Search this site
Driving on Costa Rica roads can be a challenge at times. Some roads are great and others are a disaster waiting to happen. The map below describes the roads that I have driven on so far. They are colored coded as green - excellent condition, yellow - keep an eye out for these, red - can be impassable/dangerous at times.
Click on an icon and the overview of that road will pop up.
Route 6 between highway 1 and the town of Bijagua is a beautiful, generally flat 2 lane, yellow striped road is great condition. This 20 mile stretch of road only gains about 1000 feet in elevation. There are a few curvy sections as you approach Bijagua. We drove this section in January of 2023 and didn't come across any potholes or bad sections of road.
Route 18 between route 21 to the west and highway 1 to the east is a beautiful two lane flat and predominantly straight road with gentle curves and good visibility. It also has one of the most beautiful suspension bridges in Costa Rica that passes over the Tempisque river. As route 18 approaches highway 1, it turns to cement and is not as smooth.
Route 21 between Liberia/highway 1 to the north and route 18 to the south is a wonderful, highly traveled 2 lane paved road with yellow lane stripes in very good condition. It is generally straight and flat with no sharp curves or large change in elevation.
Scenic road from highway 1 through the port city of Caldera to the south that eventually parallels the ocean. Very good 2 paved lane road with yellow lane stripes. For a short time the road opens up to 2 lanes each way due to the hills just north of Caldera.
IMPORTANT ! - Watch your speed if you are traveling southbound towards Caldera down the big hill as you drop closer to the ocean. Police are always there watching your speed and looking for illegal passing. Sometimes they have radar and sometimes they just estimate your speed. Either way, they will just jump out into a lane at the last minute and pull you over.
Route 27 between Caldera to the west and Escazu to the east is a heavily traveled road that is in very good condition. It starts out as two lanes near the coast with some sections that are two lanes each way and eventually becoming a 3 lane each way divided highway.as the road approaches Escazu. While this road is generally in excellent condition, there are some sections that pass though steep gorges where rainfall can cause rock and mudslides so caution must be used if driving during periods of heavy rain or at night. Traffic can also become heavy, especially as the road approaches San Jose. This is also a toll road with several tool booths. Tolls run from 300 to 900 or so colones depending on the section of the road.
WARNING ! - At the start of Semana Santa, the eastbound lanes are repurposed to accommodate westbound traffic along with the normal westbound lanes due to heavy traffic. At the end of Semana Santa, the reverse happens and the westbound lanes are open to eastbound traffic.
Route 34 runs along the Pacific coast from route 27 near the port city of Caldera, down to Parrita, Jaco, Domincal and Uvita. I have driven the section from route 27 to the turnoff for Quepos and Manual Antonio.
Between route 27 and Jaco, route 34 travels through hills but the elevation change is not that significant. Generally it is one lane each way although it opens up to two lanes in one direction in hilly areas to allow for passing.
Heading south, once you pass through Jaco and head towards Parrita, the road cuts closer to the coast and becomes very level and straight. One thing you will notice is hundreds, if not thousands, of large palm trees on both sides of the road. In the middle, on the west side of the road, is a palm oil factory.
Route 34 is well maintained, well marking with yellow lane dividers and in very good condition.
Caution and be prepared to pay! If you are driving route 34 to the north and take the route 27 south turnoff, a tollbooth will appear out of nowhere. It surprised me and you have to read really fast which lane accepts cash and which is the fastrack lane.
This road connects the towns of Communidad from route 21 to Playas del Coco. It is a two lane paved road with yellow lane stripes in excellent condition. The road is generally straight and flat with the exception of the last few miles as the road approaches Coco where it climbs and then descends from to the beach. There are also a few speed bumps around small towns on the way.
Between route 21 in Belen and Huacas, route 155 is a paved 2 lane road with the majority marked with yellow lane stripes. There are a few sharp corners, especially before the ascent and descent over the hills into Huacas. This hilly section does not have yellow lane stripes and one must be careful driving at night through the curves because your headlights will point away from where you need to go. Most of the road is in excellent condition but some, mostly low lying sections, are prone to pot holes and standing water during heavy rain. These can be a hazard especially at night.
From Huacas towards Tamarindo, route 155 is a two lane paved road in very good condition but does not have any yellow line lane markings.
From route 21 to route 928, route 160 is a nice paved two lane road in excellent condition. This road runs through several small towns with at least 2 speed bumps per town, not all marked with yellow paint. Once route 160 reaches the 928, it becomes unpaved all the way south to Samara and requires 4WD.
Once you get just east of Playa Junquillal and turn south, route 928 is all dirt all the way to Ostional, Nosara and Samara. There are numerous narrow bridges, stream and rivers. In dry season, December to April, the road is in better condition but still can have some large potholes and trenches depending on when it was last graded. In green season, May to November, it can be a very treacherous and not passable due to swollen streams and mud. Although not always necessary, 4WD is highly recommended, if not absolutely needed.
Very good 2 lane road with yellow lane stripes. This road runs between the towns of Huacas and Playa Flamingo. There are occasional large potholes to watch out for that could cause significant damage to your car or an accident if you are not aware of where they are. There is also a single lane bridge in Brasilito that can back up and cause significant delays, especially in the early morning and late afternoon hours plus during Christmas, New Years and Easter. Also, traffic heading from Playa Flamingo to Huacas can back up for a few miles during late weekday afternoons between 4 and 6 pm.