Taking shuttles in Costa Rica is a time efficient and comfortable way to get around the country. If you know you don’t want to drive and don’t want to take the bus, booking shuttles is your best option. Here are our tips for taking shuttles in Costa Rica.
Tips for Taking Shuttles in Costa Rica
Should you book a shuttle?
There are many ways to get around Costa Rica (read our guide) 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 boated 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 and Disadvantages 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 and it can get really stressful especially if you’re traveling in the dark or on your own without a GPS. 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 in Costa Rica
- Not much flexibility. One awesome thing about renting a car 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 to pick up/drop off, they can’t pull over on the side of the road and let you take pictures at multiple viewpoints.
- More expensive than a bus. A shared shuttle can be $20-50 one way per person. But again, you save a ton of time and it’s 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 pieces than the limit, there’s an extra charge.
- Can’t do direct door to door service if staying at an Airbnb or vacation rental. Most shared shuttle services can only drop off and pick up at hotels so you will have to walk to the closest hotel.
- 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 for you but they will help you make arrangements to get picked up at the next time, though it may be hours later. If you hire a private shuttle, they can wait for you but it’s more $$.
Our Personal Experience with Taking Shuttles in Costa Rica
Even though we have a car, Yeison and I have taken our fair share of shuttles, particularly airport shuttles. We book a shared shuttle to and from LIR airport to our place in Villarreal (near Playa Tamarindo) and have had great experiences each time.
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 and usually give you an earlier pick up time to accommodate for possible tardiness.
Private Versus Shared
Private is obviously a lot more expensive than shared for 1- 2 travelers but the key difference is with a private shuttle, they can wait for you at the airport in case your flight is delayed and they don’t have to adhere to the shared shuttle schedule. You can ask the driver to stop at a restaurant, a souvenir store, a viewpoint or for a bathroom break. Most companies offer water and drinks and you’ll have the entire shuttle to yourself and your group.
Costs vary depending on destinations and number of people. A shared shuttle from Arenal to Tamarindo is around $55 per person and a private is around $330 for 1-5 passengers. So if you have a big group from or 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.
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, many 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 you flight arrives super early at 5 AM or really late around 11 PM, you will have to get a private shuttle or another form of transportation. Shared shuttle services usually only have 1-2 services in the morning and afternoon, more popular routes have more times.
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. Or 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.
Costa Rica Shuttle Discount
Are you ready to book your shuttles for your Costa Rica trip? We have an awesome discount for you! We partnered with Interbus, one of the oldest transportation companies in Costa Rica to give our readers 10% off their shuttle booking. They have been operating for over 25 years and have offices all over the country in Manuel Antonio, Tamarindo, Samara, Santa Teresa, Montezuma, La Fortuna, San Jose and Puerto Viejo. They offer a small shared shuttle service with vans holding up to only 10 passengers so wait times are not that long and it’s very comfortable and spacious.
Please email us at hello @ Mytanfeet . com for a quote or to make a shuttle booking. Please include your name, number of travelers, dates and times for the shuttle and your pick up and drop off locations. If you are staying at a vacation rental, please find out the closest hotel to your location as Interbus can only pick up at hotels. Also please note that Interbus can’t pick up directly from SJO airport, they can pick up at the Denny’s in front of the airport. Destinations are Manuel Antonio, Tamarindo, Samara, Santa Teresa, Montezuma, La Fortuna, San Jose and Puerto Viejo.