roadtripping in costa rica : manuel antonio to nosara.

since landing in costa rica, our plan has been to make our way to the nosara area in the country’s pacific region of guanacaste. because this area is off the typical circuit, we were finding it super difficult and really expensive to use any form of public transportation or shuttle service to get us from manuel antonio to here. plus, we were searching the day before our departure, so options were limited. there were a couple puddle jumper flights (all sold out) and a private driver was going to be $300+ one-way “because the roads aren’t so good.”

based on our options, we decided to spend the money to rent a car and roadtrip our way there.
easy, right? ha.

Costa Rica Roadtrip MAP ADD^ here’s a look at our route from manuel antonio to playa pelada. google maps estimating a 5 hour drive when we started ^

P1250304this is the super official Budget Rent A Car Center in Manuel Antonio. we rented a Suzuki Jimny but were upgraded to a Terios (sadly, since we thought the Jimny Tonka Truck was hilarious)

drive from manuel antonio to nosaraand we’re off to nosara! beep beep!

drive from manuel antonio to nosarawent through a couple single stop light towns.
drive from manuel antonio to nosarai basically commented on every single cute teal home we passed – the country’s most popular home color – so you can imagine how many awweeeee cuuuuuttees that is.
drive from manuel antonio to nosaracruising right along a bunch of farms.
drive from manuel antonio to nosaraa village church
drive from manuel antonio to nosaramore super cute towns… so far so good.
drive from manuel antonio to nosaraand then i told danny to turn down an unmarked dirt road (based on Google’s GPS) and immediately we were like, “is this right?” but our blue dot kept moving in the right direction so we charged on.
drive from manuel antonio to nosara and coming at us: a costa rican cowboy on a horse with his two dogs and cattle. rad.
drive from manuel antonio to nosaramore dirt roads and countryside.
drive from manuel antonio to nosaraand more adorable teal homes.
drive from manuel antonio to nosaraand then we started to climb a mountain and there was no end in sight. we’d already hit hour 4 and were no where near a beach.

IMG_0461so i started to get antsy at hour six = selfies.
drive from manuel antonio to nosaramore villages.
drive from manuel antonio to nosaraand then a pit stop to let our poor Terios cool down, stretch our legs, get some water and snacks.
drive from manuel antonio to nosaracharging on!
P1250345and lovely churches on every hilltop

renting a car in costa ricabeep beep! terios coming through! the final 50 miles were rocky and brain rattling! quite certain google maps thinks that’s a paved road through the mountains – not a 4-wheeling adventure!
renting a car in costa ricai needed to get out of the car for a second and let my internal organs settle.
P1250340and every villager we passed gave us a double look. like “what the hell are these gringos doing out here? have they lost their maps and minds?”

renting a car in costa rica even the cows were confused.
renting a car in costa ricabut the views were stunning.

driving from manuel antonio to nosara
so we decided to celebrate once we hit the 5K mark. felt like the end was near if we could just make it to 5K.
bahahahah so on top of us being on the top of a mountain at the 5K mark, and about 1.5 hours still from our destination (17 minutes Google Maps, really?) at the very end, our GPS totally wigged out, shut down and we were left with just our gut to navigate us the rest of the way. each left or right decision we made felt like we were rolling the dice on our fate. we were so over it and now how to use our brains. but my super savvy husband didn’t fret and just followed the power lines. as they went down, so did we — and it worked! NINE hours after we left our spot in manuel antonio, we pulled into perfect little playa pelada.


1. You MUST rent a 4×4 vehicle. Don’t try it with a car.
2. Looking for more flexibility with drop-off? Rent from Enterprise, National or Alamo. They’re are part of an Alliance that allows you to drop-off in Nosara and for a small fee they’re broker your car back to Tamarindo, Nosara or Manuel Antonio so you don’t have to.
3. Insurance is kinda a scam so know the requirements before you rent. There’s one mandatory coverage that you’ll have to pay for, but the others are additional 3rd party insurance. Only get these IF your credit card doesn’t offer you coverage (most do) – get something in an email/writing before you show up to get the keys.
4. Start your trek early. You’re going to get lost and it’s going to take longer than you think. You do not want to be driving on these roads in the dark.
5. Mind the speed limit and wear your seatbelt (no seatbelt is an easy target for tickets).


  • Reply December 15, 2015


    Laughed till I cried. Having so much fun reading your blog. Love you!

  • Reply November 18, 2022


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