Taking shuttles in Costa Rica is a time efficient and comfortable way to get around the country. There are many ways to get around Costa Rica but if you don’t want to drive in Costa Rica or take the bus, booking shuttles is your next best option. Here are important things you need to know about taking shuttles in Costa Rica.
Costa Rica Shuttles: Private and Shared
In Costa Rica, there are private and shared shuttles. Here are the differences below.
The key difference between a private and shared shuttle in Costa Rica is that private shuttles are exclusively for your group and no one else. Shared shuttles take up to 10-15 passengers at a time.
Additionally, private shuttles wait for you directly at the airport, you can be picked up or dropped off at a vacation rental, you can ask them to stop during the drive and they don’t have a set schedule. Most private shuttles offer refreshments and free Wi-fi.
On the contrary, shared shuttles have a set schedule, require a minimum number of people to run, normally cannot pick up directly at the airport, only make 1 rest stop and pick up and drop off at hotels only. Shared shuttles also take longer because you have to go around and pick up other people from different hotels. Additionally, passengers can usually just bring one check in luggage and one personal item.
Why We Recommend Private Shuttles in Costa Rica
We personally recommend booking private shuttles in Costa Rica. We’ve taken both private and shared and for travelers who are not on a strict budget or traveling solo, private shuttles are the much better option, especially during this time of COVID-19.
We also recommend private shuttles for young families or multi-generational families who don’t want to drive. It’s much more comfortable and less stressful.
Shuttle Costs in Costa Rica
Costs vary depending on destinations and number of people. Private shuttles in Costa Rica are more expensive than shared shuttles. For example, a shared shuttle from La Fortuna to Tamarindo is around $59 USD per person and a private is around $250 USD total for 1-6 passengers.
So if you have a big group of at least 4 people, the cost works out to be about the same as a shared shuttle. For groups and families, private shuttles are the best option.
Space and Privacy
Private shuttles are excellent for families with young kids or seniors since you will be able to ask the driver to stop at any time and have the whole vehicle to your group. That way, you have all the space, privacy and flexibility.
Private shuttles also give you a more personalized experience, since many drivers like to share information about Costa Rica so someone can sit up front and talk to them. If you’re in a big group and don’t want to drive, private shuttles are the way to go and aren’t very expensive when you calculate it out the cost per person.
Additionally, if you are a bigger person like very tall or stout, a shared shuttle will not be very comfortable because usually the vehicle is full. When it’s full, it is cramped (think basic economy flight seats). If you are of big stature or your group is, then a private shuttle will be more comfortable and the better option.
Advantages of Taking Shuttles in Costa Rica
There are quite a few advantages of taking shuttles in Costa Rica.
- Faster than a bus. Private shuttles being direct and hotel door to hotel door, it’s super convenient. You don’t need to switch buses or wait for people to get on/off along the way.
- You don’t need to worry about directions or bus schedules. Getting lost is one of my personal fears when traveling abroad. A shuttle takes away all that stress.
- Efficient. Did I mention that shuttles are super stress free? All you have to do is book the shuttle, get picked up at your hotel and you’re good to go! And that’s awesome if you’re going to destinations that don’t have a lot of bus routes like Santa Teresa, Samara, etc.
Travel-planning-tip Some people will shuttle to their destination and then rent a car. For example, many people book a shuttle from San Jose to Puerto Viejo and then rent a car for their time in Puerto Viejo. Then they will return the car and take a shuttle to their next destination.
That being said, there are also disadvantages.
Disadvantages of Taking Shuttles in Costa Rica
- No flexibility with shared shuttles. The best thing about renting a car in Costa Rica is the flexibility. If you happen to see a cute souvenir store or restaurant, you can stop with a rental car. Not with a shared shuttle.
- More expensive than a bus. A shared shuttle can be $20-95 USD one way per person depending on the route. You can take coast to coast country wide public buses for as little as $20 USD one way per person.
- Luggage limit. You will pay an extra fee for more luggage if they have the space.
- Can’t do direct door to door service if staying at an Airbnb or vacation rental.
- They have a set hotel pick up and drop off route. If your hotel is not in their route, you will need to Uber/taxi/walk to the closest hotel to your location.
- Set times. Shared shuttle companies have set times for pick up and they need to meet that schedule. If your flight gets delayed, they can’t wait for you. The only thing you can do is hope they have space on the next available shuttle (which could be the next day). If you hire a private shuttle, they will wait for you even if your flight is delayed.
Important Things to Know About Booking Shuttles
- If you are staying at an Airbnb or vacation rental, check which hotel is closest to you. Like I mentioned earlier, shared shuttle companies can’t drop off/pick up at private residencies so you’ll have to go to the closest hotel to your place.
- Check the schedule of the shuttle when booking your flight. If your flight arrives after late afternoon, you will have to get a private shuttle or wait until the next day. Shared shuttle services usually only have an AM and PM schedule. The PM shuttle is usually around 2:30 PM.
- If your hotel is out of their route, shared shuttle services may not pick up or may charge extra. Some hotels are really far away so inquire first if service to that hotel is possible. If the hotel is outside their route, they’ll drop you off at the closest hotel and you will have to take a taxi the rest of the way.
- Shared shuttle companies will have booster/baby seats available. I do recommend asking the company to send you a photo of the seat they have so you can verify it will work for you.
- Inquire about wheelchair accessibility as not all vans have the automatic lift.
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