To drive or to hire a guide/Uber/taxis…
We are often asked by guests whether it is necessary to rent a car during their stay or is it possible to use taxis, hire a car or simply use the buses. Everything is possible, it really just depends on how you like to spend your vacation. Are you coming down to decompress, read a few books in a beautiful place, check out the wildlife and enjoy the sights and smells of a Central American country and maybe take in a sight here or there? Or is an action packed, adrenaline pumping vacation your idea of a great time? Or are you somewhere in the middle trying to manage to experience much of what you’ve read or heard about Costa Rica during your limited time here, but still managing to relax ?
Renting a car or SUV would give you the most flexibility to customize your schedule (should you choose to be one). Save yourself a lot of headache and rent a GPS from the rental company as the road signage is still pretty lax in CR and getting lost is very easy. Renting a car vs an SUV is probably fine for most guests, particularly during the driest months (Jan-March) however, it really depends on how much you like to explore and if you plan to drive to another destination in CR before or after Atenas. If you want to take a trip through the cloud forests even during the dry season, it could have a completely different weather pattern than Atenas, and the roads could be a lot less traveled and therefore less maintained. That said, most taxi drivers do not have SUV’s and they manage just fine. Also, bear in mind that many tourists drive in Costa Rica and get by just fine, but some find the roads and local drivers a bit too much for them to drive. We had one guest who rented a car for the week and she ended up leaving the car in the driveway the entire week and just hiring a driver to take her and her daughter around. The roads in CR can be very difficult to traverse at times – they are often very hilly, there can be rain or fog, even landslides that take out part of the road – and drivers here are notoriously very bad. They pass anyone at anytime, even on completely blind turns going uphill. It seems impossible to comprehend, but it is true. Buses stop on highways to pick people up. People cross 4 lane highways like it is main street – it can be quite crazy at times, so you need to be very alert. And do not drive at night if you can avoid it (except to maybe go out to dinner). The sun goes down at 6pm on the dot and it is lights out in the jungle. The back roads can be a lot more challenging without the benefit of daylight.
Car Rental Companies : The major rental companies are represented here including, but not limited to: Hertz, Avis, Budget, and Thrifty, just outside the modern, international airport (SJO). They all seem to have similar pricing, and you can rent a cell phone and GPS (about $8 per day) when you get your car.
Toyota rent a car www.toyotarent.com
Solida Car rental http://solidcarrental.com
Vamos Rent A Car https://vamosrentacar.com
Poas Rent a Car https://poasrentacar.com
Budget Car Rental www.budget.com
National car rental www.natcar.com
Dollar Rent a Car www.dollarcostarica.com
Hiring a tour driver
There are a few very reliable drivers in the area who have large vehicles for several people (and even a plane) for all kinds of tours. Guests have loved using thier services as they can customize the trips as desired, and get a locals tour of this beautiful country. The two people we recommend for these types of trips are :
We have had guests hire local Atenas taxis for the day (and often use the same driver throughout the trip) to take them on all sorts of excursions. They have loved it because they often get to know and like their driver as most Tico’s are very gracious , and the renters get the added benefit of a Costa Rican’s view of their own country.
Finally the most frugal option, the bus, is also available and convenient especially since we are located about 1km from town. Atenas has a major bus station and you may take buses to quite a few places, but it will usually take longer to get places since the bus will often make many stops, may or may not have air conditioning, and will not drop you off at your front door. Again,we did have a guest choose this route and he was perfectly happy. The following year he came back and I believe he rented a car for that trip.
This should help you get started. You can usually get the best price if you call directly.
Taxis are available as you exit the baggage area of the airport.