Overview Compare Minivan Taxi Bus Flight Day Trip To Stay
Tortuguero is Costa Rica’s third most visited National Park, located in Limon Province northeast of the capital San Jose. It boasts of a biodiverse marine and wildlife, thanks to its various kinds of habitats. From rainforests to lagoons, mangrove forests to swamps – there is so much to see and experience in Tortuguero National Park!
Amidst all its glory, Tortuguero is most popular for its turtles. In fact, Tortuguero is a Spanish word that translates to Land of Turtles. If you visit from July to October, you’ll most likely find hundreds of sea turtles nesting on its beaches!
Basically a sandbar island between the Caribbean Sea and Tortuguero River, you can only reach the national park by flight or boat from the mainland.
How to get from San Jose to Tortuguero
Flying is the only direct way to travel from San Jose to Tortuguero. The option over land starts with a minivan/bus or taxi trip to La Pavona, and from there, you can transfer to a boat going to the national park. Travel time by boat is usually around an hour, but may take up to 2 hours depending on the weather conditions.
This boat ride alone is a great adventure and an experience in itself. Don’t expect a luxurious boat drive, but the short trip in this small boat is just beautiful. Your boat will be snaking through canals and rivers with wonderful views of dense rainforests and some sightings of birds and wildlife.
4 ways to get from San Jose to Tortuguero (Sorted by popularity)
There are 4 ways to travel the 120 km from San Jose to Tortuguero National Park: a 3.5-hour minivan + boat, a 3-hour private transfer + boat, a 5 to 7-hour bus + boat, and a 1-hour-15-minute flight (including transfers). Rates range from $9.00 (5,000 CRC) to $190.00 (102,000 CRC).
|Minivan + Boat||3.5 hours||$65.00 (35,000 CRC)||Check Minivan Tickets|
|Taxi + Boat||3 hours||$190.00 (102,000 CRC)||Check Private Transfers|
|Bus + Boat||5 hours||$11.00 (6,000 CRC)||Read article for more info|
|Flight||1hr 15m||$110.00 (59,000 CRC)||Check Flights|
|Day Trip||12 hours||$195.00 (105,000 CRC)||Check Day Trips|
|3-Day Trip||3 days||$500.00 (269,000 CRC)||Check 3-Day Trips|
A minivan is a convenient option when travelling from San Jose to Tortuguero. You will get a direct ride from the country’s capital to La Pavona. Your minivan operator will also take care of your boat ride to Tortuguero, so you won’t have to worry about anything else. Combined rates start from $65.00 (35,000 CRC).
If you’re travelling with two other people, it will be cheaper to take a private transfer. Like the minivan, a private ride will take you straight to La Pavona, but with the inclusion of a hotel pick-up. Prices start from $190.00 (102,000 CRC) for up to 4 people, already including the boat ride to Tortuguero.
Another option you can consider is to take a bus. A combined bus and boat ride from San Jose to Tortuguero is the cheapest option with rates from $11.00 (6,000 CRC). However, there are no direct buses to La Pavona. You’ll have to take two buses before you can transfer to a boat going to the national park.
Looking for the fastest way possible? A flight is the only direct way to get from San Jose to Tortuguero. Travel time is about 1 hour 15 minutes, including airport transfers. It takes away the adventure of the boat ride, but taking a flight is also an opportunity to view Tortuguero from a bird’s eye view.
TIP: If you decide to travel by plane, please consider including a carbon compensation fee to help reduce your impact on the environment.
If you want to enjoy this trip without the hassle of preparing your transfers, there are a few organised trips you can join from San Jose to Tortuguero. Both one-day and 3-day trips are available. It’s worth noting that one day will not be enough to really appreciate the natural gifts of Tortuguero tho! A 3-day trip will be more ideal. That’s if you have the budget for it.
Where to stay in Tortuguero?
Still looking for accommodation? Don’t forget to check out our favourite places to stay in Tortuguero at the bottom of this page.
