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How To Get From San Jose To La Fortuna

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Getting From San Jose to La Fortuna

Hundreds of thousands of tourists travel annually from San Jose to La Fortuna. And you might be planning on going this route, but you’re probably not sure whether or not you should rent a car, hire a private transportation service, or use the Costa Rican public transportation system to make it, right?

Don’t worry. I got you. Many people have come to me with this question, and I’ve helped them find the best ways to get from San Jose to La Fortuna in the most appropriate way. People have different backgrounds and needs. Thus, what may work for some might not work for others.

Therefore, this article will discuss the main ways to get from San Jose to La Fortuna, from using public buses to hiring a private transportation service. Let’s dive in and find out which option is best for you.

Disclaimer: I’m not too fond of ads on educational pages like this one because it ruins the reader experience. Therefore, I keep my website ad-free. However, I still need a way to make a living. Thus, this article contains affiliate links to book transportation, from which I earn a small commission at no additional cost to you. After reading this post, if you decide to book a tour, please consider using the links on this post so that I can continue sharing unbiased, helpful information with your support. 

The Best Ways To Get From San Jose to La Fortuna

  1. Public Transportation
  2. Group Shuttles
  3. Private Car Service
  4. Driving (Car Rental)

Let’s dive right in:

There are four ways to get from San Jose to La Fortuna, Costa Rica. You can take the public bus, go on a group shuttle, hire a private transportation service or rent a car and drive. In general, the first two options are more affordable, but the latter is more convenient.

Riding the public bus is the cheapest way to get from San Jose to La Fortuna, while driving is usually the fastest way to travel there.

On the other hand, getting a private transportation service is the easiest option, while going on a group shuttle gives you the best balance between cost-effectiveness and time efficiency. 

Keep scrolling to find out how each option ranks against each other based on its pros and cons, and learn a few tips and recommendations to help you make the best out of your trip from San Jose to La Fortuna. 

What’s The Cheapest Way to Get from San Jose to La Fortuna?

a blue bus parked on the side of a road

The cheapest way to get from San Jose to La Fortuna is to use the public bus service for 2,600 colones (approximately $5) per person. The bus departs from San Jose downtown every day at 8:40 am and it arrives at La Fortuna between noon and 1 pm.

Compared to all the other ways to get from San Jose to La Fortuna, riding the bus is the cheapest way, as shown in the below comparison table. 

Most Affordable Ways to Get from San Jose to La Fortuna

Transportation Service Price Per Person (USD)
Public Bus $4 – $5
Driving (Car Rental) $30 – $60
Group Shuttle $50 – $60
Private Transfer $80 – $100

Notes:

  • The above rates do not include the 13% IVA tax.
  • These prices assume there is a minimum of two travelers.
  • Renting a car consists of the base rate, insurance, and fuel.
  • Prices can fluctuate throughout the year based on the market conditions and demand.

Public Bus Schedule from San Jose to La Fortuna

The following chart shows the current schedule for the bus from San Jose to La Fortuna. The following schedules may change throughout the year, and we do our best to keep this table updated. If you notice an error, please get in touch and let us know so we can correct it.

Day Departure Times
Monday 8:40 am
Tuesday 8:40 am
Wednesday 8:40 am
Thursday 8:40 am
Friday 8:40 am
Saturday 8:40 am
Sunday 8:40 am

Cons of Riding the Public Bus from San Jose to La Fortuna

Even though riding the bus from San Jose to La Fortuna is very inexpensive, there are a few significant disadvantages of using this means of transportation to get to La Fortuna. 

You Can’t Purchase the Bus Tickets to La Fortuna Online

The first disadvantage of riding the bus from San Jose to La Fortuna is that you can’t purchase the tickets online. You have to buy them at the terminal. And they sell the tickets on a “first come, first served” basis.

The main problem with this is that they have a limited number of ticket sales, so you have to get to the terminal as early as possible to secure your spot. The other problem is that regular users, locals who ride the bus periodically, know they have to get early, so almost everyone shows up early to get their tickets. 

