motorcycle trip in November 2021 using dual purpose motorcycles. We are gambling by then that we will have been vaccinated and the restrictions for return are lifted.

    We would like some challenges (dirt roads and medium height river crossings are fine) and to get away from the crowds but remain safe.

    We are looking for routes with lots of curves and panoramic vistas. At this point we are thinking route 160 north to south down to Santa Teresa as a highlight.

    We are fine to take even the smallest roads and rough conditions to achieve the best scenery and sense of accomplishment. Can you recommend any really spectacular roads that we should include in the trip?

    1. Hi Eric, that’s a tough question since we are usually trying to find roads that are in the best condition for driving. But from experience, there are always many smaller roads rising up from the coastal routes into the mountains. Usually they are dirt and start off fine but become more challenging and remote as they go. You can usually see them on Google Maps as thinner white lines. Another tip would be to stop in and ask any ATV tour company. These businesses usually take customers up rural back routes to awesome viewpoints and they may be able to point you in the right direction.

  93. We drove the 162 to get to Amal Pais today, 1.24.2021, and it is a viable route. It may even save time versus taking the 21. There are several steep bits and approx 6 river crossings, but during the dry season, they were not more than the Toyota Rush we were driving could handle. In fact, they are improving the road north to Rio Friday, so conditions will only get better. The worst stretch is the last 10 km before the route joins the the main road. So hey, enjoy the country side and far less traffic

    1. Thanks for the trip report on conditions on Route 162. There is one important things to watch out for on that drive – at one of the last river crossings before you get to Santa Teresa, assaults have happened when people get out of their car to check river levels. Not just robberies but some more serious incidents. That’s one of the reasons we don’t recommend going that way. Glad you didn’t have any problems.

  94. Thank you for all the great information. I’m staying in Tamarindo. Looking at Google maps and the descriptions you gave I should be in pretty good shape with paved roads from LIR to Tamarindo. I’m also considering driving to the Diamante Eco Park near RIU Guanacaste. Google maps suggested route is 155, 180, 911. Is this the best route for paved roads?

  95. Thanks for the guide!

    I’m super anxious about my upcoming road trip in CR and this really helps to soothe my nerves for most routes, HOWEVER, I’ve got a question: I’m supposed to drive route 2 from Cartago to San Isidro… and I’m terrified, to say the least. While I’m thinking about taking rt. 228, 407, 304, 222, 301 instead, before finally getting onto 34, I wonder if I’m potentially missing out on a really great, scenic drive. But after reading that rt. 2 has STILL not been fixed after the massive recent damage, I’m indecisive about the safest way to go.
    Does route 2 provide views I couldn’t get anywhere else in Costa Rica (I’m also driving to Monteverde).

    TL;DR: What’s the SAFEST, smoothest way from Orosi to Palmar Norte?

    Your help and insight would be greatly appreciated.

    1. Hi Kat, if you are planning this drive soon (February) I wouldn’t be too worried. The damage you are talking about happened in the rainy season and the rains, even in the mountains, have slowed way down or stopped completely. So the road should be stable and you shouldn’t have any suprises. Just make sure to only travel during the day, when it is easy to see and there is less fog. Route 2 is the most direct and fastest from Cartago. If you do want to go around, instead of those smaller roads you mentioned it would be a much easier to go back through San Jose and connect with Route 27 then Route 34. It will be all highway. Route 34 eventually connects back to Route 2 at Palmar Norte. For views, Route 2 is a cool road but you’ll see lots of great views going up to Monteverde too. Best of luck and hope this helps!

  96. Hi, we are driving from San Jose to Pavones and have gotten a few different directions. Which would be the best way to get there? Also, we won’t be leaving til 1:30 pm, should we plan to stop so as not to drive at night?? Thank you so much!

    1. Hi Gina, It’s about a 7 hour drive from San Jose to Pavones, so yes, you should definitely stop somewhere on the way.

      For directions, our Pavones post has them from the turnoff of Highway 2 near Rio Claro. To get to Rio Claro from San Jose, we would recommend the coastal route (Route 27 to Route 34) instead of going over the mountain via Highway 2. There’s always a lot of traffic getting over to Cartago from SJO Airport and then the mountain road (Highway 2) can be slow and is very mountainous/curvy. It’s a much easier drive to go the coastal route.

