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Costa Rica Shuttle: Shared and Private Transportation Info

Using a Costa Rica shuttle service is a great way to get to your travel destination with ease. Shared and private shuttles are available from both international airports as well as throughout the country.

There are some things you should know before reserving your transfer in Costa Rica. We created this guide to give you info on the pros and cons of both shared and private shuttles, tell you what to look out for when booking, give you info on the best shuttle options, and make you aware of potential other transportation options.

So, let’s get to it!

Just Want to Book Your Costa Rica Shuttle? Here are our go-to services in Costa Rica.

Adobe Transfers: For trustworthy private transfers anywhere in the country.

Bookaway: For the most comprehensive list of shared and private shuttle services.

What is a Shuttle Service?

A shuttle service offers a way to get to your destination via comfortable vans with experienced drivers.

In Costa Rica, it is possible to book a private transfer service that is just for you and your private group, or a shared shuttle service that consists of other travelers going to the same destination as you. 

These shuttle services allow you to sit back and relax instead of worrying about navigation and road conditions en route to your destination. 

Should You Take a Shuttle in Costa Rica?

We are typically partial to renting a car in Costa Rica for transportation just because of the flexibility it offers.

However, there are many instances in which taking a shuttle makes the most sense. 

Take a Shuttle in Costa Rica If…

  • You are staying at a resort and will not need a car for daily exploration
  • You are hesitant about driving in a foreign country. Shuttles are typically driven by experienced and knowledgeable local drivers who are familiar with the routes.
  • You are traveling with a group. A shuttle can often accommodate more passengers than renting a car can.
  • You want to be able to relax and look out the window rather than navigate the roads
  • You are a solo traveler and renting a car is too pricey
  • Rental cars are sold out due to the high season. 
  • Sometimes taking a shuttle in Costa Rica can be more cost-effective than renting a car. This really depends on the time of year and which areas of the country you plan to visit. 
  • You want local insight.  Every shuttle driver we have met has spoken at least some English and has been extra helpful. They can often provide valuable local insights, tips, and recommendations.

Don’t Take a Shuttle in Cosa Rica If…

  • You prefer the convenience of having your own vehicle readily available for spontaneous detours or explorations.
  • You get car sick easily. Some of the roads in Costa Rica are really curvy. It can be rough to sit in the back of a van during a drive like this.
  • You are on a really tight budget. In that case, public buses are better.

Shared Shuttles in Costa Rica

Shared shuttles are a popular transportation option in Costa Rica, especially for budget-conscious travelers.

Shared shuttles involve multiple passengers sharing a vehicle, typically a minibus or van, to travel from one location to another.

Sometimes these Costa Rica shuttle services include pick up and drop off from your area hotel and other times there will be a central meeting place.

Typically, shared shuttles are much more comfortable than public buses. There is air conditioning, stops along the route, and comfortable seating.

Pros of Shared Shuttles

  • Shared shuttles are generally more affordable than private options.
  • You’ll have the opportunity to connect with other travelers. This is great if you are a solo traveler and want like-minded people to hang out with at your next destination.

Cons of Shared Shuttles

  • Shared shuttles operate on fixed schedules so you will need to stick to predetermined departure times.
  •  Due to fixed routes and schedules, there’s limited flexibility for spontaneous changes or additional stops.

Private Shuttle

A private shuttle is a van or vehicle designated just for your group with an experienced driver. 

These private transportation services provide a more personalized experience, with the flexibility to choose departure times, routes, and additional stops.

Pros of Private Shuttles

  • Private shuttles will allow you to create personalized itineraries to accommodate your arrival and departure times.
  • The exclusivity of a private shuttle provides a more intimate and comfortable travel experience. We think it’s great for families, couples, or groups.
  • You can ask your driver to stop if you need to get groceries, use a restroom, take a picture etc. 

Cons of Private Shuttles

  • Private shuttles are typically more expensive than shared options
  • Due to the higher cost, private transfers may be less practical for solo travelers or small groupsl.

Shared or Private Shuttle?

Here is my opinion on if a shared or private shuttle is best for your Costa Rica vacation.