The bus from San Jose to La Fortuna can hold up to 70 people, out of which only 50 passengers can go seated, while the other 20 passengers will need to travel standing. The bus doesn’t always get full. Almost everyone will get a seat on an average bus ride, but there will be a few users who will need to travel standing from time to time.

For example, during the high tourism season, from December through April, it is common to see a few users travel standing. As I wrote in my article “How to Get From San Jose to Monteverde,” I know what it’s like to travel standing for 5+ hours on a bus, and is not cool. It’s not dramatic, but it is pretty uncomfortable. 

The bus from San Jose to La Fortuna leaves the terminal at 8:40 am, so I recommend that you get to the station at around 8 am to secure your spot. Here is a Google Map of the station’s address. You can share it with a taxi driver to help them understand where you are going:

The Bus from San Jose to La Fortuna Can Be Uncomfortable

Another disadvantage of using the public bus to get from San Jose to La Fortuna is the discomfort you can experience during the trip. Aside from the possibility of traveling standing for the entire time, as discussed in the previous section, there can also be babies crying, people talking loudly at 7 am, and even young kids throwing up on the bus, which can make for a pretty lousy experience. 

Another factor that tends to put people off is the fact that the bus from San Jose to La Fortuna does not have air conditioning. Not having air conditioning in a 4-hour bus ride can be problematic. Especially considering that the bus goes through some pretty hot and humid places such as La Tigra de San Carlos.

I remember when I lived in San Jose and I had to travel to Heredia every day on public buses without air conditioning every day. In a country where you can expect rain at any given moment, especially during the rainy season from May through November, traveling by bus without A/C can result in one of two problems. Either people open the windows because it’s hot, and then some rain will come through the window and hit the face of those sitting in the back seat. Or, people keep the windows closed, and it gets super humid and hot inside the bus.

I lived those experiences many times and I can tell, neither situation is fun. That’s why I recommend you avoid traveling by bus from San Jose to La Fortuna if you can afford any of the other ways of transportation mentioned in this article

The Bus from San Jose to La Fortuna Takes a Long Time

The last disadvantage of using the public bus from San Jose to La Fortuna is that the trip can get long.

The public bus from San Jose to La Fortuna takes between 4 and 6 hours from the bus terminal in San Jose to the last stop in La Fortuna, depending on the traffic conditions. These average travel times include all the stops the bus needs to do to pick up travelers at various locations throughout the route.

The morning bus leaves San Jose at 8:40 am and gets to La Fortuna at around 1 pm. 

Bus From San Jose to La Fortuna – Quick Summary

  • The bus is $5 per person.
  • The bus leaves San Jose at 8:40 am.
  • The bus tickets sell on a “first come, first served” basis.
  • You can call the office to find out if they have seats available: +506-2460-5064
  • You can’t purchase bus tickets online. You have to buy them in person.
  • You need to purchase the tickets at the bus terminal: Terminal 7-10.
  • Map to get to the terminal from where the bus leaves San Jose: 

 

What’s The Fastest Way to Get from San Jose to La Fortuna?

Compared to all the other ways to get from San Jose to La Fortuna, driving is the fastest way, as shown in the below comparison table. 

Fastest Ways to Get from San Jose to La Fortuna

Transportation Service How Long it Takes
Driving (Car Rental)* 2 – 3 Hours
Private Transfer* 3 – 4 Hours
Group Shuttle 3 – 4 Hours
Public Bus 4 – 5 Hours

*Going on a Private Transfer can be faster if you’re not used to driving in Costa Rica.

What’s the Drive Time from San Jose to La Fortuna?

The drive time from San Jose to La Fortuna takes between 2 and 3 hours, depending on the traffic conditions in San Jose. The traffic from San Jose to La Fortuna is usually better in mid-mornings, except on Saturdays when many locals travel to La Fortuna to spend the day at the hot springs.

How is the Drive from San Jose to La Fortuna?