San Jose to Tortuguero by Minivan
A shared minivan shuttle is a convenient way to get from San Jose to Tortuguero. This ticket includes a minivan ride to La Pavona and a boat ride to Tortuguero.
The drive from San Jose to La Pavona takes about 2.5 hours. From La Pavona, you’ll be transferred to a boat which takes around 1 hour to reach Tortuguero National Park. Both rides will be taken care of by the minivan operator.
Total travel time by minivan and boat from San Jose to Tortuguero is about 3.5 hours and tickets for the combined journey start at $65.00 (35,000 CRC).
Departure and arrival station
If you take the Paradise Shuttles or Jungle Tom Safari minivan, you will be picked up from your hotel in the city centre. You can also book their minivans departing from San Jose Airport at 07:00 and 08:00, respectively.
When booking with Exploradores Outdoors, the shared minivan departs from Selina in San Jose city centre.
Minivan schedule from San Jose to Tortuguero
|Paradise Shuttles Costa Rica||07:45-11:10||$65.00 (35,000 CRC)|
Check Minivan Tickets
|Exploradores Outdoors*||06:15-09:45||$68.00 (37,000 CRC)|
Check Minivan Tickets
|Jungle Tom Safari||07:00-10:00||$95.00 (51,000 CRC)|
Check Minivan Tickets
You can book your bus tickets in advance via BookAway, which is known for its great customer service.
San Jose to Tortuguero by Private Transfer
Taking a private transfer from San Jose to Tortuguero can be cheaper than a minivan ride even if you’re travelling in a group of just two people.
Rates start from $190.00 (102,000 CRC) for a private minivan that can accommodate up to 4 people. Split the cost and that’s just about $48.00 (26,000 CRC) per person – less than half the price of a minivan ticket and well worth the convenience of a private transfer!
Like the minivan, you will travel by private transfer (2 hours) from your hotel up to La Pavona and then be transferred to a boat to Tortuguero (1 hour). Combined travel time is around 3 hours.
There are different car choices available depending on the number of people in your group. Paradise Shuttle Costa Rica offers spacious cars with reliable drivers.
Check Private Transfers with BookAway
San Jose to Tortuguero by Bus
A combined bus and boat is the cheapest way to get from San Jose to Tortuguero. Unlike the first two options though, you can’t get a direct bus ride from San Jose to La Pavona.
You’ll have to take one bus to Cariari, transfer to another bus going to La Pavona, and then finally take a boat to Tortuguero. The entire trip takes about 5 to 7 hours.
Step 1: San Jose to Cariari by Bus
First, you’ll have to take a bus from San Jose to Cariari, a town located 110 km northeast of the capital.
Grupo Caribeños offers multiple trips to Cariari from 06:30 to 19:00. However, we recommend taking either of the morning trips, at 06:30 and 09:00, to make sure you’ll be able to take the connecting bus to La Pavona.
Travel time is 2.5 hours. You can buy your ticket at the bus terminal for around $3.00 (2,000 CRC).
Bus schedule from San Jose to Cariari
|$4.00 (2,000 CRC)|
Buses depart from Gran Terminal del Caribe in San Jose city centre and make their last stop at Cariari Bus Terminal.
Step 2: Cariari to La Pavona by Bus
Only one bus company operates from Cariari to La Pavona. This bus is operated by Coopetraca a ticket costs around $2.00 (1,000 CRC). You can buy the tickets only at the bus terminal.
*Important update (March 2023): One of our readers shared that the bus to La Pavona departs immediately after the bus from San Jose arrives. We’ll update the page once we confirm the latest bus schedule of Coopetraca.
Buses depart from Cariari Bus Station, the same terminal you arrive at from San Jose. You will arrive in La Pavona after around 1.5 hours.
Bus schedule from Cariari to La Pavona
|Coopetraca*||14:00-15:30||$2.00 (1,000 CRC)|
You might be offered boat tickets on the bus. However, these tickets are likely overpriced, as they get a commission from it. It’s best that you buy your tickets at La Pavona to pay the correct fare.
