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How to Get From San Jose to Santa Teresa – 4 Best Ways

How to Get From San Jose to Santa Teresa – 4 Best Ways

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Far from the hustle and bustle of San Jose, lies the coastal town of Santa Teresa aka paradise. If you’re reading this, you already know how amazing it looks and as someone who has been there many times, I can confirm that, yes, it’s awesome!

The problem is, how do you get to Santa Teresa? It’s certainly more than a little ways away from the capital. Well, we have condensed everything you need to know about getting to Santa Teresa from San Jose into one nifty little blog. We’ll cover your options, costs, things to see along the way, and more.

The 4 Best Ways to Get from San Jose to Santa Teresa  

Daniel stands with a rental car in Costa Rica on the way to Santa Teresa
Our rental car!


Cost-effective and stress-free, shuttles are often a great match for travelers looking to get to Santa Teresa. For larger groups, I always recommend taking this specific private shuttle since it’s a flat rate and incredibly flexible. For smaller groups or solo travelers, a shared shuttle is never a bad choice! 

Driving (Rental Car)  

Looking for unmatched freedom and flexibility? Renting a car in San Jose is an easy process and an amazing way to get down to Santa Teresa. There’s lots to see along the way and the roads are safe and manageable. We wrote a whole blog about renting a car in Costa Rica that’s full of tips!

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

Local Bus  

If you love the cheap and adventurous form of travel known as the bus … well, unfortunately, there really isn’t any public transit from San Jose to Santa Teresa. We talk about it more later, but if you’re looking for the cheapest option, I recommend checking out these shared shuttles to see if one fits your schedule.


While it may not be cheap, flying is quick and the easiest way to get to Santa Teresa. Technically, you fly into Cobano and take a shuttle or taxi 30 minutes into town, but that’s still a heck of a lot faster than driving! Sansa Air offers flights daily from San Jose for around $250 USD roundtrip. 

Shuttle from San Jose to Santa Teresa  

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

Let’s talk about shuttles in Costa Rica because I love using them as a way to get around. They’re safe, convenient, and take all of the stress out of traveling from point A to point B. If you’re not keen on driving yourself from San Jose to Santa Teresa (which I totally understand) I recommend you consider taking a shuttle. 

If you’re flying into San Jose and heading straight to Santa Teresa, consider downloading WhatsApp before you leave your country and buying a SIM card when you land. This way you have a working phone on arrival and you can easily communicate with your shuttle driver. This will make your experience so much smoother!

Typically, a shuttle to Santa Teresa takes 5-6 hours depending on traffic and stops made along the way. I have yet to find a shuttle that isn’t airconditioned and just about all of them offer WiFi on board. The road is a little windy and sometimes I get a little carsick, so if you’re like me consider taking some medication before you leave. However, if you didn’t pack any, you can easily find some at any pharmacy nearby.

Drivers are bilingual, so if you don’t speak any Spanish you’ll be just fine. But if you want to make their day, learning a few phrases and a propina (tip) of 10% goes a long way!

A shuttle in Costa Rica
There is plenty of room for your luggage

About halfway through the journey, there is a ferry crossing that takes approximately 70 minutes and offers some fantastic views. The ferry is very large and the water is calm so it makes for a pleasant ride. This is a good time to stretch your legs and use the bathroom before the final stretch to Santa Teresa.

So now that you know all about the shuttle ride, what about your shuttle choices? Well, I put together several options for you to simplify the process depending on your personal preference and budget. 

This specific private shuttle is a great option for groups or travelers who want a more personalized and flexible travel day. What I love about this private shuttle in particular is that if you’re flying into San Jose, the driver will wait for up to 3 hours if your flight is delayed. Of course, if you’re not flying in, they will pick you up anywhere in town at any time. It can accommodate a group of up to 5 people for a flat $425 USD making it more budget-friendly the more people you have!