Cons of Driving from San Jose to La Fortuna

Even though driving is the fastest way to get from San Jose to La Fortuna, it also comes with a couple of caveats you should consider before you decide to rent a car for this trip. 

Driving Might Not Be the Fastest Way of Getting to La Fortuna

Driving is not always the fastest way of getting to La Fortuna. As mentioned above, on average, it takes between 2 and 3 hours to drive from San Jose to La Fortuna. However, these averages are more realistic and applicable to those used to driving in Costa Rica. They do not necessarily apply to foreigners. 

The Google Maps average time from San Jose to La Fortuna uses real-time traffic speed to calculate the estimated travel time. However, most tourists drive at a significantly slower pace than locals. You will experience this if you decide to rent a car for your trip to Costa Rica. More likely than not, you will drive more slowly than Costa Ricans, and that’s because you will probably want to enjoy the incredible scenery, while the average local will be rushing to get home from work. 

Therefore, as a general rule, I recommend adding 30 to 60 minutes to the estimated driving time the GPS device/app gives you

I want to reiterate that the road gets pretty dark after 5 pm, which begs the following question;

Is it Safe to Drive from San Jose to La Fortuna at Night? 

In general, driving from San Jose to La Fortuna at night is unsafe, especially if you have never done it before. The road is very dark and difficult to see. And the route is full of sharp turns and dangerous curves, which, combined with the road’s darkness, can make driving unsafe for most people. 

There are two main routes to drive from San Jose to La Fortuna, which might be faster or slower depending on your departure location. For example, if you are departing from San Jose downtown, then your GPS device will probably send you through route 32 and then route 4 as shown on this map from Google. On the other hand, if you depart from San Jose’s northwest region, your GPS will send you through Route 1 (General Cañas) and then Route 702 (San Ramon), as displayed on this other map from Google.

Both of these routes have three things in common. First, both of them are very dark at night. Secondly, both of them are highly used by large trucks that transport goods and materials from the country’s capital to La Fortuna. And third, they have tons of sharp turns. These three factors make driving through these roads a real challenge.

I recommend you avoid driving from San Jose to La Fortuna at night. If you are arriving in Costa Rica after 5 pm and you plan to head to La Fortuna, my recommendation is to either spend the first night nearby the airport or hire a private transportation service that can safely take you from the airport to La Fortuna.

Keep the above in mind when planning your trip to Arenal. And if you decide to rent a car, I recommend using the Rental Car Comparison Tool. You can find the best car rental deals in one place. Choose the city or airport where you plan to pick up a rental car, and the tool will instantly show you the best deals across the major rental car companies in Costa Rica. 

What’s The Easiest Way to Get from San Jose to La Fortuna?

a group of people posing for the camera

Hiring a Private Transportation Service, or a “Private Shuttle,” as locals call it, is the easiest way to get from San Jose to La Fortuna. With a private shuttle, you can arrange a specific time and place, and a transportation company will pick you up there and take you directly to your lodge in La Fortuna. 

Compared to all the other ways to get from San Jose to La Fortuna, hiring a private transportation service is the easiest way. You don’t need to worry about taking your luggage to a bus terminal in the middle of San Jose, compromising the safety of your belongings. 

You also don’t need to worry about driving in a foreign country with roads that might differ significantly from the streets you’re used to riding back home. Instead, you arrange the time and place, and a local professional driver with a modern vehicle will take you to your destination in La Fortuna. 

The only disadvantage of hiring this type of transportation service is the price. Going on a private transfer is the most expensive way to get from San Jose to Arenal. It’s the most comfortable, convenient, and easiest option, but it’s pricey. 

Depending on the pickup place, getting from San Jose to La Fortuna on a private transfer will cost between $180 and $200 for 1 to 6 passengers. The pickup time can also influence your pricing. For example, if you arrive at the SJO Airport late at night (usually after 5 pm), the prices for this service might get $20+ higher. 

Prices for private transfers are also subject to increase as demand rises, especially during the busiest days, so I recommend booking ahead of time. 

