How To Get Around In Costa Rica Without A Car
February 13, 2020
There could be many reasons why you would prefer not to rent a car when travelling through Costa Rica. You might not have your license yet, you don’t want to spend too much money or the driving conditions stress you out. The roads in Costa Rica aren’t the greatest (we got stuck trying to cross a river once with a 4×4), so I don’t blame you! In the months that I’ve been in Costa Rica, I never once set foot in a car except to join other people. Did I sometimes wish I could go for a quick drive to those beaches that are hard to reach or to avoid waiting for a bus in 35°C heat? Well yes, of course… For the most part, though, I’m glad I didn’t have to worry about a rental car. Luckily, there are plenty of other ways to get around in Costa Rica!
10 ways to get around in Costa Rica WITHOUT a car!
1. On foot
Let’s start with the most obvious one: walking! You’d be surprised how far you can get on foot if you commit to it. It’s not always super comfortable when the roads are steep and it’s hot as hell outside, but it’s cheap and it’s convenient! The best times to go for a hike are early in the morning and around 4-6pm when the sun is setting.
I haven’t tried this yet, but I’ve heard it’s an acceptable way to get around. Locals do it all the time and they’re usually willing to pick up a lost looking backpacker too! Some will even stop and ask if you need a ride if they simply see you walking on the side of the road. I hopped on a truck this way not too long ago. Afterwards we gave him a beer and all was good. Pura Vida!
3. By public bus
I was pleasantly surprised by the public bus system in Costa Rica! There’s a good connection between most places (even small towns you wouldn’t expect), they often start driving very early in the morning (around 5am) and it’s really cheap. You can get pretty much anywhere for 1-5$. It’s also the most local way to get around, you won’t see a lot of tourists on these buses. Lastly, there’s many different kinds: fancy buses with freezing cold airco (usually leaving from San José) and small ones that look like they could fall apart any minute!
4. By taxi
Taking a taxi is obviously one of the quickest ways to reach your destination. Unfortunately, it’s also the most expensive. Although, there’s definitely room to negotiate; most taxi drivers are very willing to strike a deal. The cost for a taxi ride can be anywhere from $5-50 depending on where you need to be.
5. By Uber
The ultimate hack for anyone that has just arrived in San José: take an UBER instead of a taxi! I can’t even tell you how much I’ve saved by using Uber whenever I was in San José (easily $50). It’s a better alternative in every way: it’s just as fast, there’s a fixed price, you get a lot of discounts when you first download the app and it’s sooo much cheaper! Sadly, Uber is not available everywhere in Costa Rica. Most of them are in San José, though I’ve also seen some in Jacó & Tamarindo!
6. With shuttles
There are lots of shuttle companies in Costa Rica and I’ve had nothing but good experiences using their services. Out of all of the ways to get around in Costa Rica, I’m pretty sure shuttles are the fastest and the safest option to get to any destination (even across the border). I’ve used Caribe Shuttle to get to Bocas del Toro in Panama & San Juan del Sur in Nicaragua and Tropical Tours Shuttle to get from Montezuma to Sámara in Costa Rica. Of course, it’s more expensive than taking the bus, but for first timers who’re still figuring things out or for trips across the border, it’s a very convenient and comfortable option. Caribe shuttle even has wifi!
THE MOST ADVENTUROUS
7. By bike
This isn’t possible everywhere, but there are some places in Costa Rica where biking is a great option. On the Caribbean side, it’s definitely the main mode of transportation of the locals. When I was in Puerto Viejo, I rented a bike several times and it was so fun and breezy! You can rent one for 5-10$ a day.
8. By scooter
Similar to renting a bike, you can rent a scooter in many towns in Costa Rica. This is perfect if you’re travelling as a couple and looking for a bit of adventure!
9. By ATV
Even more popular than scooters in Costa Rica are ATV’s. You see them everywhere and I’m guessing it’s because they do well on dirt roads. Renting an ATV is ideal if you want to venture off to hard-to-reach places that would normally require a 4×4. Great for couples or groups travelling together. There’s also a lot of ATV tours that you can book, where a guide takes you to popular destinations in the neighbourhood.
10. By boat
Probably the most adventurous way to get around and my personal favourite: by boat! I love nothing more than racing across a deep blue ocean with the wind in my face and an endlessly changing horizon in front of me. I used a company called Zumatours twice to get from Jacó to Montezuma and to explore Tortuga Island. It’s fast, it’s fun & you always have a chance to see dolphins, manta rays or even whales!
As you can see, there are lots of different options to get from one place to another in Costa Rica, even when you don’t have a car at your disposal. I hope you found this article helpful in some way, let me know your thoughts in the comments! 🙂