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]


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]


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 Transport (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. There are 19 national primary roads, numbered between 1 and 39.

  • 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 35, San Carlos: An under construction alternate road between San Ramón and San Carlos.
  • Route 39, Paseo de la Segunda República: Is an incomplete ring road that currently 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.

Secondary roads

These are roads that connect different cities, or primary routes, directly. There are 129 national secondary roads, numbered between 100 and 257.

Tertiary roads

These roads connect main cities to villages or residential areas, there are 175 national tertiary roads, numbered between 301 and 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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  3. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2017-08-05. Retrieved 2017-08-04.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  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 .