If you’re solo traveling or in a smaller group shared shuttles are awesome because they are cheaper, but still just as comfortable. The only downside is that they have more rigid departure times and pre-planned stops, so it’s not as flexible or personalized. Most still pick up from all around town and drop off at hotels in Santa Teresa but always be sure to double check!

Driving from San Jose to Santa Teresa  

Views of the road from a rental car on the way to Santa Teresa from San Jose Costa Rica
It’s a beautiful drive!

Living in Costa Rica, we’ve done lots of road trips and driving is one of our favorite ways to explore this beautiful country. There’s so much to see even when traveling between towns and the drive to Santa Teresa is no different (more on that soon). If you are curious about driving in Costa Rica we have put together this blog of all our tips for a fun and safe experience.

When we rent a car, we always go with Discover Cars because they offer the best prices and flexibility for pick-up and drop-off. It’s basically like a massive search engine for rental cars and has saved us so much time and money over the years. What makes it even better is that you can quickly and easily pick up and drop off your rental at the San Jose airport.

The elephant in the room (or maybe monkey – It is Costa Rica after all!) when it comes to driving from San Jose to Santa Teresa is the road conditions, are they any good? I have good news, the road to Santa Teresa is well-maintained and perfectly doable in a two-wheel drive car. Main roads in Costa Rica have never caused us any problems, but be mindful about going “off the beaten path” in a rental vehicle as pavement can turn to dirt quickly. My number one tip is to just go slow and watch for motorbikes, especially on curves and when leaving San Jose!

Another safety tip is to leave San Jose early so you don’t drive at night. Driving at night in Costa Rica is especially dangerous because of wild animals and drunk drivers. Keep your vacation Pura Vida and drive during the day!

view of the ferry from Puntaarenas in Costa Rica
Taking the Puntarenas ferry

Okay so now that you know it’s safe to drive, what about the drive itself? The most direct way to get there takes about 5 hours without stops. That’s with the 70-minute ferry ride included. 

Coming out of San Jose, you’ll hit a toll road that you can pay for with a card or cash. I recommend keeping small bills on you (dollars or colones) to pay for these tolls since using a card is more expensive. This toll is a little less than $1 USD and dollars or colones work in this situation for paying. 

You’ll follow Route 27 out of San Jose for the first half of the journey until you reach Puntarenas. Here is where you will take a ferry across to Paquera and I highly recommend you book your ferry ticket in advance to secure your spot. However, you can always buy a ferry ticket there with cash for $21 USD if you are driving a small car and an additional $1.50 USD per person. The ferry starts at 4 am and runs until 10:30 pm with departures throughout the day.

Keep in mind that if the site says it has no tickets available, you can still buy your ticket in person the day of. I don’t know why, but they only sell a limited number of tickets online. After the ferry crossing, it’s about another hour and a half before you reach Santa Teresa. After that journey, I think you earned some tacos and a relaxing day on the beach!

Best Stops between San Jose and Santa Teresa  

Costa Rica Animal Rescue Center

A sloth at the Costa Rica Animal Rescue Center
A baby sloth at the Costa Rica Animal Rescue Center!

It can be difficult to find an animal rescue center that doesn’t just cater to tourists and instead really focuses on rehabilitating animals. Well, just outside of San Jose is the Costa Rica Animal Rescue Center and I absolutely love the work they do. Every year they rescue hundreds of animals in Costa Rica and rehabilitate them. 

These animals range from sloths, birds, monkeys, tapirs, and more! The best part is you can take a 1-hour tour of the center and meet the animals yourself. Keep in mind tours must be booked 24 hours in advance and cost $30 USD. A fair price to see some of the cutest animals in Costa Rica and help them have a better life!

Puntarenas (the town)  

The coastline of Puntarenas, Costa Rica
There are some great places to relax in Puntarenas

Located in the stunning Gulf of Nicoya is Puntarenas, yes, the same Puntarenas you need to drive to for the ferry! Convenient, right?

