Gringos Guide To Driving Mexico, Central America & Costa Rica
  • Drive To Mexico & Beyond
    Advice

    Drive To Mexico & Beyond

    Should I drive to Mexico and beyond? Nobody can answer that question but yourself. After driving to the tip of Baja California for the first time, I instantly fell in love with traveling by car through foreign terrain. After several successive trips into Latin American—primarily Baja California, Mainland Mexico, and Costa Rica—I envisioned driving to the tip of South America. I envisioned it. Then I did it. Vision and action are your superpowers. Traveling by vehicle gives you the freedom to go where you want. However, you also have the added responsibility of maintaining and protecting your ride. My most treasured experiences took place hundreds of miles away from the…

  • Drive To Costa Rica 101
    FAQs

    Drive To Costa Rica 101

    Can I take my husehold good to Costa Rica? Q: I am moving to Costa Rica and debating flying or driving. I want to take my time and a few things from home. What about pulling a trailer? A: Take an inventory of the things you are taking and be prepared to give some creative fees to the police and border guards. How long can I stay in Costa Rica? Q: Hi, My wife and I will be driving to Costa Rica in January and staying in the country for six months. I know that the tourist visa is for 3 months only and one way around this is to…

  • San Jose - Panama Border
    Costa Rica

    San Jose – Panama Border

    DRIVING TIME: 8 hoursKILOMETERS: 355MILES: 220HWY: CA 2 It is a long drive over the mountains into the lowlands of Costa Rica. Leaving San Jose, head for Cartago, CA 2. Once in Cartago, go through the town, and the road will veer right. There are no signs, so you may have to stop and ask. After you leave the city, you will ascend into the mountains again. It is a demanding drive with twists, turns, and potholes. Eventually, you will reach San Isidro in 3-4 hours. From San Isidro, you may visit Dominical on the coast or continue south toward Golfito and the Panamanian border. Leaving San Isidro, head for…

  • San Jose - Caribbean
    Costa Rica

    San Jose – Caribbean

    DRIVING TIME: 4 hoursKILOMETERS: 134MILES: 83 Hwy: CA 1—CA 2 It is a beautiful drive through mountains (you actually go through a mountain) with banana and mango plantations and lush tropical forests. The major problem is finding your way through San Jose and to the Caribbean route. You want to follow any sign you see for Limon. Travel north, up Avenida Central, to the traffic circle in the center of town. At the traffic circle, follow the road around to the left. This road takes you to the junction point where the road for Limon is located. Prepare to ask for directions. Hotel & Eats In Limon, there is another…

  • Costa Rica Border - San Jose
    Costa Rica

    Costa Rica Border – San Jose

    DRIVING TIME: 5 hoursKILOMETERS: 289MILES: 179HWY: CA 1 Follow the signs toward Alajuela and San Jose. This road leads you away from San Mateo and up into the highlands. The route is well-marked, but the ascent is steep. When close to San Jose, you will pass the airport, about 15 minutes from town. Plan your drive into San Jose on a weekday and not during the rush hour. The traffic can be horrific. Like all Latin American capitals, driving in San Jose is not for the weak or impatient. There are congested and confusing roads. Expect to pull over several times to ask for directions. Attendants at gas stations are…

  • Costa Rica Border - Jaco & South
    Costa Rica

    Costa Rica Border – Jaco & South

    DRIVING TIME: 5 hoursKILOMETERS: 289MILES: 179HWY: CA 1 After finishing your entry requirements, follow the signs on CA 1 to Liberia. From Liberia, continue south 128k to Esparza. At Esparza, head for San Mateo, the junction point for San Jose or the Pacific coast. Beach or city?  Those traveling to the Pacific coast must turn right at the junction point of San Mateo and head for Jaco. The three main travel destinations on this route are Jaco, Quepos, and Dominical. All three locations are worth a visit. You can also drive to the Panamanian border via this route, but the roads worsen the further south you travel. Jaco is your…

  • Costa Rica Border - Tamarindo
    Costa Rica

    Costa Rica Border – Tamarindo

    DRIVING TIME: 4 hoursKILOMETERS: 162MILES: 100HWY: CA 1—CA 151—CA 21—CA 152 As mentioned above, you will come across several checkpoints traveling away from the Nicaraguan border. Show the officials the necessary paperwork, and you should have no problems. From Penas Blancas follow the signs to Liberia. In Liberia, you can fill your gas tank and stomach before continuing to Tamarindo. In the center of town, turn right at the major intersection and follow the signs to Tamarindo. This same route will take you to Coco Beach, Playa Junquillal, Samara, Nicoya, or any other location on the Nicoya Peninsula. There are so many great places to explore on the Nicoya Peninsula.…

  • Exiting Nicaragua
    Nicaragua

    Exiting Nicaragua

    DRIVING TIME: 1 hourKILOMETERS: 24MILES: 88HWY: CA 1—CA 2 If you thought entering Nicaragua was difficult, you are in for a surprise because exiting is even more of a headache. Again you will need a guide. Any of the teenagers will do. There are various stops you need to make—one with Migration, one with the transit police, and one with the Aduana. Everyone will request their fees. The Aduana official will request your paperwork and then send you down the road for copies of your passport, car title, and driver’s license. Once all the document copies are delivered and the official finishes recording, stamping, and officiating, you are on your…

  • Managua - San Juan del Sur
    Nicaragua

    Managua – San Juan del Sur

    DRIVING TIME: 3 hoursKILOMETERS: 141MILES: 88HWY: CA 1—CA 2 When entering Managua, stay on the straight-away, and follow the signs to Central. About 10 minutes after entering the city, you will come across a sign that reads Jinotepe CA 2. Steer left; this is the road you want. Follow this road until you meet with a traffic circle. Follow the traffic circle around, and exit UNI-UNAN. There is a large sign on the right. This road will eventually lead out of town and onto Penas Blancas and San Juan del Sur. Note that the Interamerican Hwy changes from CA 1 to CA 2 until the border with Costa Rica. The…

  • Nicaraguan Border - Managua
    Nicaragua

    Nicaraguan Border – Managua

    DRIVING TIME: 3 hourKILOMETERS: 200MILES: 121HWY: CA 1 The roads in Nicaragua are the worst of any in all of Central America. As mentioned above, it is difficult to get lost because CA 1 is undoubtedly the only major road running through the country. Follow the signs to Managua—if you find any. Depending on how long the border entry and exit procedures take, you can make it through Nicaragua in one day. You will be given a transit visa for three days. My recommendation is to travel to San Juan del Sur and spend a day or two in this wonderful town. Then, cross the border into Costa Rica. San…

  • Entering Nicaragua
    Nicaragua

    Entering Nicaragua

    After going through the official Honduran border gate, you will pull up to the official Nicaraguan border gate, about 50 yards away. Here, the border officials enter your passport number into a book. No charge. However, the officials may request a private donation for their work. You will soon learn that everyone will ask you for money in Nicaragua. Between Nicaragua and Honduras, there are three border crossings; Las Manos (near Ocotal), El Espino (near Somoto), and Guasaule between El Triunfo (Honduras) and Somotillo (Nicaragua). Aduana and Migration The Aduana and Migration offices are another 50 yards down the hill in a semicircular building. When you enter the building, several…