As Costa Rica’s capital, San Jose is a bustling urban landscape. It may not be as pretty as the beach and jungle destinations that the country is known for. But if you are stopping by anyway, might as well explore for a few hours or a day before moving on to your next stop.
Within the city, you can 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. If you want to venture outside the city limits, we recommend visiting the Poas Volcano or La Paz Waterfall Gardens.
You can travel the 260km distance from Tamarindo to San Jose in 4 ways: a 6.5-hour bus, a 5.5-hour minivan, a 5-hour private transfer, and a 1-hour-40-minute flight (including transfers). Rates range from 7,340 CRC ($12) to 211,158.03 CRC ($338).
The bus is the cheapest option when travelling from Tamarindo to San Jose. You can get a ticket for 7,340 CRC ($12) for the 6.5-hour journey. Bus companies say the travel time is closer to 5 hours, but the number of stops and level of traffic along the way do not really make that possible.
Do you prefer a door-to-door transfer? You also have an option to take a shared minivan ride for 33,890 CRC ($55). Travel time is 5.5 to 6 hours. That’s guaranteed as minivans don’t make as many stops as the bus.
If you want a private ride, you can rent your own minivan with rates from 211,158.03 CRC ($338). This can already accommodate 7 persons. Bigger vehicles are also available for bigger groups.
In a hurry? A flight from Tamarindo to San Jose takes only 50 minutes. Add to that the transfers to and from the airports and you can complete the journey in just 1 hour 40 minutes. Combined rates start from 74,100 CRC ($121).
When you decide to fly, 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.
Empresa Tralapa and Empresa Alfaro are the 2 bus companies operating on the Tamarindo to San Jose route. Their advertised travel time is 5 hours 15 minutes. Don’t count on that though! Buses on this route are known to make a lot of stops, thus, longer journey!
Also, some of them take the route via Liberia, located 90km northeast of Tamarindo. So in reality, travel time can take 6.5 to 7 hours.
Tickets are available at their respective bus stations. You can find Tralapa buses at Pacific Park while Empresa Alfaro has its own small bus stop. Both are located in Tamarindo city centre.
If you’re travelling on a weekend or during the peak season (December to April), we recommend booking your ticket at least a day before. It would be easier if you can do that online. Tralapa is available for online booking on BookAway for 7,340 CRC ($12).
PRO-tip: Do be careful with your luggage. If you can, put your smaller bags with your valuables in front of you instead of the overhead bin. Bigger bags will be stored in the luggage compartment below. Make sure to wait until it is safely inside before you board the bus. Also, get your luggage ticket from the driver.
Tamarindo to San Jose by Minivan
Duration: 5.5 hours Cost: 33,890 CRC ($55)
Minivans from Tamarindo to San Jose are shared door-to-door transfers. Meaning, you will be picked up and dropped off at your hotels.
They are more expensive than the bus, but we can assure you that they are safer, faster, and more comfortable.
Interbus, Gray Line, Desafio Adventure Company, and Tropical Tours Shuttle are the minivan operators for this route. Fares start from 33,890 CRC ($55) for the 5.5-hour journey. Also here, it’s best to purchase your ticket online well beforehand to be guaranteed a seat!
We already found the best minivan rates for you and you can find them in the table below.
We recommend taking Tropical Tours if you’re heading to San Jose Airport. You can book a ticket through the Tropical Tours website. Interbus and Gray Line are cheaper when booked via BookAway. Desafio tickets are actually less expensive on their own website, but they require a minimum of two passengers per booking. On BookAway, you can purchase solo tickets.
Taking a flight from Tamarindo to San Jose is definitely the fastest option, but also the most harmful to the environment. We don’t think short-haul flights like these are not worth their excessive emissions.
But if you’re really short on time, read on for a step-by-step guide!
Step 1: Tamarindo City Centre to Tamarindo Airport by Taxi
Duration: 10 minutes Cost: 3,060 CRC ($5)
Tamarindo Airport is located some 5km northeast of the city centre. The only way to reach it is by taxi.
It’s a short ride, so you can get to the airport in 10 to 15 minutes. Rates start from 3,060 CRC ($5).
Step 2: Tamarindo to San Jose by Flight
Duration: 50 minutes Cost: 70,360 CRC ($115)
There is only one daily flight from Tamarindo to San Jose. This is operated by Sansa Regional. Travel time is 50 minutes and airfares start from 70,360 CRC ($115).
Flights arrive at San Jose Airport, also called Juan Santamaria International Airport.
From San Jose Airport, you’ll then have to travel 17km southeast to get to the city centre. You have 2 choices: a 40-minute bus or a 30-minute taxi.
The bus is the cheaper option at 675 CRC ($1.10). You can choose from 2 bus companies: TUASA (coloured red and white) and Station Wagon (coloured yellow and orange). You can hail them outside the airport, on the main road.
Buses are available every 10 minutes from 04:00 to 23:30. They park at TUASA Terminal in San Jose city centre.
Alternatively, you can take a taxi for 15,280 CRC ($25). They are available 24/7 from the airport. If you have an Uber app, then you can also try hailing one through it. Fares are similar to that of a taxi.
PRO-Tip: Although Uber has been gaining public and government trust in Costa Rica in the past few years, it is still technically “illegal.” Many have had great experiences using them. But every now and then there would be an incident of the car being stopped and the passengers forced to find another ride.
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.