While Southern Costa Rica is more remote and off-the-beaten-path than many other developed tourist destinations around the country, arriving to the Southern Zone has become much easier in recent years.
There are tons of options for you to travel safely and conveniently to Costa Rica and throughout the country. Here’s what you need to know to get started:
There are two international airports in Costa Rica.
The Juan Santamaria Airport (SJO) is the largest and most popular international airport located in the capital city, San Jose.
The second option is the Daniel Oduber Airport (LIR) in Liberia and is most commonly used for those traveling to the northwestern region.
The SJO airport is recommended if traveling to the Southern Zone.
One option for in-country travel is domestic flights. Although Costa Rica is a small country, roads can be bumpy and traveling on the ground can take full days depending on your destination. Domestic flights may be the most convenient option, and will be a huge time saver. What’s more, you’ll often get amazing views of the country out of the large windows.
Domestic flights can be taken out of SJO and into the Southern Zone at any of these locations:
The two carriers for domestic flights are Nature Air and Sansa Regional. Please note that both carriers have strict policies about baggage, cancellation, etc., and it is important to note these policies before booking.
Costa Rica is known for having one of the best public transportation systems in all of Central America. Buses are a reliable and much less expensive way to get around.
Within the City
Buses travelling within the city will stop for you at designated locations. The cost should be posted clearly on the front of the bus, but it should be less than a dollar. Make sure to sit down quickly and not linger between the bars at the front that count passengers as they enter.
Between Major Cities
Even long-distant bus rides are very inexpensive, and you will rarely pay more than $20. The best way to book tickets is in person at the station. Most buses run several times a day between destinations, and booking a ticket right before will usually not be a problem. Riding a “Directo” bus means you’ll be traveling direct to your location, while riding a “Colectivo” bus means it will stop to pick up passengers along the way.
You can opt for a private shuttle, which may be twice as expensive as the bus, but will be oriented to your comfort and satisfaction. These are air-conditioned, and the drivers are professional and highly qualified.
Rent A Car
For travelers that prefer the flexibility and freedom of traveling on your own schedule, renting a car may be a great option. Keep in mind driving in a foreign country can be daunting at times. Pick-up locations are scattered around the country, with several options available to you in San Jose and the airports.
Taxis are inexpensive, reliable ways to travel in the country. Costa Rican taxis are red and easy to spot lined up and waiting for passengers. Make sure your taxi is an official one–with the exterior red, a yellow light on top, and yellow triangle on the side. Official taxis can only pick up passengers within their province, so make sure not to get in a taxi with plates from a different province. By law, every taxi must use their meter, and you can report those that do not.
Traveling within Costa Rica is always an adventure, so allow the journey to be part of the experience!