Waterfalls, food, drinks, beaches, this place seems to have it all for such a small town. It’s an ideal place to take a rest and have some fun before hopping on the ferry and continuing on to Santa Teresa. If you’re in the mood for some killer seafood, I recommend Isla Coco’s Bar and Grill.

If you get a late start from San Jose, this is also a good place to stay for the night and then continue on your way the next day. Trust me, you’ll have plenty to do! For ideas, we’ve gathered up a dozen things to do in Puntarenas and hotel recommendations you can check out.


Playa Organos, Paquera, Costa Rica
Playa Organos, Paquera, Costa Rica

Another incredible town along the way to Santa Teresa is Paquera, which is just slightly inland from the Gulf of Nicoya. We love the pristine beaches here and the snorkeling sites. If you don’t mind staying the night, you can see some bioluminescent plankton at night!

The fun doesn’t end there though. With fishing, hiking, and whale watching all readily accessible, I wouldn’t blame you if you stayed a couple of days. It’s a little slice of paradise already in a slice of paradise. It doesn’t get much better than that!

Related Read: Fancy exploring this area even more? Our ultimate guide to the Nicoya Peninsula will be your best travel buddy!

Local bus from San Jose to Santa Teresa  

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

The local bus in Costa Rica is a cheap and adventurous way to get around the country. While most places in Costa Rica are accessible by local bus, the truth is that Santa Teresa isn’t one of them. In theory, you could bus hop from town to town all the way there, but that would take a very, very long time and probably end up costing you just as much as taking a shuttle.

In my opinion, if you’re looking for a cheap way to get to Santa Teresa your best bet is to book a shared shuttle. Time is money when you’re on vacation and I doubt you want to be stuck on a bus for hours instead of relaxing on the beach! 

Flying from San Jose to Santa Teresa   

Flying to Santa Teresa from San Jose with Sansa Air Costa Rica
Flying with Sansa Air is a quick way to get to Santa Teresa

If you don’t mind spending a little more for a quick and easy trip to Santa Teresa, flying domestically is a great way to get there. There is no direct flight to Santa Teresa from San Jose. Instead, you would fly to Cobano and then take a 30-minute taxi or shuttle into town which on average will cost you anywhere from $30-$50 USD.

Sansa Air offers several 40-minute flights daily for around $250 USD including your return flight. Your ticket includes one piece of checked luggage and a handbag. What I love about this airline is you can bring your surfboard, fishing gear, or pets with you for just a little extra! We have flown with them many times and it’s always a great experience.

Once you arrive, I recommend renting a car in Santa Teresa to make getting around a breeze. There is a lot to see in the area, so having your own wheels will make your time here much more enjoyable!

Related Read: If you have some time in San Jose before hitting the road, our ideal 1-day San Jose itinerary can help you plan the perfect day!

Our preferred option to get from San Jose to Santa Teresa  

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

When it comes to the cost and convenience balancing act of traveling to Santa Teresa, nothing beats either taking a shuttle or renting a car.

Taking this private shuttle is not only cost-effective if you’re traveling with 4-5 people, but also flexible and comfortable. It allows you to relax and enjoy the scenery with friends or family instead of stressing about traffic or navigation. We have done this tons of times and have never regretted it! 

When it’s just the two of us, we like to rent a car in San Jose. The freedom it offers can’t be matched since you can stop whenever and wherever you want! And since the road to Santa Teresa is easy to drive it’s a great option for anyone who also values that freedom and wants to go at their own pace.

For budget or solo travelers, I would say that a shared shuttle is your best bet. They are super cheap and can pick you up and drop you off at just about any hotel in San Jose and Santa Teresa. We used these a lot when we first visited Costa Rica as it was an easy and affordable way to travel around.

