Costa Rica by Bus

Someone recently asked me about getting around the country by bus and I think I referred them to the Bus Schedule website which lists all of the option when you type in the “From” and “To” spaces on that website with all bus companies included.

Well, I forgot about an even better help beyond schedules, the Facebook Group Page Costa Rica by Bus on which you can post a question (may have to join group first) and some of the many people who travel by bus will share their experiences and advice. And of course they also recommend the bus schedule site above. And by the way, that bus in photo above is the one I took to Turrialba.

I plan to go to a birding lodge near San Isidro del General in May, so anticipate my report on that bus experience then. I use the bus almost weekly to go from Atenas to Alajuela for many different reasons and have gone to San Jose by bus many times. Some of my other bus adventures have been (with links to photo galleries):

All of this was to simply say that you can travel on a “shoestring budget” and see a lot of Costa Rica whether you live here or visiting. Buses are cheap here! That is the way most Ticos travel! And you can do it without the Spanish language, though much easier and a richer experience if you speak at least a little Spanish.

Now, as a retiree who has made seeing all of Costa Rica my main activity, I do not do everything the budget-way and love to go the longer distances on Sansa Airlines or to places less than 3 hours from Atenas by my favorite driver here in Atenas, but I do not have a car and have basically quit renting cars because of the high insurance cost, thus seeing Costa Rica by bus is one option I still use when I consider it the most practical way. The next bus report comes in May!   🙂

“Live with no excuses and travel with no regrets”    ~ Oscar Wilde

I just realized that I did a similar post in 2017, Seeing Costa Rica by Bus   🙂

¡Pura Vida!

Bus Schedules

The two most important, most used for me are to Alajuela & to San Jose, at Atenas Bus Station:


These printed schedules can be changed easier than the old painted ones.
I go to Alajuela for Aeropost, Pricesmart, Walmart, movies, restaurants, mall
But can’t stay too late, last bus back is at 10:30 pm!  🙂  Past my bedtime!
45 minute ride station to station either way

I go to San Jose less often for lawyer, US Embassy, government offices
and sometimes museums, concerts, other cultural events.
It is also the hub for buses to anywhere in Costa Rica.
Next month I will go through San Jose to get to Orosi, Costa Rica.
1 hour ride station to station either way except rush hour is longer

I keep copies of these inside my closet door in case I’m going at an irregular time. The schedules are also posted on the website  Click “Horario” and then the dropbox down arrow to click the town you want to go to. “Buscar” after choosing the town will give you a full week schedule like the above. In Costa Rica thousands of people use buses every day to go to work or take care of business, medical appointments, shopping, etc.

SALE = to leave or go out of
L aV = Lunes a viernes or Monday to Friday
SAB Y FER = Sábado y ferias or Saturday and holidays
DOM = Domingo or Sunday

FOR BUS SCHEDULES BEYOND ATENAS you English speakers are lucky that there is one in English available at  in which you fill in the form for where you want to travel, the date and time of day and they will give you a bus itinerary for your trip and often several options. It is what I use to plan my trips. It couldn’t be easier, but some Americans are still afraid to try the buses which go to almost every town in the country. This is the way local people travel! And yes, it is slower than going in your car but at an enormous savings and I would say generally safer plus more social with more cultural experiences and certainly more relaxing than driving. Where I do spend the money (still cheaper than a car) is to avoid some long bus rides I will take one of the local airlines to more distant places. Lazy old man! 
One of the Coopetransatenas Buses leaving the Alajuela Station
In San Jose there are lots of other bus companies to other towns
and most have similar equipment, from Germany, China or Korea usually
¡Pura Vida!

Seeing Costa Rica by Public Bus

Looking out my bus’ front window at others waiting for different buses.
Coca Cola Bus Station, San Jose, Costa Rica

For my part, I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel’s sake. The great affair is to move.

Robert Louis Stevenson

I’ve already mentioned that I am traveling to my next adventure destination by public bus. For fellow travelers here or you in other countries planning to travel here on a budget, let me share one more help for this kind of travel. It is a Facebook Group Costa Rica by Bus. It is a free, public group but you have to join to be notified of postings. 

The Robert Lous Stevenson quote above in on that group’s heading and possibly typical of the many young adults who like to travel all over Costa Rica. 

