Make Costa Rica the last border you ever drive across

How do I know? I drove from Canada through 8 countries to Playas del Coco, Costa Rica. That’s right. In 2012 I did the drive from north of Toronto to Playas del Coco, Costa Rica.
"Now you can give directions without knowing where where it is"
I didn’t stop there!!!! I’ve driven all over Costa Rica, Having been born into the trucking business it seems I like driving. That’s lead me to see alot of Costa Rica, Of course it all started in 2008 when I flew into San Jose and set foot on Costa Rica soil for the first time. Having just finished a 3 week trip driving from Canada down through the Florida keys and back, when by a phone call, Costa Rica was mentioned. Yes I was frustrated with Florida and wanted something different. 3 weeks later I was in San Jose, rented a car (They dropped it at my hotel), and was off to see the country. I drove around San Jose and got completely lost the first day. I’m not sure if it was me or a lack of street signs. Maybe both. I learned my lessons fast. It turns out Ticos (Costa Ricans) will always give you directions. They may not know where you want to go. But that won’t stop them from sending you into the wild blue .  ( A true story; A couple days after I became a Costa Rican citizen, I happened to be on the phone with my importer/exporter (He’s the best)_from Uruca. He said ” Now you can give directions without knowing where it is”).

"You’ll happen upon the nicest people"

During my years of vacationing in Costa Rica, I had always rented a car. Not necessarily for the entire holiday, but usually a week or two. A normal day would be a short day trip to a volcano or across the Monkey Trail and generally an overnight trip to San Jose and Central Valley. I found that stopping at some of the little out of the way sodas, you’ll happen upon the nicest people. On one trip through Los Quetzales National Park,  (South of San Jose on the Pan-Am Highway headed toward San Isidro de El General and Panama) I stopped at a roadside restaurant for a coffee to go. The young couple running the place must have just taken over and they were intent on selling me an empanada. So they sat me down. Both sitting with me, I could sense their excitement and pleasure of having a foreigner in their restaurant.  As I finished the man took me outback to show me 2 volcanoes in the distance. They were so nice, I can still feel myself sitting there. I couldn’t speak a lick of Spanish and they not English, But it was worth the ticket from Toronto just to experience that piece of life. I also enjoy using the fairy over to Puntarenas. A great place to meet interesting people. Here’s a link to a YouTube I did on the ferry ride.
Driving in Costa Rica for the most part the same as driving in rural North America. You won’t be on any super freeways. But if you like LA traffic then San Jose has all you need. Yes many of the highways are still 2 lane, although Costa Rica has been working hard over the last 5 years to change that. And Ticos tend to be aggressive drivers. No one knows why. Drive like hell and then sit in a bank or government office for 2 hours patiently waiting. Of course not all roads are clearly marked. What may look like a major road on a map, can turn out to be a narrow street filled with traffic around Central Valley, My Advice; give yourself plenty of time and be ready at a moments notice to see some of the most interesting, uplifting sights ever put on this earth.
Don’t drive at night if you can help it
First let's get one thing out of the way; Don’t drive at night if you can help it. There are still many animals running wild, horses, cows etc can be on the roads. Or you may end up on a back road driving around a mountain with only 4 of 7 narrow bridges marked. Also many people use bicycles and they can be out in full force around dusk or at night. So be carefull. Just like anywhere else in the world, you’ll see kids riding a bike with their face buried in a cell phone. You get the point.
Rainy season brings its own challenges.  Head down a country road in the rainy season only to find out there may not be a bridge across the creek that has now turned into a raging river. You’ll see many SUVs and pickup trucks with a snorkel air breather. That helps when splashing through a creek and some back roads and driveways. At times we do have some road closures due to small landslides or a tropical storm taking a bridge out. All that is generally well advertised and time to just stay home. Pura Vida.

Tips on Cars & Driving in Costa Rica;

  • In Costa Rica, Cars have right of way, followed by bicycles, with pedestrians last.
  • All vehicles must pass a safety check every year. Taxis and Buses twice a year.
  • The maximum speed in Costa Rica is 80 kms per hour (50 miles per hour)
  • All cars must receive prior permission from the Registro Nacional via a permit to leave the country.
  • Rental cars, Cars with registered loans, Cars with outstanding tickets or any other type of encumbrance registered on title are not permitted to leave the country.  
  • Visiting Tourists can drive using their existing drivers license from their home country for up to 90 days.
  • When gaining residency or citizenship, your valid drivers license can be transferred to a new Costa Rican drivers license of the same class.
  • No Parking zones are marked with a yellow curb in most towns.
  • The licence plate stays with the vehicle for the life of the car. All fines, accidents etc. are registered against the title of the car. 
  • Restrictions according to licence plate numbers restrict traffic on certain days in central San Jose.
  • Import duties on cars are assessed according to Costa Rica’s book value. Cars are expensive in Costa Rica. Duties 50% on 0-2 years old, 65% 3-5 years old, 79% over 5 years old. Commercial vehicles and equipment are exempt.
  • Legislation is circulating that will restrict the age of cars allowed to be imported to not over 7 years old. Commercial vehicles will be exemptfrom that age restriction.
  • Carrying an illegal immigrant  in your car is against the law.
  • Every December owners are required to purchase Marchamo or Rights of Movement, Compulsory Automotive Insurance and Su Vida Insurance according to the vehicles status and value. Check your required payment Here
  • The Pan-Am highway runs through Costa Rica as # 1 and # 2. Known as The Pan American Highway, The Inter American Highway and Autopista-Carretera-Ruta Panamericana. Originally built by the US army engineers, it’s part of the worlds longest motorable road.
  • But as sure as I’m here writing this story, Snow will not be a problem in Costa Rica. We can get hail at times in the mountains south- east of Cartago with Mount Chirripo being the highest point in Costa Rica and the 5th highest peak in Central America at 3,727 meters (12,228 ft) But for the most part everything is accessible and yes traffic does move much slower here. So give yourself plenty of time.
OH, and my drive to Playas del Coco. Well, It took 13 days. I made a few stops on the way, crossing into the United States at Port Huron. and ending up visiting Joe Foster in Illinois, Marvin Lovelace in Arizona. Then on to Mazatlan Mexico and picked a friend who had flown over from Toronto. I had met Steve years earlier in Playas del Coco and as usual in Costa Rica, became friends. Steve and myself arrived in Guanacaste and El Coco on Christmas eve. His future wife didn’t want him to be late for Christmas. But that’s another story for a different newsletter and video. Watch for it. Here’s a video in Costa and you will see Joe and Steve from that drive.  
Yep, It certainly is fun driving around Costa Rica. Playas del Coco and The Gulf of Papagayo make a great jump off point. Within a few minutes you’ve driven past Liberia International Airport and you're off to explore some of the most awesome ecosystems God put on this earth. Eventually you will see me on the road. Look for my Tres Amigos Realty signs. Stop and say hello. Until then, Pura Vida.
Other currencies
Pricing terms

The price is based on current exchange rates but is only an approximation. Please contact us for a final price