Costa Rica is a diverse country spoiled with a variety of unique ecosystems. Everything from rainforests, volcanoes, beaches to mountain ranges can be found here. If you plan to explore Costa Rica on a self-drive roadtrip, we do have some tips for spectacular adventures for you!
1. Go Offroad with a 4x4 Most of the road infrastructure in Costa Rica is excellent (with the exception of the Nicoya Peninsula). But if you want to explore some of the more remote areas or take small mountain passes, a 4x4 vehicle will come in handy. It will allow you to drive on bumpy gravel roads and even cross rivers and streams where necessary. Without a 4x4, the Osa Peninsula is definitely out of bounds for you, so make sure to consider where you want to go before booking a rental car.
2. Take the Sierpe River Ferry If you are planning to visit the Osa Peninsula in the Southwest of Costa Rica, and you intend to go by car, then consider driving to Sierpe and taking an old vehicle ferry across the river. The Sierpe River Ferry is a rustic pontoon powered by a small motorboat that ships you across the river. This vehicle ferry is one of the few left in Costa Rica as most have been replaced by bridges in the last decades. It is without a doubt a very special adventure for your Costa Rica roadtrip.
3. Camp next to the Ocean
In most of Costa Rica, you will be allowed to camp directly next to the sea, hearing the waves crash ashore while you dream off. Put up your hammock between two palm trees and sip on a coconut. This is Pura Vida! Of course this form of camping requires you to take care of the landscape. Never leave trash behind, and even better, collect any trash you may find at the beach and carry it out.
4. Swim in an incredibly blue river Several rivers in Costa Rica are of an unbelievably blue color. This is mostly due to a process called Mie Scattering, where sunlight refracts of minerals in the acidic water of rivers. One of those azure rivers is Rio Blanco (ironic name!) in the Northwest of Costa Rica. Here you can easily go for a dip in the refreshing water.
5. Climb the Arenal Observatory Lodge Lookout Tower The Arenal Observatory Lodge gets its name from its prominent position next to Volcano Arenal. Its restaurant allows for beautiful views directly onto the volcano. But even better, in our opinion, is the Lookout Tower on one of their garden trails. Climb up the 28 m high structure until you reach the viewing platform at the top. Marvel at the foliage of the forest below and encounter a plethora of birds that are hard to spot otherwise. Ideally, you are not afraid of heights as the top of the tower will sway side to side in the wind.
6. Hike to the Top of Costa Rica‘s Highest Mountain With an elevation of 3820 m, Cerro Chirripó is Costa Rica‘s highest mountain. A hiking trail leads from the village of San Gerardo de Rivas all the way to the top of the mountain. Don‘t take this trail lightly! On your way to the top, you will have to conquer extremely muddy trails and an elevation of 2500 m. Most people stay one or two nights at the Basecamp Albergue Crestones before they summit the mountain early the next morning. The view from the top is impressive, but make sure you bring plenty of warm clothes including gloves and a hat, as temperatures are around freezing.
7. Walk on Flooded Rainforest Trails Costa Rica can be wet. Really wet. With an average rainfall of more than 200 mm there is a good chance you will encounter a heavy downpour at some point during your trip. But do not despair, the rain in Costa Rica can be magical. And it is definitely necessary to keep the landscapes green and flourishing. To make the most of your time, you should not hesitate to also go explore when it‘s a wee bit wet outside. Many lodges, such as Tortuga Lodge in Tortuguero provide their guest with gumboots. Nothing is stopping you from walking along the flooded rainforest trails!
If you are ready for your Costa Rica offroad roadtrip then get 10% off your 4x4 rental using our discount code LUCAS10 at Nomad America.
Make sure to watch our full Costa Rica adventure travel documentary on YouTube: