La Fortuna is a quiet little town in Alajuela Province. Its name translates to “The Fortune” in English, given to it for its fertile lands and abundant natural wonders. And if you do decide to explore this laidback paradise, you’ll be among the fortunate ones!
Located northwest of the capital San Jose, La Fortuna is the gateway to Arenal Volcano National Park. You can find here 2 volcanoes – the still very active Arenal and the dormant Chato – as well as the 70-meter high La Fortuna Waterfalls. These are all tucked in lush jungles that make hiking a bliss!
You can choose from 4 options when crossing the 130km from San Jose to La Fortuna: a 4-hour bus that can be direct or indirect, a 4-hour minivan, or a 3-hour private transfer. Rates range from 3,070 CRC ($5) to 86,212.45 CRC ($138).
The direct bus is the cheapest option for the San Jose to La Fortuna route. Ticket prices start from 3,070 CRC ($5) for the 4-hour ride. There’s only one daily direct bus available though so if you miss it, you’ll have to find other options.
The indirect bus via Ciudad Quesada is a good alternative for those on a budget. You will have to take 2 buses, but the transfer is simple and easy so you shouldn’t have any problems. It’s just a dollar more expensive than a direct bus with combined rates from 3,765 CRC ($6.10).
Looking for a more comfortable way to get from San Jose to La Fortuna? Minivans are the most popular way to get around in Costa Rica as it includes hotel pick-up and drop-off. They’re also very comfortable so you can really enjoy the changing scenery for the 4-hour journey. Minivan rates start from 34,694.02 CRC ($55).
A private transfer is the fastest way to get from San Jose to La Fortuna. It might look expensive with rates from 86,212.45 CRC ($138) for a car that can fit 6 persons. But when you split the cost, it’s actually even cheaper than a minivan ride. Also, you can complete the journey in just 3 hours.
Transportes San Carlos operates the only direct bus trip from San Jose to La Fortuna. This bus departs at 08:40 in the morning from Terminal 7-10 in San Jose City Centre.
Bus fares start from 3,070 CRC ($5). We recommend arriving at least 30 minutes before departure time to secure tickets. You can buy them at the ticketing centre on the terminal’s top floor.
The bus journey from San Jose to La Fortuna takes around 4 hours, but can often take longer depending on traffic. You are to get off at La Fortuna Bus Station, which is just within walking distance from most hostels in town.
PRO-tip: Be very careful of your belongings. Put all your valuables in a small bag that you can store in front of you throughout the journey. As for your bigger bags, don’t lose sight of them even as you buy your bus tickets until they are safely loaded in the luggage compartment. And make sure to get your luggage ticket before boarding the bus.
San Jose to La Fortuna by Indirect Bus
Duration: 4 hours Cost: 3,765 CRC ($6.10)
If the direct bus doesn’t match your schedule, you can also take an indirect bus route from San Jose to La Fortuna. For this option, bus departures are frequent so you can be more flexible with your schedule.
This involves two buses: one from San Jose to Ciudad Quesada and then another one from Ciudad Quesada to La Fortuna.
Step 1: San Jose to Ciudad Quesada by Bus
Duration: 3 hours Cost: 1,850 CRC ($3)
Ciudad Quesada is a district located 95km northwest of San Jose.
Buses bound for Ciudad Quesada are available from 05:45 in the morning to 17:45 in the afternoon at San Jose’s Terminal 7-10. There is no specific schedule, but bus departures normally have a 20 to 50-minute interval.
There is also no need to purchase a ticket beforehand. You can buy them from the driver for around 1,850 CRC ($3).
Travel time from San Jose to Ciudad Quesada Bus Terminal is around 3 hours. Here, you simply need to transfer to another bus heading to La Fortuna.
Step 2: Ciudad Quesada to La Fortuna by Bus
Duration: 1 hour Cost: 1,915 CRC ($3.10)
There are two bus routes from Ciudad Quesada to La Fortuna: via El Tanque to the north (a bit faster) and via Chachagua to the south (more scenic). Travel time, either way, is around 1 hour. If you cannot decide which route to take, you can just pick the earliest bus available.
Buses are available from 05:00 to 22:10. A ticket costs 1,915 CRC ($3.10) and you can just buy them from the driver.
Looking for an option that will take you door-to-door from San Jose to La Fortuna?
Minivans are an expensive alternative to the bus. Rates start from 34,694.02 CRC ($55) when heading to San Jose city centre. This rate also includes free hotel pick-up and drop-off, so you won’t have to hassle finding your way to and from bus terminals.
Travel time with the minivan is around 4 hours.
Below, we give you a breakdown of minivan rates and schedules. You can choose from 4 different companies: Tropical Tours Shuttle, Desafio Adventure Company, Interbus, and Gray Line.
We already searched high and low for the cheapest rates, and you can find them in their respective booking links.
Tropical Tours is best booked through its own company website, while Interbus and Gray Line are cheaper when booked on BookAway. As for Desafio, it’s actually cheaper on its own website but there’s a minimum of 2 passengers per booking. In BookAway, you can book Desafio even when you’re travelling solo!