  • If you are a solo traveler opt for a shared shuttle. It will be much more affordable.
  • If you want to travel across the border to Panama or Nicaragua, opt for a shared shuttle with border transfer included. 
  • If you are traveling between popular destinations, a shared shuttle is convenient and probably the cheapest option
  • If you are a large family or friend group opt for a private service. It is typically more cost-effective.
  • If you are traveling to off-the-beaten-path destinations book a private shuttle. Most shared shuttles might not go to these spots.
  • If you need a shuttle at an unusual time, for example if you arrive at the airport at 9pm and want to get to Manuel Antonio, you will need to opt for a private shuttle. 
  • If you want to stop for groceries and see sites along the way, opt for a private shuttle.

How to Book a Private Transfers

Our favorite company for private transfer services in Costa Rica is Adobe Transfers.

Adobe Transfers can take you almost anywhere in the country. Get picked up at the airport and dropped off at your hotel several hours away, get picked up a vacation rental and dropped off at your next hotel, etc. 

They are owned by the local company, Adobe Rent-a-Car (which is our go-to company for rental car needs). 

They offer:

  • Comfortable air conditioned private vans
  • Experienced friendly drivers
  • Door-to-door service
  • Excellent customer service and communication
  • The possibility to make short stops along the way if needed.

You can get a price quote and book your private van service with Adobe Transfer here

How to Book a Shared Shuttle

Our favorite way to search for shared shuttle services is on the Bookaway website.

Bookaway is a company that works with local shuttle services so that you can easily see all available transfers between locations in one spot. 

So basically, you will be booking a shuttle service with a local Costa Rican company, but through a third party website. 

Typically we like booking directly with a company, but Bookaway is great because you can easily filter by which shuttle service works best for your budget, the hours in which you want to travel, comfort level etc. 

Also, we like Bookaway because they offer a secure platform for payment. I sometimes get a bit nervous about entering my credit card info on certain Costa Rica websites that don’t seem the most secure.

Bookaway also offers great cancellation policies. Most of their listings allow you to cancel up to 48 hours in advance for FREE! Just check each listing though because they are all different.

We have been using Bookaway for a few years now and have always had a great experience with their platform. 

Check Available Routes on Bookaway Here

Popular Routes and Destinations

Here are the most popular transfer routes in the country to the top destinations. 

San Jose to La Fortuna: La Fortuna is the most popular jungle destination in the country. This trip typically takes between 2.5 hours and 4.5 hours. 

San Jose to Monteverde: Monteverde is a cloud forest town filled with nature. A shuttle ride takes between 2 and 5 hours. 

San Jose to Jaco: Jaco Beach is the nearest Pacific Coast beach town from San Jose. A shuttle ride here generally takes between 1.5 and 3 hours. 

San Jose to Manuel Antonio: Manuel Antonio is a Pacific Ocean beach town and home to the most popular national park in the country. A shuttle ride here takes between 2.5 and 5 hours. This route is almost completely on main roads and is very comfortable. 

San Jose to Tamarindo: Tamarindo is a bustling beach town that is popular with surfers. It is located in the Guanacaste Province. A shuttle ride here typically takes between 4.5 and 6 hours.

San Jose to Puerto Viejo: Puerto Viejo is a beach town located on the southern Caribbean Coast near the Panama border. This is a long ride. It typically takes between 4 and 6 hours to get here. 

San Jose to Santa Teresa: Santa Teresa is a remote but popular beach destination on the Nicoya Peninsula. There are a few different ways to get here by shuttle. Some shuttles drive all the way and some shuttles go on the ferry over to the Nicoya Peninsula. If you have the chance, I would opt for the ferry. It’s a unique experience.

Note: Most of the above routes depart from the San Jose International Airport arrivals hall. If you would like a hotel pickup in San Jose, you will need to filter through the available shuttle services.

Some offer pickup from San Jose hotels. Most offer drop-off at all destination area hotels.

Liberia Airport to La Fortuna: This route will take between 2.5 and 5 hours. It’s a comfortable route with nice scenery in the second half of the drive. 

