Costa Rica, don’t be fooled by its size! Traveling through Costa Rica can be as slow as beautiful and exciting, and a trip that takes three hours can turn into a complete day traveling just by stopping to experience the country.

Traveling through Costa Rica

Central Volcanic Mountain Range Road

 

Costa Rica is a bit smaller than U.S. West Virginia and a bit bigger than Denmark… 51,100 Square Kilometers (19.730 mi²)

However, this is merely a number.

And yes, you can see the sunrise in the Caribbean Sea, drive for 6 or 7 hours and see the sunset on the Pacific Ocean. Yes.

However, don’t let this fool you… traveling through Costa Rica is a slow motion sort of thing if you want to see the country.

The reasons are the following

  1. Topography

    Road to Arenal

Why? Well! First of all, you have to consider that Costa Rica has in its small territory three mountain ranges and heights up to 3,800 meters (12,000 feet) above sea level, which means that the roads are winding, and there might be cliffs on the sides.

So, either if you are driving as if you are not, high speed while traveling through Costa Rica can be dangerous. Better be slow.

 

 

  1. Weather

    Driving through Costa Rica

In some of the roads in Costa Rica, there are specific weather conditions like thick fog or pouring rains that can make it even slower.

Plus, depending on the time of year there might be landslides that will get you take longer to get to where you are going.

(Don’t get it wrong! This also happens in the sunny season as North front weather can also come in that time of year raining on the top of the mountains.)

  1. Landscapes

    IMG_4815

When you are going from one place to the next, you will see amazing differences in the views. There are very few places where this phenomenon does not happen. Moreover, this brings something else: Photo opportunities! Everywhere! You will want to take a picture of every curve of the road.

Even if you are not driving, tourism staff (Guides and drivers) are very used to this and know exact points where the pictures can be taken and are stunning.

  1. Diversity

    Traveling through Costa Rica

    Tiny squirrel monkeys going across a side road in Pavones (South Pacific of Costa Rica)

If there is one word to describe Costa Rica is “diversity”. Be prepared to see fantastic things on the roads! You might be seeing the two types of sloths, monkeys, and white-nosed coatimundis, not to mention several species of toucans and gorgeous colorful birds.

It is almost hard not to see wildlife while on the roads of Costa Rica.

Keep your eyes open and your camera ready!

  1. Friendliness of the people

    Traveling through Costa Rica

    Oxcart on the road from Arenal to Tilaran town.

While you are traveling through Costa Rica, you may want to stop often in fruit stands or cafeterias (Known as “sodas”). Or simply to take an oxcart passing on the road. 

People will talk to you, show you things, and get out of their way to get you to see a hidden waterfall, a gorgeous viewpoint or the oldest landmark of the place.

Never underestimate their power to delay your trip. However, don’t miss these great chances to see more of the country!

  1. In the cities

    Panamerican Highway

    Panamerican Highway, on the way out of San José to the Pacific Coast

And if you are going into (Or out of) any of the bigger cities, Alajuela, Heredia and mainly San José… Watch your timing!

Rush hour starts at 6:30 a.m. and ends around 8:30 a.m., and in the afternoons, it starts around 4:30 and ends around 6:30 p.m.  Same as if you are getting out as many people work in the peripherin.

  1. Side Roads and shortcuts (Be careful in the use of Waze!)

    Traveling through Guanacaste

    Guanacaste side road

Depending on your driver and tour guide, or, if you are driving yourselves in Costa Rica roads can turn to be quite a labyrinth and only locals know their way.

If you have your driver, never underestimate his power of knowing a few other roads that none knows and that may take you much faster to your destination. (Or through a more picturesque drive).

If you are driving: Don’t always follow all Waze instructions! I have been stranded on a muddy road for hours because of a “Turn left” of Waze.

Better ask the locals for directions! They do know better!

 

In Conclusion

If you are traveling through Costa Rica on your vacation, don’t think about it as a transfer day… It is a traveling day! Make it worth it! Take your time to enjoy the roads of Costa Rica. There is a lot to see and to experience. Simply take your time and make it count!