San Jose is Costa Rica’s business and cultural capital. Located in the Central Valley, it’s a bustling urban landscape often neglected by travellers. But if you dig deeper, you might find that San Jose’s unique charm may be worth 1 or 2 days of your itinerary.
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. You can even venture outside the city limits to visit Poas Volcano or La Paz Waterfall Gardens!
There are 4 ways you can travel the 185km distance from Santa Teresa to San Jose: via a 6-hour bus, a 6-hour minivan, a 4.5-hour private transfer or a 2-hour flight (including transfers). Rates range from 8,630 CRC ($14) to 163,053.98 CRC ($261).
Note that most land transfers include a ferry crossing from Paquera to Puntarenas. The cost is already included in the bus/minivan/private transfer ticket.
A minivan from Santa Teresa to San Jose is the most convenient option as it is a direct transfer. You can choose from 2 types: one that goes directly overland and one that includes a combined shuttle and ferry/speedboat service. Travel time and costs depend on which option you choose.
The bus is a cheap and comfortable way to get from Santa Teresa to San Jose. There are direct and indirect buses, although the direct ones are temporarily available due to the pandemic. With the indirect route, you simply have to make a quick bus transfer in Cobano. Rates start from 8,630 CRC ($14) for the 6-hour journey.
Travelling with a group? A private transfer from Santa Teresa to San Jose is not much more expensive than a minivan when you travel with a group. You can get a 4-seater car from 163,053.98 CRC ($261).
Travelling this journey by flight will take just a little over 2 hours. It’s definitely the fastest, but it’s also very expensive with rates from 100,100 CRC ($163).
There are 2 types of minivan transfers available from Santa Teresa to San Jose.
Zuma Tours and Montezuma Expeditions offer a combined land and water transfer. Much like the bus, you will take a shuttle from Santa Teresa to Paquera Port. Here, you will transfer to a ferry (Montezuma Expeditions) or a speedboat (Zuma Tours) to cross the strait to Puntarenas. And then, you will go back to your shuttle, which will take you to San Jose.
Interbus, on the other hand, offers a completely overland journey. You are to travel about 175km northeast going to Limonal, transfer to another minivan, and then continue by land southeast for 140km to San Jose.
And then there’s Tropical Tours Shuttle, which you can take if you’re heading to San Jose Airport.
Tickets cost around 38,701.50 CRC ($62). Since trips are limited, we highly recommend booking your tickets early online for guaranteed seats. We’ve already searched for the best rates on the web. You can find them in the table below.
Montezuma Expeditions and Tropical Tours Shuttle can only be booked on their own company websites.
As for Interbus and Zuma Tours, we recommend booking them through BookAway. Interbus tickets are cheaper here. Zuma Tours, on the other hand, is cheaper on its own website, but it requires a minimum of 2 passengers to book. With BookAway, you can book solo!
When travelling by bus from Santa Teresa to San Jose, it’s best to take a direct one for convenience. However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, bus operator Transportes Cobano has temporarily halted its direct trips from Santa Teresa to San Jose.
There’s an alternate option though: an indirect bus trip via Cobano. This is a town located some 15km northeast of Santa Teresa and is the main transport hub in the Nicoya Peninsula.
Whichever option is available on your travel date, you can find a detailed guide below.
PRO-tip: Bigger bags go to the luggage compartment under the bus. Make sure to get your luggage ticket from the driver before hopping in. For the smaller bags with your valuable, we recommend putting them in front of you (between your legs) as much as possible. It might not be safe to put them on the overhead bin.
Option 1: Direct Bus from Santa Teresa to San Jose
Duration: 6 hours Cost: 8,630 CRC ($14)
Transportes Cobano operates the sole direct bus trip from Santa Teresa to San Jose. This bus departs at 06:00 in the morning. There is no main bus stop in town. You’ll have to hail the bus from the road. Ask your hotel for assistance to make sure you’re on the right side of the street!
The bus will drive you up to Paquera Port, where you are to get on the ferry on foot. The ferry will then cross the bay to Puntarenas Port in around 1.5 hours.
Once back on land, go back to your bus. If you’re heading to San Jose Airport, you will arrive in another 1.5 hours. To San Jose city centre, it’s about 2 hours.
Total travel time is around 6 hours from Santa Teresa to Cobano Bus Stop in Paso de la Vaca, San Jose.
