Not only is San Jose the business capital of Costa Rica, it is also its cultural hub. And while it is often neglected in tourists’ itineraries, we think it’s hiding a few charms that are worth exploring if you’re already in the Central Valley.
In this bustling urban landscape, you will find colonial buildings turned museums at Barrio Amon, famed restaurants at Barrio Escalante, and lots of party pubs in El Pueblo. For some peace and quiet, you can head outside the city limits and visit Poas Volcano or La Paz Waterfall Gardens!
There are 4 options when travelling the 170km from Montezuma to San Jose: a bus for 5.5 hours, a minivan for 5 hours, a private transfer for 4.5 hours, or a flight for 2 hours (including transfers). Fares range from 8,000 CRC ($13) to 169,150 CRC ($276).
A note: all land transfers from Montezuma to San Jose include a ferry crossing from Paquera to Puntarenas. Fares should already be included in your ticket for the bus, minivan, or private transfer.
If you’re looking for the cheapest option, then pick the bus. You can get a ticket for only 8,000 CRC ($13), but still be able to enjoy a comfortable ride. Just pack in some patience as it might make a lot of stops to pick up and drop off passengers.
For a door-to-door but shared transfer, go for the minivan. With rates from 24,640 CRC ($40), you won’t have to worry about finding your way to and from bus terminals. Travel time from Montezuma to San Jose with the minivan is around 5 hours.
Would you rather travel with just your own group? Private transfers from Montezuma to San Jose are available from 169,150 CRC ($276).
The flight is the fastest option, but also the most harmful to the environment. We don’t think short-haul flights like this are worth the emissions they come with. Also, there is no airport in Montezuma, you’ll first have to travel 20km north to Tambor Airport. Combined rates, including airport transfer, start from 97,815 CRC ($159).
There are 2 bus trips available daily from Montezuma to San Jose – one departs in the morning at 06:30 and the other in the afternoon at 14:30. Both are operated by Transportes Cobano.
A ticket costs 8,000 CRC ($13) when you buy it at the bus stop at Montezuma Beach. That’s okay if you’re travelling on a weekday or if you’re buying them onsite a few days before your trip.
But if travelling on a weekend or during the busy season (December to April), we definitely recommend booking online a few days to a week before. You can do that via La Terminal. Tickets are $3 more expensive, but you’ll be guaranteed a seat on your desired date!
8,000 CRC ($13)
These buses will take you from Montezuma Beach through the rough but beautiful roads going north to Paquera Port. Here, you are to get off the bus and walk up to the ferry. You can leave your bigger bags inside the bus, but definitely take your valuables!
The ferry will take you across the strait to Puntarenas Port. Once back on land, go back to your bus (make sure to remember which one it is!). It will then take you east to San Jose. If you are heading to the airport, notify the driver so he’ll know where to drop you off.
The bus makes its final stop at Cobano Bus Stop in Paso dela Vaca, San Jose city centre. Total travel time is around 5.5 hours.
PRO-tip: Do be mindful of your belongings. Don’t board the bus until your bigger bags are inside the luggage compartment below. And make sure you get your luggage ticket. Inside, try to put your smaller bags with your valuables somewhere you can see them. Don’t put any valuables on the overhead bin.
Montezuma to San Jose by Minivan + Ferry
Duration: 5 hours Cost: 24,640 CRC ($40)
Taking a minivan from Montezuma to San Jose is much like the bus – you will travel by land from Montezuma to Paquera, board the ferry to Puntarenas, and then travel by land again to San Jose city centre or San Jose Airport.
The main difference is that the minivans pick you up from your hotel in Montezuma and then drop you off at your destination in San Jose. That takes away the hassle of finding your way to and from the bus terminals, which may also include the use of a taxi.
Ticket prices start at 24,640 CRC ($40). Travel time is more or less 5 hours, depending on which minivan you take. Although, Zuma Tours can cut down the travel time to 2.5 hours as it uses a speedboat instead of a slow ferry to cross the strait.
You can see the minivan schedules from Montezuma to San Jose below.
All of the above mentioned companies are trusted in the region. If you’re heading to San Jose Airport, go for Tropical Tours which you can book via the Tropical Tours Shuttle website. Otherwise, Montezuma Expeditions and Zuma Tours can be booked online via BookAway.
When travelling with a group from Montezuma to San Jose, booking a private transfer can be a very good option. It’s slightly more expensive than a shared minivan even when you split the cost, but nothing really beats the comfort of sharing a private ride with friends or family.
Also here though, you will take a ferry from Paquera to Puntarenas.
Combined rates for the private transfer and ferry tickets start from 169,150 CRC ($276). That’s already good for 4 persons. Are you travelling with a bigger group? There’s also a 7-seater minivan that costs 218,800 CRC ($357).
There are no direct flights from Montezuma to San Jose. To take a flight, you’ll have to get one from Tambor Airport, the nearest airport to Montezuma.
Step 1: Montezuma to Tambor Airport by Taxi
Duration: 35 minutes Cost: 30,600 CRC ($50)
Tambor Airport is located 20km north of Montezuma. The fastest way to get there is by taxi or private transfer, which takes around 35 minutes.
Most hotels already offer car services so we recommend asking your hotel first. Fares start from 30,600 CRC ($50). Tropical Tours Shuttle also offers bigger minivans that can fit 10 to 15 people. You can rent one for 33,855 CRC ($55).
Looking for a cheaper way to get to Tambor Airport? You can take the bus, but they are not direct. They make a detour in Cobano to pick up and drop off passengers, so travel time can take at least 1 hour.
Also, bus departures are not that frequent. If you really want to take this option, we suggest timing it well to ensure you arrive at Tambor Airport in time for your flight! Make sure to notify the driver where you’re headed so he can drop you off at the main road in front of the airport. Fares cost around 1,500 CRC ($2.50).
Step 2: Tambor to San Jose by Flight
Duration: 30 minutes Cost: 66,540 CRC ($108)
Sansa Regional operates 4 flights from Tambor to San Jose daily. The departure times are 07:30, 11:20, 16:35 and 16:40.
Flight time is only 30 minutes and airfares start from 66,540 CRC ($108).
Step 3: San Jose Airport to San Jose City Centre by Bus
Duration: 40 minutes Cost: 675 CRC ($1.10)
From San Jose Airport, it’s either a 40-minute bus or a 30-minute taxi to San Jose City Centre.
We recommend taking the bus as they are both cheap and comfortable. You can choose from 2 companies: TUASA (coloured red and white) and Station Wagon (coloured orange and yellow). You can get them at the main road just outside the airport.
A ticket costs around 675 CRC ($1.10) and buses are available every 10 minutes from 04:00 to 23:00. They park at TUASA Terminal in the city centre.
If you don’t mind spending more for the convenience of being dropped at your hotel’s doorstep, then you can take a taxi. You will want to hail them from the main road unless you’re willing to pay an airport surcharge. Another option is to hail one via the Uber app. Either way, rates start from 15,280 CRC ($25).
PRO-Tip: There is still a question in terms of the “legality” of Uber in Costa Rica. Although many travellers have had great experiences with it, there have also been rare cases of Uber trips being stopped and passengers being forced to transfer to a taxi. For a hassle-free journey, it might be better to just take a regular taxi from the airport.
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.