Looking for the best way to get from San Jose to La Fortuna Costa Rica?
This guide will detail the many options available to you and give you all the detail you need to book your transportation from San Jose to La Fortuna right away and save your valuable time.
Most visitors to Costa Rica find themselves in San Jose at some point along their journey. Whether you are landing at the San Jose Airport or passing through from the Caribbean side to the western peninsula, a likely destination along your Costa Rica itinerary is the adventure-packed town of La Fortuna.
It’s common to combine a trip from San Jose to La Fortuna or even La Fortuna to San Jose into your journey around this lush Central American country.
This complete guide covers how to get from downtown San Jose to La Fortuna, San Jose Airport to La Fortuna, La Fortuna to San Jose, and La Fortuna to San Jose Airport by plane, car, shuttle, bus, and guided tour.
*This post may contain affiliate links, which means I may receive a commission, at no extra cost to you, if you make a purchase through a link. Please see my full disclosure for further information.
San Jose to La Fortuna Quick Guide
Planning a last-minute trip from San Jose to La Fortuna (or vice versa)? Here are the best resources to make your trip from San Jose to La Fortuna or La Fortuna to San Jose Costa Rica quick and smooth.
BEST TRAVEL INSURANCE
Check Prices of HeyMondo Insurance
*I used the single-trip policy in Costa Rica
Check Shuttle Prices on BookAway
San Jose to La Fortuna Map
If you are planning an epic trip to Costa Rica, or just daydreaming of your next holiday, this map will help you plan your trip.
I’ve marked all the main airports and bus stations in both San Jose and downtown La Fortuna Costa Rica to help you choose the path that best suits you, your journey and your budget.
About La Fortuna
Where is La Fortuna?
The tourist town of La Fortuna is situated at the base of Arenal Volcano in the northern province of Alajuela.
Situated at the easternmost edge of Arenal Volcano National Park, La Fortuna Costa Rica is often noted as the gateway to the Guanacaste Peninsula and is the most visited destination in the entire country.
Things to Do in La Fortuna
Set in the Arenal Volcano National Park rainforest, La Fortuna offers the traveller a diverse range of adventure activities.
A destination in its own right, a visit to La Fortuna will have you strolling across the Mistico Hanging Bridges, standing in awe of the bright blue La Fortuna Waterfall, soaking in the thermal pools of Tabacon Hot Springs or Eco Termales Hot Springs, indulging in the delicious Costa Rican chocolate on a La Fortuna chocolate tour, swinging from the El Salto rope swing or day tripping to Rio Celeste.
After spending two weeks exploring all the best things to do in La Fortuna, I can undoubtedly say it lives up to the hype as one of the top adventure destinations in Central America.
READ MORE | The Complete La Fortuna Visitor’s Guide
About San Jose Costa Rica
Where is San Jose
San Jose, the capital and largest city of Costa Rica, is located in the central San Jose Province, in the mid-west of Central Valley and acts as a main hub of transportation for the rest of the country.
Things to Do in San Jose
Like most cities in Central America, you can find a plethora of museums to peruse, markets to explore and street food to eat. Catch a show at the National Theatre of Costa Rica, shop for souvenirs at Mercado Centrale, partake in a delicious walking food tour, experience San Jose by night, or take a half-day ziplining and rappelling trip.
How Far is San Jose to La Fortuna
While the city of San Jose and the town of La Fortuna are in different regions of Costa Rica, the San Jose La Fortuna route is one of the most popular in the country. The road distance from San Jose Costa Rica to La Fortuna is 81 miles (130km) and takes approximately 3 hours to drive by rental car.
If you decide to get the most economical way to get from San Jose Costa Rica to Arenal La Fortuna, which is by bus, the bus journey will take 4 – 6 hours depending if you choose a direct or indirect route.
The most convenient way to get from San Jose Airport to La Fortuna is by plane which takes approximately a 30-minute direct flight time.
San Jose to La Fortuna by Road | ~130km (81 miles): 3 hours driving by rental car, 4-6 hours by shuttle or bus
San Jose to La Fortuna by Air | ~30 min (direct flight)
By Airplane From San Jose to
About San Jose Costa Rica Airport (SJO)
The San Jose Costa Rica airport is located 10 miles (16km) or a 20-minute drive northwest of San Jose City Centre.
The Airport is the largest in the country and is the hub of many international flights into Costa Rica. The airport’s official name is the Juan Santamaria International Airport and its airport code is SJO.
SJO Airport is the most convenient airport to land if you are heading straight to La Fortuna or the western coastline that includes Jaco, Uvita, Dominical and Manuel Antonio. If you are travelling to the western Guanacaste peninsula, you are better off landing at the Liberia airport.
The San Jose Costa Rica airport has a domestic and international terminal with food, beverage and shopping options. You can also purchase a prepaid tourist SIM card at SJO, as well.
