Transport in Costa Rica

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San Pedro roundabout in San Jose CRC 07 2009 San Pedro Roundabout 6318.JPG
San Pedro roundabout in San José

There are many modes of transport in Costa Rica but the country's infrastructure has suffered from a lack of maintenance and new investment. There is an extensive road system of more than 30,000 kilometers, although much of it is in disrepair; this also applies to ports, railways and water delivery systems. [1] According to a 2016 U.S. government report, investment from China which attempted to improve the infrastructure found the "projects stalled by bureaucratic and legal concerns". [2] [3]

Costa Rica country in Central America

Costa Rica, officially the Republic of Costa Rica, is a country in Central America, bordered by Nicaragua to the north, the Caribbean Sea to the northeast, Panama to the southeast, the Pacific Ocean to the southwest, and Ecuador to the south of Cocos Island. It has a population of around 5 million in a land area of 51,060 square kilometers. An estimated 333,980 people live in the capital and largest city, San José with around 2 million people in the surrounding metropolitan area.


Most parts of the country are accessible by road. The main highland cities in the country's Central Valley are connected by paved all-weather roads with the Atlantic and Pacific coasts and by the Pan American Highway with Nicaragua and Panama, the neighboring countries to the North and the South. Costa Rica's ports are struggling to keep pace with growing trade. They have insufficient capacity, and their equipment is in poor condition. The railroad didn't function for several years, until recent government effort to reactivate it for city transportation. An August 2016 OECD report provided this summary: "The road network is extensive but of poor quality, railways are in disrepair and only slowly being reactivated after having been shut down in the 1990s, seaports quality and capacity are deficient. Internal transportation overly relies on private road vehicles as the public transport system, especially railways, is inadequate." [4]

Nicaragua Country in Central America

Nicaragua, officially the Republic of Nicaragua, is the largest country in the Central American isthmus, bordered by Honduras to the northwest, the Caribbean to the east, Costa Rica to the south, and the Pacific Ocean to the southwest. Managua is the country's capital and largest city and is also the third-largest city in Central America, behind Tegucigalpa and Guatemala City. The multi-ethnic population of six million includes people of indigenous, European, African, and Asian heritage. The main language is Spanish. Indigenous tribes on the Mosquito Coast speak their own languages and English.

Panama Republic in Central America

Panama, officially the Republic of Panama, is a country in Central America, bordered by Costa Rica to the west, Colombia to the southeast, the Caribbean Sea to the north, and the Pacific Ocean to the south. The capital and largest city is Panama City, whose metropolitan area is home to nearly half the country's 4 million people.

Port maritime commercial facility

A port is a maritime commercial facility which may comprise one or more wharves where ships may dock to load and discharge passengers and cargo. Although usually situated on a sea coast or estuary, some ports, such as Hamburg, Manchester and Duluth, are many miles inland, with access from the sea via river or canal.


Road transportation

The road system in Costa Rica is not as developed as it might be expected for such a country. However, there are some two-lane trunk roads with restricted access under development.

Tempisque River bridge. CRI 12 2004 Puente Tempisque 430.JPG
Tempisque River bridge.

Numbered highways

The Ministry of Public Works and Transportation (MOPT), along with the National Road Council (Conavi), are the government organizations in charge of national road nomenclature and maintenance.

There are three level of nationwide roads:

National roads

These are trunk roads devised to connect important cities, most of the national roads are connected to the capital city, San José. Numbered from 1 to 39.

San José, Costa Rica City and municipality in San José, Costa Rica

San José is the capital and largest city of Costa Rica. Located in the mid-west of the Central Valley, San José is the seat of national government, the focal point of political and economic activity, and the major transportation hub of this Central American nation. The population of San José Canton was 288,054 in 2011, and San José’s municipal land area measures 44.2 square kilometers, and an estimated 333,980 residents in 2015. The metropolitan area stretches beyond the canton limits and has an estimated population of over 2 million in 2017. The city is named in honor of Joseph of Nazareth.

  • Route 1 (San José - Peñas Blancas), part of the Pan-American Highway. Connects San José, Alajuela, Palmares San Ramón, Esparza, Cañas, Bagaces, Liberia and La Cruz. There are two toll booths, in Alajuela and Naranjo. It consists of the following named segments:
    • Autopista General Cañas: San José to Juan Santamaría International Airport.
    • Autopista Bernardo Soto: From Juan Santamaría International Airport to San Ramón.
    • Interamericana Norte: San Ramón to Peñas Blancas.
  • Route 2 (San José - Paso Canoas), part of the Pan-American Highway. Connected cities include San José, San Pedro, Curridabat, Tres RíosCartago, Tejar del Guarco San Isidro de El General, Buenos Aires, Palmar Norte, Neily, Paso Canoas. There is one toll booth in Tres Ríos de La Unión. It consists of the following named segments:
    • Autopista Florencio del Castillo: San José to Cartago.
    • Interamericana Sur: Cartago to Paso Canoas.
  • Route 27 (San José - Caldera), is privately operated by Autopistas del Sol, it connects San José, Santa Ana, Ciudad Colón, Atenas, Orotina and Puntarenas. There are four toll booths at San Rafael de Escazú, San Rafael de Alajuela, Atenas and Orotina. It consists of the following named segments:
    • Autopista Próspero Fernández: San José to Santa Ana.
    • Autopista José María Castro Madriz: Santa Ana to Caldera.
  • Route 32 (San José - Limón) Connects San José, Tibás, Guápiles, Guácimo, Siquirres, Limón. One toll booth in San Isidro, Heredia. It consists of the following named segments:
    • Autopista Braulio Carrillo, San José to San Juan de Tibás.
    • Carretera Braulio Carrillo, San Juan de Tibás to Siquirres.
    • Carretera José Joaquin Trejos Fernández, Siquirres to Limón.
  • Route 34, Pacífica Fernández, (Pozón - Palmar Norte) . Algunas ciudades que comunica: Pozón - Tárcoles - Herradura - Jacó - Parrita - Quepos - Dominical- Puerto Cortés - Palmar Norte
  • Route 39, Paseo de la Segunda República, (Ring road), is an incomplete ring road that distributes traffic around the eastern, southern and western areas of the capital city, it connects to Route 1, Route 27 and Route 2. There are many elevated access roads, and some roundabouts. It has as much as 6 lanes but most of the road is only 4 lanes wide. There is a pending work in progress to complete the north section of the ring road, which will enable the Route 32 to be connected directly as well, as of the moment, drivers must go to downtown San José to connect to the Route 39.
Pan-American Highway network of roads

