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How to Get From San Jose to La Fortuna Costa Rica

Are you traveling to Costa Rica and need to know how to get from San Jose to La Fortuna? If you are staying in La Fortuna, you must figure out how to travel from La Fortuna to San Jose Airport (and vice versa). In this guide, I’m breaking down the different ways to travel from San Jose Costa Rica to La Fortuna and back. This will help you relax and prepare for the epic Rio Celeste Waterfall Hike.

Did You Get Travel Insurance Yet?

The Insurance companies I recommend are Hey Mondo and Safety Wing

Hey Mondo is great if you are looking for a great value flexible policy. They offer single-trip cover, annual multi-trip cover, and long-term travel cover. Safety Wing is great value, with monthly coverage starting at $45.08. It’s super easy to use, and it just renews each month. I currently use them as they offer me free cover for my son as part of my policy.

Read my full travel insurance post here, where I go into detail about all companies. 

Distance From San Jose Costa Rica to La Fortuna

Once you fly into Costa Rica, you’ll travel from the San Jose Airport to La Fortuna. La Fortuna is roughly 130 kilometers northwest of San Jose—a quiet town known as the “gateway” to Arenal Volcano National Park. If you want to go from San Jose Costa Rica to Arenal Volcano National Park, La Fortuna is the way to do it.

Within the park are two volcanoes: a dormant one you can hike up with a guide and an active one you can only explore around the perimeter. La Fortuna also boasts hot springs, a thermal river, and rainforest trails. There are many things to do in La Fortuna, so it’s worth adding a San Jose to Arenal Volcano National Park trip to your Costa Rica Itinerary.

Quick Tip: Book accommodation, tours, and transport ahead of time online to save money and stress. 
Best Central America ToursClick here to check out the top Central America tours
Best Central America Accommodation: Click here to check out the best accommodation in Central America
Best Central America Transport: Click here to book a bus, ferry, or train in Central America

Best Ways to Get From San Jose Costa Rica to Arenal Volcano National Park

How to get from San Jose to La Fortuna Costa Rica

1. The Cheap Way: Take the Public Bus

The cheapest way to get from San Jose to La Fortuna Costa Rica isn’t always easy. Although the route is relatively straightforward, roadwork can significantly delay the journey.

If you arrive before 11:30 a.m., take a taxi from outside the SJO Airport (it’s a short walk and will save you money) to the bus station. San Jose’s airport isn’t actually in San Jose, so don’t go to the wrong bus station. The taxi to Alajuela should cost $25.

Once you arrive at the bus station, go inside and ask for a ticket. If you arrive before 11:30 a.m., you can get a direct bus. If you arrive later, and get a second bus to La Fortuna. There’s also a San Jose Airport to La Fortuna bus, but it’s only offered once daily early in the morning.

I did feel a little on edge in Ciudad Quesada, as I read many things about keeping bags close, so stay aware. Don’t put anything down, and keep an eye on your bag. Ask someone about the bus from Ciudad Quesada to La Fortuna—a ticket should be $4

The bus from La Fortuna to San Jose follows the same route!

How to get from San Jose to La Fortuna Costa Rica

Quick Tip: View my full Central America Essentials shopping list here.

How Far is La Fortuna From San Jose Costa Rica via Bus?

On average, the bus from San Jose to La Fortuna should take 3-4 hours—it took me six as there was terrible traffic. I boarded the bus at 2:45 p.m. and arrived in Ciudad Quesada at 5:05 p.m. There was a bus to La Fortuna waiting that left at 5:15 p.m., and I arrived in La Fortuna at 8:00 p.m.

How Much Does the Bus Cost?

The total cost to travel from SJO to La Fortuna by bus, including the taxi from the airport, was $10 USD. As for now there could be a price increase to around $30 USD.

Direct SJO Airport to La Fortuna Bus:

  • Departs from La Radial Bus Station
  • Daily bus leaves at 6:50 a.m. with expected arrival in La Fortuna at 10:50 a.m.

Direct San Jose to La Fortuna Bus:

  • Departs from Terminal 7-10
  • Daily bus leaves at 8:40 a.m. with expected arrival in La Fortuna at 12:40 p.m.

Indirect Bus Route to La Fortuna:

  • The Ciudad Quesada bus departs from Terminal 7-10 with 14 daily departures between 5:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.
  • There are two bus routes to La Fortuna from Ciudad Quesada: El Tanque (which is a bit faster) and Chachauga (which is more scenic)
  • Both routes cost the same, and there are 23 daily departures between 4:00 a.m. and 9:30 p.m.

The Recommended Way: Roundtrip La Fortuna Shuttle to San Jose Airport

While the bus is cheaper, I’d book a La Fortuna shuttle to San Jose Airport and back if I had to do it again. The shuttle is the safest and easiest way to travel, as the driver takes you door-to-door. You must book at least 24 hours in advance—I asked when I arrived at the airport and was turned away by everyone. It was stressful, so don’t leave it for the last minute like me!

I strongly recommend booking a shuttle through GuateGo. They can pick you up at the hotel or airport and take you where you need to go. I used them to travel all over Guatemala, and they were fantastic!

Top Tip: Write “From: Juan Santamaria International Airport To: La Fortuna,” then select how many tickets you want and your dates. It’s as easy as that to get door-to-door service in Costa Rica!

You can use GuateGo to book all your transportation in Costa Rica, not just from San Jose to Arenal Volcano National Park and back. You can also book transportation from Manuel Antonio, Tamarindo, Jacó, and Monteverde—almost all the major destinations in Costa Rica. Book a shared shuttle to San Jose Airport or La Fortuna here.

