I recommend the TERIOS/BEGO( shown at right). These are great cars for here and many people who live here have bought them. The roads are generally rough dirt roads and the rental agencies have figured out which cars last the best on them. So some buyers take advantage of all that torture-testing by buying the same cars.
Two companies have offices located near the airport, as well as two local offices, Budget and Toyota Rentals. This makes it very easy to get the car serviced if you run in to issues during your trip; it also makes it very easy for you to get the car upon arriving at your destination. If you chose a company with no local offices, you would be in quite a dilemma if there were issues with the car, or if the car needed services, since there would be absolutely no way for you to get them. When you call in, they speak English, so there are no language barriers; and, if you fly in to Tambor Airport, an agent will pick you up, and take you to your car.
Alamo also has an office in Playa Carmen, so that’s another possible choice, and National has an office in Tambor.
How much does it cost?
For a 4WD car, you will find rates of $60 up to $85 daily, depending on the season and time of year. You might find a better deal online, but once you arrive, and pay all the fees, the price evens out. Although it seems pretty high, once you arrive, and see the roads with pot holes, and other road blocks, you wonder if the agency even makes a profit on this rental price, because of the maintenance and repair that is likely required for the cars that are driven on the roads.
Is it safe to drive there?
Unlike Mexican roads, when on the Costa Rican roads, you don’t have to worry about cops or banditos pulling you over. You can drive around, and since most people on the roads are on a leisurely pace, there isn’t much of a danger. And, if you do get stuck in a pot hole, you will find that many locals are more than willing to stop and give you a hand. Although you will run in to the occasional drunk driver, this is like anywhere else you drive, so you do have to use your common sense on the road.
Do I NEED a car?
If you are renting a house on the hills, the answer is yes; if you are in town, it really depends on you. If you want to travel and explore the beautiful waterfalls, scenic views, nearby towns, famous restaurants, beaches, and other sites, a car is really the best way to do so. A rental car allows you to drive where you want, when you want; so, depending on what you want to see, and where you want to go, you should at least consider it for the trip, or a portion of the trip.
Do I need 4WD?
From May to December (the rainy season) a 4WD is a must; other than this, 2WD is generally sufficient as the roads are well maintained. You can find great rates if you go with the cheapest 4WD, like the Bego. It is a great car, can handle all roads, and it is going to allow you to visit all the sites you want to see during your trip.