Shuttles in Costa Rica: What to Know & When to Use Them

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Costa Rica is a popular holiday destination for tourists from all around the world. One of the main factors for travelers to consider before visiting this Central American gem is transportation. Renting a vehicle, getting a taxi or an Uber, and using a public bus are alternatives available, however, shuttle services have grown in popularity in recent years. In this article, we will cover what you need to know about shuttles in Costa Rica when to use them, useful tips to enhance your travel experience, and more.


 When to Use Shuttles in Costa Rica

Shuttles provide travelers with a convenient and comfortable way to move around, especially when visiting multiple destinations. They are essentially shared or private minibusses or vans that transport passengers between popular tourist spots, cities, hotels, and airports. Shuttles cater to both domestic and international travelers, making them a versatile and reliable option for getting around. Let’s explore when it makes the most sense to use shuttles during your visit to this enchanting country.

Airport transfers

Your Costa Rican adventure often begins at the airport, and shuttles are an excellent choice for airport transfers. Whether you’re arriving in San Jose (SJO Airport) or Liberia (LIR Airport), you can book a shuttle in advance to take you to your destination. This is particularly favorable if you arrive late at night or early in the morning when other transportation options may be limited. 

An aerial view of the airport in Costa Rica.
Shuttles are an excellent way to get to and from the airport.

Traveling between cities

Costa Rica boasts a diverse landscape and you’ll likely want to explore multiple regions during your stay. Shuttles are a practical choice for moving between cities and popular tourist spots. For instance, if you’re in the capital, San Jose, and wish to explore the Arenal region, you can book a shuttle that will take you directly to your hotel in La Fortuna, saving you the hassle of multiple bus transfers.

A bus and several red cars on a street in Costa Rica.
Shuttles are a helpful transportation option if you’ll be traveling between cities.

Group travel

If you’re traveling with a group shuttles become even more attractive. You can split the cost while also enjoying the convenience of traveling together.


If you’re concerned about your well-being while traveling, choosing reputable shuttle services can provide peace of mind. These companies prioritize passengers’ welfare, and their drivers are experienced in navigating Costa Rica’s diverse terrain.

Limited time

If your visit is short, you’ll want to make the most of your time. Shuttles can help you save time on your journeys, allowing you to spend more hours exploring and enjoying.


Why many travelers prefer shuttle services in Costa Rica over driving themselves

While renting a car is a popular option, some travelers prefer to avoid the hassles of driving in unknown territory. Here are some reasons why many opt for shuttles:

  • Navigation challenges: Costa Rica’s road infrastructure can be challenging to navigate for first-time visitors. Roads can be narrow, winding, and lack clear signage, making it easy to get lost. Using a shuttle eliminates navigation worries and allows you to relax and enjoy the scenery.
A road in Costa Rica with one side that is clear and one side that is backed up with traffic.
Since roads in Costa Rica can be challenging to navigate, a shuttle ensures you’ll never have to worry about getting lost.
  • Language barrier: While many Costa Ricans working in the tourism industry speak English, not all do, especially in remote areas. Communicating with locals for directions or assistance can be easier with a shuttle driver who is familiar with the region and the language.
  • Parking issues: Parking can be a hassle in Costa Rica, especially in popular tourist spots. You may spend valuable time searching for parking or worrying about the safety of your rental car. Shuttles drop you off at your destination, saving you from parking hassles.
Two orange cars sitting in front of a building and parking lot in Costa Rica.
When you take a shuttle in Costa Rica, you will not have to worry about parking.
  • Money saving for groups: For travelers in groups, shuttles often work out to be more affordable than renting multiple cars. Sharing the cost of a shuttle can significantly reduce individual transportation expenses.
  • Convenience: Shuttles offer door-to-door service, which means you’ll be picked up at your hotel or a designated meeting point and dropped off at your destination. This convenience eliminates the need to navigate unfamiliar public transportation systems or arrange private transfers.
  • Comfort: Costa Rican shuttles typically use modern, air-conditioned vehicles that provide a comfortable and pleasant journey. The comfortable seating and spacious interiors make long drives more enjoyable.
Four white shuttles are sitting on the pavement with an overcast sky.
Most shuttles in Costa Rica are large and air-conditioned, so you’ll be able to ride comfortably.
  • Safety: Reputable shuttle companies prioritize passenger safety, ensuring their vehicles are well-maintained, and their drivers are experienced and trained.
  • Scenic Routes: Costa Rica is known for its stunning landscapes, and shuttle journeys often take travelers through some of the most scenic routes, allowing you to soak in all the surrounding natural beauty.


