Bus Routes in Costa Rica
January 17, 2007 9:15 PM   Subscribe

I am going to Costa Rica in the beginning of March and am trying to find a website or other resource that displays all the bus routes. Specifically, from area X to area Y and how long. It is easy to find the major routes, but I want to know what cities connect to what other cities.

Even more specifically, this is the potential itinerary (we're pretty set on these places as it was a compromise reached after complex negotiation, I felt like I was in Dumbarton Oaks!):

1. San Jose to Monteverde
2. Monteverde to Arenal
3. Arenal to San Jose/Volcan Irazu
4. Take a small flight from San Jose to Tortuguera
5. Tortuguera to Puerto Viejo
6. Puerto Viejo to San Jose for flight home

If you have anything to add about the order of these destinations, feel free to comment (such as if they don't make practical sense). The only stipulation is that we have to start in San Jose and want to end in Puerto Viejo.
posted by Falconetti to Travel & Transportation around Costa Rica (3 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I took a similar trip.
1. Flew into San Jose, spent the night in a bed and breakfast.
2. Taxi to bus station was late, so took a taxi directly to Arenal. This took about 4 hours to drive.
3. Spent several days in Arenal to see the volcano and the hot springs, then went to Monteverde to see the rain forests. I took a taxi into town, and then a bus to Monteverde. The bus was the local type - no schedule could be found. It took about 3 hours if I remember correctly.
4. Left Monteverde via bus (again, local bus - no real schedule and everthing was on Tica time, meaning, it'll get there when it gets there) to Puntarenas. That took 1/2 day. Spent the night in Puntarenas, then took the early morning ferry across.
5. Took a bus to Montezuma (no bus available further) then took a taxi to Malpais. This took 1/2 day.

It was a wonderful trip. If I had any one thing to do over again, though, I would rent a Jeep or similar (not a small car). Because I was travelling alone, and liked the idea of the freedom to take public transport - looking out the window instead of driving - I thought the buses would be the way to go for me. I was wrong. Every bus ran late, or had no schedule. They go the little local roads instead of the main roads, and so every trip took about 1/2 day. I would have rather spent that time sight-seeing than travelling.

It seems that they have a national bus system, a network of various local bus systems, and private buses. Most hotel websites have information about the private buses, sometimes under links called "getting here" and sometimes under links called "tours". For example, see this one or here about Monteverde.

For the national ones, see here (opens a PDF file). If that link doesn't work, go here and then on the left click General Information > Bus Itinerary. If that does not cover all you need (you need smaller bus routes), try calling their tourism office. The phone number is 1-800-343-6332.

Have a great time! Please do consider renting a vehicle, though - travel times in no way correspond to actual distance there and you might hate sitting on a bus for most of your trip. Costa Rica is absolutely beautiful.
posted by Houstonian at 2:29 AM on January 18, 2007

I'm traveling to Costa Rica at the end of February myself, so I've gathered a few links to bus information (in addition to the schedule mentioned above):
Costa Rica By Bus
Road Maps
Distances and Drive Time
More Links to More Maps
Another Travel Time Chart

If you're still looking for itinerary help, you might want to dig around The Complete Costa Rica, Tico Travel, the Lonely Planet CR Forum, or the ARCR Forum.
posted by ecrivain at 8:46 AM on January 18, 2007

I did a portion of your proposed trip in reverse. San Jose to Arenal, then on to Monteverde then back to San Jose. There is at least one early and one late bus each day, but your best bet is to ask the local tourist shops when things leave.

For the Arenal to Monteverde leg you can do a touristy Jeep-Boat-Jeep ride (which I did not do but is scheduled several times per day) which takes a back route involving a a ride across lake Arenal. Or you can take the very local bus which has school children and locals getting on and off along the trip. The bus ride is longer, but I found it to be enjoyable seeing the countryside between the two towns and the nature of local life out there. If you just want to get there fast...probably do the Jeep-boat-Jeep as it was a long bus ride.
posted by jduckles at 11:36 AM on January 18, 2007

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