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How to Get From San Jose to Manuel Antonio

How to Get From San Jose to Manuel Antonio

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While living in Costa Rica, we’ve made lots of trips to Manuel Antonio. It’s a legendary destination in Costa Rica and one that shouldn’t be missed. If you are trying to figure out how to get here from San Jose, we are here to help you with the logistics!

The good news is that it’s easy to get here and you have plenty of options. In this blog, we will go over all of them in detail making this your one-stop blog for everything you need to know to get from San Jose to Manuel Antonio. 

The 5 Best Ways to Get from San Jose to Manuel Antonio 

Daniel stands with a rental car in Costa Rica on the way to Manuel Antonio
Our rental car!


Quick, comfortable, and offering door-to-door service, you can book this private shuttle to Manuel Antonio easily. We love taking shuttles in Costa Rica for several reasons. You don’t have to worry about driving in San Jose, you can enjoy the sights, and your driver will stop for breaks to see cool things like the Crocodile Bridge along the way!

Driving (Rental Car) 

When push comes to shove, we always go for a rental car and we think you should consider it, too. Having your own vehicle makes getting to and around Manuel Antonio easy as pie.

If you’re concerned about the roads or driving in the country, we will cover that extensively in just a little bit. Spoiler alert, it’s totally doable! We also recommend using Discover Cars to find the best deals on vehicles and to make sure you don’t get ripped off.

A shuttle stops for a break during a trip in Costa Rica
Shuttles are an extremely convenient way to travel in Costa Rica


If you’re looking to do a little sightseeing and explore one of the best National Parks in Costa Rica on your way to Manuel Antonio, a guided tour like this one is a great option. They offer comfortable rides, lunch, tickets to the park, and wildlife spotting galore! Just be sure to specify with them that you want your tour to end in Manuel Antonio and not back in San Jose.

Local Bus and Charter Bus

Cheap and (mostly) reliable, sometimes I like taking local buses just for the thrill of it. Like the idea of a cheap ride, but not so much the adventure of public transit? Tracopa Bus Company offers daily direct rides to Manuel Antonio that are safe and comfortable.


If you want to avoid long driving times, or are just so excited to begin your epic getaway to Manuel Antonio taking a flight with Sansa Air from San Jose is the way to go. Tickets are relatively cheap and flights are only 30 minutes. Talk about convenience!

Shuttle from San Jose to Manual Antonio

A shuttle picks up up in Costa Rica
A typical shuttle in Costa Rica

Whether you’re coming directly from the airport or your hotel in San Jose, a shuttle is a comfortable and hassle-free way to get to Manuel Antonio. 

If you are flying into SJO and getting a shuttle to Manuel Antonio, I recommend downloading WhatsApp before your trip and buying a prepaid SIM card at the airport. That way you can easily text or call your driver after you land. 

If you’re already in the city, shuttles can pick you up from any hotel, Airbnb, or hostel without any issues for prompt door-to-door service. 

A shuttle from San Jose will usually take about 3 hours to reach Manuel Antonio depending on traffic and stops that you make to see wildlife, get some food, or use the bathroom. The road is well-maintained, not too curvy, and weaves in and out of the beautiful Costa Rican jungle. I love shuttles in Costa Rica because you can just sit back and enjoy the scenery!

Drivers are bilingual so you don’t have to worry about speaking Spanish (a “gracias” is always appreciated though!) and vehicles are airconditioned with WiFi. When it it comes to tipping your driver, it is optional, but 10-20% will make their day. 

We have used and recommend two shuttle companies that can get you from San Jose to Manuel Antonio. The first private shuttle we recommend makes stops at local fruit stands (try the mango!) and the crocodile bridge on the way and it is only $200 USD for up to a group of six people.

The second shuttle we like is more direct with fewer stops and prices vary by date and the size of the group. If you’re flying in, I recommend this shuttle since if your flight is delayed they will wait up to 3 hours after your scheduled pick-up time.

Driving from San Jose to Manuel Antonio 

Stopping at a strawberry stand in Costa Rica on the side of the road in a rental car
Stopping to buy strawberries!

