Getting around Costa Rica
The most environmentally friendly and cheapest way to get around Costa Rica is by using public transportation. Public city buses are everywhere, and with limited places to pull over to pick up passengers, holding up traffic behind them makes them not much slower than a car. Comfortable highway buses are comparable to the ones I am used to in Canada. In Costa Rica they go from any destination to the next at least two or three times per day. Their only drawback is the convenience factor. If your time in Costa Rica is limited, and you can't go with the flow, this probably isn't your best option.
Another option are taxis in San Jose, they know the most direct routes on a spaghetti road map, and a must in any smaller town or village up to about thirty kilometers travel, where your resident 'taxistas' are known by everyone. The prices are half or less of what you would pay north of the Rio Grande and there are lots of them. For your safety in San Jose, it is best to remember the number on the taxi door before stepping in, memorize it or write it down until you depart friends in case you have problems. Also, in San Jose be sure that the driver is using his meter (pronounced 'maria') and if not, get a quote how much it will cost, or you will pay too much. Taxistas are usually nice hard working people, but with kids to feed, they will take advantage of you if you permit it.
In Costa Rica there are a few private bus lines that will take you from any hotel to any hotel costing from $10 to $45 depending on your departure and destination points. The Adventure Inn staff will be happy to shop around and make all your arrangements free of charge. Contact us for information, prices and times, and reservations.
Rent a vehicle
The easiest way to get around Costa Rica is by driving yourself. Stop to take pictures, compare different hotels before settling in, go back and eat at that neat little restaurant you just passed, take a swim on an abandoned beach, you call the shots. One of you drive while the other navigate with your guide book and the trusty Adventure Hotels of Costa Rica road map free of charge at our front desk (please support our members who made the map possible) while the other drive. Since 1995 we at Adventure Inn have been in the Costa Rica car rental market and constantly narrow it down to just a few companies that we can trust for fairness, integrity in service, reliable vehicles and the price you are quoted is the final amount you need to pay. To see what vehicles (cars, SUVs, vans, buses, trucks, automatic) are available at the lowest price and make a reservation if you want, click here.
With the uneven terrain throughout Costa Rica, as the tucan flies is often a third the distance of driving. And flying sure seems like the way to go, great aerial views of the patchwork mountains and volcanos, and endless jungles, and the distant blue oceans, and so fast! A six hour drive can be a forty minute flight, and prices aren't bad, especially for residents. However, the single and twin-engine planes bumping up and down in the air currents make me hold on with white knuckles. Publicly-owned Sansa (leaving from SJO Airport) and private Nature Air (leaving from Pavas Airport) are the two major domestic airlines, though there are smaller ones. I prefer Nature Air for safety plus Sansa doesn't seem to make reservations easily, nor on weekends.
An Adventure Inn guest told me he was a passenger on a Sansa flight, and sitting in the front row could see the instrument panel. They had taxied onto the runway when he noticed the gas guage was near empty, and asked the pilot. The plane was quietly taxied back off the runway, and everyone had to change planes. Our guest then noticed them putting gas into the first plane... just a story, I can't confirm its authenticity.
But I can confirm this story. My girlfriend and I took a Sansa flight to Nosara, Guanacaste in November, 2003. In the small waiting room we were sitting with the other passengers on a flight to Quepos. Their pilot decided to take another route in the fog, and hit a mountain, three dead, and a horror story for the survivors taking days to find their way out of the jungle to civilization. My girlfriend's family got the news report mixed up, and thought we had been in the accident!
My advice, work your way around Costa Rica on the ground.