One of the best ways to enjoy Costa Rica is to rent a car and explore the country at your own pace. Unlike many small Caribbean destinations, Costa Rica can't be summed up in one or two main areas or single stretch of beach. As the country boasts almost 20,000 square miles and over 1000 miles of beaches, you could spend months exploring Costa Rica and still not come close to seeing it all.
During the green season, you can have a wonderful vacation without over booking a hotel, just getting your car and making up your trip as you go. Especially during this time of year, we recommend a 4x4 and make sure you request and automatic transmission when you book the car if that's what you want. Most rentals in C.R. are automatic!
Keep in mind that some of the less travelled parts of the country can have some of the worst roads imaginable. Even on the best stretches, you need to always keep your eyes open for mammoth potholes that can easily wipe out a tire on the distracted driver. The good news is that Costa Rica has become aware of their reputation for bad roads and have been making a concerted effort over the last several years to put big money into improving them. The drive to the Arenal Volcano used to be a fist-clenching trek, but was just repaved in the last few years and the twisting, curving drive through the rainforests has become a pleasent experience.
Another item to wary of is that there is a decent amount of low level corruption among the local police. This has also been cracked down on of late, but if you're speeding, be prepared to be pulled over and shaken down. The rental agencies recommend that you take the ticket and they'll help resolve it for you (but you still pay the fine). Otherwise, you can offer to "pay" the ticket on the spot and this usually will cost you $40-$60. Of course, you should already have taken precautions not to flaunt your money. If you whip our you billfold or passport stuffed with $100 bills, don't be surprised if your "fine" is a bit more.