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How to Get From San Jose to Uvita – 4 Best Ways

How to Get From San Jose to Uvita – 4 Best Ways

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Am I a sucker for the beach? Absolutely. Especially in Costa Rica!

Chances are that if you’re reading this you’ve already seen the tantalizing turquoise blue waters of Uvita and want to see them for yourself. Rightfully so, they’re incredible! So the question is, how do you get there from San Jose?

This is a question we get a lot and living here we have made the trip many times. That’s why we put together this blog so you can find all of your answers in one convenient place. Okay amigo, let’s get right into it!

The 4 Best Ways to Get from San Jose to Uvita

Bailey with a rental car in Costa Rica
Our rental car!


If you want to go straight from the airport or your hotel in San Jose to your accommodation in Uvita, nothing beats the comfort and convenience of a shuttle. 

We prefer this private shuttle because it will wait for up to three hours at the airport if your flight is late, has a flat rate (great for groups), and has air conditioning and WiFi. 

If you are traveling solo or in a small group shared shuttles offer the same convenience, although with slightly less flexibility. 

Driving (Rental Car)

If you’re like us, hitting the road is one of the best ways to experience a country and we couldn’t agree more. You can easily rent a car in San Jose and drive to Uvita with some fun stops on the way.

The roads are well-maintained, manageable, and the drive only takes about 3.5 hours. If you’d like more information about renting a car in Costa Rica we have a handy guide you can read here.

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

Taking a bus  

If you don’t mind sacrificing a little convenience to cut down the cost of travel, taking a bus to Uvita with Tracopa is a great option for those who are a little more adventurous. 

The trip is safe and comfortable, but you’ll need to find your way to the bus station on your own and I recommend being able to speak a little Spanish to make your life easier. 


I’ll be honest, flying is not worth it. There is no direct flight to Uvita and instead, you would have to fly to Quepos and then drive or get a shuttle another hour to the city. After all of that, it takes longer and costs more than just taking a shuttle or driving yourself. 

Shuttle from San Jose to Uvita   

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

What I love about taking shuttles in Costa Rica is how easy and accessible they are. We have taken them tons of times and it’s always so simple. Whether you’re in a large group, a small one, or solo traveling, shuttles are a fantastic choice. The drive itself takes about 3 hours if you don’t hit traffic and that doesn’t include any stops you make for the restroom or snacks.

One thing I wish someone would have told me about taking a shuttle directly after flying into San Jose is how convenient it is to get a SIM card after landing at the airport. Buying one right away and having WhatsApp means you can easily communicate and find your driver after you land. Not to mention how much easier travel is with a working phone! So avoid the hassle and consider grabbing one right away.

What I especially like about shuttles is that they are airconditioned, have WiFi, and the drivers are bilingual. If you don’t speak any Spanish, you will get by just fine! While tipping isn’t expected 10% goes a long way here and you will make your driver’s day.

Our preferred way of getting to Uvita by shuttle is with this private transfer either from the airport or our hotel. This is especially nice with groups since there is a flat rate of $295 USD for up to 5 people and they will wait up to 3 hours at the airport if your flight is late.

I also love this private shuttle because it offers the same service for only $210 USD, but can only accommodate up to 4 people. 

On the other hand, there are shared shuttles you can reserve on Bookaway that are cheaper than private shuttles and a great option for small groups and solo travelers. There are options for hotel or airport pickup, but with fixed departure times, they won’t wait if you’re late. However, tickets are usually around $63 USD per person and that’s a hard price to beat! 

Driving from San Jose to Uvita  

Driving to Uvita Costa Rica
On the way!

I have two words for you, freedom and flexibility. Oh yeah, I’m talking about driving! Renting a car and driving to Uvita is easy regardless of whether you pick it up at the airport or in town. The drive only takes about 3.5 hours (that’s if you don’t stop) so it’s easy to do in a day. 

There are two routes that take you to Uvita, but we recommend one over the other. 

The way we recommend is taking Route 27 out of San Jose and down along the coast. There are three tolls along the way that add up to about $4 USD and can either be paid with small bills or a credit card, but when you pay by card they add on extra fees. The road is well-maintained, safe, and has lots of things to see along the way (more on that soon).

The other way you can go is Route 2 which cuts down the middle of the San Jose Province. This isn’t a bad road, but it is much more windy and thus a little less safe due to cars driving quickly around curves. Not to mention it takes a half hour longer to get to Uvita this way. While this route does avoid tolls, I find it to have less to see and more stressful to drive. 