Flights from San Jose Airport to La Fortuna
If you land at the San Jose International Airport (SJO) and you aren’t picking up a rental car or don’t want to fuss around with bus routes, you can fly direct from SJO to La Fortuna as La Fortuna has its own small local airport that accepts flights from Sansa Airlines. Flights to La Fortuna Costa Rica from San Jose depart once a day.
The same can be done in reverse from La Fortuna to San Jose airport. A San Jose La Fortuna flight takes 30 minutes.
By Rental Car from San Jose to
If you are comfortable driving in a foreign country, I highly recommend making the San Jose to La Fortuna journey by rental car. Driving in Costa Rica is the best way to see the country.
I personally use and recommend booking through Discover Cars. Whether you are looking for a budget Costa Rica car rental or looking to rent a 4×4 in Costa Rica, this platform has you covered.
What’s great about Discover Cars is they compare local, national and international rental companies to give you the best price. Plus, they give you full insurance coverage for only $7USD a day (30% lower than booking directly with the local company).
Car Rental at San Jose Airport Costa Rica
For convenience’s sake, you can pick up your rental car at the San Jose International Airport, but there are a couple of important things to note.
First, all rental car companies in Costa Rica are located away from the airport property requiring you to either take a shuttle (sometimes provided by your car rental company) or grab a taxi. This is because the SJO airport is too small to accommodate all of the rental car companies in its arrival hall.
Secondly, because you are technically picking your car up at the airport, some car rental companies will charge you an airport tax of 13% on the total of your Costa Rica car rental duration.
A good way to get around the airport tax is to arrange a taxi on your own to the offsite rental car company and state that you did not come from the airport when you arrive there. Do this at your own risk and discretion.
Car Rental in San Jose Costa Rica City Centre
The traffic in the city of San Jose is notoriously bad, so if you are arriving via the San Jose Airport and want to spend a few days in the city before moving on to other destinations in Costa Rica, I’d recommend not renting your car until you have completed your exploration of San Jose.
Even better, travel back to the San Jose airport to rent your car for the remainder of your trip, so that you can skip the downtown traffic. That’s not to say you won’t experience traffic near the airport, but it will be less.
If you don’t reserve ahead through Discover Cars, you can find most San Jose Costa Rica rental car companies in the downtown core near La Sabana Park, including Avis, Alamo and Adobe rent a car.
La Fortuna Car Rental
You can find car rental in La Fortuna Costa Rica along the streets surrounding La Fortuna central park. Do note, that car rental companies in La Fortuna keep limited stock and can frequently sell out in high season from mid-June to mid-August and mid-December to the end of April.
If you plan to visit during these times, please reserve your car rental ahead of time! The easiest way to do that is through Discover Cars.
San Jose to La Fortuna Drive
The drive from San Jose to La Fortuna will take northwest up highway 1 out of the city and then onto Route 702. You can follow Route 702 road for the entirety of the trip from San Jose to La Fortuna (or La Fortuna to San Jose) through scenic winding and hilly countryside.
It is important to note, that due to the winding nature of the 702 when driving from San Jose to La Fortuna, some passengers may end up with car sickness. Be aware of this and take precautions before your journey.
Common pit stops along the drive are the town of San Ramon, the El Cocora Cloud Forest, El Valle Mineral Springs, and the village of La Tigra.
The same route can be taken from La Fortuna to San Jose.
Driving in Costa Rica
Generally speaking, driving in Costa Rica is quite safe. The roads to most of the main tourist towns are well maintained and do not require a 4×4 vehicle. I can recommend renting a car in Costa Rica with high clearance and AWD.
Places like Santa Teresa, Nosara and even Monteverde, all located in the Guanacaste and Puntarenas Provinces, may require 4×4 at some points in the road. Each of these destinations has large portions of gravelly dirt roads.
Driving in Costa Rica at night is not something I recommend unless you are very used to driving in the country. Street lighting is intermittent and not guaranteed, and during the rainy season of May-October, you can expect the roads to be slick and a bit dangerous.
Shuttle from San Jose to La Fortuna
A common way to get around Costa Rica if you decide not to rent a car is by shared or private shuttle/transfer. Most transfers will pick you up at your San Jose hotel, or at the San Jose Airport and drop you at your La Fortuna hotel.
It is a super convenient and smooth way to transition from A to B.
Whether you choose a shared or private San Jose to La Fortuna shuttle, you will likely be riding in a large minivan, giving you plenty of space to relax.
If you are arriving at the San Jose Airport and would like to go straight to La Fortuna, after booking, your driver will be waiting in the Arrival hall with a sign with your name on it. They will then lead you to the minivan in the airport’s parking lot.
All minivans are air-conditioned and shuttle San Jose to La Fortuna journeys will always include pit stops.