If you’re like us, nothing beats having your own ride when exploring a country. If you’re looking to rent a car we have made a comprehensive guide on renting a car and driving in Costa Rica.

Coming out of San Jose, there are two main roads to get to Manuel Antonio. The first is along Route 27 and goes by the Gulf of Nicoya. You can expect this drive to take you about 2.5-3 hours and the road is well-maintained and safe to drive. The second way has you on Route 313 and cuts right down the middle of San Jose Province. We have done this drive in about 3.5 hours and it’s also well-maintained, but much windier.

I recommend taking Route 27 from San Jose for two reasons, it’s safer and there is more to see. It’s safer because the road doesn’t have as many twists and turns.

If you do take this route, there will be 3 toll booths along the way and altogether it will cost about $4 USD (2,000 colones) so be sure to have some small bills with you. You can pay with a credit card, but because of conversion rates, it will cost you much more! As for the things to see I will tell you more about those in just a moment, but first, a few more tips!

Daniel fills up our rental car in Costa rica
At a gas station in Costa Rica

Carry some cash with you. While most gas stations accept all forms of Visa, Master Card, etc. you will want to be safe and have some Costa Rican colones with you. 

When in doubt about the speed limit, drive slow! Not only do you want to avoid getting a ticket in Costa Rica, but you never know when wildlife will start walking across the road.

Don’t drive at night! Between more animals coming out, drunk drivers, and other hazards, it’s not worth the risk. If you can’t make it to Manuel Antonio before 6 pm, I recommend you stay in San Jose until the morning.

When it’s time for a bathroom break, I recommend pulling over at a Delta Gas Station. Not only are they are safe, but clean, and you can fill up your tank! 

Places to stop along the way

Rescate Wildlife Rescue Center

Two monkies at Rescate Wildlife Center
There’s lots of wildlife to see, even some rescued from captivity

Just outside of San Jose is the wonderful Rescate Wildlife Rescue Center which we love to visit whenever we are in the area. This non-profit is a great place to meet some of the local wildlife while on your trip. The people who work here are incredible and the money you spend on entry goes right back into protecting Costa Rica’s biodiversity!

To make it even easier, you can grab tickets ahead of time to skip the line upon arrival. Tickets cost $35 USD and there’s free cancellation up to 24 hours in advance if your plans change.

Tarcoles Crocodile Bridge

Bailey points to a crocodile on the Crocodile Bridge over the Tarcoles River

About halfway to Manuel Antonio, you will cross a bridge over the Tarcoles River. Peer over the edge and you will spot (you guessed it) crocodiles! I recommend parking at one of the restaurants nearby, grabbing a bite, and checking out these super cool creatures. Just don’t feed them or get any closer than looking from the bridge!

Jaco/Playa Hermosa

Sitting in a restaurant at Playa Hermosa
You can’t swim at Playa Hermosa (the waves are too strong), but the beachside restaurants are the best!

Jaco has some seriously pretty beaches, amazing restaurants (check out our favorite restaurants here!), and even a brewery. If you need to stretch your legs or just want to stop off and see the ocean (visit Mirador de Jaco!) this is a great place to do just that. It’s only about an hour down the road from Manuel Antonio and a great place to go back to during your stay.

Related Read: Check out our full guide on all the things to do in Jaco if you want to spend more time here!

Tours from San Jose to Manuel Antonio  

All-inclusive Manuel Antonio Tour including Nature Walk and Beach Time

Two people walk on a beach in Manuel Antonio
The beach at Manuel Antonio National Park is amazing!
Monkeys are so cute!

I love this all-inclusive tour because it’s a great way to spot some wildlife and enjoy Manuel Antonio National Park. Plus with meals and entrance fees covered, it makes for a stress-free day! 

This full-day tour starts with pick up from your hotel in San Jose. You’ll make a quick stop in Orotina for breakfast and then make your way to the National Park. While you do spend a lot of time exploring the National Park (about 3.5 hours) you also spend a lot of time in the tour van. For this reason, I recommend bringing a book or some headphones to pass the time while traveling.

