Taking shuttles in Costa Rica is a time efficient and comfortable way to get around the country. If you don’t want to drive or take the bus, booking shuttles is your best option. Here are important things you need to know about taking shuttles in Costa Rica.
First, should you book a shuttle?
There are many ways to get around Costa Rica and it really boils down to a few things. Time vs money, number of people and destinations in your itinerary. We have flown, driven, bused and shuttled all around Costa Rica and each one offers a different experience. However, taking a shuttle is ideal for those who are:
- On a time limit.
- Not on a strict budget.
- Not keen on driving.
- Looking for something simple and efficient.
If that sounds like you, then taking shuttles in Costa Rica will be the best transportation.
Advantages of Taking Shuttles in Costa Rica
There are quite a few advantages of taking shuttles in Costa Rica.
- Faster than a bus. Whether you take a private or shared shuttle (we’ll talk about that in a second), it’s way faster than a bus. You don’t need to switch buses or wait for people to get on/off. You’ll save a ton of time taking a shuttle so ask yourself, what’s more important for your Costa Rica trip: time or money?
- You can sleep! You don’t have to worry about driving at all. Just sit back, relax, enjoy the views and take a nap!
- You don’t need to worry about directions like you would if you were renting a car. Get from Point A to Point B without hassle. Getting lost is one of my personal fears when traveling abroad. A shuttle takes away all that stress.
- Way more comfortable than a bus. Cool down with AC and bigger seats. Much cleaner too! This is especially ideal for older travelers, they’ll be way more comfortable in a shuttle.
- Efficient. Did I mention that shuttles are super stress free? All you have to do is book the shuttle, get picked up and you’re good to go! And that’s awesome if you’re going to destinations that don’t have a lot of bus routes like Santa Teresa, Samara, etc.
- Meet other travelers. You’re all going to the same place so why not chat to pass the time? We’ve actually met some Mytanfeet readers who were on the same shuttle with us!
That being said, there are also disadvantages.
Disadvantages of Taking Shuttles
- Not much flexibility. One awesome thing about renting a car in Costa Rica is the flexibility. If you happen to see a cute souvenir store or restaurant, you can stop with a rental car. Not with a shuttle. Since shuttle companies are on a schedule and have other travelers, they can’t pull over on the side of the road and let you take pictures at multiple viewpoints.
- Way more expensive than a bus. A shared shuttle can be $20-85 one way per person. But again, you save a ton of time and it’s door to door, making it much more efficient.
- Limit to luggage. Since shared shuttles only have so much space, they can only allow for so much luggage per person. If you have more than the limit, there’s an extra charge.
- Can’t do direct door to door service if staying at an Airbnb or vacation rental.
- Set times. Shared shuttle companies have set times for pick up and they need to meet that schedule. If your flight gets delayed, they can’t wait you. They will help you make arrangements for the next shuttle though it may be the next day when they have availability. If you hire a private shuttle, they can wait for you even if your flight is delayed.
Our Personal Experience with Taking Costa Rica Shuttles
Want to know what it’s like to take a shuttle in Costa Rica? Read our personal experience!
We have taken shared shuttles to and from Liberia International Airport to our place near Tamarindo and have had great experiences each time. Tamarindo Tours and Transfers waited for us at the airport directly and dropped us off as close as they can to our place (we don’t live in Tamarindo proper). Granted, they have run a little late a few times because they have to pick up other passengers but they do their best to stick to a schedule.
We have taken private shuttles from San Jose International Airport to Jaco and Manuel Antonio. The driver asked us if we wanted to stop at view points to take pictures, if we needed the bathroom or wanted to go to the bank or supermarket before dropping us off. We had the entire van to ourselves and it was much more comfortable and relaxing in a private. It was also super nice to be able to ask the driver to stop for bathroom, food, etc.
Private Transportation vs Shared Transportation
The key difference between a private and shared shuttle in Costa Rica is that with a private shuttle, they wait for you directly at the airport and they don’t have a set schedule. You can ask the driver to stop at a restaurant, a souvenir store, a viewpoint or for a bathroom break. Most companies offer refreshments (bottled water) and you’ll have the entire shuttle to yourself and your group.
Costs vary depending on destinations and number of people. Private is more expensive than shared for 1- 2 travelers but comes out about the same for 4 or more. A shared shuttle from Arenal to Tamarindo is around $55 per person and a private is around $250 for 1-4 passengers.
So if you have a big group of at least 4 people, the cost works out to be cheaper or equal as a shared. However, if you have a large group (more than 8 passengers), companies will have to switch to a larger vehicle which costs more.
Private shuttles are excellent for families with young kids or seniors, since you will be able to ask the driver to stop at any time. You also have way more space, privacy and flexibility. Private shuttles also give you a more personalized experience, since many drivers like to share information about Costa Rica.
Important Things to Know About Booking Shuttles
If you are staying at an Airbnb or vacation rental, check which hotel is closest to you. Like I mentioned earlier, shared shuttle companies can’t drop off at private residencies so they’ll pick you up at the closest hotel to your place.
Check the schedule of the shuttle when booking your flight. If your flight arrives after late afternoon, you will have to get a private shuttle or wait until the next day. Shared shuttle services usually only have an AM and PM schedule. The PM shuttle is usually around 2:30 PM.
If your hotel is really far out there, shared shuttle services may not pick up or may charge extra. Some hotels are really far away so inquire first if service to that hotel is possible. If the hotel is outside their route, they’ll drop you off at the closest hotel and you will have to take a taxi the rest of the way.
Shared shuttle companies will have booster/baby seats available. Inquire about wheelchair accessibility as not all vans have the automatic lift.