San Jose is a bustling urban landscape in the Central Valley of Costa Rica. Being the capital of Costa Rica, it may not be as pretty as the beach and jungle destinations that the country is known for. But if you are stopping by anyway, might as well explore for a few hours or a day before moving on to your next stop.
Within the city, you can check out the colonial buildings turned museums at Barrio Amon, try out the famed restaurants at Barrio Escalante, or party the night away in El Pueblo. If you want to venture outside the city limits, the Poas Volcano and La Paz Waterfall Gardens are highly recommended!
There are 4 ways you can cross the 130km distance from La Fortuna to San Jose: via a direct or indirect bus for 4 hours, a minivan for also 4 hours, or a private transfer for 3 hours. Expect to pay between 3,070 CRC ($5) and 94,560 CRC ($154).
The bus is the cheapest option at 3,070 CRC ($5). They’re not quite as comfortable as the minivan or private transfer, but you really can’t argue with that rate. Even the cheapest minivan is 10x more expensive!
There is only one direct bus operating from La Fortuna to San Jose, leaving at 14:45. If it doesn’t fit your schedule, you can take an indirect bus via Ciudad Quesada. Combined rates also cost around $5. Travel time with the bus (direct or indirect) is 4 to 6 hours, depending on traffic.
If you don’t mind spending a bit more and would like to be picked up and dropped off at your hotels, the minivan will be a better option. Fares start from 31,310 CRC ($51). Quite expensive, but more comfortable and reliable. They don’t make as many stops as the buses so you are more guaranteed of a 4-hour travel time.
For groups, it’s worth considering taking a private transfer if you don’t want to go by bus. You can choose from various types of vehicles – from regular cars to more luxurious ones. Rates start from 94,560 CRC ($154) for a 6-seater minivan.
There is only one direct bus available from La Fortuna to San Jose. This is operated by Transportes San Carlos. It departs from the town’s bus terminal at 14:45 and arrives at Terminal 7-10 in San Jose city centre at around 18:45.
Note that travel time is highly dependent on traffic. So it really can take between 4 to 6 hours. You can buy your ticket at the bus station for 3,070 CRC ($5).
PRO-tip: It’s always best to be mindful of your luggage. When leaving them at the compartment below the bus, make sure to watch the driver put them in and get your luggage ticket before boarding. As for the smaller bags with your valuables, it’s safer to put them in front of you than on the overhead bin.
La Fortuna to San Jose by Indirect Bus
Duration: 4 hours Cost: 3,765 CRC ($6.10)
If you missed the direct bus, you can also take an indirect bus from La Fortuna to San Jose. For this option, you’ll have to make a bus transfer at Ciudad Quesada, a town located 45km southwest of La Fortuna.
Step 1: La Fortuna to Ciudad Quesada by Bus
Duration: 1 hour Cost: 1,915 CRC ($3.10)
There are a number of buses operating from La Fortuna to Ciudad Quesada from 05:10 in the morning to 21:20 in the evening.
There are 2 routes available: via El Tanque to the north and via Chachagua to the south. The El Tanque route is a bit faster, but the Chachagua route is more beautiful. Either way, you will arrive at Ciudad Quesada Terminal after a little over an hour.
Make sure you’re out of La Fortuna before 17:00 if you want to make it in time for the last connecting bus from Ciudad Quesada to San Jose.
A ticket costs 1,915 CRC ($3) and you can buy them at the station.
Step 2: Ciudad Quesada to San Jose by Bus
Duration: 3 hours Cost: 1,850 CRC ($3)
At Ciudad Quesada Bus Stop, you can then transfer to another bus going to San Jose. You should be able to catch one any time between 04:30 to 18:15.
The bus journey from Ciudad Quesada to San Jose takes around 3 hours without traffic. You can get a ticket for 1,850 CRC ($3). Buses park at Terminal 7-10 at Paso de la Vaca, San Jose city centre.
La Fortuna to San Jose by Minivan
Duration: 4 hours Cost: 33,900 CRC ($55)
A more comfortable shared option is to take a minivan from La Fortuna to San Jose. You can choose from 4 minivan operators: Interbus, Gray Line, Desafio Adventure Company, and Tropical Tours Shuttle.
Interbus and Gray Line offer hotel-to-hotel transfers. Desafio and Tropical Tours, on the other hand, can take you from your hotel in La Fortuna to San Jose Airport.
Rates from La Fortuna to San Jose city centre start from 33,900 CRC ($55). Travel time is around 4 hours to the city centre and 3 hours to San Jose Airport.
You can see a more detailed list of schedules and prices in the table below. We also did the work of finding the cheapest rates so you can easily book them using the respective booking links!
We don’t recommend buying minivan tickets onsite on the day of your trip as there’s a risk of tickets being sold out. So just book them online beforehand, it’s more convenient and there’s no additional fee.
Online, you can only purchase Tropical Tours tickets through its own website. The rest of the options are cheaper and easier to book on BookAway!
Barceló hotel blows most other city hotels out of the water. It has amenities usually only found in resorts and for extortionate prices. Here you’ll find an outdoor pool, spa, gym, 3 squash courts and 2 tennis courts. Plus they offer a free airport shuttle.
If you don’t fancy venturing out of the hotel to get some food, no worries! There’s 3 restaurants and a bar on site offering a variety of different cuisines. The rooms are spacious and clean, offering comfortable beds for a good night's sleep.
Isla Verde Hotel is a real gem within the urban jungle that is San Jose. They have so many extras that you wouldn’t expect for the price - a gym, free shuttle to the airport and a great breakfast every morning.
The hotel is ultra-modern, boasting some beautifully designed rooms and seating areas. All of which are very clean and comfortable. If you don’t feel like venturing too far for food, their onsite restaurant selling Cantonese food is highly reviewed!
Eco Stay Hostel can start to feel like home after a while as it has a shared living room, communal kitchen, a lovely garden area, and even barbeque facilities. You can also spend your evenings having a friendly competition of snooker or darts.
The friendly hosts also make you feel at home. Making sure that your room is clean and comfortable, whilst offering their help in any way that they can. The rooms are basic, but nicely decorated and have everything you could need whilst in San Jose.