We've taken a rental car all around the country twice, and while a 4x4 would be preferred it's not necessary. Considerations would be whether you are traveling in dry season or not, and how primary the road is. If it's rainy season then you'll run into a lot more problems with the roads, otherwise you just take your time as occasionally you'll run into an area where part of the road was washed out. The rental agreement we signed included NOT driving on dirt roads, which we ignored but I suppose if you had a problem it could cost more. They recommend a 4x4 if you go to Monteverde.
NEVER PICKED US UP AS ARRANGED – LEFT US AT THE AIRPORT
Do NOT pay in advance for services from Easy Ride Costa Rica. I paid in advance and Javier Ortiz left us at the airport and never picked us up as arranged even though I confirmed with him via email the week before that he would be picking us up. The tourist officials at the airport tried to call him and he did not answer. He will not respond to my emails requesting a refund, and I had to dispute the charge through my credit card company. There are plenty of reputable and reliable services you can use - I do NOT recommend using Easy Ride Costa Rica because after this happened to us, I heard that it is a fairly common experience for customers of Easy Ride Costa Rica.
Heads up on a price... It cost us $125 U.S. to go from the airport to Quepos. This was on Thursday night at around 11:30 p.m. and he started at $140. We talked him down but really for a 3 hour drive... not a bad deal. Our driver even stopped for us to get some "to go" food and a beer.
The return trip cost us $100.
If you’re looking for a quick and easy way to get from place to place while in Costa Rica check out the internal flights. Air travel, on prop planes, is almost equivalent to bus travel in the country. It’s relatively inexpensive and much faster than driving. You have a choice of two commercial airlines that fly domestically and flights can be chartered to more remote locations with ease. Sansa Air is one of the two commercial airlines in the country. As with Nature Air, their competitor, the planes are small prop planes that seat about 15 to 20 people. Their flight record is great as is the service. Most flights average a half hour to 45 minutes in duration as the country is so small. Their prices tend to run about $10 US less per flight than Nature Air and they also feature one and two week “Air Passes” (although I am not quite sure how the passes work) that supposedly allow you to fly unlimited around the country. The drawbacks: their website is difficult to navigate and book flights. In fact it was impossible for me to book one way flights on their site. And most of their flights originate out of San Jose so if you want to get from Point A to Point B (and neither is San Jose) you’ll have to connect through San Jose and pay for both legs of your trip separately.
If you’re looking for a quick and easy way to get from place to place while in Costa Rica check out the internal flights. Air travel, on prop planes, is almost equivalent to bus travel in the country. It’s relatively inexpensive and much faster than driving. You have a choice of two commercial airlines that fly domestically and flights can be chartered to more remote locations with ease. Nature Air is one of the two commercial airlines in the country. As with Sansa, their competitor, the planes are small prop planes that seat about15 to 20 people. Their flight record is great as is the service. Most flights average a half hour to 45 minutes in duration as the country is so small. Nature Air features a more user friendly website, and although their flights average about $10 US more per flight than Sansa, they are the only carbon neutral airline in the skies and they have more choices when it comes to direct flights. We chose Nature Air because it was easier to navigate their website, book flights online and they had better connections and flight options than Sansa. The staff was friendly and helpful and we really enjoyed our flights. Because these are smaller planes be aware that there is a weight limit for both checked luggage and carry-ons. Passengers are allowed ONE checked bag with a maximum 30 lbs weight limit and one carry-on with a 10 lbs weight limit. Checked luggage is weighed at check in and they will charge you if you are over the 30 lbs limit. The carry on is weighed along with you, so if you’re not overweight you can probably get by with a little over the 10 lbs limit.
Sample Prices: We booked a last minute, one way flight from San Jose to Puerto Jimenez for $99 US and one was from Puerto Jimenez to Quepos for the same price. If we had booked earlier there were better deals.
If you are in a budget and want to visit a rain forest without troubles ,take a bus to Quepos from bus stop Coca Cola in San José.It lasts 3,30 hours.Look for a cheap hotel near the bus station and early in the morning the following day go again to the station for another bus to Manuel Antonio Park at 8 kms.That day in the afternoon you can come back to San José.
Take the Interamerican Highway out of San Jose west towards Alajuela then exit onto Highway 34 which swings to the South and on down towards Jaco. From there the coastal road continues southeast. Outside the villages you can drive 80 km/h, inside the villages 40 km/h. You have to pass several bridges that don't look very safe, but as there is no other way to Quepos, you will have to go over them. Just be careful and don't drive too fast. The drive from San Jose to Quepos is about 3 hours.
Taking a Taxi is easy and not too expensive. The rides can be a bit bumpy and the drivers do drive a bit fast but they know the roads well so it's really nothing more than a bit exciting. There are also not many roads in the area so the drivers really can't take you on a roundabout route and rip you off. I was there for a few days with a large group of people and we took taxis pretty much everywhere we went and I never heard of any of our group having a bad experience with a taxi.
It is so easy and inexpensive to use the buses. it is 100 colones to manuel antonio with buses departing every half an hour. the san jose bus will drop you off near jaco (a short 15 min walk down the road leading to town).
The easiest way to get to Quepos from San Jose is by airplane. A roundtrip ticket on Sansa is only about $90. The flight is about 20 minutes on a 12-seat Cessna turboprop aircraft.
You can book and pay online and print your tickets. Just walk up to the counter with your printed tickets and you'll be all set.
In San Jose, the Sansa terminal is about 2 blocks away from San Jose International Airport. When you walk outside the terminal, turn left and walk down the sidewalk. About two blocks on the left side you'll see a small blue and white building set far from the road. The parking lot is gated and an attendant will let you in.
The last Sansa flight to Quepos leaves about one hour after the Delta flight arrives from Atlanta. Many people will say you won't make the conneciton but we made it with time to spare. But if the customs line is long or if you flight is delays, you may miss the Sansa flight. Sansa states your ticket is only good for the day you reserve it and I don't know what its rebooking policy is.
The flight is great and is like a tour in itself because you stay low enough to see the terrain. The windows are big so make sure you keep your camera handy for picture taking!
Note! The posted weight limit on luggage is 25 pounds. Though, I saw a woman take on a huge bag that was at least 40 pounds so I know they make some exceptions. But I suggest keeping your luggage to carry-on size only.
The airline Sansa provide a shuttle van from the Quepos Airport to the town. If your hotel is in the main part of the town, the driver will drop you off at the door. The cost of the shuttle is $6 U.S or $3000 colones.
If your hotel is further away the Sansa representative will arrange another taxi to take you to your hotel. You pay this second car a separate charge -- ours to Nature's Beachfront was $6000 colones.
Sansa will also schedule a car to pick you up from your hotel to the terminal. They will do this when you arrive to Quepos. The charge will be the same as when you arrived.
We found that when we took our own taxi from Nature's Beachfront directly to the Quepos Airport, we got a better deal and didn't have to pay twice.
Traveling in and around Costa Rica is an experience to say the least. The roads around Quepos were at least marked and paved. We were not so lucky in some of the other spots we visited. When the guide books say, "horrendous", they are not kidding. Take your time, and plug on. The people are extremely friendly, helpful and always ready to point you in the right direction.