Step 3: La Pavona to Tortuguero by Boat
Upon arrival at La Pavona, you’ll have to buy your ticket for the boat ride at the restaurant. Once you have your ticket, head to the boat ramp. Don’t worry about losing your way since locals will lead you in the right direction.
Tickets for public boats are as cheap as $5.00 (3,000 CRC). You will also need to pay for your luggage, though, so you might be charged up to $7.00 (4,000 CRC) for both the ticket and luggage.
The last time we checked (April 2023), we couldn’t confirm the public boat schedule. It’s worth noting, though, the public boat departures are coordinated with the bus arrival times. This means that as long as there is still a bus arriving that day, there will be a boat waiting at La Pavona dock.
If you want to book your boat ride from La Pavona to Tortuguero in advance, Asotortutrans Del Caribe is available on BookAway with fares from $7.00 (4,000 CRC) one-way.
Boat schedule from La Pavona to Tortuguero
|$5.00 (3,000 CRC)|
|Asotortutrans Del Caribe||11:00-14:00|
|$7.00 (4,000 CRC)|
Check Boat Tickets
San Jose to Tortuguero by Flight
The bus is the fastest yet most expensive option. You can complete the journey in about 1.5 hours, which already includes the transfers to and from airports.
Combined fares start from $105.00 (55,000 CRC).
Step 1: City Centre to San Jose Airport by Bus
From San Jose city centre, you’ll have to travel 15 km northwest to get to San Jose Airport. The best ways to get to the airport are a 40-minute bus or a 30-minute taxi.
If you’re on a budget, the bus is the way to go. A ticket costs only $1.50 (1,000 CRC) and the buses are quite comfortable. Buses depart from TUASA Terminal in the city centre, every 10 minutes from 04:00 to 23:00 daily.
There are two companies operating this route: TUASA (coloured red and white) and Station Wagon (coloured orange and yellow).
A more convenient option would be to take a taxi. You can hail one from the street or thru the ride-hailing app Uber. Rates to San Jose Airport start from $25.00 (13,000 CRC).
PRO TIP: While Uber is widely used in Costa Rica, it is still not entirely legal. There have been rare cases of Uber rides being stopped in the middle of the journey, not something you’d like to risk when in a hurry to make it to your flight. It’s best to confirm with your hotel whether it’s safe to use Uber before booking a ride.
Step 2: San Jose to Tortuguero by Flight
Sansa Regional and Aerobell offer daily flights from San Jose to Tortuguero. Flight time is about 30 minutes and ticket prices start from $105.00 (56,000 CRC).
It’s best to book your ticket weeks ahead for lower airfares! Sansa Regional can easily be booked through Skyscanner. Aerobell, on the other hand, can only be booked through its own website.
Step 3: Tortuguero Airport to Village Centre by Boat
Tortuguero Airport is on a tiny strip of land between the Tortuguero River and the Caribbean shoreline. It’s about 3 km away from the village centre and you have to take a boat to get to your accommodation.
A boat ride from Tortuguero Airport to the village centre costs about $3.00 (2,000 CRC).
San Jose to Tortuguero by Day Trip
On a limited timeframe? You can also take a day trip from San Jose to Tortuguero. Since public transportation is not that flexible between these two locations, it’s best to join an organised tour to make the most of your limited time in Tortuguero National Park.
GetYourGuide is a reliable tour booking website in the region. It offers a few tour choices from San Jose to Tortuguero. We recommend their Tortuguero Park Day Tour with Breakfast & Lunch.
The rate of $195.00 (105,000 CRC) per person includes:
- Transportation in an air-conditioned vehicle
- Spanish/English-speaking guide
- Boat ride through Tortuguero canals
- Park fees
- Traditional breakfast
- Buffet lunch
The entire tour, including roundtrip transfers, takes around 12 hours. Not enough time to explore Tortuguero, to be honest, but something you can consider if you’re really short on time!
