Day 1: Getting to Arenal
We found a cheap flight using Spirit Airlines and made our way to San Jose International Airport. Upon arrival, we picked up our car at Alamo. There was A LOT of confusion about the rental car process, so let me just summarize below what we learned:
- Third Party Liability (TPL) Insurance IS required. This is not negotiable.
- CDW Insurance is NOT required. Most likely your credit card already covers this, but check with them before declining this coverage.
- Book with a reputable company. We booked with Alamo but there is a an Alamo Costa Rica website that APPEARS to be the same thing but charged more. So just book directly with the rental car agency and avoid the hassle.
- Car rental agencies in Costa Rica typically take large deposits. Ours was $1000, which wasn’t charged to the card, but did put a hold on it, so if you don’t have a lot of credit, be aware of this.
- I absolutely WOULD recommend a 4WD SUV. 90% of the roads were NOT paved and would have been impossible without this.
- Photograph EVERYTHING. Take pictures of every scratch, dent and imperfection before you even step in the car.
After picking up the car, we made the 3 hour drive to our hotel, Hotel Linda Vista, in La Fortuna (the town at the base of Arenal Volcano). This was a bit of a splurge for us, but we discovered the next morning that the view was totally worth the price.
PRO TIP: Neither of us know any Spanish, but it wasn’t necessary. There were about 3 times on the trip when we stopped at a store while driving and the employees didn’t know any English, but we all made it work. Learn the phrase “Pura Vida” – or “Pure Life” – the Costa Rican way of life. You will probably hear this phrase over 1000x on your trip.