Costa Rica: Dude, Where’s the Signs and Potholes?

After a long sleepless red eye flight we landed in Costa Rica’s capital, San Jose. San Jose is a big crowded city with your usual big city entertainment, drugs, prostitutes, and debauchery. Since we were visiting Costa Rica for other purposes, mainly an educational family vacation, we went straight to pick up our car rental to head to the Monteverde Cloud Forest for our first night’s stay.

At the rental car counter the guy suggested we opt for the GPS navigation unit. I have a great sense of direction, usually, and have never needed the assistance of a mindless electronic gadget to get us where we are going. We had purchased a detailed Costa Rica map before leaving home and had assumed that the map and my trusty compass and sense of direction would get us around just fine. That was until the car rental dude mentioned something that we had not expected. Costa Rica has no street signs. None! It also has no addresses. So the $10 a day GPS rental sounded like a marriage saving necessity that I could not resist.

Every book about Costa Rica talks about how awful the roads are and always mentions the car swallowing potholes. Once out on the streets of San Jose with our gutless Daihatsu BeGo 4×4 and the talking GPS navigation system, which had been named Geepy by our daughter Sydney, we soon realized that the car rental guy was right. There were no street signs. After navigating around crazy morning traffic, a dumpster in the middle of the road, and hearing the dreaded “recalculating route” from Geepy a couple of times, we finally found the correct highway north towards Monteverde. As the kilometers ticked by we noticed something odd; no infamous potholes. In fact, the roads were actually pretty nice. We knew that the unpaved road to Monteverde was going to be awful, but we had expected to be dodging potholes left and right on the paved roads. They must have repaired the roads, because the paved roads were great!

When we reached the unpaved road to Monteverde the road got rough. Really rough! And Geepy came in more useful than ever. The road has several forks with no signage to direct us towards the correct route, and being extremely tired from a long sleepless flight, this could have been a frustrating experience if it wasn’t for Geepy’s directions. I was just hoping that the directions were correct and she would not lead us off a cliff. But after a couple of bumpy hours, we finally reached the safety of our hotel. After checking in, we took a nap.

Tip: If you plan to visit Costa Rica for the first time and will rent a vehicle, get a 4×4 and a GPS navigation unit. There is no way we could have got to many of the places we went without either of those!


Dreamer. Photographer. Sailing addict. World traveler. I left my desk job in Portland, Oregon to travel the world...

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