Regardless of which way you choose, both are manageable in a rental car and the roads aren’t anything you haven’t seen before. Just do me a favor and never drive at night! Unfortunately, there are more drunk drivers and animals can be a serious hazard. Stay safe and drive during the day!

Places to stop along the way  

Rescate Wildlife Rescue Center

Two monkies at Rescate Wildlife Center
There’s so much 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

A crocodile swims in the tarcoles River near Jaco, Costa rica
That’s a big one!

About 1.5 hours outside of San Jose on your drive, you’ll cross a bridge over the Tarcoles River. Peer over the edge and you will spot crocodiles! You can park on either side of the bridge or find free parking around, but some of the restaurants nearby will try to change for parking.

When we were here, we made a deal with a local that we would buy a smoothie from him after looking at the crocodiles. We didn’t have to pay for parking and got a yummy drink out of it!

The crocs are always here, so you’re pretty much guaranteed to see them. 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 is roughly at the halfway point of the drive to Uvita, so hop out and stretch your legs and explore. It has some seriously pretty beaches, amazing places to eat (check out our favorite restaurants here!), and even a brewery.

If you’re just after a quick, but beautiful viewpoint, I’d recommend Mirador de Jaco. It has the “Jaco” sign which makes for a good photo op!

Related Read: Our full guide on things to do in Jaco is full of ideas if you want to spend more time here!

Manuel Antonio National Park

A beach in Manuel Antonio National Park
Look at this place!

When it comes to experiencing Costa Rica’s pristine nature and wildlife, nothing comes close to Manuel Antonio National Park. We love this national park for its diverse ecosystem, gorgeous beaches, range of hikes, and other fun things to do. Considering it’s right on the way to Uvita, I’d say it’s well worth a stop!

A whole variety of Costa Rican wildlife can be observed here and since entrance to the park is limited, the area is incredibly well maintained. We’ve seen sloths, monkeys, parrots, and tons of other animals just walking around on our own!

I recommend that you leave San Jose early because the drive to the park is about 3 hours and you’ll want to spend at least 3-4 hours here. Plus, animals are most active in the morning, it’s cooler, and there are hardly any people. Tickets are approximately $18 USD and must be booked in advance online.


A man carves up a wave in Dominical Costa Rica
Surf’s up!

There are a lot of laid-back surf towns in Costa Rica, but few have swept me off my feet like Dominical.

But there is more than just surfing in this town, it’s a hub for great food, craft beer, waterfalls, and a whole slew of outdoor activities!

If you love checking out unique towns or are looking for a good pit stop on your way to Uvita, Dominical is it. I personally love eating at Phat Noodle and then following it up with a cold beer at Fuego Brewing Co. before hitting the road again. Or you could always just take in the views at the beach, or all of the above! Shoot, I wouldn’t blame you if you stayed for a couple of days to see all it has to offer.

The nice thing is it’s only about an hour from Uvita, so if you don’t see it on the way there, you can always check it out another time.

Related Read: Want to stay in Dominical for a bit – check out our guide on the best hotels in the area!

Bus from San Jose to Uvita  

Daniel walks towards a Tracopa bus for Uvita in Costa Rica
Heading to the Tracopa pick-up point

If you’re the adventurous sort, can speak a little Spanish, or just want to save some money getting to Uvita, taking a bus is a safe and reliable option.

Tracopa is the name of the bus company that runs daily routes to Uvita and is one we have used before on occasion. While the bus terminal you depart from isn’t anything fancy, the staff is friendly and I haven’t ever had any problems. You can only buy tickets at the terminal with cash, so have at least 6,000 colones (~$11 USD) ready to go, but I recommend having a little extra just in case.

While routes run daily, the schedule can be sporadic (things work differently here). I recommend going down to the terminal a day or two before to confirm times and buses with the office. In our experience, we have found that routes usually start at 5 am and go until about 4 pm. This is where speaking some Spanish can come in handy since it can be a little confusing to understand which bus to take and when, but someone will always help you out!

A ticket should cost you about $11 USD or 6,000 colones, but bring a little extra just in case. On the day of your travels, I recommend getting to the terminal at least 45 minutes early to secure your seat and find your bus. Besides that, it’s a straightforward, airconditioned, 3.5-hour journey to Uvita. Just be sure to use the bathroom before you leave!