  97. Hi Jenn and Matt, we are planning a trip to Costa Rica with 2 of our 4 kids who will by then be 5 and 12 years old. Now we have made up an itinerary for 21 days which is SJO 1 night-Quesada 4 nights – Cahuita 4 nights – San Gerardo de Dota 1 night – Puerto Jimenez/Osa 7 nights – Dominical 4 nights – SJO. Does this sound too much driving? I have read a lot about road conditions already and I am well aware that especially the trip from the Carribean to Osa is long. Can you let me know how accurate google maps is in terms of timing, I mean when it says 5 hours can those easily be converted into 8 or more;-)? It will be in August, so some more rain expected which can also affect travelling times, right? Thank you for your advice, Marika&Co.

  98. Hello there! My wife and I were in Santa Teresa back in April and it appeared they were preparing to pave the main road running through town. Do you know exactly what sections of the road are being paved and how long the stretch of paved roads will be? Thank you!

    1. Hi Patrick, We were there in January and they were paving then too. It was from about mid-way into Mal Pais through Santa Teresa, but not all the way to Playa Hermosa. We have heard from local business owners there that the paving is not what you are used to – it will keep the dust down, but may not last that long.

  99. Hello,
    We are in Nosara and were planning on going to Santa Teresa in 2 days. Driving a Toyota RAV4 without 4 wheel drive. Rain has been heavy here the last two nights. Do you think the car would be able to handle it, and if so what’s the best route? Are there any river crossings?

  100. Thank you for this site, it helps alot! We went from San Jose to Puerto Viejo de Talamanca last January and once out of the mountains the whole way the roads were terrible until Rio Banano. Road construction with nothing but potholes and no shoulders. Not fun to drive at night in light rain because our flight was delayed for hours. From what I have heard that construction has been going on for a decade. Looking forward to Jaco and Arenal in November!

  101. just found your page – looks terrific and will spend time on it later this week

    quick question- in your list of highways I didnt see 238 or 611 – presume extreme rural
    unpaved road – ??

    1. Hi Bob, We had to look up those route numbers and realized they are the roads getting to Pavones. We have driven them before. They are a mix of pavement and dirt – some stretches are pavement but it’s mostly dirt, especially as you get closer to Pavones. Our Pavones post has more info about the specific conditions – see the Driving Directions section.

  102. Hi — I’m wondering if you have any info on 143 from San RAfael de Guatusto to lake Arenal? I’m trying to find an efficient route from Rio Celeste to Mirador Prendas that gives us good views of the Arenal Volcano.
    Thanks so much!

    1. Hi Tom, we last drove 143 several years ago when it was gravel but have heard that it is almost all paved (maybe all paved by now). We don’t remember any views of Arenal Volcano, but it does go through some beautiful countryside. Hope this helps!

  103. Thanks for compiling this list! It was very helpful on our recent trip. Any chance you could add Route 713 to this, specifically to alert travelers not to take it? Google and Waze both use this route when traveling from La Fortuna to Manuel Antonio, and it is extremely steep, narrow, and heavily rutted, and it would be a difficult road in a 4×4 even in dry conditions. I am used to driving in the mountains, and it was the scariest thing I’ve ever been on. There are numerous accounts online of people like us getting led this way, and people have been reporting the route to Google and Waze, but they haven’t changed it yet. After returning home, I found that you addressed this route in several comments on your site, but it would be great to make it more visible to help prevent others from making this mistake.

    1. Hi Chad, That’s a really good idea. We’ll add it to our list to include Route 713 so that people know not to take it. Thanks for commenting to let us know about your experience.

  104. Hi Jenn and Matt, really useful summary of routes. I am planning our itinerary for early 2022 visit (fingers crossed) and was wondering which route to La Fortuna is most scenic – via 126/140; via 708; via 141 or via 702? We would have almost the whole day to drive, so can take the one that has the best views and most places to stop along the way and time is not of big concern. Many thanks, Velina

  105. Hi Jenn and Matt, I have enjoyed your website and your emails! We are flying in to Liberia and staying in Nosara in late February. Do you recommend 21 to 160 or 21 to 150 to 160?

    1. Hi Dave, Route 21 to 150 to a side road just north of Samara is the best route. Just put Playa Guiones as the end destination into Google Maps and select the second option. For some reason, Google won’t let us share the map right now.