Manuel Antonio is one of Costa Rica’s top National Parks and a blast to explore on a guided tour. Bring some good boots or shoes and your swimsuit since you will be doing some hiking and swimming!

If you’re an animal enthusiast, keep your camera ready as your guide points out monkeys, iguanas, birds, and sloths! After exploring the park you’ll enjoy a fresh lunch. This tour does return to San Jose if you’re only looking for a day trip option, so reach out to the tour provider after you book to ask for drop off in Manuel Antonio if you’re staying there.

Only operating on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday you can book tickets in advance for $155 USD a person. 

Day Trip to Manuel Antonio National Park to Spot Wildlife

A sloth in Costa Rica
A sloth in Manuel Antonio National Park
crocodile in the Tarcoles River 
Checking out crocodiles at Tarcoles Bridge!

This day trip is a great opportunity to explore one of Costa Rica’s most popular national parks and enjoy a comfortable ride to Manuel Antonio in the process. It’s a long day, but perfect if you’d like to return to San Jose having experienced the highlights of Manuel Antonio! Or you can choose to have them drop you off in Manuel Antonio to spend a few days here on your own.

Your day starts early at 5:30 am when you are picked up and make your way to a local restaurant for breakfast. I love a typical Costa Rican breakfast of gallo pinto, eggs, banana, and sausage. It’s so fresh and delicious!

The drive to Manuel Antonio National Park is beautiful and your guide will use the time on the way to answer any questions you have about Costa Rica and its wonderful culture. The road goes through the jungle, past ocean lookouts, and near African palm plantations.

I recommend bringing your towel, swimsuit, hiking footwear, and binoculars if you have them for the national park. You’ll spend time spotting wildlife like iguanas, deer, and sloths as well as hiking and swimming in the ocean.

The tour cost of $175 USD includes lunch (another delicious traditional meal) as well as entrance to the park for a stress-free day.

Small Group Tour of Manuel Antonio National Park

A lady walks through Manuel Antonio National Park
Walking through Manuel Antonio National Park
three monkies on a branch in Manuel Antonio National Park
Monkeys everywhere!

If you’re looking for a more personal experience of Manuel Antonio National Park, this tour from San Jose offers a guided experience in a smaller group (max 20 people).

Starting at 6 am, you’ll set off for Manuel Antonio National Park with a stop for breakfast (a delicious traditional meal) and a few other stops along the way like Crocodile Bridge, one of my favorites! 

Since this is a small group tour, your naturalist guide will make more stops to point out animals along the way and tell you about Costa Rica’s unique biodiversity. I love cute critters, lizards included, and you’re sure to see plenty on this trip!

Pack a water bottle, swimsuit, towel, and some good shoes because you spend a good part of your day exploring the park with your guide. Between hiking, swimming, and animal spotting, you’ll have plenty to see and do! The highlight if you love beaches is the time at the private beach within the park – it’s so pretty!

Transport back to San Jose is included or be sure to let the tour provider know beforehand if you’re staying in Manuel Antonio. This tour is $162 USD per person.

Why We Book Tours with Viator

Viator is a trusted online booking system for tours around the world! We almost always book our tours using Viator for a couple of reasons:

  • Free cancellation on most tours – Most of the tours on Viator allow you to cancel and get a full refund up to 24 hours in advance. This is handy in case plans change, or if booking an outdoor activity, the weather forecast is looking grim.
  • Reserve now and pay later – You can secure your spot on some of the most popular tours well in advance and not pay until closer to the day of the tour.
  • Lowest price guarantee – If you happen to find the same tour at a lower price elsewhere, Viator will refund you the price difference.
  • Pay in your chosen currency – Avoid costly international transaction fees by choosing to pay in your home currency.
  • Peace of mind – When booking with tour operators you find in person on the street or in small booking offices, you are often promised one thing and given another. This online platform holds tour operators accountable with a written description of inclusions as well as the opportunity for customers to leave reviews.

Check out the Viator website here! Or, for more info, read our detailed review about Viator here.