Another option is to book through your hotel or resort. I recommend this option if you are staying at a resort in La Fortuna and have the budget.

How Far is La Fortuna From San Jose Costa Rica via Shuttle?

The shuttle journey takes around 2-3 hours, depending on traffic and whether you’re staying in the main town or at a resort on the outskirts.

How Much Does the Shuttle Cost?

The shuttle to San Jose Airport from La Fortuna costs at least $70, but I was quoted prices up to $150. I managed to talk a guy down to $80 for the shuttle from the airport, but it was challenging.

Costa Rica is expensive to travel around, and many places are inaccessible by public bus. While in La Fortuna, I felt stuck as there was a lot to see and do, but I couldn’t get there without paying for an expensive tour. If I could do it all again, I would in Costa Rica. That way, I’d have plenty of freedom to drive around and explore.

How Far is La Fortuna From San Jose Costa Rica via Car?

The drive from San Jose to La Fortuna takes about three hours without traffic.

How Much Does the Car Cost?

Expect to pay around $50-$100 daily for a rental car in Costa Rica.

The Luxury Way: SJO to La Fortuna Flight

You can always book a roundtrip flight from San Jose Airport to La Fortuna if you want to splurge. This is the fastest method but also the most expensive. Numerous direct flights are available daily between the San Jose and La Fortuna airports.

How Far is La Fortuna From San Jose Costa Rica via Plane?

The plane ride from San Jose to La Fortuna takes less than an hour, making it a convenient and efficient travel method in Costa Rica.

How Much Does the Flight Cost?

A one-way La Fortuna to San Jose flight costs around $110-130 USD.

Looking for somewhere to stay? Check out these options!

Selina La Fortuna
Tabacón Thermal Resort & Spa
Sheraton San Jose Hotel

Central America Travel Guide Planning

🧳 Any recommendations on what I should pack for Central America?

Yes! I have created a whole packing guide to Central America which you can read here and you can also check out my packing list for Guatemala on Amazon here.

🚗 Where can I book bus or private transportation while I’m in Central America?

I strongly recommend using GottoGo. You can book almost all transport in the major tourist destinations through them online. They don’t just cover buses they also cover shuttles, ferries, and private drivers.

🎫 Where can I buy tickets for museums, attractions, and tours in Central America?

I recommend either Viator or GetYour Guide. They have a lot of options!

👩‍⚕️ What is the best insurance to have while traveling?

I recommend using Heymondo for a great value policy. The app also offers you 24/7 Dr Chat. For Digital Nomads check out SafetyWing digital nomad insurance.

I have also written a blog post covering all my recommended travel insurance here

✈️ Any flight recommendations?

WayAWay offers you cheap flights with cashback. You can use this code CLAIRE22 to get 10% off. Otherwise Skyscanner or Expedia are my go-to flight searching platforms.

📱What do you use for internet connection while traveling?

I’m a big fan of personal WiFi devices and they have saved my ass so many times when traveling. I wrote a full review of the top travel WiFi devices you can read here. I personally use GlocalMe as I can either pop in a physical sim card or use their local carrier.

With regards to my phone connection, I use e-sims while traveling, so rather than having to swap out my regular sim card I can download the app and buy a virtual sim card. I recommend using eitherAirhub or Alosim. Both have great coverage of multiple countries and are very easy to use.

🛏️ What is the best platform to use for booking accommodation?

The 3 best platforms that I normally use are, and Expedia They offer great deals and multiple options. I always check all three to be sure of the best deals.

🛅 Do you have any luggage recommendations for traveling?

I do have a complete list of the best packing and luggage products that I recommend, you can check the list here. I’m currently traveling with this suitcase and this backpack. 

How to Get From La to San Jose and Back: Final Thoughts

I stayed at Lost Iguana Resort outside La Fortuna, which cost me $30 for a 20-minute taxi. If you add this to the $10 I paid for the bus, I could have gotten a 2-3 hour, door-to-door ride for only $10 extra. So, honestly, unless you are staying in the town, get a shuttle or rent a car in Costa Rica.

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Costa Rica Guide | How to get from San Jose to La Fortuna Costa Rica


Friday 26th of January 2024

Thanks for the article about your experience using transportation services. Currently, I am struggling finding affordable ways to travel from San Jose to La fortuna and other parts of Costa Rica. Currently, my hotel and airport is booked in San Jose. So, I have a lot of work to.


Tuesday 12th of January 2021

"So make sure you are clear that you DON’T want the bus station in San Jose. " im so confused about this statement, but isn't the bus station is in San Jose

Claire Summers

Thursday 21st of January 2021

No. As I said in the post, the airport is;t in San Jose. So if you take a taxi to the San Jose bus station you are going out of your way as it's in the opposite direction.


Sunday 6th of May 2018

Hi there, do you know where I would go to book a shuttle straight from the airport to my Hostel in La Fortuna? This was a very helpful site, I know you recommend driving yourself but I’m a bit concerned about the safety of the roads and the people. Thanks!

Claire Summers

Friday 11th of May 2018

Hi Britt! I'm so sorry I've only just seen this. This was who I tried to book with I say try as I wasn't able to book because it was too last minute. So be sure to book as much in advance as you can!


Tuesday 2nd of January 2018

When you say hire a car, do you mean hire a driver or rent a car to drive yourself?

Claire Summers

Monday 8th of January 2018

Rent a car to drive yourself :-)

Yacon Root

Thursday 31st of August 2017

Awesome Site. Very much enjoyed reading.