Should I Rent a Car in Costa Rica?

Many people ask “Should I rent a car in Costa Rica,” and my answer is a firm YES because it allows you to explore on levels an Uber will never allow.  You’ll also save lots of money renting a car versus using public transportation and even rideshare if you have a busy itinerary.

If you are traveling to Costa Rica and thinking about renting a car, I’ve created this guide that lays out everything you need to know about the experience, car rental insurance, and even some tips on the best car rental agencies in Costa Rica and to top it off, advice on where to find the best deal no matter where you choose to pick up your vehicle!

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Should I Rent a Car in Costa Rica?

YES!  I highly recommend renting a car in Costa Rica because it’s the most efficient way to see all of the natural beauty Costa Rica has to offer.  You’ll be able to move throughout the country at your own pace, stop and see things that a bus would otherwise pass by, and visit many more attractions such as volcanoes, local beaches, waterfalls, rain forests, and much more.

Your adventure will be greatly enhanced when you have the freedom to choose your own path and fly by the seat of your pants, so to speak.

German Bakery Nuevo Arenal
Without a rental car we’d never have been able to enjoy this amazing German bakery in Nuevo Arenal!

Make sure to read my entry about driving safe in Costa Rica before anything. It’ll clarify a lot of the misconceptions about the drivers in Costa Rica.

Also, you don’t have to rent a car for your entire stay in Costa Rica.  For example, if you find yourself in Costa Rica’s Capital, San Jose, for business or pleasure, you really can do just fine with an Uber or local taxi.  They are very abundant and reliable.

However, if you are leaving San Jose to visit beaches down South, such as Manuel Antonio, Dominical, or even heading to the Pacific Coast beaches of Guanacaste, you’ll 100% want and need a car to explore properly and efficiently.

Costa Rica Car Rental Prices

You can compare the price to booking a private shuttle vs. renting a car in Costa Rica and find that the price isn’t very much more.  If you were to take a shuttle from either airport to the area of La Fortuna (I recommend the Springs Resort and Spa), you will pay $200 each way.

A flight, via Sansa airlines, runs normally $80 – $200 per person, so for a couple, it may be more efficient in getting there, but it’s not always on time and sometimes they even cancel these local flights.

Renting a car is your best bet, and you can stop to enjoy the many sights and sounds of Costa Rica as you drive.

I rented a car in August for 6 days, and the total cost was only $240!

—> Click here to get the best deal and find a car!

What You Need to Rent a Car in Costa Rica

You will be required to show your passport as well as your driver’s license from your home country.  If you are coming from the USA and asking “can you drive in Costa Rica with a US drivers license?” that answer is resounding yes.

Same goes for Canada and just about any country.  Over 99.5% of licenses are accepted. The ones I’ve heard are not accepted in their current form are those in Arabic or Russians, unless you get them translated.  Call up any company for further clarification.

You will need the original driver’s license – a photo copy will not suffice.

It also must be current – no expired licenses are accepted.

You’ll also need to present your credit card you used to book the car, which will also put a temporary hold in case of any damages.  If you want to make this a lot more simple and avoid this, check out Discover Cars, an agency that will allow you to simply present a voucher upon arrival.  (They also help you find the best price and provide the best hassle-free insurance.)

You won’t go wrong booking through their custom search engine and hassle free system, but if you want another recommendation, check out Vamos Rent a Car.

Minium Age to Rent a Car in Costa Rica

You’ll have to be 21 – 25 to rent a car in Costa Rica.  I did find some caveats, however.

  • Adobe rent a car makes you be 23 years of age.

What Side of the Road Does Costa Rica Drive On?

Just like the USA and Canada, Costa Rica drives on the right side of the road.

Most Expensive Time to Rent a Car in Costa Rica

Prices of car rentals go up in the high travel season, which is the middle of December through the end of April in Costa Rica.  You’ll see prices go up around any holiday, including Easter Week (Semana Santa), Christmas, and New Years.

We tend to do most of our travel in the off-season and enjoy lesser crowds and cheaper prices on literally everything in Costa Rica, which leads me to my next piece of advice.

What is the Cheapest Time to Rent a Car in Costa Rica?

As I alluded to, the months of lower travel are the best ones to rent a car in Costa Rica.  You’ll find much better prices from May through October.  Tourism is slower and you’ll also get a better selection of vehicles.

Here’s a recap of our Costa Rica Vacation in August.

What Kind of Car Should You Rent in Costa Rica?

I always recommend a 4 x 4 in Costa Rica.  A crossover or mid-size SUV for any part of four or less is perfectly fine.  You can expect to see potholes, switchbacks, and many other obstacles on the subpar roads in Costa Rica.

That pretty much sums it up, so if you came asking “Should I Rent a Car in Costa Rica,” I hope this persuaded you to take the plunge and really enjoy my second home.

Again, you will find the best deals and options available booking through DiscoverCars.

Enjoy your trip!



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Tim Schmidt is a 20+ year Entrepreneur and Digital Marketer. A Fort Lauderdale-based "Digital Nomad," he enjoys traveling as much as possible with family and friends. AllWorld is his escape to document all of his adventures, including being a hardcore "foodie." He has property in Costa Rica and visits several times each year and is happy to offer his expert advice for planning your trip.

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