  106. You posted about Highway 1: “Expect construction delays south of Canas, where highway widening is underway.” Any idea when this project will be done? I did back-to-back month trips (January and February) to Liberia. It took me 5 hours the first time and 4.5 hours the second time to get back to Herradura (it is only about 114 miles. I thought I was going to die!) I have one more trip planned in June or July and am totally dreading it! (side note: I could not believe I was still in Costa Rica when I was driving from Canas to Liberia. If they are doing that all the way to Puntarenas that would be spectacular)

    1. Hi Nolan, Yes, the construction on highway 1 is ongoing, unfortunately. They still have quite a bit of work to do so it most likely won’t be done for when you come in June or July.

  107. Hi Jenn and Matt,
    Your site is pretty much helpful in planning our (honeymoon) trip to Costa Rica in August:)
    We intend to visit Rio San Carlos (Maquenque Eco Lodge) via Route 250, do you anything about its condition? We plan to use a sedan and approacjing from Puerto Viejo de Sarapiquí. Moreover, do you think we shall visit this place?:) We liked these tree-lodges found there!
    All the best from Hungary,

    1. Hi Lacás, We have never driven Route 250 before so aren’t sure but would assume it is in good condition since it’s the only road that goes to the Maquenque Lodge. You should ask the lodge directly for more information.

      Yes, Puerto Viejo de Sarapiqui is very nice and has some cool ecolodges. It’s a very authentic town with a lot of birds and rainforest. Hope you enjoy your trip!

      1. Thanks for your response, I’ve contacted them simultaneously, and they confirmed what you said! It’s a paved road though in a good shape so 4×4 is not necessary. Also I will check Puerto Viejo and add it to our itinery8) All the best, Lacás

  108. Hi there! Thanks for all the info! Quick question – would you have any idea why Waze suggests taking 21/155/180 from Liberia to Playa Potrero (a long route) while google suggests the more direct-seeming 21/151/911? Everyone I talk to here insists on trusting waze but this confuses me – especially given the positive road conditions on both these routes!

    1. Hi Laura, 911 is the Monkey Road. It is mostly paved at this point but can still get washed out. It’s very narrow and hilly too. Best only for day time driving and if you know current conditions.

  109. We just drove on 713 from Arenal to Manuel Antonio about five days ago because someone (my spouse, of course) decided to try to find a faster route and ignored the directions I had planned in advance. We made it in one piece, and so did our rental car, but it was a small miracle because we did not rent a 4×4 and there were some very steep hills where I had the pedal to the metal and we were going all of 4km/h. I thought I was going to have to make him get out and push, but luckily this little Toyota compact car made it up the hill. The road was mostly rocks, like someone had attempted to pave it once many decades ago and gave up. Tons of big divots, potholes which are full of water (it’s rainy season) so you don’t know how deep they are, and sharp turns with narrow roads and no guard rails. We were lucky nobody came from the other direction. We did have full insurance, thankfully, because the front bumper did get bumped on a particularly deep divot that was literally unavoidable. Overall, as the driver, it was pretty scary and I was glad it wasn’t raining more or god forbid, nighttime. I definitely wouldn’t recommend trying this road without a powerful engine and high suspension, no matter how fast Google maps or Waze swears it is. In hindsight, kind of fun and a decent story, but in the moment, terrifying and could have gone really poorly.

  110. HI! ,
    We have a trip planned october 20-29 and plan to drive from San Jose airport to Arenal. I read that there are some major roads being closed for repair. Does this affect the 702 route to Arenal? The second part of the trip we booked a shuttle through your website from San Jose to Manuel Antonio. Same question in regards to time of travel if roads are closed for repairs. Thankyou!

    1. Hi Tara, route 702 to La Fortuna is open and we have not heard of any major construction projects going on there at the moment (even with the heavy rains from Hurricane Julia that passed off to the north). The same for Route 27 and 34 on your way to and from Manuel Antonio and the SJO area by shuttle. There is always a bit of construction on Route 27 but usually off in the shoulder area. This time of year with rains there can be some small road blockages (landslides or washouts) that occur and then are quickly cleaned up. But they are usually well marked and only close part of a lane. You may get slowed down a bit but shouldn’t have too much trouble. You can always check the MOPT Facebook page for last minute updates. Right now there is a lot of small closures on other roads due to Hurricane Julia’s rain impact on the country, but hopefully things will get fixed up quickly ahead of your trip.

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