Thousands of tourists visit Costa Rica every year to see the spectacular rainforests, idyllic beaches and bustling cities of this Central American paradise. Many of the visitors choose to rent cars while they're here to set off on their own adventures through this amazing country. If you're thinking about renting a car and hitting the open road, follow these tips to navigate Costa Rica's roads like a local!

Driving to Playa Hermosa
Driving to Playa Hermosa

Depending on where you're headed, Costa Rica's roads range from dirt tracks through heavily forested areas to well-maintained stretches of open highway. You can get anywhere you need to go in Costa Rica by road, but busier areas, like the capital of San Jose, are typically served by more roads. Isolated towns and provinces are usually connected by smaller, narrow roads.

Although Ticos are laid back, the police take a no-nonsense approach to dealing with speeding motorists, especially tourists. Don't get me wrong - the police in Costa Rica are usually polite, courteous and rarely stop anyone without good reason. However, whether you're cruising down the New Caldera Highway or navigating the dirt roads in rural Puntarenas, stick to the speed limit. In some isolated areas, the limit may not be clearly indicated by signs, so use common sense and drive at a sensible speed.

Most Costa Rican highways have a limit of around 50 miles per hour, and traffic cops often wait near areas where the speed limits are clearly marked, so if you see a road sign telling you the speed limit, stick to it! If you're stopped by the police and the officer says you can pay the fine - usually between $20 and $40 - at the roadside, politely decline and pay the ticket later at the designated station. This way, if there's any problems, there'll be an official record of when you paid the fine and where.

Of course, exercising caution has other benefits. Some of the more rural roads may have potholes or other difficult terrain, so you're less likely to get into an accident if you drive carefully. This is especially important if you're driving a rental car, as you'll be charged for any damages to the vehicle when you bring it back, included a busted suspension if you've been driving roughshod over potholes. Play it safe and take it easy!

Driving in Costa Rica can be a real adventure. However, the best vacation is a safe one, so don't drive recklessly - slow down and take in the wonderful sights you'll see while you're here!