Check Day Trips with GetYourGuide
Three-Day Trip from San Jose to Tortuguero
Fancy spending several days in Tortuguero but don’t want to be bothered with transport options? GetYourGuide also offers a Three-Day Excursion from San Jose to Tortuguero.
This option definitely gives you the chance to make the most of your time in the national park, but of course, it doesn’t come cheap. Rates start from $500.00 (269,000 CRC) per person but can get lower if you’re travelling in a group.
Inclusions are as follows:
- Hotel pick-up and drop-off (from hotels in San José, Alajuela, and Heredia)
- All meals (breakfast, lunch, and dinner)
- Air-conditioned modern transportation
- Accommodation for 2 nights
- Boat transfers
- Naturalist guide
- Guided tours
Our favourite places to stay in Tortuguero
Tortuguero Casa Pelican - Treat Yourself
Casa Pelican boasts the perfect location in Tortuguero, only minutes from both the beach and the town. You won’t even need to go to the beach to relax as you’ll find hammocks and chairs on every balcony to chill and take in the view from.
The rooms are modern, clean and homely. The rainfall showers are also a treat. You’ll feel like you’re actually in the rainforest with that.
- Perfect location
- Clean and spacious rooms
- Modern bathrooms
- Hammocks to chill in
Double rooms start from $80 per night
Casa Turtle Bogue - Mid Range
You can’t get much closer to the beach than at Casa Turtle Bogue. You can either relax in a hammock, or soak up the sun on Tortuguero Beach. All of the rooms are clean and modern, offering everything you need. There’s also a seating area for guests to relax in and kitchen facilities.
The owners will do anything they can to make your stay in Tortuguero amazing, whether it be organising tours, or sharing their love of the place with you.
- Right on the beach
- Clean and fresh rooms
- Great and friendly staff
- Air conditioning in the rooms
Double rooms between $50-$70 per night
Pura Natura - Mid Range
Pura Natura is exactly what the name says – pure and natural. The whole place feels modern and fresh with its neutral and earthy colour scheme. It only opened in February 2021, so everything’s new and modern.
There are plenty of places to relax, in their garden or on their roof terrace. Make sure to enjoy the sea views too. The owners of Pura Natura, a young couple, are so incredibly kind, helpful and knowledgeable about Tortuguero.
- Modern and fresh design
- Close to the beach
- Young and friendly owners
- Relaxing spaces to chill
Double rooms between $50-$70 per night
Los Amigos Jungle Hotel Tortuguero - Budget Friendly
An added bonus to this super cheap hotel is the outdoor swimming pool. It’s perfect for cooling down after a day of adventures in Tortuguero.
The rooms are brightly coloured, emanating the vibrant atmosphere of Tortuguero. You can also enjoy the outdoor terraces, or the shared kitchen facilities, if you decide to do some cooking on your own. Summing it up, this place is great value for money!
- Outdoor swimming pool
- Vibrant and colourful rooms
- Shared kitchen
- Helpful and knowledgeable staff
Double rooms between $15-$50 per night
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Wir sind heute die Strecke von San José nach Tortuguero gefahren.
Bus San José – Cariari: 2.240 Colones/Person (Abfahrt ca. 8:30-9:00 Uhr)
Bus Cariari – La Pavona: 1.200 Colones/Person (Abfahrt direkt im Anschluss)
Boot La Pavona – Tortuguero: 3.000 Colones/Person (Abfahrt direkt im Anschluss, wohl ca. alle 20 Minuten)
Hi Sarah, many thanks for this information! We found some recent reviews on Google Maps that confirm the bus and boat fares you shared. Thanks for helping us keep the fares up to date!
PS: Diese Antwort ist auf Englisch verfasst, um sie für Reisende aus allen Ländern hilfreich zu machen. Wir empfehlen die Verwendung von Google Translate, um diese Antwort ins Deutsche zu übersetzen.