Having successfully driven us through Florence and around the Tuscan countryside, shared the road with wild horses in Vieques, and navigated the streets of Manhattan in a bright yellow Mini Cooper, I fully trust the hubs’s driving skills. But when we told people that we would be driving ourselves from San Jose to Arenal to Quepos and back, I’ll admit– their “Wait, WHAT? You’re DRIVING?” reactions made me question my faith, just a little bit. Worse than the reactions were the first-person horror stories, including one about a scam involving popped tires and literal highway robbery. I think it’s fair to admit that I had a little bit of anxiety about the whole thing.
Still, that didn’t stop us from taking the airport shuttle to Hertz Rent-a-Car in San Jose immediately upon arrival and hopping into our very own little Daihatsu Terios (gesundheit). I have to say–the staff at the Hertz was so friendly, it put me instantly at ease. They helped us get our GPS set up with the proper British accent, gave us tons of info on what to do if we’re in an accident, and though their overly cautious advice probably should have made me nervous, it just made me feel like they would be able to help us if, God forbid, anything happened.
Luckily, as we’ve often found, things were not as bleak as we’d imagined. Two major upsides? Most of the roads were paved and had two lanes. Not exactly what we were expecting from our research.
However, despite our relief, it wasn’t all sunshine and butterflies, and we did come away with a few words of wisdom. What type of travel blogger would I be if I didn’t offer up some insight on taking to the open roads of Costa Rica?
#1. The weather can change at any second.
Technically, July and August in Costa Rica is their winter–aka, their rainy season. I don’t think that the weather is as volatile throughout the rest of the year, but during our visit, it would literally go from partly sunny to heavy downpours in a matter of seconds:
#2. Fog is worse than rain.
Though the visibility was definitely hindered during the manic rainstorms, it was worse during the few instances when the weather took a gradual turn and inserted a layer of fog between the sun and the monsoon.
Oh, that’s just harmless and kind of pretty fog, you say? Take a look at what was in front of us:
Oh wait, you CAN’T.
#3. The views, when it’s clear, can be seriously distracting.
I know this because my co-piloting duties slipped more than a few times to take pictures of the gorgeous scenery passing us by. And also because I physically cannot stay awake on most car rides, but for about 80% of the time we were driving in Costa Rica, I was awake and looking out the window. Ok, maybe that was the fear? But part of it was the view. Oh, also part of it was my mission to see a sloth. So, like, 30% view-watching.
#4. Don’t let the road signs psych you out.
Because they will really psych you out:
Seriously, what is the message, here?
#5. You will share the road with both large…
So don’t drive like an idiot. (I’m really good at passing judgement on other drivers despite the fact that I drive, hmmm, once a year?).
All in all, we were pleasantly surprised. Our hosts at Finca Rosa Blanca told us that the roads have gone under major repairs in the last few years–so much so that one of the managers told us that he used to drive eight hours to a city that now, due to road construction, only takes him two and a half hours to reach.
We weren’t naive enough to think it would be an easy drive, and this worked to our advantage. So the best advice I can offer? If you decide to take to the Costa Rican roads, and I do think that you should, do your research and be prepared for anything.
BUT, if you have a Costa Rican driving horror story or post, share it below! For real–I think it’s important to hear both sides before you hop in a rental car and vamanos.