Liberia Airport to Tamarindo: This is a short drive. It will typically take between 1.5 and 2 hours to get her. 

Liberia Airport to Nosara: Nosara is a popular relaxed surfing village. A shuttle ride here will take about 2.5 to 4 house depending on the time of day and the stops along the way. 

Note: These are mostly Liberia Airport shuttles. If you are staying in the Liberia area and need a pickup, you will need to filter through and find shuttles that offer that. 

La Fortuna to Monteverde: These two destinations appear close on a map, but to get from La Fortuna to Monteverde you will need to ride around Lake Arenal.

Alternatively, you can book a transfer that includes a boat ride across Lake Arenal instead. This typically takes about the same amount of time and costs the same as a shuttle which drives around the lake. It becomes a shuttle ride with a fun little adventure in the middle.

I also like the boat option because the shuttle route around the lake always makes me car-sick. 

La Fortuna to Manuel Antonio: This ride typically takes between 4.5 and 6 hours. 

Costa Rica Airport Shuttles

There are two international airports in Costa Rica. These are the San Jose International Airport (SJO) in the capital city of San Jose and the Liberia International Airport (LIR) in the northwest corner of the country. 

On your first or last night in the country, you might opt to stay at a hotel near the airport. In this situation, we suggest booking a hotel with a free airport shuttle or taking a taxi.

Check out our guide to hotels near the San Jose Airport and guide to hotels near the Liberia Airport for more info.

As I mentioned above, most private and shared shuttles offer service from these airports.

In our experience, this is usually a very smooth process. Upon clearing border control and picking up your luggage you will exit the airport. There will be a crowd of people outside of the airport waiting to great and pick up passengers. Look for a person holding a sign with your name on it.

To avoid any hiccups I suggest making sure you have a contact number that you can call on the off chance that you are unable to find your driver. 

  • If you booked a private shuttle, make sure to give them your flight number ahead of time. That way they can easily track your flight and will know if you have a delayed flight.
  • If you book a shared shuttle, allow yourself about an hour of time to get through border control and pick up your luggage. Sometimes border control can be very fast here, but if a few planes arrive at one time it can also get backed up. 
  • If you are planning an airport transfer at the end of your trip, allow yourself two hours to drop off your luggage and get through border control.

Shuttles to Panama or Nicaragua

If you are planning a Central America trip and need to cross into Panama or Nicaragua there are a few ways to do that.

Most people take the public bus to the border towns, go through the exit process, walk across the border, go through the entry process, and find a public bus on the other side. 

We have done this in the past and it is doable, but it can be stressful.

Instead, I suggest booking a transfer service. Since we have done this I will never go back to the public bus route across

Shuttle to Panama

Most people who cross into Panama from Costa Rica first head to Bocas del Toro. Bocas del Toro is a series of Caribbean Coast islands that are absolutely beautiful. 

Unfortunately, it can be a full-day process to get here. 

You will need to: 

  • Get a ride to the Costa Rica border town of Sixaola
  • Pay an exit fee from Costa Rica
  • Legally exit Costa Rica
  • Cross the bridge on the border
  • Get an entry stamp into Panama
  • Take a shuttle to the boat terminal
  • Take a water taxi to Isla Colon on Bocas del Toro

By doing this with a transfer service instead of with the public bus you can avoid the confusion at the border, the hassle of finding drivers on the spot, and the stress of finding a boat to take you to Isla Colon. At a glance, most of these services may seem pricey but when you factor in the cost of the bus, water taxi services, etc. it is actually very fair. 

In our opinion, the best shuttle company for this service is Caribe Shuttle. They do this crossing every day and can keep you informed about all the important things you need to bring, changes in the border crossing, etc. 

Check out our guide to the Costa Rica/ Panama border crossing for more info.

Note: If you need to travel from San Jose to Panama City we suggest flying instead of taking a bus. It will be way faster and more comfortable. Plus you won’t have to deal with the sometimes miserable border crossing. 

Shuttle to Nicaragua

Getting to Nicaragua is typically less stressful than crossing into Panama. The border seems to run a bit smoother here. 