There is one scenario where hiring a private transfer from San Jose to La Fortuna will not be the most expensive option. That’s when your party is four or more passengers. 

Group shuttles charge a per-person price, while private transfers charge a per-trip fee. Using a shared shuttle will cost $67 per adult, so the total for four adults would be $268. In contrast, the same trip with a private shuttle might cost you around $200. 

So, in this scenario, it’s not only more comfortable and convenient to hire a private transfer, but it’s also more economically efficient. You can use this link to see availability and prices in real-time if this is your case.  

Using a Group Shuttle to Get from San Jose to La Fortuna

a van parked on the side of a road

Getting a group shuttle from San Jose to La Fortuna is an excellent choice for solo travelers and couples. A group shuttle is a daily shared transportation service from San Jose to La Fortuna. A modern Van with A / C will pick you up at your lodge in San Jose and take you to your destination in La Fortuna. 

As a general rule, taking a group shuttle, or a “shared shuttle,” as the locals call it, is the most recommended door-to-door way to get from San Jose to La Fortuna for most travelers. Group shuttles are convenient and provide the best balance, saving time and money for travelers in most cases.

On a group shuttle, you share the shuttle service with fellow travelers and the cost, which is usually the best option for solo travelers and couples. Using this option to get to La Fortuna will be far more convenient than riding the public bus and significantly less expensive than hiring a private transfer. 

Using a group shuttle is also more manageable and less stressful than renting a car and driving. The price can change depending on the seasonality and demand, but it’s usually around $50 to $60 per person. 

Using a Taxi to Get from San Jose to La Fortuna

Another way to travel from San Jose to La Fortuna is by taxi. This option is not very popular as the media surfaced several reports of foreigners getting scammed over the last decade. 

Local news has also reported this issue multiple times as taxi drivers have altered their vehicles. They have managed to do this by manipulating their taximeter, which they use to determine how much to charge based on time spent and distance driven. 

According to some reports, customers have been charged up to 2 times what they should have been. Travelers have widely discussed this problem in travel forums, leading taxi drivers to lose credibility, and as a result, tourists have lost faith in this means of transportation. 

However, there are some instances where you can use the taxi service safely. For example, you can get a taxi through a hotel receptionist. According to our sources from Hotel El Bosque Monteverde, having a supervisor check on receptionist’s recommendations and referrals is usual among the hotel industry in Costa Rica. Supervising the recommendations receptionists provide to hotel guests helps ensure travelers get the best suggestions. 

Using the International Airport taxi services is another safe option to ensure you pay the correct amount for a taxi ride. The airport’s officials have strict protocols to ensure taximeters charge the proper amount to tourists. 

Now that we are talking about airports, this article would not be complete without answering the following related question, which I often get from people who are traveling to Costa Rica for the first time and are trying to decide which airport to use when arriving at the country;

How Much is a Taxi from San Jose Airport to La Fortuna?

As mentioned above, there are some situations where you can safely take a taxi to get from San Jose to La Fortuna.

Generally, a taxi from San Jose airport to La Fortuna is $130 to $160. The price depends on the number of travelers in your party, how heavy the traffic is at a given time, and where you are heading in La Fortuna. You can get a more accurate estimate at the San Jose airport. 

Here’s the end of this article. Thank you for reading this far, and feel free to share this info with fellow travelers as you deem appropriate. Happy travels and ¡Pura Vida, amigos!

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About the Author

Daniel Lalinde holding a mountain bikeDaniel Lalinde

I am the founder of Monteverde Tours Online. I live in Monteverde and love nature, adventure, and Mountain Biking. My partner and I love spending time outdoors and dining in Monteverde. We have more than 30 years of combined experience in the area, and there is no park, coffee shop, or restaurant we haven’t tried at least once!

We love helping visitors and connecting them with the different tours and activities to have a memorable experience in Monteverde.

If you need help planning things to do in the area, send us a message, and we will happily assist you!