After we are now already more than a half a year in Central America on the road and the “craziest countries” which no travel agency in Germany would recommend only rudimentary, have traveled very successfully we are now landed in Costa Rica.
The nameCosta Rica or Rich Coast originated a few decades ago when there were numerous gold miners in search of fortune here in this beautiful country in Central America. Today the name Costa Rica is brought gladly by travel agencies and also naturally by the country in connection of the beautiful and singular flora and fauna.
Reason enough for us to take a closer look at the country during a round trip as a backpacker. In search of nature and adventure we went from San Jose to La Fortuna to see the volcano and from there we went to Santa Teresa to one of the most beautiful beaches of our world trip, as the next station we wanted to visit the National Park Manuel Antonio near Quepos and as a highlight we wanted to visit the remote National Park Corcovado on the peninsula Osa. Sounds like a plan right?
Riding the bus in Costa Rica
After spending the first few days in San Jose and successfully completing a few tours of the city it was now time to plan the onward journey. With the bus it should go from San Jose to La Fortuna.
So we went to visit the Bus Terminal 7 – 10 in San Jose in person, but that was an evening adventure in itself, since there was no real walking distance from our hotel across the freeway, and no bus ticket reservations available online. Here, countries like Jamaica, Honduras, Guatemala, and Mexico are miles ahead of Costa Rica, even though Costa Rica is, after all, considered the Switzerland of Central America.
But when we then stood at the bus terminal we were told that we can purchase a bus ticket only on the same day and thus no reservation can take place, in the same breath we then got the information that the bus due to construction on the road currently only once a day from San Jose to La Fortuna and thus relatively full. The bus should go the next day at 06.30 from San Jose. Inwardly, we knewthat we had no chance of getting a seat on this bus if we didn’t want to stand in line at 05:00.
First negative experience with a cab driver in Costa Rica
Now that we were very unmotivated we wanted to treat ourselves to a cab back to the hotel, as it was now 3pm and the heat was almost unbearable. Uber was not possible at this time because we still had no sim card. So we looked for a cab driver who meant that the trip is about 3000 colones – we had then paid 8200 colones with the reason that he had to drive around a traffic jam. Thanks for nothing. So driving a cab in Costa Rica is no fun. By the way, the distance from Terminal 7 – 10 to our hotel was 3.7 kilometers.
We cobbled together the bus ride from San Jose to La Fortuna ourselves via the myriad of information on various Internet sites. From San Jose we took a bus to Ciduad Quesada and from there we went to La Fortuna – sounds easy it is – just until you find this information somewhere on some sites it takes a while.
Where to go from here?
The days in La Fortuna flew by, the thermal bath, the volcano hike, the great nature simply a dream – but we wanted to go on to Santa Teresa at some point – a place where time still stands still and where only surfers and dropouts go – so something away from mass tourism and package tours through Costa Rica.
After spending 3 days somehow inexpensively without 16 hours of travel time including 4 times changing trains and the risk that we do not get our connection, we opted for a tourist transfer with Interbus. Directly from La Fortuna to Santa Teresa in 6 hours for 75 USD per person – a dream or?
Interbus offers in the north of Costa Rica some routes as shuttle service. However, even this website is a real horror when booking – very unfriendly in operation and not exactly user friendly. Best one contacts here equal the live chat of Interbus around the correct routes to find.
Bus, shuttle, or even boat?
So from Santa Teresa we wanted to go to Manuel Antonio. Actually not really far away and actually the whole thing should be no witchcraft or? But unfortunately the route sounds easier than it really is. We had after hours of research exactly 3 options. Option 1. bus with 4 times change and one night stay in Punto Arenas. Option 2.Shuttle service over 7 hours by bus with Internbus for 65 USD per person. Option 3.Shuttle service by cab boat for 75 USD per person and 4 hours duration. Since we have not yet traveled by ferry in Costa Rica we decided to take this tour with Zuma Tours which you could book through a really bad website.
The transportation to Manuel Antonio worked out great!
Not again the problem with transportation
The days in the tranquil beach resort, pardon National Park of Manuel Antonio, flew by. The onward journey to Puerto Jimenez was to be at least as exciting as the other trips. A Shuttel for 80 dollars per person (for around 180 kilometers) we did not want to take. We wanted to create the route on our own. With an Uber we wanted to Quepos from there by bus to Golfito and then by ferry to Puerto Jimenez.
The UBER did not come, we had to take a cab – by cab we went to the bus station of Quepos. There we bought a ticket for 8250 colones from Quepos to Golfito, but the bus did not go in Quepos but we had to take a cab to the main road near the hospital – but you can only buy the ticket at the bus station. There we waited now thus 1 hour in a “small house” the little shade donated at the Panamerican. After 3 hours bus ride we arrived then in Golfito and looked for the ferry – until we received at the gas station finally the correct reference for the ferry port of Golfito. The ferry should go in an hour – however, there were no cards or tickets to buy and according to our AirBnB host it can be that the ferry is sold out quickly.
30 minutes before departure a young man came to the waiting crowd the tickets for 3000 Colones sold. So with a well-filled boat, we left Golfito for Puerto Jimenez.
To the border in a crowded bus without air conditioning
Naturally, we do not want to spend the rest of our lives in Puerto Jimenez but only make a stopover on our onward journey to Panama. Therefore, it should go after the visit of the incredibly beautiful (and no we mean that not ironically but really absolutely honestly) Corcovardo National Park further to Panama or Panama City.
To do this, we took the ferry again, this time we already knew that the ticket seller appears only a few minutes before departure of the ferry at the ferry terminal. With the ferry we went back to Golfito. After we had then asked some locals we have also learned that the local bus every hour from Golfito (directly on the main road) for 1300 Colones departs. So we got on the bus and arrived after 3 hours without air conditioning and well sweaty at the border to Panama. Our adventure with transportation in Costa Rica was over.
Why not rent a car in Costa Rica?
We already knew that thepublic transportation system in Costa Rica will not be easy but we wanted to take on the task, but also save money and successfully master the adventure round trip in Costa Rica without a rental car and in the end we finally did it. But why did we not take a rental car for our time in Costa Rica?
- Thecost of a rental car in Costa Rica is well above the average in Central America. For a week rental car with suitable insurance one puts down gladly once 400 USD $ the week. Whether you take at Sixt, Alamo or Adobe.
- To get in Costa Rica really from A to B you need a 4×4 four-wheel drive vehicle – but the best is a Jeep since the beautiful corners are usually not easy to reach.
- The insurance of the vehicle providers have strange insurance conditions despite insurance. Thus, for some vehicles, for example, a deductible of up to $ 2,500 per claim is included or even no insurance for theft. Therefore, it is valid when renting a car in Costa Rica the insurance conditions to read through exactly.
- Costs, costs, costs – since we were nevertheless 19 days in Costa Rica and traveled from San Jose to Puerto Jimenez and there was actually only one provider for this route the incl. insurance and one month advance booking still at 1,400 USD $ for a four-wheel drive vehicle wanted to have
Why is the transportation system in Costa Rica so bad?
The transportation system in Costa Rica is not bad, but rather decentralized. From other countries you are used to having 2-3 companies that cover most of the country or market. In Costa Rica there is in each city, in each quarter and in each region of the country a own transport company which do not agree among themselves. Another problem is that there is no one-stop shop for tourists to plan their trip without an expensive package tour and expensive rental car through Costa Rica. But hey, in the end we managed to be there where we wanted to go – and somehow it was fun!
It’s possible in Costa Rica to get from A to B without a rental car or a package tour you just need patience, an internet connection, some conversations with locals (so some Spanish) and some common sense. Pura Vida!