Local bus and charter bus from San Jose to Manuel Antonio

If you are looking for a cheaper way to get to Manuel Antonio, buses are the way to go. There are two different ways to get to Manuel Antonio by bus: Tracopa, and the public bus system, and I’ll tell you about each. 


Daniel walks towards a Tracopa bus for Manuel Antonio in Costa Rica
Walking towards our Tracopa bus headed for Manuel Antonio

The Tracopa Bus Company offers daily direct buses from San Jose to Manuel Antonio for 5,630 Colones ($11 USD). You can check their schedule online beforehand (San Jose is also called Saint Joseph when you translate their site to English), but tickets must be bought at the bus station (see the location here) on the day of travel with cash only. 

The buses themselves are comfortable, airconditioned, and offer safe storage for your luggage. There is no bathroom on board, but over the 3-4 hour journey, you will make a stop for a quick snack and bathroom break. I suggest you bring some water and make a good music playlist!

Public Transit

A public bus in Costa Rica
Taking a public bus in Costa Rica

If you’re an adventurous kind of person and like saving money, the local bus is a cheap way to get to Manuel Antonio. It requires a little bit more work to pull off, so I only recommend it to those who are traveling light, speak a little Spanish, and don’t mind the trip taking longer.

While we always do our best to provide up-to-date information about times and costs, public transportation can change without notice. We encourage you to stop by the bus depot a day or two before you intend on taking the bus to get a feel for the area and get first-hand information about the trip. However, we will still tell you about our experience!

The first step is to get to the San Jose bus station and find the bus going to Quepos. There are no direct buses to Manuel Antonio from San Jose so you will need to take a bus to Quepos first. Departures go throughout the day, but if you want to make it to Manuel Antonio in a day, I recommend taking the earliest bus at 6:30 am. Get there at least an hour early since the station can be chaotic at best.

The outside of a public bus in Costa Rica
A typical public bus in Costa Rica

Tickets are purchased the day of, cash in hand, at the bus directly. To get to Quepos you can expect to pay 5,000 colones ($10 USD) per ticket. Most buses have a sign with their destination on the front and a person by the door also yelling where it’s going. Keep in mind this ride will take about 4.5-5 hours.

Conditions of the buses can vary and I didn’t see any with a toilet on board, although they do make the occasional stop. 

Once you make it to the Quepos bus station, ask around for the bus to Manuel Antonio. There are departures throughout the day, so depending on how long it took to get to Quepos you might need to wait for the next bus. This ride should only cost you about 250 colones ($.50 USD) and takes 15 minutes to get to Manuel Antonio.

Alternatively, you can grab a taxi from the bus station in Quepos to Manuel Antonio for about 3,000-3,500 colones ($6-$7 USD) although you might need to haggle the price down a bit. I recommend having your hotel arrange a taxi for you if they can even though it costs a few dollars more. It just makes the end of a long day easier!

Our recommendation

When it comes right down to it, Tracopa is the way to go. It’s faster, safer, easier, and ultimately cheaper than public transportation. Unless you want to have a local experience and a day of adventure (which I totally understand) I recommend taking the Tracopa direct bus from San Jose to Manuel Antonio.

Flight from San Jose to Manuel Antonio

Flying to Manuel Antonio from San Jose with Sansa Air Costa Rica
Sansa Air is great for in-country flights

If you want to avoid long drives and don’t mind spending a little bit more, flying to Quepos then taking a taxi into town is a great option. We actually recommend renting a car that you can pick up and drop off directly from the Quepos airport if you want more freedom and flexibility during your time in Manuel Antonio.

The Quepos airport is about 20 minutes outside of Manuel Antonio and easy to get to either by taxi or driving. If you opt for a taxi, consider contacting your hotel to have a driver waiting for you once you arrive and avoid haggling for overpriced taxis. 

Flights from the San Jose International Airport to Quepos are only 30 minutes and are operated by Sansa Air. Depending on the date of your trip, tickets are anywhere from $95 – $136 USD per person one way. For an extra fee, you can bring things like bikes, surfboards, fishing gear, and even your pets!

