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Getting around in Costa Rica

Christiansburg...
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Getting around in Costa Rica

My wife and I will be making our first trip to Costa Rica in a couple of months and are looking into ways of traveling around the country. Here is our itinerary:

Arrive in San Jose international airport at 1:30pm on March 20, 2014.

Spend the nights of March 20 and March 21 at the Orosi Lodge near Cartago.

Spend the nights of March 22, 23, 24, 25 and 26 in the Manuel Antonio area.

Spend the nights of March 27, 28, 29 and 30 at the La Carolina Lodge in San Miguel, Bijagua.

Spend the night of March 31, April 1, 2 and 3 in the Playa Samara area.

Spend the night of April 4 in the San Jose area.

So...here are our travel needs:

March 20 - one-way from San Jose International Airport to the Orosi Lodge, leaving around 3:00pm

March 22 - one-way from Orosi Lodge to the Manuel Antonio area, leaving around mid-morning

March 27 - one-way from Manuel Antonio to the La Carolina Lodge, leaving around mid-morning

March 31 - one-way from the La Carolina Lodge to the Playa Samara area, leaving around mid-morning

April 4 - one-way from the Playa Samara area to San Jose, leaving in mid-afternoon

We'd like to keep our costs as reasonable as possible, so we are willing to take public transportation in any cases where it makes more sense to do so.

Does anyone out there have any suggestions for us? We really appreciate it!

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Costa Rica
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1. Re: Getting around in Costa Rica

1. From the airport to Cartago, you can take public buses. Frequent buses travel between Alajuela (where the airport is located) and San Jose and there, you can get the bus for Cartago.

2. From Cartago to Manuel Antonio, you would need to return to San Jose and get the bus for Quepos or Manuel Antonio. It's around 5 hours, altogether.

3. From Manuel Antonio to La Carolina -- this will be your longest trip between destinations - close to 6 hours. I would probably look at doing a shuttle from Manuel Antonio to Canas and then take the public bus from there. You will get off the bus in Bijagua and take a taxi to La Carolina. Just so you know: La Carolina is very isolated and not within walking distance of the National Park. You will need taxis to do anything but be at the lodge. If you are looking for some "quiet time" where you don't care much about moving around a lot, it will work well for you. But if you are hoping to explore the area a bit, this will be expensive.

4. You can take the public bus from Bijagua to Canas, get the bus to Nicoya and the bus to Samara.

5. You can take the public bus from Samara to San Jose. (Keep in mind that SJO airport is not in San Jose, but in Alajuela, about 30 minutes away. On the trip from Samara to San Jose, you pass by SJO)

Use this: www.thebusschedule.com/cr/ and ask more specific questions if you are interested in traveling on the public bus.

Edited: 12 January 2014, 18:40
Christiansburg...
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2. Re: Getting around in Costa Rica

Thanks very much for your reply. I went to your suggested link for the bus schedule. I'm able to see departure and arrival times for the segments, but no indication of the prices. Am I missing something? Is there some way to get at least approximate prices? Again, thanks!

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3. Re: Getting around in Costa Rica

No prices are quoted on bus schedule websites -- the prices change more frequently than the routes.

Approximate prices: You can go here and look at a list of ALL the prices - but you might need to take a break and go outside and take some deep breaths to clear your head. There's a lot - and you will have to scroll a while to see the buses you are looking for. www.aresep.go.cr/index.php/buscador-tarifas# Scroll down and you will see "Tarifas Vigentes 14 de diciembre de 2013" Click on the line below that and you will see ALL the bus fares. It's an Excel file.

But here are some samples: San Jose to La Fortuna -- 2490 colones (about $5)

San Jose to Turrialba - 1400 colones - (about $3)

San Jose to Liberia - 3285 colones (about $6.50)

Note that you will need to pay your bus fare in colones. Sometimes you pay the driver -- sometimes there is a ticket office at a bus station..... sometimes not.

Also - to get from Canas to Bijagua for La Carolina Lodge, you take the bus from Canas to Upala and get off in Bijagua whichis about half way between the two.

Christiansburg...
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4. Re: Getting around in Costa Rica

Thanks again, Hattie. I'll grab a beverage and open up that spreadsheet. Hope I can find my reading glasses...could be an interesting afternoon!

Costa Rica
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5. Re: Getting around in Costa Rica

Let me know when you have recovered and have more questions.

Christiansburg...
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6. Re: Getting around in Costa Rica

I'm in the midst of putting together the route, with times and approximate fares. You mentioned taking a shuttle from Manuel Antonio to Canas, then catching a bus over to Bijagua. Do you know of any companies that provide this shuttle?

Another question...do bus rides need to be purchased in advance, or does one just wait at a bus stop for the appropriate bus?

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7. Re: Getting around in Costa Rica

For the public bus -- just wait at the appropriate bus stop or at the bus station. No need to purchase in advance - although you can in some places if you wish.

For the shared van shuttle: You can go to www.interbusonline.com and arrange a shared van shuttle. Pick "Manuel Antonio" and "Liberia." And then on the list of hotel drop off points, put in Cana Brava Inn which is a hotel in Canas where they will let you off. There is also a chat function if things get out of hand.

Once you are at the Cana Brava Inn, you can ask at the front desk to call you a taxi and the taxi will take you to the bus station. At the bus station, you can buy a ticket for Bijagua which will cost a bit less than the ticket from Canas to Upala. Look for the bus that says "Upala/Canas" on it. It is usually parked right in front of the ticket window. If you see people in line, you can just ask "Bijagua?" and they will say yes or no. Asking people who are line or waiting for a bus using only the name of the destination works for other locations also.

Once you are in Bijagua, get a taxi to take you to La Carolina unless they will make arrangements for you. It's about 30-40 minutes to the Lodge.

Christiansburg...
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8. Re: Getting around in Costa Rica

Okay...thanks again, Hattie, for all of your great information so far. If you live near any of the places where we're going, we'd love to treat you to drinks and/or dinner for all your trouble.

We've made one change to our itinerary. Instead of staying at La Carolina Lodge, we'll be spending those 4 nights at the Arenal Observatory Lodge. It will work much more easily with public transportation.

We'll actually be using interbus shuttle for the Manuel Antonio - La Fortuna segment, the La Fortuna - Samara segment and the Samara - Alejuela segment. The only segment left is our first segment - from Alejuela to the Orosi Lodge. From the bus schedule, it looks like we need to take a bus from Alejuela to San Jose, then another bus from San Jose to Cartago, then another one from Cartago to Orosi.

So...the question...when we switch buses in San Jose and again in Cartago, how much distance is there between where we get dropped off by one bus and get picked up by the other one? Is it walkable, or will we need to get a cab to get us there? How much time should we allow for each of these connections?

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9. Re: Getting around in Costa Rica

In San Jose, you should just take a taxi. You can walk it - but it's a lot easier to take a taxi. Figure 15 minutes between buses is a minimum.

Can't help you with Cartago...... sorry.

Not sure if I gave you this before ------ costa-rica-guide.com/travel/index.php…

Christiansburg...
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10. Re: Getting around in Costa Rica

In an earlier message on this thread, I mentioned that we'd be taking interbus from Manuel Antonio to Arenal Obervatory Lodge. Another option that we're considering is hiring a private guide for that segment for two reasons: (1) the freedom to stop for food, rest stops and pictures wherever we want and (2) the knowledge of the local guide . We're assuming that, with interbus, there is little (if any) stopping of the vehicle for pictures, etc. and little (if any) local knowledge, natural history, etc. dispensed from the guide. Are we wrong in these assumptions?