Traveling Within Costa Rica

What is the best way to travel within Costa Rica? Once you arrive in Costa Rica, either through the Daniel Oduber Airport in Liberia, or the Juan Santa Maria Airport in San Jose, you will need to decide how to get to your vacation destination.

Due to international carrier arrival times, many travelers need to spend the night in San Jose when arriving to and departing from Costa Rica. There are many sights and activities to justify spending perhaps 2 or 3 nights total in the San Jose Central Valley. However the great majority of the tourism destinations are well outside of San Jose. There are many options which include public transportation by bus, minivans with drivers, tour buses, taxis, rental cars and flying. Public buses are very inexpensive but take the most amount of time with many stops. Minivans and larger tour buses are also very time consuming. Taxis only make sense if the trip is local due to expense and lack of comfort for longer trips. Most tourists find renting a car exasperating. With little or no road signs and no numbered address system, one might end up driving in circles looking for the first right after the Coca Cola building which no one happened to mention no longer exists!

I love to drive and have my own vehicle here in the Central Valley. However when I travel on weekends or vacations outside of San Jose, I always choose to fly. It is scenic, relaxing, saves time and is the greenest option in Costa Rica. For example the 208 km trip from San Jose to Quepos would take almost 4 hours by car, but only 25 minutes by Nature Air. The 4 hours does not take into account anything like road work, cows crossing, accidents, or flat tires from potholes and the like! These events are unfortunately commonplace and add frustrating, unknown time to your trip. Further, there are no shoulders, emergency lanes, or exits for bus stops. When a bus makes a stop, it blocks traffic.

I value the unplanned detours in life, but I have found in Costa Rica I get to my destination and then (if at all) rent a car to meander and explore the areas I am interested in. This way if you have an interest to drive here, you may partake of some driving adventure and see the local sights, but not be as likely to jeopardize your itinerary.  I have heard so many stories of people driving or being driven to their destinations, only to cancel the return trips and fly instead! It is easy to see why- flying Nature Air is like an added value scenic tour with beautiful views and efficient travel times.  You will arrive and depart in the relaxed ‘pura vida’ mood, making the most of your precious vacation time.

To elaborate on the point of traveling green, there are many layers to consider. From an emissions standpoint, the greenest way to travel within Costa Rica is by turboprop airplanes, or airplanes with propellers.

Nature Air’s fleet is comprised of the De Haviland Twin Otter and King Air, both twin- engine turboprop planes. Looking at a study of emissions per passenger km for travel, the least emissions per passenger were generated by turbo prop planes, then bus, and finally the most emissions were generated by cars. I don’t mention trains (the least emissions) regional jets or larger aircraft (the most emissions) because these are not options to travel once you are within Costa Rica.

When you plan trips outside of Costa Rica and wish to reduce your carbon impact, trains are the best option as they produce the least amount of emissions per passenger. To reduce your carbon footprint for the inevitable international airfare on large aircraft to Costa Rica you may choose to purchase carbon credits to offset this portion of your trip though organizations such as Fly Neutral (flyneutral dot org) or Carbon Fund (carbonfund dot org).

In addition to lower emissions, flying to a destination has less overall impact on the environment than ground vehicles. It is not just the higher emissions produced by cars, trucks, and buses but many other factors that impact the environment. The roads required to support vehicles disrupt animal corridors and increase likelihood of more development in the area. The increased traffic produces sonic pollution which adversely affects wildlife. This is an ongoing challenge of growth and development versus preserving nature. One of Costa Rica’s most important industries as a whole is tourism. The key feature is nature and all the glorious flora, fauna and geography.

Nature Air has 17 destinations and brings more than sixty percent of its passengers within 10 kilometers from national parks or other ecotourism destinations. These natural wonders are the future of this stunning country. By choosing to fly, your contribution will be less impact in these zones. Not only is flying a greener choice to start with, but Nature Air additionally offsets carbon emissions through the carbon neutral reforestation/protection of rain forest program in the Osa Peninsula. Further, with the use of biodiesel for all ground vehicles, an extensive recycling program and other environmental education programs, the choice to fly Nature Air is even more environmentally friendly.