I just posted a statement of how I changed my plan for this week, learned from Juan, my new helper at the bus station here in Atenas. Here it is  in case you don’t see it there: 

I learned a new trick today to make my bus traveling maybe a little easier, thanks to Juan at the Atenas Bus Station. I’m going to Tenorio Volcano National Park, closest town Bijagua. The online scheduler had me going from Atenas to Orotina, then on to Baranca where I catch the pass-through bus to Upala after a layover. Juan suggested that even though “back-tracking,” it would be easier, maybe quicker, and surer to go to San Jose where the Upala Bus starts. When I’m on that bus (seat guaranteed if early) I never have to get off or worry about missing a connection or waiting for a bus or having a seat. Since the Atenas & Upala stations in San Jose are close, I’m going to try that this trip. Any comments or suggestions? Or something I or Juan didn’t think of? 

And I think I already shared the site where you can plan a schedule in English online:   To have it show my revised schedule above, I just add in the box “By way of” the words San Jose. And we will see if anyone comments on paragraph above. You can learn a lot from fellow-travelers! 

There are many bus companies in Costa Rica and we have one in Atenas:

Most Atenas buses are nice modern vehicles like this Mercedes-Benz
But most are not air-conditioned which really isn’t needed here.
This one is German-made, others Korean or Chinese – all imported.
Buses to very rural areas are sometimes old school buses.

And if you want something else to ride a bus to, try San Jose’s Fiesta de Gallo Pinto

Another Trip Planned Ahead Today – For September

Hotel Banana Azul,  Puerto Viejo de Talamanca,
South Caribbean Coast, Costa Rica

Popular or “good” hotels and lodges stay booked sometimes up to a year ahead, so even though I live in Costa Rica, I too have to plan ahead even in the “off season” which most say includes September. Though I have also read that the best time to visit the Caribbean Coast and its year-a-round rainy season is August and September when they have the lowest amount of rain all year. Thus my last two trips to the Caribe have been in either August or September and I’m staying with that plan for this year too. Both of the other times I studied hotels and wanted the Banana Azul Adults Only Hotel and they had no vacancy. Well, this year I planned far enough ahead and got in! And don’t let the adults thing confuse you. Not XX adult, just peace & quiet adult. Most hotels in CR emphasize families and lots of families come! And often dozens of kids dominate the space and the sound waves. So this will be interesting! And maybe quiet, though they do allow age 16 and older.  🙂

They have already, within 2 hours, put me in contact with a local guide service that will take me to some new and different birding locations not seen last year. So I’m hoping for more new species! The Caribbean side of CR is not as popular as the Pacific beaches, with fewer tourists, smaller hotels, and a much quieter, calmer beach and jungle to explore. My kind of place! And snorkeling is better but not surfing.

And I have my public bus schedule printed out already. I will be traveling to three of my next four locations by public bus, really cheap as a senior adult. And even my small plane trip to Drake Bay is cheaper than a rent car. Even though I now have a CR Driver License, I will rarely rent a car. And I’m so glad I did not buy a car! You can literally go anywhere in the country on a bus! And for my local friends or others who may want to see Costa Rica by bus, you need to know about this website for bus schedules in English:   or “Travel Planner” as they call it. Cool! Easy! You pay before boarding bus. Of course it helps to know a little Spanish, since most drivers speak little or no English, but they are exceptionally helpful and will do everything possible to get you to your destination. Lots of brave foreign travelers tour the country by bus, especially young singles and us old singles!  🙂

My birding trips scheduled for balance of 2017 now:

MARCH: Tenorio Volcano National Park with Celeste Falls and visit to Caño Negro, Rio Frio.
MAY: Drake Bay and Corcovado National Park Rainforest + island visit for snorkeling
JULY: Return visit to Rancho Naturalista near Turrialba Volcano, east of Cartago.
SEPTEMBER: Puerto Viejo on the South Caribbean Coast and rainforests.

NOVEMBER/DECEMBER: Not planned yet. I’m debating with myself about either returning to Tortuguero (North Caribbean) or exploring some new places on the Nicoya Peninsula or another National Park southwest of Cartago, called Tapanti. So much to see and do!

A lot of trips? Yeah! Isn’t that what retirement is suppose to be? A continuous vacation!   🙂

KIND OF FUNNY: Most of you know that I have geckos living in all of my rooms now as my free pest control service – eating virtually all of my insects! I rarely play a CD but tonight I played the one I have of a Costa Rica Rainforest sounds with birds, insects, waterfalls, etc. It really excited the geckos!  🙂

See all my Costa Rica Photo Galleries at:
Charlie Doggett’s COSTA RICA