Driving Costa Rica's New Highway Towards Jaco
Driving the new San Jose - Caldera highway is a real pleasure in comparison to the former mountain hike. No potholes, higher speed limit, well marked, passing lane & slow vehicle ramps and you can get from San Jose to Caldera, Puntarenas in less than an hour, and Jaco in 1 1/2 hrs.
Here are tips you show know to ensure a safe trip
1. Tolls. There are four toll booths from San Jose to Caldera- Ezcazu ˘320, Guacima ˘480, Atenas ˘640 and Pozon ˘490. Tolls total ˘1.930 each way. Have the amount ready for quicker process. If everyone did they're part, it would greatly cut back on line ups.
2. Slow drivers. The highway seems to be filled with slow drivers, drivers who insist on going 40 km/h where the maximum speed posted is 70, 80 and 100 km/h. These slow drivers create major traffic congestion in areas where there is no passing or slow traffic ramps. Don't be one of them - follow the speed limit.
3. Many Costa Rican drivers do not move over. Costa Ricans are known for their "king of the road" attitude. They will not pull over, use the slow traffic lane where available or allow passing. Be wary of slow moving traffic. Always assume that around the corner one of these.
4. No service stations. Before setting off on the new highway, make sure, and I can't stress this more, that you have a full tank of gas. There are no gas stations on the highway. Fill up in Atenas, Orotina or Guacima.
5. Highway is not lit up at night. In sections between La Sabana and Piedades, at the toll booths and some sections between Pozon, Orotina and Caldera are lit up, but the rest of the highway is not. It gets dark. Make sure you carry a flashlight in case you get stuck. If you plane to travel at night regularly, good idea to have on hand reflective clothing or safety cone.
6. Watch your speed. Although the highway has posted speed limits, the road is conducive to speeding. There are some sections of the highway that you can easily top 120, 140 even 150 km/h. Costa Rica traffic cops are quick to stop violators. With radar in hand, they are waiting for you. Speeding fines start at around
˘20.000 colones. Come March 1, if the new traffic law takes affect, fines could be ˘200.000 and points on your license.
7. Toll booth operators. By and large the majority of the toll booth operators on the new highway are courteous, greet you and bid you a good trip. If your driving a van, be prepared to pay more at the tolls.
8. About tolls. I am not sure who thought of this one. Why not round off the tolls to ˘300 in Escazu, ˘500 at Guacima, ˘600 or ˘650 at Atenas and ˘500 at Pozon. These odd numbers amount to more time at the tolls - travelers as well as toll booth operators have to spend much time counting change. I just assume pay the higher toll and save time. Maybe they'll adjust it in the future? Likely not.
9. On Quick Pass. The Quick Pass is the smart way to cross the tolls faster. Unfortunatly in Guacima, Atenas or Pozon, the Quick Pass lanes are also being used for manual payment due to the high volume of traffic. The idea behind the Quick Pass is exactly that "a quick pass". The electronic sensor reads your approach, takes out the toll from your account, opens the gate and lets you by. But not on the aforementioned three toll stations, where you get in line like the rest of us. I am sure you are wondering what did you ever spend the us$30 bucks for the contraption.
10. About Quick Pass. If you decide to pay the Quick Pass take note - it can only be obtained from your nearest HSBC branch. You will be asked to sign up for an account that requires your passport. The cost is $30 US if you are not a HSBC customer or $15 US if a customer of the bank.
In summary - the new San Jose - Caldera highway, is the best thing that's happened to Costa Rica's roads and has changed the way we travel to the Pacific coast.
A trip from San Jose La Sabana to the Puerto Caldera is 55 minutes, traveling to Jaco is 90 minutes or less. Get to and from Tamarindo, Flamingo beaches in under 4 hours. San Jose to Liberia under 3 hours, Playas del Coco 15 minutes more. Costa Rica's southern zone is now closer than ever, especially with the near completion of the Costanera Sur. This opens the way for easier access to Dominical, Uvita, Ojochal and all the beautiful beaches the area has to offer.
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