Private and Shared Shuttles

Costa Rica shuttle services come in two primary forms: private shuttles and shared shuttles. Here’s how they differ:

Five vehicles lined up in a row on the road in Costa Rica with palm trees in the background
You can choose from a private shuttle or a shared shuttle in Costa Rica.

 Private Shuttles

  • Most private shuttles are reserved exclusively for your group. You won’t share the vehicle with other travelers, this provides greater privacy and flexibility.
  • A private shuttle can often be scheduled at a time that suits your itinerary, offering more flexibility for your travel plans.
  • Since there are no stops to pick up other passengers, private shuttles can be faster, especially for long-distance journeys.

Shared Shuttles

  • Shared shuttles are a reasonable choice given that you share the ride and cost with other travelers. This is an excellent choice for solo travelers or those looking to save money.
  • A shared shuttle operates on a set schedule, which may require you to adapt your plans to match departure times.
  • Passengers on a shared shuttle have the opportunity to meet and interact with fellow adventurers, making it a social experience.


Helpful Tips for Shuttle Travel in Costa Rica

Here are some tips to ensure a smooth experience when using shuttles in Costa Rica:

  • Book early. It’s advisable to book your shuttle in advance, especially during the peak travel season (from mid-December to April). This ensures you have a seat and can choose your preferred departure time.
  • Pack Essentials. Don’t forget to pack essentials like water, snacks, sunscreen, insect repellent, and any necessary medications. While some shuttles offer refreshments, it’s a good idea to be prepared, especially for longer journeys.
Several items from a carry-on bag laid on a bed, including a wallet, boarding pass, hand sanitizer, snack, tums, portable charger, sleep mask, sunglasses, AirPods, and more.
Some shuttle rides in Costa Rica can be long, so be sure to pack the essentials, just like you would for a plane ride.
  • Be Punctual. Shuttles typically run on a fixed schedule, so it’s essential to be on time for your shuttle’s departure. Arrive at the meeting point or your hotel’s designated pickup spot on time to avoid delays.
  • Ask Questions. Don’t hesitate to ask your shuttle company or driver any questions you may have about the journey. They can provide valuable information including rest stops, estimated travel times, and more.
  • Respect Luggage Policies. Each shuttle service may have specific luggage policies, so ensure you follow them. Generally, there is a limit to the number and size of bags allowed per passenger.
  • Cash and Local Currency. While some shuttles accept credit cards, it’s a good idea to have some local currency on hand, especially for small purchases during rest stops or emergencies.
  • Enjoy the Scenery. Part of the beauty of traveling in Costa Rica is the stunning landscapes. Keep your camera ready for spontaneous photo opportunities, and take in the sights and sounds of this incredible country during your shuttle journeys.
A view of the rainforest in Costa Rica with a volcano and mountains in the background at sunset.
A shuttle ride is a great opportunity to enjoy the scenery in Costa Rica!
  • Stay Informed. Keep an eye on the weather, road conditions, and any potential travel advisories, especially if you’re traveling during the rainy season when roads can become challenging.

Shuttle services in Costa Rica offer a convenient and stress-free option for travelers looking to explore the country’s diverse landscapes, vibrant cities, and remote destinations. They provide comfort, safety, cost savings for groups, and the option of private or shared transportation making them a popular choice for airport transfers, city-to-city travel, group trips, and more. By knowing when to use shuttles and following the tips shared above, you can make the most of your Costa Rican adventure, ensuring a smooth and enjoyable journey through this tropical paradise. To learn more about the transportation services we provide at Special Places, contact us here.

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