The ultimate guide to transportation in Costa Rica

The promise of sloth sightings, cave tubing, and digging into a dish of gallo pinto could lead you to impulse buy a flight to Costa Rica. But with your ticket in hand, you might be wondering about the best way to travel around Costa Rica once you arrive there. Get ready to set your concerns aside, for this guide will fill you in on the different types of transportation in Costa Rica so you can start planning your trip to the country’s most popular destinations.

How to get around Costa Rica

If you love your independence and don’t mind the risk of getting a flat tire (or three, in my case), you can rent a car in Costa Rica. If you’re wondering how to get around the country without playing both chauffeur and tourist, rest easy; there are many shuttle companies, minivans, buses, and private transfers that can take you to your destination. 

Tourist minibuses in Costa Rica are a popular way to get around. They tend to get you to your destination quicker than buses, and some will even make a quick stop at places of interest along the way. For example, on my trip out of San Jose, my shuttle stopped at an overpass so passengers could get out and snap photos of wild crocodiles.

For even more control over stops, you can hire a private car or shuttle in Costa Rica. Depending on your destination, you could also take a flight, for example, from San Jose to Tamarindo to get you to more distant locations.

Public transportation in Costa Rica

When you first arrive in the land of pura vida, you might wonder how to travel from the San Jose airport to downtown. While there still isn’t Uber in most of Costa Rica, Uber does operate in San Jose. Alternatively, you can take a bus. The San Jose airport bus schedule is excellent, offering service every 10 minutes from around 4:30 am – 11:00 pm.

©Mike/Flickr

You also have the option of taking the Gray Line Costa Rica shuttle bus. The Gray Line operates out of the San Jose and Liberia airports and offers personal hotel pickups, taking you to a variety of amazing destinations in Costa Rica.

San Jose is the country’s capital and a transportation hub. Since there aren’t many touristy things to do in San Jose, you’ll likely be ready to head out of the city shortly after landing. 

©Clark Weber/Flickr

Compared to other Latin American destinations, transportation in Costa Rica will have you shelling out some extra colones. However, most destinations offer the option to choose from various transportation methods, helping you balance cost, time, and comfort.

Wanting to spend time in the jungle and basking on beaches is why most people travel to Costa Rica. So, if you’re wondering what the closest beach to San Jose, Costa Rica is, you’ll soon learn that taking an overnight trip out of the city is your best bet. 

©Jasperdo/Flickr

Get your beach towel and binoculars ready—below are some popular routes you can take from San Jose to other incredible destinations in Costa Rica.  

RouteTransportation optionsPrice
San Jose to Santa TeresaBus + ferry, minivan, private carStarts at US $50
San Jose to TamarindoBus, minivan, private car, flightStarts at US $13
San Jose to La FortunaBus, minivan, private carStarts at US $52
San Jose to JacoBus, minivanStarts at US $43
San Jose to Puerto Viejo de TalamancaBus, minivan, private carStarts at US $52
San Jose to MontezumaBus + ferry, minivanStarts at US $20
San Jose to MonteverdeBus, minivan, private carStarts at US $44
San Jose to NosaraBus, minivan, private car, flightStarts at US $115

While taking Costa Rica minivan shuttles and buses are often a budget-friendly choice, sometimes the most economical option for traveling around the country is by plane. For example, the flight from San Jose to Nosara starts at US $115, which is less than half the cost of ground transportation. That’ll leave you on your way to enjoying Costa Rica’s beachside yoga hub in no time!

Now that you see the plethora of options you have to choose from for traveling around Costa Rica from San Jose, you might want to know about travel between other destinations.

©Zanzabar Photography/Flickr

Whether you’d like to try your hand at surfing in Jaco, hike up an extinct volcano in La Fortuna, or watch monkeys jump between palm trees as you relax on Montezuma’s beach, below are some options you have for traveling between these places.  


Route
Transportation optionsPrice
Jaco to MontezumaBus + ferryStarts at US $70
Jaco to Santa TeresaBus + ferryStarts at US $60
La Fortuna to MonteverdeBus, minivan, private carStarts at US $52
La Fortuna to Manuel AntonioBus, minivan, private carStarts at US $44

Once you arrive at these destinations, you can get around most of them on foot. However, if you’d like to venture further or give your weary legs a break, you can take a local bus or hail a taxi.

Ready to embrace the pura vida lifestyle?

As you’re planning your trip you might be wondering, what is the best time of year to go to Costa Rica? Mid-December to April is when you’ll be able to enjoy those sloth sightings in sunny, dry weather. But if you want to save money on that cave tubing tour and don’t mind some rain, traveling outside then is your best bet. Of course, gallo pinto will be waiting for you when you hop off your transportation in Costa Rica any time of year.

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