Located in the Central Valley is Costa Rica’s business and cultural capital: San Jose. It’s a vibrant urban landscape often neglected by tourists. But give it a chance and you might find that it has a unique charm worth discovering for 1 or 2 days.
We recommend trying out the famed restaurants at Barrio Escalante, checking out the colonial buildings turned museums at Barrio Amon, or partying the night away in El Pueblo. You can even venture outside the city limits to visit Poas Volcano or La Paz Waterfall Gardens!
You can choose from 4 ways when travelling the 170km distance from Manuel Antonio to San Jose: a 3.5-hour bus, a 4-hour minivan, a 3-hour private transfer, or a 1.5-hour flight (including transfers). Rates range from 5,520 CRC ($9) to 130,461.5 CRC ($209).
The bus is definitely the cheapest option and the one we prefer. Bus tickets from Manuel Antonio to San Jose cost only 5,520 CRC ($9), just a fourth of the amount of a minivan ticket. You can complete the journey in around 3.5 hours.
If you want the perk of being picked up and dropped off at your hotels, then the minivan is an expensive yet convenient alternative. Ticket prices start from 28,240 CRC ($46). Just note that they may take longer than the bus due to the many stops they make.
Are you travelling with a big group? If yes, then we recommend taking a private transfer. Rates start from 130,461.5 CRC ($209) for a 7-seater private vehicle. What we love about this option is that it can be cheaper than a shared minivan when you split the cost.
When taking a flight from Manuel Antonio to San Jose, you’ll have to fly from Quepos. However, for this short journey that only takes 3.5 hours by bus, we don’t see the advantage of flying.
If you decide to fly though, please consider including a carbon compensation fee to help reduce your impact on the environment. Especially short-haul flights have a relatively high negative effect on the environment compared to land transfers.
Tracopa operates 6 daily trips from Manuel Antonio to San Jose. These are available from 04:05 to 17:00 at the Tracopa Bus Terminal in Manuel Antonio town centre.
A ticket costs 5,520 CRC ($9) and you can only buy it at the bus station. So we recommend arriving there around 30 minutes prior to departure time to be guaranteed a seat. Alternatively, you can drop by the terminal at least a day prior to purchase your ticket.
Travel time by bus from Manuel Antonio to San Jose is around 3.5 hours. You can see the bus schedules below.
These schedules are for the direct (directo) buses. Be careful to take the direct ones and not the collective (collectivo). Otherwise, travel time can take 1 to 2 hours longer due to the collectivo’s many stops to pick up and drop off passengers.
PRO-tip: As beautiful and relaxing as Manuel Antonio is, try to be mindful of your luggage! The bigger ones will be stored in the luggage compartment. Make sure they’re in before boarding the bus and don’t forget to get your luggage ticket. As for your smaller bags, this is where you can keep your valuables, but put them somewhere you can see them all the time, instead of the overhead bin.
Manuel Antonio to San Jose by Minivan
Duration: 4 hours Cost: 28,240 CRC ($46)
A more convenient yet (a bit) slower option from Manuel Antonio to San Jose is the shared minivan shuttle, also called collectivo.
You can choose from 4 minivan companies: RideCR, Interbus, Gray Line, and Desafio Adventure Company. All are very reliable, so you can just choose depending on your schedule and budget.
Ticket prices start from 28,240 CRC ($46). It’s more expensive than the bus as the rates include hotel pick up and drop off. But at least you can save on the possible taxi ride going to and from bus terminals.
Note though that it’s these stops that make travel time with the minivan longer than that of the bus.
28,240 CRC ($46)
35,600 CRC ($58)
Desafio Adventure Company
Every hour, 24/7
36,830 CRC ($60)
It’s best to book online beforehand when it comes to minivan tickets as they sell out really quick. All of the abovementioned options can be booked through their respective company websites. But we recommend purchasing your tickets through BookAway for cheaper rates and a more user-friendly interface.
Manuel Antonio doesn’t have its own airport, but you can still easily take a flight from Quepos, located some 10km north.
Travel time by flight from Manuel Antonio to San Jose is around 1.5 hours, already including transfers to and from the airports.
Step 1: Manuel Antonio to Quepos Airport by Taxi
Duration: 15 minutes Cost: 9,200 CRC ($15)
Quepos Airport is only 15 minutes away from San Antonio when you take a taxi. We recommend this when you’re in a hurry and travelling with a group. Rates start from 9,200 CRC ($15).
An alternative option is to take the bus, but there are no direct buses from Manuel Antonio to Quepos Airport. You’ll first have to take one bus to Quepos city centre, and then another bus from there to Quepos Airport. Travel time may take up to 1 hour, but it’s worth noting that the combined cost is only around 1,840 CRC ($3).
Step 2: Quepos to San Jose by Flight
Duration: 30 minutes Cost: 53,540 CRC ($87)
A flight from Quepos to San Jose takes only 30 minutes. You can choose from 2 carriers: Sansa Regional (available all year round) and Costa Rica Green Airways (available only on the off-peak season).
Departure times vary depending on what season you’re visiting. Ticket prices start from 53,540 CRC ($87).
Step 3: San Jose Airport to San Jose City Centre by Bus
Duration: 40 minutes Cost: 675 CRC ($1.10)
We prefer taking the bus from San Jose Airport to the city centre. Buses offered by either TUASA (coloured white and red) and Station Wagon (yellow and orange) are cheap and comfortable. A ticket costs 675 CRC ($1.10) for the 40-minute journey.
To take the bus, you’ll have to hail one from the main road just outside the airport. They are available every 10 minutes from 04:00 to 23:00. Buses park at TUASA Terminal in San Jose city centre.
Alternatively, you can take a 30-minute taxi. There are taxis inside the airport, but they come with extra fees. To avoid that, you can also just easily hail a taxi from the main road. There’s also Uber, although they’re not 100% reliable. Rates start from 15,280 CRC ($25).
PRO-Tip: Many locals still question the legality of Uber in Costa Rica. Although lots of tourists have had great experiences with them, every now and then there would be a case of a car being stopped in the middle of the journey. In which case the passengers are forced to transfer to a regular taxi.
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.