Taking the Bus to Puerto Viejo
Taking the bus from San Jose to Puerto Viejo is the most affordable way to get here. It can be a bit complicated if you don’t speak Spanish or take public transportation often, but it’s really not that hard. It takes about ten minutes to walk to Hidden Jungle Beach House from where the bus drops you off in downtown Puerto Viejo, you can also take a taxi which would be super fast and cost 2000 colones, about $4 US dollars.
There are several direct buses per day from San Jose to Puerto Viejo, the name of the bus company is Autotransportes Mepe and the buses leave from terminal Atlantico Norte in downtown San Jose. Always confirm schedules directly with the bus companies in Costa Rica and especially with Mepe, the schedules you see online are very often inaccurate. Mepe’s English website is currently showing the pre-pandemic bus schedule with departure times that no longer exist! Make sure to confirm the bus schedules ahead of time, here at Hidden Jungle Beach House we always have the most updated Mepe schedules available.
Bus tickets between San Jose and Puerto Viejo cost about 7000 colones which is about $13 US dollars. Tickets can be reserved ahead of time through the Mepe website HERE, you will need to pay for and collect the ticket at the ticket office at least 30 minutes before your departure otherwise your reservation will be forfeited. The bus station is cash only, they don’t accept credit cards. You can also buy them at the bus station the day of your trip or a few days in advance if you would like. It’s recommended to buy your tickets ahead of time or to make a reservation if possible, the buses do sell out often, especially during busy season.
The bus station is about 30-40 minutes away from the airport. Currently the last bus from San Jose to Puerto Viejo leaves at 4 PM, so if your flight arrives later than 1:30 or 2 PM your only option would be private transportation or to spend the night in San Jose. Even with a 2 PM arrival time it’s probably best to plan on spending the night in San Jose, there may be a long line to get through customs and you never know what traffic will be like. There’s also the possibility that the bus would be sold out and you’d be stuck there anyway. Uber is the best and most affordable option to get to the bus station from the airport, the price is around $15-$20 US dollars. You have to wait upstairs in the drop-off area for departing passengers, Ubers are not allowed to enter the arrivals area. If you don’t want to take an Uber we recommend to ONLY take an official orange airport taxi, they are available as you exit the arrival terminal just outside the door, do NOT leave the airport to get into any taxi other than an official orange airport taxi right outside the terminal. The price will be around $28-$38 US dollars depending on traffic.
The journey from San Jose to Puerto Viejo takes between 5-7 hours depending on traffic, roadwork, and weather conditions. On a good day with no traffic it’s possible to make it in 4.5 hours, it’s common for the journey to take 8 hours or more, especially during rainy season when landslides can shut down route 32 and you have to detour through Turrialba, this can happen at any time of year, not just rainy season! My longest journey from San Jose to Puerto Viejo on the bus was 8.5 hours in the middle of dry season. It generally takes around 6 hours. I always tell my guests to be mentally prepared for a long journey but to always hope for the best! Keep the lengthy travel times and potential road closures in mind if you are trying to get back to the airport from Puerto Viejo on the same day as your flight, if your flight leaves earlier than 3 PM it’s best to spend the night before your flight in San Jose.
Your luggage and other large items will be safely stored in the compartment below the bus, you can bring a backpack or other bag on the bus with you. DO NOT LEAVE YOUR PERSONAL ITEMS ON THE BUS UNATTENDED WHEN THE BUS STOPS IN LIMON. Keep your hand luggage with you at all times. Make sure your phone and any other electronic devices you might use are fully charged before you go. I like to bring a portable power bank as well, you never know how long the trip might take although travel times have gotten a lot better since some improvements have been made on the road. Relax and enjoy the ride, the scenery is fantastic and the destination is definitely worth the long journey!
PRO TIP – don’t drink too many liquids before and during the bus trip and make sure your bladder is as empty as possible before you leave. The bus will only make one ten minute stop in Limon and that will be your only opportunity to use the bathroom on the entire trip, make sure you take advantage of it!