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Car Rental at San Jose Airport in Costa Rica: What to Expect

Are you considering renting a car from San Jose Airport in Costa Rica? 

Getting a rental car is often the most convenient and comfortable way to explore Costa Rica. But, before you book your car at San Jose Airport, there are some things you should know.

We’ve rented cars in Costa Rica quite a bit, so we can help you make the right choice when booking your rental. We also live in San Jose, so we have plenty of experience driving near the airport.

Plus, we’ve had some really detailed chats with the folks at Adobe Rent-a-Car at San Jose Airport. We’ve checked out all their cars. We know which ones are best for where you’re going and how many people you’re traveling with.

So, let’s figure out if renting a car from San Jose Airport works for you, find you the perfect car, talk about the roads, explain car insurance, and more.

Info About San Jose Airport

costa rica airports maps

The San Jose International Airport is the largest airport in the country. It is located just outside of San Jose and is actually in the small city of Alajuela.

One of the best things about this airport is that it is centrally located so you can easily get almost anywhere in the country from here.

Keep in mind that the full name for the airport is Juan Santamaria International Airport. And the airport code is SJO.

There are two international airports in the country. The other airport is the Liberia Airport in the Guanacaste Province. 

If you are unsure which airport you should fly to, check out our guide to choosing the best airport in Costa Rica based on your travel plans

Now let’s talk about renting a car from the San Jose Airport.

Should You Rent a Car in Costa Rica? 

We think that typically having a rental car is the best way to get around in Costa Rica. 

There are a few reasons for this.

  • Having a car will give you more flexibility in exploring off the beaten path destinations
  • Having a car will allow you to plan day trips on your own without depending on guided tours
  • Renting a car can often be cheaper than booking private shuttles and day tours

However, there are exceptions to this.  We don’t suggest renting a car if:

  • You are staying at a resort and don’t plan to take any day trips on your own
  • If you are a solo traveler it might be more affordable and easier to depend on tours and shuttles
  • If the thought of driving in a foreign country stresses you out too much
  • If you are on a very tight budget it will probably be better to take the public bus. Just note the buses aren’t the most comfortable, they can be unreliable, and travel times can be long due to having to switch multiple buses.

Adobe Rent a Car at San Jose Airport

Adobe Rent-A-Car is our preferred choice for rental cars in Costa Rica. They’re a local company known for:

  • Exceptional customer service.
  • Maintaining a fleet of well-kept, new vehicles.
  • Transparency in pricing, ensuring no hidden fees.

We’ve had the pleasure of renting from Adobe multiple times. We have always had such great experiences with Adobe so, we approached them about collaborating with Costa Rica Vibes. 

They graciously extended some fantastic benefits for us to share with you.

These advantages include

  • A Discount of 10% or more: The discount varies based on season and demand, but it’s always at least 10% and can even reach up to 15%.
  • Complimentary Additional Drivers: Adobe goes beyond offering just one free extra driver; you can include multiple drivers at no additional charge, a perk that typically costs an extra $4 per day.
  • Free Roof Rack Usage: These are readily available to our readers upon request, and there’s no charge.
  • Free Car Delivery/Pick-Up: Adobe is delighted to provide complimentary car drop-off or pick-up services within a 12-mile radius of any of their office locations.
  • 0% Deductible on Liability Protection: Normally, there’s a 20% deductible, but this special offer eliminates it.
  • Discounted Smartphone with Unlimited Data: Adobe’s “Trio” plan provides a smartphone with unlimited data for your trip at just $12 per day, a reduction from the regular $14 per day. You can even use it as a hotspot for multiple users.
  • Free Booster Seat and/or Car Seat: Adobe offers our readers a choice of three seat options: infant car seats, baby car seats, and booster seats, all at no cost.
  • Reduced GPS Rental Fee: Instead of the usual $9 per day for a GPS unit, you’ll pay only $6 per day when you book through us.
#1 Pick
Car Rental at San Jose Airport in Costa Rica: What to Expect

Adobe Rent-a-Car

  • 10% discount for Costa Rica Vibes readers
  • Free second driver
  • 0% deductible on Liability Protection Insurance
  • Excellent customer service
  • New fleet of well-maintained vehicles

Important Factors to Consider Before Renting a Car from San Jose Airport

Here are some things you need to consider before booking a car from the San Jose Airport…

Driver’s License: Make sure you have a valid driver’s license from your home country. In Costa Rica, an international driver’s license is not mandatory. But, if you have one it doesn’t hurt to bring it as an additional form of identification.

Age Restrictions: Most car rental companies in Costa Rica require drivers to be at least 23 years old. You need to be 23 years old to rent a car with Adobe. You can not rent a car with Adobe if you are over 75 years old.

Insurance Coverage: Review the insurance options provided by the rental company. We go into explaining Costa Rica car insurance further in this post.

Road Conditions and Off-Road Driving: In Costa Rica, you’ll encounter all sorts of roads, from smooth highways to bumpy gravel paths and even rugged off-road tracks in certain areas. Make sure to pick the right vehicle based on where you plan to go. We’ll give you more details further in this article.

Understanding Deposit Charges: When renting a car with Adobe, you’ll be required to place a $1,000 deposit. This practice is common among all car rental companies in Costa Rica, though some may charge higher amounts.

We recommend using a credit card for this deposit because it’s merely a temporary hold. If everything checks out when you return the car, the $1,000 will be promptly returned to your credit card.

Alternatively, you can use your debit card, but be aware that it might take a few weeks after returning the car for your bank to process the refund and return the $1,000 to your account.

How to Book Your Rental Car

car rental Adobe

The process of renting a car is fairly simple. 

Step 1: Visit our car rental booking page

Step 2: Choose your preferred pick-up location, drop-off location, pick-up time, and drop-off time. Make sure you select Aeropuerto San Jose (SJO) as your pick-up location. There is also an office in downtown San Jose

Note: You can always choose a different drop-off location. For example, if you only need a rental car for half of your trip you can pick the car up at the San Jose Airport and deliver it somewhere else in the country. 

Step 3: Make your selection for the type of car you’d like. 

Step 4: Opt for any additional extras you wish to include in your reservation, such as insurance or adding a cell phone. 

Note: No need to worry too much about this step; you can always add or remove insurance when you pick up your car, as necessary. 

Step 5: Receive your confirmation by email for your car rental booking.

🚘 Check Availability and Rental Car Rates From Adobe 🚗

And that’s all there is to it! Occasionally, Adobe may reach out to request a credit card to keep on file for reference. This is simply a precautionary measure. 

If you ever need to cancel your car rental, you can easily do so at any time through your confirmation email.

Understanding Rental Car Insurance in Costa Rica

Unfortunately, some rental companies in Costa Rica don’t state the costs associated with car insurance upfront. This means that when you arrive at the rental car office, you might be surprised by unexpected additional charges.

We don’t consider this a good business practice, and neither does Adobe. They are always completely upfront with their costs (which is one of the many reasons we think so highly of them). 

Car rental insurance in Costa Rica can be quite complex, so let me break it down for you…

When you make a car reservation through Adobe, you’ll have three insurance options to consider. These are:

Liability Protection 

This insurance covers basic damages to other people’s property, offering coverage up to $20,000, and provides fundamental coverage for injuries or fatalities, up to $100,000, with no deductible.

It’s a legal requirement in Costa Rica, meaning every car renter must acquire Liability Protection.

The price you see when booking your car through our website already includes the cost of Liability Insurance (you’ll notice it as checked in your rental car booking).

Car Protection Insurance 

This insurance covers:

  • Damage to the car resulting from accidents, collisions, and rollovers.
  • Complete or partial theft of the rental car.

Car Protection is also mandated by Costa Rican law. So, when you rent a car with Adobe, you must select Car Protection.

However, if you have a letter from your credit card company stating that you are covered for car protection in Costa Rica, you won’t need to pay for Car Protection insurance when renting with Adobe.

Total Protection Insurance 

This is the most extensive car protection available. It covers a tow truck, roadside assistance, damage to items like windows and tires, and offers up to 4 million dollars in coverage for injuries or fatalities.

Although not required by Costa Rican law, Total Protection is a good choice if you want to ensure comprehensive coverage in case of an accident.

If you need more clarification about insurance, it’s best to reach out to Adobe directly (we at Costa Rica Vibes are not insurance experts). 

You can contact them via email at info(at)adobecar(dot)com, send a message on WhatsApp at +506 8494-5956 (available Monday to Friday, 8 am-5 pm Central Time), or if you’re in the US or Canada, you can call their toll-free number Monday to Friday from 8 am-5 pm Central Time at: +1 (855) 861-1250.

If you decide to rent your car from another rental car company, please make sure that all costs and fees are clearly outlined in the rental agreement before you make a reservation.

We genuinely want to ensure you have the BEST vacation in Costa Rica. We don’t want you to face any surprises due to unexpected costs when you pick up your rental carl.

Which Car Should I Rent? 

hyundai tucsan adobe car rental

Our top car suggestion from Adobe is the Hyundai Tucson 4WD. This vehicle can comfortably fit 4 people and 4 suitcases. We suggest it because it is a mid-range vehicle as far as price goes, it is comfortable, and has 4-wheel drive.

If you would prefer a slightly larger vehicle, Adobe has the Mitsubishi Montero Sport 4X4 in their fleet. This SUV comfortably fits 5 people and 6 suitcases.

You most likely won’t need the 4-wheel drive, but you really never know in this country! It never hurts to have it.

We do not suggest a small compact car for more travelers in Costa Rica. If you are only staying in the San Jose area or going to Jaco/ Manuel Antonio, you can probably get away with it. But, it won’t be the most comfortable. 

Although most roads are paved, they tend to be hilly and curvy. An SUV with decent clearance is just going to be way more comfortable. 

🚘 Check Availability and Rental Car Rates From Adobe 🚗

Note: We suggest asking for an exact location of your hotel or vacation rental. It is not unusual for accommodations to be on steep unpaved side streets. It is helpful to know what type of vehicle is necessary for where you are staying.

Arriving at San Jose Airport and Picking up Your Rental Car

After going through border control and picking up your luggage you will head towards the airport exit. 

You will pass this section with rental car stands. If you have rented with Adobe, just ignore it and keep walking outside.

car rental companies SJO

Upon exiting you will see a bunch of people waiting to pick up other people as well as a lot of taxi drivers.

Look for a person holding an Adobe sign. This Adobe representative will have your name and flight info, so they will be waiting for you even if your flight is delayed. 

Approach them and they will guide you to the awaiting Adobe shuttle which will take you a few minutes away to the Adobe San Jose Airport office.

adobe shuttle sjo

It is about a 5 minute drive. 

At the Adobe office, you will speak with one of their employees to finalize your car rental, put down a deposit, add any second or third drivers (remember that this is FREE if you book through us), and get your rental vehicle.

Don’t worry, the employees at Adobe are well-versed in English. You don’t need to speak Spanish.

You will then be on your way to enjoy your Costa Rica vacation!

🚘 Check Availability and Rental Car Rates From Adobe 🚗

Having Your Rental Car Delivered

Another option is to have your rental car delivered. This is a good option if you are arriving late in the evening and plan to spend the night at a hotel near the airport. 

Check out our guide to hotels near the San Jose Airport for more info on that. 

Adobe is happy to deliver your rental car to you for free within 12 miles of their San Jose Airport office. 

So, we suggest staying at a place with a free airport shuttle, spend the night relaxing, and have your rental car delivered in the morning. You can then hit the road to your first destination.

To have your car delivered, just add a note in your car rental that you would like your car delivered and which hotel you will be staying at.

If you have not chosen a hotel yet, you can always make your car rental and modify it later to include your hotel location.

Note: This is also possible for returns. If you have an early morning flight you can have Adobe pick up your rental car the night before at whichever hotel you are staying at.

Driving Near the San Jose Airport

highway costa rica

The biggest downside to flying into San Jose Airport and renting a car is that people drive like maniacs around here. It’s a bit of a trial by fire when renting a car here. A few things to consider are:

  • There are tolls if you are heading from here out towards the Pacific coast. They accept both US dollars or colones. If you do not have colones, I suggest paying with a $10 bill at the first tol. They will give you colones as change. The change will be enough to pay for the rest of the tolls.
  • There are driving restrictions in downtown San Jose based on license plate numbers. In other words, certain numbers are not allowed to drive on certain days. This is to alleviate some of the heavy traffic. This law DOES NOT apply to rental cars. As a rental car driver, you can drive at any time. Yay!
  • During rush hour traffic can be really bad. I suggest driving in the middle of the day if you can. 
  • If you can avoid driving in downtown San Jose, please do it. We have lived in San Jose for several years and still get a bit freaked out when driving here. Luckily, the airport is on the west side of the city. So, if you are heading to the Pacific Coast or to La Fortuna/ Monteverde you won’t need to drive downtown at all. 
  • Watch out for motorcycles. They seem to think that the two white lines down the middle of the road are the motorcycle lane.

🚘 Check Availability and Rental Car Rates From Adobe 🚗

Returning Your Rental Car and Departing from the San Jose Airport

When returning your rental car at the end of your trip, plan to arrive at the rental car return area at least two to three hours before your flight departure time. This will allow for any unexpected delays.

You will return your car to the Adobe office near the San Jose Airport (here is the location on Google Maps). 

Park the vehicle in the designated area and hand over the keys to the rental staff. 

They will process your return, finalize any outstanding payments or refunds, and provide you with a receipt. 

Make sure to conduct a thorough inspection of the rental car for any damages before returning it. Take photos or videos as proof, if necessary.

They will then transport you on their shuttle the few-minute drive to the San Jose Airport.

Things to Consider When Driving in Costa Rica

highway costa rica
  • GPS or Navigation: We suggest the free app Waze for driving directions in Costa Rica. It is the most widely used
  • Gas Stations: All gas stations in Costa Rica are full-service. This means you should not get out of your car when you pull up to a gas pump. An attendant will fill your gas for you.
  • Language: While many Costa Ricans speak English, having a basic understanding of Spanish can be helpful, especially when interacting with locals in rural areas. We like the free app Google Translate for this.
  • Parking: Be aware that at some places you will have to pay for parking. Usually, a local person will be collecting a few dollars to watch your car while you enjoy an activity.
  • Safety: Don’t leave anything of value in your car. Petty theft is known to happen here and one of the most common types of theft is breaking into unattended cars with valuables in them.
  • Local Traffic Customs: Get familiar with some of the local traffic customs and norms. We have a complete guide to driving directions that can help with this.
  • Tolls: There are tolls in the country, but they are all located near San Jose. It is possible to pay tolls in US dollars or colones.
  • Weather and Road Conditions: Keep an eye on weather forecasts and road conditions, especially during the rainy season. Some roads may become challenging to navigate due to flooding or landslides, so having alternative routes in mind can be useful.
  • Emergency Contact Information: If you rent your car with Adobe they will give you a packet with info of what to do in the case of an accident. You should always immediately notify Adobe if something happens. Additionally, in Costa Rica 9-1-1 is the emergency phone number.
#1 Pick
Car Rental at San Jose Airport in Costa Rica: What to Expect

Adobe Rent-a-Car

  • 10% discount for Costa Rica Vibes readers
  • Free second driver
  • 0% deductible on Liability Protection Insurance
  • Excellent customer service
  • New fleet of well-maintained vehicles

Conclusion: Car Rental San Jose Airport

In summary, having a rental car for exploring Costa Rica is typically a great choice. We believe that opting for a rental car from Adobe Rent-a-Car at San Jose Airport offers a hassle-free way to make the most of your Costa Rican adventure.

However, we completely understand that renting a car in a foreign country might feel a bit overwhelming. If you have any iquestions, please don’t hesitate to drop them in the comments below.

We’re always here to help you!

Don’t forget to check out our:

San Jose Costa Rica Airport – A complete guide to arriving and departing from the largest airport in Costa Rica.

San Jose City Guide – Restaurants, hotels, things to do, weather, and more!

San Jose Costa Rica Airport Hotels – All the best places to stay at a variety of price points

San Jose Airport or Liberia Airport Guide – Get all the details on which airport is best for your vacation

FAQ: Renting a Car and Driving in Costa Rica – Find out everything you need to know to be prepared to get on the road.

Driving in Costa Rica – A complete guide to road conditions, signs, and more!

Car Rental Scams in Costa Rica – What to watch out for and our experience being scammed

Costa Rica Transportation Guide – How to get around the country with ease

Costa Rica Travel Details: What You Need to Know

🚗 Should I rent a car in Costa Rica?

Having a rental car will give you the most flexibility when traveling in Costa Rica. This will also allow you to take fun day trips on your own.

🏄🏽 How can I book things to do?

We find that Viator tends to have the most comprehensive selection of activities with secure booking and good cancellation policies.

🍍 I’m overwhelmed with planning. Can you help?

Of course! I suggest joining our Facebook group for specific questions and head to our Start Here Page to get started planning.

✈️ What is the best way to book a flight?

Usually, we have the best luck finding great prices with Skyscanner. Check for flights to both San Jose Airport (SJO) and Liberia Airport (LIR).

🛏️ What is the best way to book my Costa Rica hotels?

We highly suggest Booking.com for hotel bookings and typically use VRBO for Costa Rica vacation rentals.

🗣️What is the main language in Costa Rica?

The main language in Costa Rica is Spanish. Most people working in tourism speak at least some English.

💰 What is the currency in Costa Rica?

The currency used in Costa Rica is the Costa Rican colón (CRC). However, the US dollar is widely accepted in most tourist areas

📞 What is the best way to stay connected?

An eSIM from Airalo is the easiest way to get 4G data while traveling in Costa Rica.

🌴 Is Costa Rica safe?

Generally, Costa Rica is considered safe for tourists. However, like any travel destination, it’s best to use caution and be aware of your surroundings.

🛂 Do you need a passport to go to Costa Rica?

Yes, Costa Rica is its own country. You will need a passport to visit.