Costa Rica has over 7,000 taxis, and they provide a cheap and efficient way to get around San Jose as well as just about all other populated areas around Costa Rica. They are red (and sometimes orange) and are easily spotted.
There are the usual stories about taxi drivers charging too much or otherwise abusing tourists. There is no doubt that there have been occasions of such abuse, but I have used taxis many, many times and I have never once had difficulty, though some of my friends have. In my opinion, the percentage of cab drivers who are not honest is low, and I do not hesitate to tell visitors to use taxis. If you are staying at a hotel, ask the doorman the approximate price and set the estimated charge with the driver before you get in.
Unless you really know your way around, take a cab. Cost Rica has few if any street signs. There are almost no addresses. Where you wish to go is normally defined in relationship to a known building, church, or other well known landmark. For instance, one friend's address is 250 meters west of the cemetery, San Isidro. Another's is 400 meters west and 100 meters north of the church, San Antonio de Belén. Nearly EVERY town in CR has a church as it's center and this is often a reference point.
Sometimes, an address MAY be referenced to a landmark that is no longer in existence! The thing is, all the cab drivers KNOW this stuff. To drive your own car in CR, especially on your first visit, can be a real challenge! Now you know why I recommend cabs. They are generally cheap and most are in decent condition. With few street signs and even fewer addresses, consider taking cabs! All cab drivers know all the major attractions, hospitals, malls, and other important locations. If you have to go to a private residence, only then will you need the address info I have given above.
Some notes: The biggest problem with taxi cab fraud is
the driver failing to engage the meter when you get in. In CR, the meter is nicknamed the Maria. a reference to the Virgin and presumably, her honesty.
When you get in a cab, check to see if the Maria has been turned on. If it isn't, you don't need to speak Spanish. Just point to the meter and say "La Maria, por favor " The driver will get the point!
What is becoming more common is drivers (taxistas ) who have fiddled with the meter (maria ), so that it charges a bit more than it should. I mention this only in passing as unless you live here and make the same trip over and over, this little scam is almost impossible to catch. As I wrote in my blog. a UCR study now finds that the majority of taxis have altered their meter. With this is mind. I'd forget the tipping
CR also has a LOT or pirate taxis called piratas. These are usually red cars and can confuse you if you don't look for the upside down diamond on the car's door. Since not all cabs have roof lights. you can easily get into one if your not careful. They are generally just decent folks trying to make a living but charge a bit less than taxis. Some though, are bad people, so look for the taxi emblem on the door. Regardless, you are MUCH better off using the real thing!
Orange Taxis are also around near the airport. But beware, their rates are much higher. They service the airport and can be van sized or normal taxis.
Finally, a taxi driver can legitimately charge more if he picks you up near a hotel. It's not a lot more, but you should be aware of it. If you are a real cheapskate, walk a block and save yourself $.50. If you are not in a highly secure area, pay the $.50.
Here is a list of Taxi services in Costa Rica. You will probably need to speak Spanish.