You are allowed one checked bag that does not exceed 30 pounds (14 kilograms) and one piece of hand luggage or a small backpack. Additional baggage fees are calculated by weight and available space on the plane at the time of check-in.

Our preferred way to get from San Jose to Manuel Antonio  

A view of the road on the drive from San Jose to Manuel Antonio Costa Rica
Rental cars offer so much flexibility

When it comes to getting from San Jose to Manuel Antonio, we always suggest that people rent a car or take a shuttle. They are quick, convenient, and you can stop off at some great places along the way to make your time in Costa Rica more memorable. The drive between these two places is stunning and shouldn’t be missed.

Living the Pura Vida life means less hassle and more fun which is why either a shuttle or rental car are our go-to options and ones that we think you should consider, too!

Related Read: Before you leave, read our helpful blog on staying safe in Costa Rica including tips on how to avoid scams!

Must-Do Activities While You’re in Manuel Antonio

Bailey and Daniel take a selfie while ATVing in Costa Rica
You can tell by our faces we loved it!

Once you arrive in Manuel Antonio, there’s so much to see and do! You can check out our full guide on Manuel Antonio or browse our favorite activities below!

  • Coffee and chocolate tour – Coffee and chocolate are two of my favorite things. So, it should come as no surprise I just had to join this top-rated coffee and chocolate tour in Manuel Antonio! The tour teaches you about the historical importance of cacao as well as the entire process of making chocolate. It’s a fantastic experience!
  • Ziplining – Did you know that Manuel Antonio is home to the longest twin zipline in Costa Rica? Well, on this ziplining tour, you’ll get to zoom through the treetops on a huge tandem zipline! You can race with your friends and enjoy the experience together, which is incredible!
  • ATVingThis ATV tour is so much fun and takes you into the jungle to explore at high speed and then refresh in a natural waterfall. You’ll get wet and dirty, but have a fantastic time! A traditional Costa Rica lunch is also included.

Where to Stay in Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica

There are tons of different hotels to choose from when deciding where to stay in Manuel Antonio. Here are a few of our favorites for all budgets:

Parador Resort and Spa – $$$

Those who enjoy staying in a beautiful hotel and don’t mind paying for it, have to check out Parador Resort and Spa. This place does tick a lot of boxes! It’s only a short walk to the beach, has fantastic panoramic views thanks to its elevated location, and has two infinity pools.

The hotel is surrounded by rainforest, so there’s tons of wildlife around too. It’s more around the $350 USD+ per night mark, but is great for a luxury getaway! You can check availability and book online here.

Hotel Villas Lirio – $$

For the medium-budget traveler, my top choice is Hotel Villas Lirio (pictured above). This gorgeous hotel is reasonably priced but has some very luxurious features such as an outdoor pool, tropical manicured gardens, an included breakfast, and a restaurant. 

The hotel is also located in the heart of Manuel Antonio and is only meters from the main road where the bus down to the beach and national park goes (it’s a 1-minute drive or a short walk). Be sure to book it in advance as it is often fully booked. You can book Hotel Villas Lirio here.

Selina – $

One of the best budget-friendly places to stay in Manuel Antonio is Selina. Selina has hostels all over Costa Rica and the world. They always offer an ideal place to stay with clean rooms, a great bar, and a social atmosphere. In Manuel Antonio, Selina is no different, and the hostel comes with a huge pool, restaurant and bar, private rooms, and dorm rooms. 

Rates begin at $57 USD per night. You can book Selina here on Hostelworld or here on

Pura Vida!

Bailey and Daniel take a selfie on a cruise in Manuel Antonio
Thanks for reading!

I hope you feel more prepared for your trip from San Jose to Manuel Antonio! While there are a few different ways to get here, once you arrive, you’re going to love it. The National Park is spectacular – you’re going to need a wildlife Bingo card to keep track of all the different animals you’ll see!

For more help planning a trip to Costa Rica, check out our blog here. Or I put a few below that might be helpful as you plan time in Manuel Antonio.

21 Things you NEED to know before visiting Manuel Antonio National Park

15 BEST Tours in Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica

12 BEST Restaurants in Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica