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Guide to Car Rentals in Quepos / Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica

Are you considering renting a car while traveling in the Quepos and Manuel Antonio area of Costa Rica? This coastal paradise offers several rental car options, but there are a few things you should know before securing your booking.

We created this post to give you info on your car rental company options, help you decide if you should rent a car, inform you of some possible car rental scams, fill you in on the best cars to rent, and give you some awesome activities you can do with your rental car.

Ready? Let’s get to all things car rentals in Quepos / Manuel Antonio!

Manuel Antonio & Quepos Car Rental at a Glance

  • We suggest booking your rental car with Adobe Rent-a-Car. They are an amazing local company. Book your car with 10% discount here.
  • Adobe will even deliver your vehicle directly to your hotel in Manuel Antonio for a small fee.
  • You most likely don’t need a 4-wheel drive vehicle, but we suggest at least an SUV with decent clearance.
  • You should be fine driving here if you are a somewhat experienced driver.
  • This area is sometimes referred to as Manuel Antonio and sometimes referred to as Quepos. Quepos is the main bustling town in the area. Most tourists don’t stay here. Instead, they stay in the quieter Manuel Antonio area. However, both are within 10 minutes of each other.

Should You Rent a Car in Manuel Antonio?

road in manuel antonio

We think that having a rental car is often the best way to travel. It will give you the most flexibility in exploring Manuel Antonio and the surrounding areas.

Current Costa Rica Travel Discounts

Manuel Antonio is a bit spread out. A lot of the restaurants and hotels are located in the hills above the beaches. You most likely can walk to some restaurants from your hotel, but it is not always the safest just because the roads are very curvy and narrow in spots.

The national park is located at the end of the main road in Manuel Antonio at the beach. There are several restaurants and some stores in this area as well.

In other words, you could most likely get by without renting a car, but having a car will make your experience easier and more stress-free.

People Who Should Rent a Car in Manuel Antonio

  • Travelers who want the freedom to explore off-the-beaten-path locations near Manuel Antonio.
  • Larger groups or families: Renting a car will likely be more affordable than a shuttle and booking day tours. Plus, it gives you the flexibility to stop whenever needed.
  • People with specific itineraries: If you have created a specific itinerary that includes multiple destinations or activities, a car will be so helpful.
  • If you are staying outside the town center: If your hotel is located outside the Manuel Antonio town center a car will be helpful to get to restaurants, stores, and activities.

People Who Should Not Rent a Car

  • If you are uncomfortable with driving in unfamiliar conditions, it is probably better to depend on shared or private shuttles to get to Manuel Antonio. Once you are in town you can book day tours with transportation, take a taxi, walk in the downtown area, or rent a car just to use within Manuel Antonio.
  • If you are a solo traveler it might be more cost-effective to use different transportation options.
  • If you are staying in a resort with most amenities and activities available on-site you may not need a car.

Car Rental Companies in Manuel Antonio

There are several car rental companies in Manuel Antonio. The main ones are; National, Budget, Alamo, Adobe, and Avis.

We suggest renting your vehicle through Adobe Rent-a-Car because:

  • They are a local company that prides themselves on excellent customer service
  • They don’t have any hidden fees and are completely upfront with their costs
  • We have rented with them several times and have always had a great experience
  • They offer free cancellation at any time
  • Your car rental will include unlimited mileage for tons of exploration
  • They will deliver your car to directly at your hotel in Manuel Antonio for free within 12 miles of their office. 

We have rented cars from Adobe several times and always had a great experience.

So, we approached them to ask if they would be interested in working with us because we think so highly of them. 

They have been generous enough to pass on a great discount to all Costa Rica Vibes readers. 

You will most likely rent your car from the airport and drive to Manuel Antonio with it. However, if you need to rent a car within Manuel Antonio, Adobe has a Quepos/ Manuel Antonio office location.

You can pick up your car directly from their office location, or they can deliver your car to you for free within 12 miles of their office. That means they can bring you car straight to your hotel for you. It’s such a great service!

The Adobe Car Rental Discount

This discount includes:

  • 10% discount for Costa Rica Vibes readers
  • Free additional drivers
  • 0% deductible on Liability Protection Insurance
  • Discounted GPS unit

….and several other perks.

Note: If you would like to rent a car from Manuel Antonio, select Quepos/ Manuel Antonio as your rental office in the reservation form. Then, input your hotel in the comment box. Adobe will gladly deliver (and pick-up) your car from your hotel. 

You can find out all the details and book your discounted price with Adobe here

The Best Type of Car for Manuel Antonio and Quepos

It is not always necessary to rent a 4×4 for Manuel Antonio, but I suggest at least renting a vehicle with decent clearance such as an SUV.

Most of the roads in this area are paved, but they can be hilly and curvy. You will be much more comfortable in something that is stable and has good clearance.

You might want a vehicle with 4-wheel drive if:

  • You are staying at a remote hotel or vacation rental. It is always a good idea to message the hotel to ask what the road condition is if it is unclear.
  • You would like to drive through the more remote parts of this area (like in the hills above Manuel Antonio) you might want a 4 wheel drive vehicle. This especially applies to the rainy season.

How to Get from San Jose International Airport to Manuel Antonio

Instead of renting your car directly in Manuel Antonio you might opt to pick up your rental car at the San Jose International Airport (SJO) and drive to Manuel Airport.

Check out our guide to ground transportation from the San Jose International Airport for more info.

In my opinion, if you are a somewhat experienced driver you should have no problems with this drive. Drivers in Costa Rica can be a bit crazy, but the drive is on well-maintained roads and highways the entire way.

The drive from San Jose International Airport to Manuel Antonio will take about 3 to 4 hours depending on the traffic.

This scenic route offers a few great stops to break up the journey and enjoy some of Costa Rica’s unique attractions.

Route Overview

  • Leave San Jose International Airport and head west on Route 27 towards Caldera. Keep in mind that this is a toll road. They accept US dollars and Costa Rican colones.
  • Continue on Route 34 (Costanera Sur) south along the coast until you reach Quepos and Manuel Antonio.

Driving Tips

  • Use Waze: Waze is the best free app for driving directions in Costa Rica. It’s widely used by locals and provides real-time traffic updates, road conditions, and the best routes.
  • Fuel Up: Make sure to start your journey with a full tank of gas. There are plenty of gas stations along Route 27, but it’s always good to be prepared.

Recommended Stops Along the Way

There are a few nice sights to see along the drive. Just keep in mind that the most common crime in Costa Rica is petty theft. It is best to not leave all of your luggage in your car unattended.

Stop at a Fruit Stand

fruit stand

One of our (many) favorite things about Costa Rica is all the delicious fresh tropical produce.

On your drive, on Route 27, you will pass by a collection of fruit stands. These stands are on the opposite side of the road, so you will need to turn around in order to reach them. 

At these stands you can buy a variety of fruits that you may have never even seen before.

Having a tropical fruit taste test is always a fun cultural experience!

Río Tárcoles Bridge (Crocodile Bridge)

rio tarcoles

About 1.5 hours into your drive you will cross over Rio Tarcoles. This is a river in Costa Rica that is home to tons of big crocodiles.

It is possible to pull your car off before the bridge and walk onto the bridge lookout point to see the crocodiles sunning themselves below.

It’s a great spot for stretching your legs. 

Jaco Viewpoint

Guide to Car Rentals in Quepos / Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica

As you continue, consider stopping at the viewpoint just after the downtown area of Jacó. You can easily just pull your car over to check this out.

The viewpoint offers a panoramic view of the coastline and the iconic Jacó sign.

Also, make sure to look up. There are often maccaws hanging out in this area.

Jacó Town

jaco

If you have some extra time, a short detour into Jacó can be worth it. This bustling beach town offers a variety of restaurants, cafes, and shops. It’s a great spot for a meal or just to stretch your legs.

This is the one stop I would be cautious about because you will likely need to leave your car and belongings unattended.

Things to Do with a Rental Car in Manuel Antonio

Here are a few of our favorite things to do in the Manuel Antonio area with a car.

Go to Manuel Antonio National Park

things to do in manuel antonio

Visiting Manuel Antonio National Park is definitely the most popular thing to do in Manual Antonio and for good reason!

This national park has a variety of hiking trails for all skill levels, an abundance of wildlife such as monkeys and sloths, and some of the most beautiful beaches in the country.

Keep in mind that the park is closed on Tuesdays and it is necessary to pre-book your tickets. You can find out more info in our guide to Manuel Antonio National Park.

Take a Day Trip to Nauyaca Waterfall

nauyaca waterfall view

The Nauyaca Waterfalls are located south of Manuel Antonio in the hills above Dominical.

To drive here from downtown Manuel Antonio will take about 45 minutes. These waterfalls are seriously impressive and you can even swim under the lower falls.

Find out more in our guide to Nauyaca Waterfalls.

Visit Nearby Towns

Guide to Car Rentals in Quepos / Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica

There are several towns within an hour drive of Manuel Antonio that are worth exploring.

Our two favorites are the small coastal village of Dominical and the slightly larger town of Uvita, which is home to some amazing beaches.