Check out our guide to the Costa Rica/ Nicaragua border crossing for more info. 

Transportation Once at a Destination

The downside to taking a shuttle is that once you are at your destination you will need to figure out day-to-day transportation options for activities, to get to restaurants etc.

You have a few options for this…

Stay in a Central Downtown Area

Staying in a central downtown area won’t likely help you too much for activities, but it will make it easier for you to get to restaurants and shops. 

Just keep in mind that it is always best to use caution when walking around at night here. Petty theft does sometimes happen.

Stay at Resorts

If you are looking for a resort-style vacation, you won’t have to worry too much about transportation for day-to-day activities. A lot of resorts have TONs of great amenities on site. They can also arrange day tour activities for you.

In our opinion, resorts are a great way to relax, but we suggest combining this with some exploration as well. Costa Rica is such a beautiful country. It deserves to be explored.

Stay at Hostels

If you are traveling on a budget, staying at hostels is a great way to meet like-minded people and arrange day-to-day adventures together.

This will help you save money and gives you the security that goes along with traveling with multiple people.

Book Day Tours

It is always possible to book day trips with transportation included. Our favorite website in Costa Rica for that is Viator

Rent a Car

As we have mentioned, we are big fans of renting a car in Costa Rica for exploring. If you aren’t comfortable driving the long distance to your destination and opt to take a shuttle, you can still rent a car for a few days to explore. 

cr map adobe

Our favorite rental car company Adobe has offices throughout the country. They are also happy to drop off your car to you for free within 12 miles of any of their offices.

So, for example, you could potentially take a shuttle from the San Jose Airport to La Fortuna. Then, rent a car once in La Fortuna for a few days to drive yourself to hot springs, the La Fortuna waterfall, Arenal Volcano hikes, Rio Celeste etc. 

Adobe can drop you car off to you for free at your hotel and you will be good to go!

We have partnered with Adobe to bring you a 10% car rental discount plus other great perks. Check availability and get your discount here.

Alternative Transportation Options

If you are still unsure if taking a shuttle is the best choice for you, here are your other Costa Rica transportation options.


Taking a taxi can be a good option for short travel distances. 

For example, lets say you fly into Liberia International Airport and need to go to the Papagayo Peninsula. It is often cheaper and easier to take a registered Costa Rican taxi instead of a private or shared shuttle.

If you would like to take a taxi from the Liberia Airport, just write to our favorite local family of registered taxi drivers. They can give you a price quote and will take great care of you. 

Note: Before taking a taxi please read our guide to taxis in Costa Rica. There are pirate taxi drivers who will charge you a lot more than official taxi drivers. This usually happens at bus stations. 

Domestic Flight

A domestic flight is often the fastest way to get between two destinations in the country. Surprisingly, the domestic flights in Costa Rica usually aren’t even that expensive. 

We suggest taking a domestic flight if:

  • You have a short vacation and want to make the most of it.
  • You are traveling a far distance. For example, from San Jose to the Osa Penisnula (Corcovado National Park area).
  • You don’t mind spending a bit more for your transportation
  • You want the epic aerial views of the country.

Just note that these domestic planes are small. If you have a fear of flying this is probably not the best option for you. 

Unique Transfer Options

Besides straightforward shuttle transfers, there are also a few unique transfer options in Costa Rica. 

For example, one of our favorite ways to get between two locations is with an adventure transfer. 

For example, lets say you need to take a shuttle from La Fortuna to Puerto Viejo. Instead of just booking a normal shuttle ride it is possible to book a transfer that includes a stop for some type of adventure in the middle.

Two of our favorite adventure transfers are:

La Fortuna to San Jose or Puerto Viejo

⭐️ RATING: 4.5/5 Stars on Viator | ⏳ TOUR LENGTH:  10 hours ✅ Book it!

This thrilling white water rafting day tour departs from La Fortuna. After your fun rafting adventure you will have the option of transferring to San Jose or Puerto Viejo.

La Fortuna to Manuel Antonio

⭐️ RATING: 5/5 Stars on Viator | ⏳ TOUR LENGTH:  8 hours | ✅ Book it!