The Pan-American Highway is a network of roads stretching across the American continents and measuring about 30,000 kilometres (19,000 mi) in total length. Except for a rainforest break of approximately 160 km (100 mi), called the Darién Gap, the roads link almost all of the Pacific coastal countries of the Americas in a connected highway system. According to Guinness World Records, the Pan-American Highway is the world's longest "motorable road". However, because of the Darién Gap, it is not possible to cross between South America and Central America with conventional highway vehicles. Without an all-terrain vehicle, it is necessary to circumnavigate this terrestrial stretch by sea.

San Ramón, Costa Rica Place in Alajuela, Costa Rica

San Ramón is a city in the canton of San Ramón in Alajuela Province in Costa Rica. The central municipality (distrito) of San Ramón covers an area of 1.29 km2, and has a population of 10,710. Adjoining distritos are also part of the city.

Juan Santamaría International Airport Airport in Costa Rica

Juan Santamaría International Airport is the primary airport serving San José, the capital of Costa Rica. The airport is located in the city of Alajuela, 20 km west of downtown San José. It is named after Costa Rica's national hero, Juan Santamaría, a courageous drummer boy who died in 1856 defending his country against forces led by US-American filibuster William Walker.

Secondary roads

These are roads that connect different cities directly. Numbered from 100 a 255.

Tertiary roads

These roads connect main cities to villages or residential areas, numbered from 301 to 935.


730 km (454 mi), seasonally navigable by small craft


Ports and harbors

Cruise ships at Puntarenas. CRI 04 2013 Cruceros Puntarenas 6300.JPG
Cruise ships at Puntarenas.

In 2016, the government pledged ₡93 million ($166,000) for a new cruise ship terminal for Puerto Limón. [5]

Atlantic Ocean

Pacific Ocean

Merchant marine


Juan Santamaria International Airport. SJO Aerial view 019 01 2009.jpg
Juan Santamaría International Airport.

Total: 161 (2013) [6]

Airports - with paved runways

Airports - with unpaved runways

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Cartago, Costa Rica City in Cartago Province, Costa Rica

Cartago is a city in Costa Rica, about 25 km (16 mi) east of the capital, San José. It is at an elevation of about 1435 m above sea level, at the base of the Irazú Volcano. Cartago is the capital of Cartago province, and was the capital of Costa Rica from 1574 to 1824. The city covers an area of 152,68 km². It includes the districts of city downtown: Oriental, Occidental, San Nicolás, El Carmen (north), Dulce Nombre, San Francisco, and Guadalupe (Arenilla). The city is part, with the cities of San Rafael de Oreamuno and Tejar del Guarco, of a continuous urban area that, in 2008, had a population of 156,600 inhabitants, according to the Statistics and Census Institute of Costa Rica.

Alajuela Province Province in Costa Rica

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San José Province Province in Costa Rica

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Orotina is the capital city of the canton of Orotina in the province of Alajuela in Costa Rica. It is also the name of the distrito (district) that includes the city. The district of Orotina covers an area of 19.99 km², and has a population of 20.341.

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Rail transport in Costa Rica

Rail transport in Costa Rica is primarily under the stewardship of Incofer, an autonomous institution of the state. Incofer owns the national railway infrastructure and operates virtually all freight and passenger services, which consist primarily of commuter trains through the highly populated Central Valley. The whole Incofer network is 1,067 mm narrow gauge, although there are several small tourist railways of other gauges.

Siquirres City in Limón Province, Costa Rica

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Palmar Sur Airport airport in Costa Rica

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Rail transport in Central America

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Ochomogo War

The Ochomogo War or Costa Rican Civil War of 1823 was Costa Rica's first civil war, and was fought shortly after the country became independent from Spain.

The League War was the second civil war of Costa Rica, as a member state of the Federal Republic of Central America. It passed between September and October 1835 in the Central Valley of Costa Rica. Its immediate trigger was the repeal of the "Ambulance Law", the law that established the rotation of the country's capital among the four constituent cities. The most important consequence was the triumph of the city of San José over the cities of Alajuela, Heredia and Cartago, which allowed its consolidation as the capital of Costa Rica.


  3. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2017-08-05. Retrieved 2017-08-04.
  6. 1 2 3 "The World Factbook — Central Intelligence Agency". Retrieved 2017-02-10.

PD-icon.svg This article incorporates  public domain material from the CIA World Factbook website .