Explore Nearby Beaches

playa biesanz

Playa Biesanz and Playa Espadilla Norte are great options for a more secluded beach experience. We love Playa Biesanz because there are often locals here renting out kayaks and snorkel gear as well as selling food and drinks.

Getting Gas in Manuel Antonio

There aren’t any gas stations directly in Manuel Antonio. Instead, you will need to go to where Quepos meets the highway. I marked it on Google Maps for you here.

Keep in mind that all gas stations in Costa Rica are full-service, so stay in your car and an employee will fill your gas tank.

Find out more in our guide to getting gas in Costa Rica.

What You Should Know Before Renting a Car in Manuel Antonio

Renting a car in Costa Rica is a bit complicated. Here is what you need to know. 

Requirements to Rent a Car

To rent a car in Costa Rica you need to meet a few main conditions:

  • Meet the minimum age requirement. This ranges by company from 18 to 25. If you rent with Adobe through us you will need to be at least 23 years old. 
  • Have a valid driver’s license. You do not need an international driving permit. Your regular license is fine. It needs to be the official license. Not a photocopy or temporary license.
  • Have been driving for at least 2 years. You can not be a brand-new driver and rent a car.

The Rental Car Process

First you need to decide which car rental company to book through. 

Please do not book through a third party travel websites like Expedia!

These sites often do not disclose the taxes, extra fess, and mandatory rental car insurance. Instead, you might think your rental price will be something ridiculously low like $5 a day.

When you go to pick up your rental car you will be charged several hundred dollars more for all additional fees. You can read all about our negative experience with this here.

We suggest booking through us if you plan to rent with Adobe for the best deal. 

If you plan to rent through another company, book directly on their website and make sure all fees are included. 

Mandatory Rental Car Insurance

In Costa Rica there are three types of car rental insurance. These are Liability Protection Insurance, Car Protection Insurance, and Total Protection Insurance. 

Liability insurance is required by Costa Rican law. Every person who rents a car in Costa Rica will need to purchase this insurance.

Car Protection is also required by law. However, it is possible to avoid paying this if you have a letter from your credit card company with proof of coverage for car protection in Costa Rica (if you rent with Adobe). 

Total Protection is an additional comprehensive insurance. This extra insurance is not required by law, but is helpful to have. 

You can get more details in our complete guide to renting a car in Costa Rica

Car Rental Deposit

Keep in mind, that you will need to pay a deposit for your rental car at the rental agency. This is often between $1,000 and $2,000 US dollars depending on the rental car company.

It is usually possible to pay this with either a debit or credit card.

We suggest paying with a valid credit card because it is just a hold on your account. When you return the vehicle without issue you will automatically be refunded the deposit.

If you book with a debit card it can take several days for the refund to be processed.

Most companies accept all major credit cards. 

Note: Check your credit card limit beforehand to make sure that you can put down $1,000 without maxing out your card.  

Paying for Your Rental Car

You can pay for your rental car with credit or debit cards.

If you opt to rent with Adobe, you do not need to pay until you arrive and pick up your rental vehicle. Also, all prices from Adobe are quoted and paid in United States dollars. 

Saving Money on Car Rentals

We get it, Costa Rica car rentals are not cheap. To save money there are a few things you can do.

  • Travel at off-peak times. During the rainy season, the average price of car rentals goes way down. During the high season the prices go up A LOT!
  • You could always opt to rent a car for only a few days of your trip rather than for the whole vacation. 

Other Things to Know About Manuel Antonio Car Rental

  • Never leave belongings in your vehicle unattended. Manuel Antonio is safe, but petty theft is known to happen. 
  • Be wary of rental deals that seem too good to be true (like $6 a day prices). These are not accurate. You will then be charged with a lot of other fees upon picking up your vehicle. Find out more in our guide to common rental car scams.
  • If you are coming from the United Kingdom, Australia, etc. people drive on the opposite side of the road in Costa Rica. The roads and driver seat are set up the same as in the United States, Canada, mainland Europe etc.  
  • If you rent with Adobe you can always pick up your car in one spot and return in a different location. They have several car rental locations throughout the country.
  • The posted speed limits in Costa Rica is listed in kilometers per hour NOT miles per hour
  • If you get in an accident, the emergency number here is 9-1-1. 
  • If you would like a long-term rental with Adobe, let us know. We can get you a discount if you need a car for over a month. 

Conclusion: Manuel Antonio Car Rentals

In conclusion, having a rental car is the best transportation option in Manuel Antonio if you plan to visit off-the-beaten-path activities or want the flexibility of exploring on your own.

If you have any questions about renting a car in Manuel Antonio, don’t hesitate to leave them in the comment section below. We are always happy to help you plan.

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