A bus ticket costs 8,630 CRC ($14). This already includes your ferry ticket from Paquera to Puntarenas. You can just pay directly to the driver when you board the bus.
Option 2: Indirect Bus from Santa Teresa to San Jose
Duration: 6 hours Cost: 8,975 CRC ($14.60)
With the indirect bus, you’ll have to take 2 buses: one from Santa Teresa to Cobano and another one from Cobano to San Jose. It’s an easy transfer, but you’ll have to depart really early!
Step 1: Santa Teresa to Cobano by Bus
Duration: 1 hour Cost: 1,000 CRC ($1.60)
There are several daily bus trips available from Santa Teresa to Cobano throughout the day. But if you want to make it to the only connecting bus, you’ll have to get on the very first trip that departs at 05:55 in the morning.
The bus will pass through the main road from Santa Teresa’s far end. You can simply hail it from the street. A ticket costs 1,000 CRC ($1.60) and you can buy one from the driver.
Transportes Cobano operates the bus from Cobano to San Jose. This bus departs at 07:00 from the Cobano Bus Stop. You won’t have much time so just quickly make your transfer.
You can get a ticket for 7,975 CRC ($13). Also here, you can just pay directly to the driver.
As with the direct bus from Santa Teresa to San Jose, this bus will take you by land to Paquera Port, where you can transfer to a ferry bound for Puntarenas. And then, you are to go back to your bus as it travels by land again to San Jose Airport and then San Jose city centre.
Combined travel time is around 5 hours.
Santa Teresa to San Jose by Private Transfer
Duration: 4.5 hours Cost: from 163,053.98 CRC ($261)
Do you prefer a private ride from Santa Teresa to San Jose? BookAway offers various vehicles depending on the size of your group.
Rates start from 163,053.98 CRC ($261) for a 4-seater car. If you’re travelling with more people, there’s also a 14-seater minibus that costs 258,012.62 CRC ($413).
As with the bus option, your private vehicle will drive you up to Paquera Port. You will then take a car ferry bound for Puntarenas. From here, you will continue by land to San Jose.
Travel time with a private transfer is around 4.5 hours.
There is no airport in Santa Teresa. If you want to take a flight from Santa Teresa to San Jose, you’ll have to go to the nearest airport in Tambor.
Step 1: Santa Teresa to Tambor Airport by Taxi
Duration: 45 minutes Cost: 36,830 ($60)
The taxi is the most convenient way to travel the 30km from Santa Teresa to Tambor Airport. It’s the only direct option and you can leave anytime you want. The only downside is that it’s very expensive. With rates from 36,830 ($60), it’s already the same price as a minivan ride from Santa Teresa to San Jose.
Alternatively, you can take 2 buses: one from Santa Teresa to Cobano and another one from Cobano to Tambor Airport. Combined rates shouldn’t be more than 3,070 CRC ($5), but note that buses only have several departures throughout the day. You’ll have to time them right to make sure you arrive at the airport in time for your flight!
Step 2: Tambor to San Jose by Flight
Duration: 30 minutes Cost: 62,600 CRC ($102)
Sansa Regional offers 4 daily flights from Tambor to San Jose. These depart at 07:30, 11:20, 16:35 and 16:40.
Airfares start from 62,600 CRC ($102). The flight arrives at San Jose Airport after around 30 minutes.
Step 3: San Jose Airport to San Jose City Centre by Bus
Duration: 40 minutes Cost: 675 CRC ($1.10)
From San Jose Airport, you’ll then have to travel 17km southeast to reach the city centre. You have 2 ways to do that: a 40-minute bus that costs 675 CRC ($1.10) or a 30-minute taxi with rates from 15,280 CRC ($25).
To take the bus, you’ll have to hail them from the main road. They’re available every 10 minutes from 04:00 to 23:00. TUASA (coloured red and white) and Station Wagon (coloured orange and yellow) are the 2 bus companies you can choose from. They both arrive at TUASA Terminal in San Jose city centre.
You can also take a taxi for around 15,280 CRC ($25). We recommend hailing one from the main road (just a short walk from the airport arrivals hall) as there is an additional fee for airport taxis. Or you can also try getting a ride via Uber for around the same price.
PRO-Tip: Although widely used, Uber is still not 100% “legal” in Costa Rica. There have been rare accounts of tourists being stopped in the middle of the journey and asked to transfer to a taxi. If you’re not willing to take that risk, might as well take 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.