4 Must-Do Activities in Santa Teresa, Costa Rica

A man surfs on a beach in Santa Teresa, Costa Rica on a beautiful sunny day
One of my friends caught a wave for the first time!
  • Surf!: Surfing is arguably the number one thing to do in Santa Teresa, so this is the place to go! If you want to learn, this specific surf lesson is top-rated and comes with GoPro photos/video, your board rental, and a rash guard. It has 100+ 5-star reviews and the instructor is known for his expertise and teaching style that’s great for beginners.
  • Go fishing: The fishing off the coast of Santa Teresa is out of this world good! The ocean here is plentiful and the best part is, it’s cheap! In Santa Teresa, you can go on this inshore fishing charter for only $350 USD for up to 5 people. That means with a full crew; it’s just $70 USD per person! 
  • Visit Montezuma Waterfalls: Montezuma Waterfalls is one of the only waterfalls in Costa Rica without an entrance fee! It’s actually three waterfalls, and you can swim in some of the nicest pools if you do a little hiking first. It’s a little confusing, so be sure to read our guide on visiting Montezuma Waterfalls including how to find the trail to the upper waterfalls.
  • Visit Cabo Blanco Nature Reserve: This is a very special place in Costa Rica that was the first-ever protected area in the country – pretty cool, right?! Cabo Blanco is located a short drive or bus ride from Santa Teresa in the town of Cabuya. You can easily get there by public bus, or if you have an ATV, you can drive.

Where to Stay in Santa Teresa, Costa Rica 

woman swimming in a pool in Santa Teresa, Costa Rica
Lost Boyz Hideout Hostel is not your average hostel!

Choosing a place to stay is hard! Thankfully, that’s because there are so many great places to stay in Santa Teresa. In fact, if you book well enough in advance, you can stay at some epic hotels in gorgeous locations. However, leave it too late, and you’ll be lucky to find a hostel bed for less than $70 USD. The lesson is, book ahead! 

Hotel Nantipa – $$$

Just steps away from the ocean, Hotel Nantipa is an incredible beachfront resort. It’s a super luxurious accommodation with private bungalows that have easy access to the beach. The bungalows are inspired by Costa Rica’s coastline with photos of the beach and wooden furniture, but they also have modern amenities like AC and WiFi.

Hotel Nantipa is on the northern end of Playa Carmen and the bungalows start at $550 USD. They do book up quickly, so reserve yours here!

Santa Teresa Surf Vista Villas – $$

Those with a larger budget can find some really great hotels in Santa Teresa. If you don’t mind being up on a hill, Santa Teresa Surf Vista Villas is such a gorgeous hotel because of the breathtaking views. They have a pool overlooking the ocean and offer yoga classes.

The rooms are also clean and comfortable – especially for the price! Rates begin at $77 USD per night. Check availability and book a room at Santa Teresa Surf Vista Villas here.

Lost Boyz Hostel – $

For budget travelers, I love Lost Boyz Hostel. They have reasonably cheap dorm rooms, but the hostel is fantastic! Huge pool (pictured above), an excellent restaurant (the pizza is fire!), kitchen, treehouse, and a friendly atmosphere. On top of that, they host a ton of events and tours. The location is also central, so you’re not too far from anything. 

A one-night stay in a shared dorm begins at $20 USD. You can check availability and make reservations online here on Hostelworld.

For a more detailed guide on all of the different areas you can stay and the best hotels, check out our blog about where to stay in Santa Teresa.

Pura Vida!

woman sits on a swing at a beach bar in Santa Teresa
Thanks for reading!

I’m so glad you’re planning a trip to Santa Teresa! Our recommendation will hopefully help you get here easily from San Jose so you can spend more time on the beach.

For all things Costa Rica, check out our blogs on traveling here. We have tons of tips on the best tours, what to do, and more. Here are a few blogs I think you might find helpful:

12 FREE and Cheap Things to do in Santa Teresa

14 BEST Restaurants in Santa Teresa, Costa Rica

How to Visit Poas Volcano from San Jose (3 Best Ways!)