On this tour, you will get to enjoy an exhilarating white-water rafting experience down the Balsa River.

Begin your adventure with a convenient pick-up from your hotel, followed by a short 30-minute drive to the starting point.

For the next 2 hours, navigate through enthralling rapids like “Magnetic Rock” and “Dredges”.

After rafting you will enjoy a delicious lunch. Then you will embark on a 4-hour journey to Manuel Antonio, in a comfortable air-conditioned vehicle.

You’ll reach Manuel Antonio by 7 pm.

Rental Car

Renting a car and driving in Costa Rica is often more affordable than shuttles and day tours, depending on the number of people in your travel group.

Check out our guide to Costa Rica transportation for all the best ways to get around the country. 

Our Costa Rica Shuttle Tips

  • Don’t forget to purchase travel insurance. This not only is great to have to get money back for medical-related things, but is also helpful for changed in travel plans. For example, if your flight is delayed and you miss your connecting shuttle you can submit your receipts to get that reimbursed. 
  • Make sure to arrive about 15 minutes early for your shuttle service. It can sometimes be difficult to figure out exactly where to go (if you are a meeting at select point).
  • If you need to communicate with the driver before your pick up, most people use Whatsapp as the main text messaging platform here. 
  • We suggest bringing some drinks or small snacks with you if you will have a long shared shuttle ride. You might not stop too often. Just don’t drink too much to the point that you need to use the bathroom constantly!
  • In Costa Rica, it is always nice to leave a tip for services, but it is not completely necessary. We usually give about 10% in either US dollars or colones as a thank you to the driver.
  • Keep in mind that Costa Rica is the land of Pura Vida. Sometimes things here are just way too relaxed and don’t go as planned. Your driver might be late, you might get stuck in a few hours of traffic etc. Just try to take it in stride. It’s all part of the Costa Rica experience. 
  • Book early if possible. This especially applies during the dry season. Things can book out fast!
  • If you tend to get car sick, bring some motion sickness pills. They will help you a lot!

Ready to Book Your Shuttle Service?

Adobe Transfers: For trustworthy private transfers anywhere in the country.

Bookaway: For the most comprehensive list of shared and private shuttle services.

Conclusion: Costa Rica Shuttles

In conclusion, shared and private shuttles are both great transportation options in Costa Rica. They provide a more stress-free alternative to renting a car and can be more cost-effective.

If you have any questions about shuttles in Costa Rica, don’t hesitate to leave them in the comment section below. We are always happy to help you plan!

You Might Also Like:

Costa Rica Travel Details: What You Need to Know

🚗 Should I rent a car in Costa Rica?

Having a rental car will give you the most flexibility when traveling in Costa Rica. This will also allow you to take fun day trips on your own.

🏄🏽 How can I book things to do?

We find that Viator tends to have the most comprehensive selection of activities with secure booking and good cancellation policies.

🍍 I’m overwhelmed with planning. Can you help?

Of course! I suggest joining our Facebook group for specific questions and head to our Start Here Page to get started planning.

✈️ What is the best way to book a flight?

Usually, we have the best luck finding great prices with Skyscanner. Check for flights to both San Jose Airport (SJO) and Liberia Airport (LIR).

🛏️ What is the best way to book my Costa Rica hotels?

We highly suggest Booking.com for hotel bookings and typically use VRBO for Costa Rica vacation rentals.

🗣️What is the main language in Costa Rica?

The main language in Costa Rica is Spanish. Most people working in tourism speak at least some English.

💰 What is the currency in Costa Rica?

The currency used in Costa Rica is the Costa Rican colón (CRC). However, the US dollar is widely accepted in most tourist areas

📞 What is the best way to stay connected?

An eSIM from Airalo is the easiest way to get 4G data while traveling in Costa Rica.

🌴 Is Costa Rica safe?

Generally, Costa Rica is considered safe for tourists. However, like any travel destination, it’s best to use caution and be aware of your surroundings.

🛂 Do you need a passport to go to Costa Rica?

Yes, Costa Rica is its own country. You will need a passport to visit.