Costa RicaCosta Rica

Transportation

Whether you're looking to spend your vacation in a hammock on a quiet beach or you want to see all the country's volcanoes, rainforests and beaches in a week, we've got you covered. From puddle jumpers to public buses here's the information you need to know about Costa Rica's most popular ways to travel.

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Tour connection (shuttle + tour + shuttle)

By far the most fun way to travel, tour connections are tours that take you from one place to another. For example, a common tour connection involves whitewater rafting down the upper Sarapiqui River. The tour will pick you up from your hotel in San Jose, Puerto Viejo or Arenal and can drop you off in a different destination after the tour. Another common tour connection involves mountain biking around Lake Arenal to a boat that takes you across the lake where a van picks you up and transports you to Monteverde. Other tour connections involve horseback riding, whitewater rafting, hiking and more.

Tour connections can actually be an efficient and cost effective way to travel. Why bother taking a bus to a destination when you can have an adventure along the way? These connections often cost as much as a regular tour, around $50 to $100, plus $10 for the connection, making them about as expensive as a shuttle or renting a car, plus it gives you more time to enjoy your vacation.

Abstract: Take an adventure connection if you are going to do a tour at a specific destination and did not rent a car.

Private transfers

There's a peace-of-mind in making advance private transfers knowing that a professional driver will be waiting for you at the airport to take you to your hotel or to a destination where along the way you can stop to take pictures, visit attractions, or eat at roadside restaurants.  You do not need to worry about directions, potholes, street signs or traffic.  It is a safe, convenient and reliable transportation that provides the highest rate of passenger satisfaction. Most of the times your vacation will be less expensive, if you use private transfers rather than shared buses, taxis or rental cars.

Private transfer rates are often cheaper than those of a taxi.  For example, a private transfer from San Jose Airport to Arenal - up to 8 people- is $155 per trip so about $19 each (8 people) to $78 each (2 people) person, from Liberia Airport to Samara is $120, about $15 each (8 people) to $60 each (2 people) person. While a taxi will charge you going from San Jose Airport to Arenal $210 per trip.

Abstract: Take private transfers if you travel in a group or with family members, plan to do more than three activities and want to get the best out of your travel time.

Shared-ride shuttles

Shared-ride shuttles provide connections between most major tourist destinations – including to and from the country's airports. The country's main carriers are Grayline, Costa Rica Ride and Interbus. Shared-ride shuttles are faster, more convenient and more luxurious than buses but that comes at a cost. Shared-ride shuttles cost between $45 and $100 per person with discounts for larger groups.

Families, couples and backpackers will find shared-ride shuttles helpful for a quick way to get from A to B, ideal for travelling on a tight schedule. Shared-ride shuttles have A/C, more leg room than buses do and offer a little more security for your belongings. They are also a good way to meet other travelers headed to the same destination.

Abstract: Take a shared-ride shuttle if you want to meet tourist travelers and want a little bit more comfort.

Bus

Costa Rica's public bus system is often toted as the best in Central America with routes that encompass the entire country. It's a cheap, effective way to get around within and between destinations and is the best choice for backpackers, couples and small groups travelling on a tight budget.

Most inter-city buses have A/C and some put on movies. You can store your luggage underneath the bus or put it in overhead bins. Make sure you get a ticket for your luggage if you put underneath the bus though, that will help prevent it from getting stolen – an infrequent but possible dilemma.

Every city has at least one central bus station while San Jose has multiple, so make sure to find out which bus station your bus leaves from. Once you're at the station, finding your bus can be challenging. Oftentimes, the signs (which are in Spanish) don't necessarily match the destination of the bus underneath them. However, most employees and drivers are friendly and will help you find the right bus.

Abstract: Take the bus if you are traveling on a budget and want to meet locals.

Car rental

There's a freedom to renting a car unmatched by all the other transportation options and it's worth considering. The country's highways are rife with natural beauty and there's no better way to soak it in than renting a car and cruising with the windows down, stopping to take pictures and settling down at any roadside restaurant you just happen to come across. Car rentals are good for couples and families who want to see a lot of the country and don't mind driving over the occasional pothole, dealing with aggressive drivers or getting lost on a side road trying to find your hotel.

Rentals cost between $32 and $160 a day.  Rental car companies require you to get the following minimum insurance coverage ($25 - $35 per day):

  • Collision damage waiver fee ($13 - $18 per day)
  • Third party liability insurance ($12 - $17 per day)

In addition, you may opt for full coverage that runs $30 - $50 making car rentals the second most expensive way to travel. You will also be required to block $1,000 security deposit on your credit card that will be used in case of an accident with the vehicle and will be refunded to your credit card account within 2 to 4 weeks after you have returned the car. If there are accidents, the block will be permanent until your case is resolved into litigation at which time any amount owed to you will be refunded.

Some rental car companies will offer you a cheap daily rental rate but then they usually have higher insurance rates. Your credit card liability car insurance does not apply in Costa Rica, If you desire liability insurance you will have to purchase it from the car rental company. A major consideration in deciding to rent a car or not is that rental cars are known to be targeted by thieves. If you decide to rent a car make sure to never leave anything inside the vehicle.

Abstract: Rent a car if you can allocate $57 to $185 (required insurance included) a day, plus $1,000 refundable credit card security deposit in transportation.

Domestic flights

We do not sell airline flights. This is for information purposes only. Contact a travel agent or the airline for reservations.

Costa Rica has two domestic airlines, Nature Air and Sansa, offering daily flights to many major tourist destinations. While flying’s the most expensive way to get around Costa Rica, it definitely has its benefits: A seven-hour drive from Arenal to Manuel Antonio is a mere 35-minute flight; A six-hour drive from San Jose to Tamarindo is a 45-minute flight. Round-trip flights cost anywhere from $80 to $200.

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