Transportation in Costa Rica

The best way to move around the country as a tourist is by private transportation. We recommend confirming these arrangements before arriving in Costa Rica. Transportation companies have proper documentation, clean cars and vans, and all insurance to date to transport tourists. We don’t recommend using public transportation as it is complicated and slow. Car rental is another option and driving and finding your way in Costa Rica is fairly easy.

Private Transportation
The best option in Costa Rica is having a private transportation company to drive you around the country. They pick you up from the airport and take you wherever you want to go. This is a door to door service. They pick you up in your exact location and you let them know the place where you want to go. You can choose the pick-up time to suit your schedule and preferences. The vehicles must be registered in Costa Rica’s tourist institute, and have tourism insurance. The vehicles have stickers given by the tourist institute to identify themselves. Drivers are responsible and professional and know the safest and best roads to every destination.

Uber in Costa Rica is exactly the same as in other countries. It is a good and safe option for short distances like going to a restaurant or a museum.

Car Rental
There are car rental companies at both international airports. Some car rental companies have offices at hotels as well. It is better to have the car reserved prior to your arrival to be sure you will have the car you need. If you want a relaxed vacation renting a car may not be the best option since the driving skills of the locals lack courtesy. Main roads are sign posted, but we recommend having a GPS to help you navigate through the country.

Shuttle Transfers
Most tourist destinations in Costa Rica are connected via shuttle. They circulate between the airport and all major destinations. Some routes require that you change buses at an established connection point where you will find bathrooms too. You will have to reserve your seats before arriving so you can be sure of the time and place of departure.

There are taxis in all of Costa Rica. They are a popular option for locals as well as tourists. Mainly practical for short rides, they are also great when it rains or if you prefer not to walk in the heat. Always take an official taxi. They are always red, recent model cars and have a taxi meter (or “Maria” in tico) next to the driver to calculate the fare. Besides the taxis being red, they have a yellow light on the top and a yellow triangle on the doors including their plate number which go by provinces.

Public transportation
There are public buses in every city or major town in Costa Rica. They all use San Jose as their gateway. Many of these bus lines do not have a fixed schedule and the stops have no signs. This makes it difficult to catch them and only works if you don’t have a fixed schedule. San Jose has several bus terminals from where buses head in all directions. These terminals are not interconnected so changing buses in San Jose can be a hassle.

Costa Rica has two main airports. The Juan Santamaria International Airport (SJO), located in San Jose and the Daniel Oduber International Airport located in Liberia (LIR) closer to the beaches in Guanacaste. There are also regular domestic flights between San Jose and other towns, every day in the early morning and late afternoon. We always recommend taking the first flight in the morning due to winds and unexpected changes in the weather. Charter flights by small aircraft and helicopters are an option as well, and you can land at various other smaller airports if you book a private flight.