Our preferred way to get from San Jose to Uvita  

Views of the road from a rental car on the way to Uvita from San Jose Costa Rica
Ah, the open road

When it comes to getting to Uvita, we always opt to either take this private shuttle or rent a car in San Jose and drive ourselves. These options offer the most comfort and flexibility, especially for the way we like to travel. Shuttles are especially convenient for groups with a flat rate and since there’s some great stuff to see on the drive to Uvita, having your own wheels is a blast. 

Of course, we understand that everyone travels differently which is why we believe in sharing all of the possible options.

Must-do Activities in Uvita

A humback whale in Uvita, Costa Rica
Whales are impressive creatures!

Once you arrive in Uvita, it’s time to check off that bucket list! Our full guide on what to do in Uvita has a ton of ideas, but we’ve narrowed it down to the best of the best here:

  • Go whale watching: In Uvita, whale watching is a must – especially if you love wildlife as much as I do. On this incredible tour in Marino Ballena National Park, you head out on a boat in search of these majestic creatures. For over 3 hours, you’ll explore the coastline with great chances to spot whales, dolphins, and even sea turtles. 
  • Learn to surf: The best place to surf in Uvita is at Playa Hermosa, only a short drive from town. If you’re a beginner surfer, it’s best to book a surf lesson. This specific surf lesson lasts for 2 hours. It includes your board rental, a really talented surf instructor named Josué, digital photos, water, and snacks.
  • Visit Uvita Waterfall: The best place to cool off in Uvita isn’t actually the beach – it’s at one of the nearby waterfalls! Uvita Waterfall is on the outskirts of town and can be reached by taxi from almost anywhere in town for under $5 USD. Once there, you can swim in a pristine river and soak up views of the gorgeous waterfall.
  • Visit the “Whale Tail” in Marino Ballena National Park: Without a doubt, the number one thing to do in Uvita is to visit Marino Ballena National Park and enjoy a walk to the famous “Whale Tail”.  The shape of the sandbar in the park is completely natural and very fitting to the area considering Uvita is one of the best places to go whale watching in the country.

Where to Stay in Uvita, Costa Rica

lady sits by the pool at one of the best hotels in Uvita - Bungalows Ballena
Enjoying a day by the pool at Bungalows Ballena!

When it comes to choosing the right place to stay in Uvita, location is essential. If you drove here, you can choose to stay a little further out, but if you took a shuttle or bus, you’ll probably want to stick closer to the national park. If you would like more info on the different areas, be sure to check out our where to stay in Uvita blog

Below are a few of my favorite hotels in all the different areas around Uvita and in all budgets. 

Oxygen Jungle Villas & Spa – $$$

Those looking for luxury have to check out Oxygen Jungle Villas & Spa. This stunning hotel is located in the hills surrounding Uvita and is perfect for those looking for a romantic getaway. The property features spectacular views, an infinity pool, gorgeous rooms, and an included breakfast.

This is one of the most romantic hotels in Costa Rica – especially if you’re planning a honeymoon. Rates typically begin at $400 USD per night. Book online here.

Bungalows Ballena – $$

If you’d prefer to be close to the national park, Bungalows Ballena is only a 1-minute walk from the entrance to the park. This small hotel offers two-bedroom bungalows with full kitchens and bathrooms. It’s perfect for families, and they also have a pool. We stayed here last time we were in town and loved it – having our own little bungalow was convenient and comfortable.

All of the rooms have a patio. There’s also a pool and grill available for guests. Rates begin at $120 USD per night. Check availability and book online here.

Hostel Cascada Verde – $

For budget travelers, Hostel Cascada Verde is a top choice. The reviews of this hostel are fantastic. The location is on the inland side of town, meaning it’s a fair walk to the national park. However, it is right across from Uvita Waterfall and Uvita Beer Garden in a quiet area surrounded by lush forest. 

Rates start at $30 USD for a one-night stay. You can check availability and make a reservation online here on or here on HostelWorld.

Pura Vida!

Daniel and Bailey on a whale watching boat with life jackets on in Uvita, Costa Rica
Thanks for reading!

So there you have it, all the ways to get to Uvita from San Jose. No matter how you get here, it’s well worth the trip. Now I think it’s time for me to go grab a beer and sit on the beach!

For more help planning your dream trip to Costa Rica, check out our blog here for travel advice and tips. Here are a few blogs below that might help!

10 Things to KNOW Before Going Whale Watching in Uvita

5 BEST Manuel Antonio Tours from San Jose

10 BEST Restaurants in Uvita, Costa Rica