Car Rental in Costa Rica
Cheapest Car Rental Rates
Most Popular Car Rental Deals
Why rent a car in Costa Rica?
Costa Rica is a great place to explore by country. Small, but surprisingly varied, it offers stunning mountains and volcanoes, lush jungle, and extensive coast of not one, but two oceans.
Top ways to enter Costa Rica
- Juan Santamaria Airport: Named after Costa Rica’s national hero, this airport is the largest in Costa Rica and among the busiest in Central America. The airport has flights to and from many destinations in the Americas, as well as some in Europe. Located less than 20km (12 miles) northwest of downtown San Jose, the airport can be reached in about 25 minutes.
- Tobías Bolaños Airport: The other airport serving the capital region, Tobías Bolaños offers access to some of the more remote destinations of the country like Drake Bay and Tortuguero.
- Liberia Airport: Serving the northwestern city of the same name, Liberia Airport has flights to many destinations in the United States, as well as in countries like Canada, the United Kingdom, and neighboring Panama.
Top cities and places to visit
- San Jose. Although Costa Rica’s capital can sometimes be overlooked due to all the natural riches that the country has to offer, it is a lovely place to visit. Noticeably more relaxed than some of its Latin American counterparts, the highlights of the capital include the Pre-Columbian Gold Museum and the Insect Museum at the University of Costa Rica.
- Cartago. Located less than an hour from the capital and thus easy to visit on a day trip, the city of Cartago is arguably the best place in the country to see the remnants of colonial Spanish architecture. The most famous building is the Our Lady of Angels Basilica, but other gems include the ruins of St. James the Apostle Parish and nearby Orosi Valley.
- North and Central Pacific. Made up of stunning coastline, many national parks, and steep mountain roads, this is the most visited part of Costa Rica. Highlights include the world-famous surf town of Tamarindo and Monteverde and Santa Elena Cloud Forest Reserves, but there are also plenty of hidden gems for a curious traveler to explore.
Most popular rental car
The most popular rental car in Costa Rica is the Toyota Corolla, although many travelers also go for the Toyota Yaris and the Hyundai Accent. The most popular rental car types are economy, compact, and intermediate. While a smaller car is perfectly fine to explore the cities and travel on main highways, driving into the mountains or jungle might require a 4x4.
Driver license requirements
- Costa Rica recognizes foreign driver’s licenses if they are written in a Latin alphabet and if you’re visiting on a trip that’s shorter than three months. If you’re visiting on a longer trip or if you’re a permanent resident of Costa Rica, you need to acquire a local driver’s license.
- If your driver’s license is in another alphabet (e.g., Cyrillic or Arabic), you need to have an International Driving Permit (IDP).
- Even if you have an IDP, you still need to also provide your valid driver’s license from your country
- You must carry your driver’s license, not a copy, with you at all times.
- You need to have had your driver’s license for at least two years.
- Some rental car suppliers charge a young driver fee for drivers between the ages of 22 and 25 and a senior driver fee for drivers over the age of 65.
- There may be additional requirements depending on the car supplier and category, so make sure to check the terms and conditions before booking.
Costa Rica has two neighboring countries, Panama and Nicaragua. There are a few rental car suppliers that permit cross-border trips to the former, but practically none to the latter. You can find car rental companies that permit one-way rentals to Panama by entering your car pick-up and drop-off locations when searching.
It is possible to cross the border with public transportation and pick up a rental car after arriving in the neighboring country. Do keep in mind, though, that each country has its own, unique visa policy. While people from most Western countries can visit both Costa Rica and its neighbors visa-free, the situation is different from visitors from other countries. If you plan to visit one of Costa Rica’s neighbors during your trip, do consult your Ministry of Foreign Affairs in advance.
Most popular types of rental car
There are many toll roads in Costa Rica, some of them starting or ending in San Jose.
Most toll roads have three types of lanes - manual, voluntary, and Quick Pass. The toll booths in the manual lanes only accept cash. It’s a good idea to have coins and lower denomination notes, otherwise getting change back might be an issue.
In the voluntary lanes, the fee is slightly higher than in the manual ones and the toll booths only accept exact change. The idea is that the voluntary lanes generally tend to move faster than the manual ones. For tourists, it’s only worth taking them if you are in a rush.
The cars that can use the Quick Pass lanes have to be equipped with the Quick Pass electronic transponder. The payment will be made automatically and the transponder will register it by beeping. Many rental cars will come pre-equipped with a Quick Pass transponder, and some rental car providers might charge an extra fee for this service. Contact your rental car provider in advance to find out more about Quick Pass or with any other questions regarding toll roads in Costa Rica.
Top driving routes
- The Caribbean Coast: The Caribbean region of Costa Rica is made up of Limon Province which stretches all the way from the border with Nicaragua in the north to the Panamanian border in the south. Relatively unscathed by mass tourism, the region is home to sustainable tourism initiatives, large conversation areas, and the country’s Jamaican diaspora.
- The inland North: Sparsely populated, Costa Rica’s inland northern parts are made up of a primal landscape of mountains and volcanoes, as well as cloud forests and hot springs between them. The largest town, Ciudad Quesada, is a popular vacation spot and can serve as a base for exploring the rest of the region, but you can also do it from San Jose as most of the region’s destinations are within a 2-3 hour drive from the capital.
- The Southwest: This remote jungle corner is known as the greenest part of Costa Rica and is one of the most biodiverse places on the planet. Getting there takes time and, once you get off the main highways and into nature, getting around may require a tour guide, but those curious enough to plan ahead and make this trip will be richly rewarded.
Car Rental Prices
- Large cars - from $65 per day
- Medium cars - from $52 per day
- People Carriers/Vans - from $96 per day
- Small cars - from $47 per day
- SUVs - from $81 per day
How can I save money on my rental car?
You can do a number of things to get a good car rental deal in Costa Rica:
- Compare rates of different rental car providers
- Book your rental car well in advance
- Plan your route before you go
- Know your fuel and mileage requirements
- Visit on the month when the rental prices are the cheapest. According to our data, visiting Costa Rica is the cheapest in May when renting a car is about 41% cheaper than the yearly average.
Top 10 Most Popular Cities in Costa Rica
Top 13 Most Popular Locations in Costa Rica
Car Rental at San Jose Airport from $14.92 per day
Car Rental at Liberia Airport from $14.92 per day
Car Rental in San Jose La Uruca from $37.08 per day
Car Rental at San Jose-Hotel Ramada Herradura from $23.71 per day
Car Rental in San Jose Belen from $23.71 per day
Car Rental at Tamarindo Airport from $43.57 per day
Car Rental at Quepos La Managua Airport from $47.76 per day
Map of Car Rental Locations
Which is the cheapest month to rent a car in Costa Rica?
What’s the average rental length in Costa Rica?
What’s the most popular time for renting a car in Costa Rica?
Most Popular Car Models of Rental Suppliers
|MEX RENT A CAR||Suzuki Jimny||3||1||SUVs|
|Avis||Nissan Versa||4||2||Large cars|
|Economy rent a car||Nissan X-Trail 4x4||4||3||SUVs|
|Economy rent a car||Toyota RAV4||4||3||SUVs|