Driving from San Jose international Airport to Arenal Volcano, Costa Rica
We are renting a car on our vacation to Costa Rica and want to know the best and most direct driving route from San Jose international airport to Arenal Volcano and La Fortuna. We are renting a 4×4 vehicle near the airport.
Answer to your questions by The Costa Rica Expert: Your drive will take around 3-4 hours depending on how fast you drive. Many of the roads are over mountains so you have to drive slow. Don’t drive a night. Keep in mind that the sun sets at 5:30 p.m.
From the airport head north on highway 1 (Inter American highway) . for approx. 15 miles and turn right at the San Ramon exit. (the exit before is the Naranjo exit) follow the road thru the town of San Ramon; you will see the huge cathedral of San Ramon on your left as you pass thru town. Watch for the signs to Tigra -La Fortuna- Arenal but you have to be very alert to see them. (do not go toward Cuidad Quesada!) If uncertain stop and ask. Costa Ricans are very friendly and helpful. Once you are out of town, you are going to go over the mountains and this scenery is beautiful. A segment of it is often foggy so I advise you not to drive at night. In approximately 1 hour you will come to a very small village called Tigra. Just keep following the signs to La Fortuna -Arenal. Gorgeous scenery of ornamental plant farms, papaya plantations, and lush green vegetation everywhere. Rains a lot so the 1000 shades of green are always here. When you get to the little town of La Fortuna you will take a left turn at the main intersection which takes you on a stretch of road for about 6 miles. Here are many small and large hotels and the famous Tabacon hot springs. After Tabacon hot springs you can take a left at the next dirt road which takes you to the entrance to the Arenal Volcano National Park. On past a small river leads you up thru the jungle to the Arenal Observatory Lodge. However: if you turn right just past the little river, the road leads you for about 4 miles (along Arenal Lake) to Rancho Margot-a self sustainable ranch which welcomes tourists.
If you want to see the beautiful large Arenal Lake stay on the main road. From Tabacon Hot springs , about 4 miles , the lake will appear on your left. Boats line up there early in the day to take tourist around the lake to see birds and wildlife, and of course the mighty Arenal’s firey eruptions.
What condition are the roads in? Taking this route the roads are good. Passing through the mountains some of the roads are narrow and winding, just get an early start, take you time and drive slow. Especially from June thru Mid November ( the rainest season). Arenal Volcano is located in the San Carlos valley known as the bread basket of Costa Rica which gets a lot of rain. That’s why you see all the trees, flowering plants, and crops so lush and green.
What is best time of year to see the Arenal crater and the eruptions? It’s a “hit and a miss” Clouds often cover the volcano but eary morning is best bet to see it. The month of March has the least rainfall, so you have a better chance this month.
Can you recommend a restaurant along the way? We always wait until we get to La Fortuna which has several small locally owned restaurants sprinkled around the town square. However, there are some small family owned restaurants on the road from San Ramon to La Fortuna, I just dont’ have experience with them.
Please read my blog post on “Driving in Costa Rica, Tips for Safe Driving” under the travel category. I welcome questions just clik no comments and you can ask a question.