A Guide to Getting Around in Costa Rica
I’ve been putting off writing about Costa Rica because a) I’m still sad that I’m back and b) I don’t even know where to begin. But if there’s one thing I want to put out into the world wide web that would have helped me when planning my trip, is a little information on how to get around.
1. By Bus
I’m 90% sure there aren’t actually any trains in Costa Rica. I think I might have seen a few in San Jose (which terrifyingly go all over the main road) but that’s it. So that leaves the bus! Most of the buses you’ll want to catch can be caught from the main places you want to go, and don’t need to be booked too far in advance (even in peak season). Terminal 710 in San Jose houses most of the buses to places like Jaco, Tamarindo, etc etc and it’s super easy to buy tickets by just reciting something from google translate (I am a master of pretending to be fluent in Spanish).
If you’re not in San Jose, 100% the place you are staying (whether hostel, hotel or homestay) will have all the information you need to get to your next location, and will probably even be able to book it for you. It’s super convenient, and you can even do it pretty spontaneously.
2. By Uber
If you’re in San Jose for any amount of time, 100% get an uber. It’s the cheapest and easiest way to get anywhere at any time during the city, including to and from the airport. I cannot recommend it enough, especially when your driver ends up telling you all about his favourite English football teams (Chelsea). In San Jose, avoid taxis at all cost.
3. By Transfer
Some parts of Costa Rica (Around Guanacaste into Puntarenas) have not-so-great roads, making it difficult to find buses that you’d want to get on, leaving the journeys to smaller vehicle transfers run by tour companies. They’re a bit pricey but a lot of the time necessary if you don’t want to drive (would not recommend unless you’ve driven like tanks in the army before or something), and will pick you up from your hotel. Transfers can usually be booked at your hotel, but I also used and liked Anywhere Costa Rica. Although they might be pricey, a lot of transfers (particularly through Anywhere) offer carbon offset, which is an awesome and simple way to minimise your environmental impact on this beaut country just by paying a few extra colones.
4. By Car Rental
This isn’t something we personally did, but we researched it because we thought it would be a laugh to attempt to road trip through some unstable roads in the mountains. There were a lot of car rental places in even the smaller towns (Alamo for one), but personally I wouldn’t have given it a shot because a lot of the roads where we went seemed a touch sketchy to the non-confident driver. However, we did meet some boys who were driving and loved it, but they did have a history of driving big trucks in the army. So there’s that for context. Also make sure you don’t get anything that’s not got 4 wheel drive.
5. By Plane
Another one we also didn’t try (because £) but with the number of domestic airports in CR, it’s probably a good one for the traveller who doesn’t like to spend years sitting on a bus. However, it isn’t that environmentally friendly, and travel to this country should bring eco-tourism to the front of your mind.
Pro-tip: Rome2Rio is one of my FAVOURITE apps ever. It’ll basically tell you how to get from A to B, approximate time and approximate cost. However in countries like CR, I found that it sometimes had outdated information, but it at least showed that there was a route possible.
Routes we took:
San Jose – Jaco: From Terminal 710 to anywhere in Jaco centre. 2 hours. About £3 one way. Can be booked online.
San Jose – Tamarindo: From Terminal 710 to the main bus stop. 6 hours. About £15 one way.
San Jose – Manuel Antonio (Quepos): From Terminal 710 to Quepos Bus station. About 3 hours. About £5.50 one way.
Quepos – Manuel Antonio: Bus from Quepos bus station to many stops in Manuel Antonio village. 20-30 minutes. Flat rate of 600 colones (about 80p).
Tamarindo – anywhere south along the coastline – Montezuma: Almost entirely transfers, unless you’re thinking about renting a quad bike (because why not). We used Montezuma Tours to get between Santa Teresa and Montezuma which cost $10ish one way, but our hostel offered transfers ranging from $10-90 to as far as Manuel Antonio and San Jose.
Montezuma – Jaco: Take it in style and go with the speed boat transfer! About an hour and £30. We used Montezuma Tours which was pretty lit, and they even stopped for some light dolphin spotting.
Tamarindo – Monteverde: Needed a transfer, booked through Anywhere Costa Rica. Took about 3 hours and cost £30 one way.
Monteverde – La Fortuna: Take the jeep-boat-jeep through this mountainous terrain! We booked through Anywhere Costa Rica again but almost all the hostels/hotels had transfer options. Costs around £20 (although we found people who did it on the day and only paid $10) and takes about 1.5 hours.
Sadly we didn’t make it down to Corcovado, Tortuguero, or Puerto Viejo, but whilst travelling around most of the places we stayed offered transfers and it seemed you could get anywhere from San Jose.
I hoped this has helped anyone in the pre-travel haze of confusion I spent about 2 months before our trip, and if anyone has any pearls of wisdom to add, please comment!