I use Book Away to reserve my Costa Rica shuttle because they offer better deals than booking directly with the shuttle companies.
San Jose to La Fortuna Guided Tours
If you are staying in San Jose and want to take a day trip to La Fortuna rather than fussing over booking a La Fortuna hotel, you can plan a guided day tour.
The most popular day trips include some time at Arenal Volcano and soaking in hot springs. Depending on your priorities, choose from the two highly recommended day trips below.
Each tour is 14 hours in length so make sure to get a good sleep beforehand. You are in for an epic day filled with all the best things to do between San Jose and La Fortuna!
If you are looking for the most interesting way to get from San Jose to La Fortuna, you can take one of the day tours and instead of coming back with the group, you can ask your tour guide to leave you at the town centre of La Fortuna.
- Drive the Scenic Route
- Costa Rica Coffee Tour
- La Paz Waterfall
- San Fernando Waterfall Look-out Point
- Hummingbird Gallery
- Traditional Costa Rican snacks
- Iguana Centre
- Sloths in the Wild
- Ziplining through Arenal Jungle
- Rapelling over Arenal River
- Paradise Hot Springs
Arenal Volcano Full-Day Experience from San Jose (without Ziplining/Rapelling)
Bus from San Jose to La Fortuna
The most economical way to get from San Jose to La Fortuna or La Fortuna to San Jose is by public bus. You can choose from direct or indirect bus routes from either the San Jose Airport or the downtown San Jose bus station.
Tickets can be purchased at the bus station for around $5-10 USD. Do note, that most public buses in Costa Rica including a bus from San Jose to La Fortuna, do not offer air conditioning so make sure to arrive early (30-45minutes early) and snatch that coveted seat by the window.
Bus from San Jose Airport to La Fortuna
If you are arriving at the San Jose International Airport, you can take a quick 7-minute taxi to the town of Alajuela’s North Bus Station and hop on a public bus from here.
Bus from San Jose to La Fortuna
If you are travelling through Costa Rica already, you can find a bus from San Jose to La Fortuna from Terminal 7-10 in central downtown San Jose. The bus station has a few buses leaving between 6:30AM and just before noon that head towards La Fortuna.
If you are looking to reduce hassle by taking a direct bus from downtown San Jose. The only daily direct bus departs Terminal 7-10 at 8:40AM. The direct San Jose to La Fortuna bus takes 4 hours and costs $5 USD (3000 CRC).
TIP | Do not leave baggage unattended at the bus terminal and ensure you have your luggage ticket and your large baggage is boarded under the bus before getting on
If the daily direct bus is sold out or doesn’t match your travel schedule, you can opt for the indirect bus San Jose to La Fortuna departs from Terminal 7-10 multiple times a day. The indirect bus will have you transferring buses in Ciudad Quesada before heading onward to La Fortuna.
The San Jose to Ciudad Quesada leg will take approximately 4 hours and cost $3 USD (2000 CRC). The Ciudad Quesada to La Fortuna bus will take 1.5 hours and have a similar cost.
Buses from La Fortuna to San Jose
The La Fortuna bus station is situated one block off the main drag south of La Fortuna central park. You can choose a direct or indirect bus from La Fortuna to San Jose. Similar to almost any bus station in the country, you can purchase bus tickets directly at the terminal. Always arrive early just in case the route of your choice is a popular one.
The only direct La Fortuna to San Jose bus leaves the La Fortuna bus station at 2:45PM and arrives at the San Jose Terminal 7-10 at 6:45PM (taking 4 hours) and costs $4.50 (3000CRC).
You can take the indirect bus from La Fortuna to San Jose multiple times a day from the La Fortuna bus station. You will need to transfer in Ciudad Quesada before traveling toward San Jose.
La Fortuna to Ciudad Quesada takes 1.5 hours and costs $3 USD (2000 CRC). The remainder of your journey will take you from Ciudad Quesada to San Jose City Centre (Terminal 7-10) and will take 4 hours and cost similarly.
TIP | Make sure to catch the bus in La Fortuna before 5PM in order to reach Ciudad Quesada in time for your transfer.
A Taxi from San Jose Costa Rica to Arenal La Fortuna or La Fortuna to San Jose is essentially a private transfer. I would recommend booking your private transfer through Book Away for the cheapest prices, rather than trying to arrange a public taxi service.
Best La Fortuna Hotels in Costa Rica
Okay, let’s take a look at where to stay in La Fortuna Costa Rica. The town of La Fortuna is the best base for your adventures around the Arenal region, but you can also book La Fortuna hotels with hot springs in the outskirts of town nestled in the jungle.
Most hotel La Fortuna options and Arenal hotels include spacious suites, some with shared pools and volcano views and great amenities. You can definitely find the comforts of home in most of the La Fortuna Costa Rica hotels.
Travel Insurance for Costa Rica
La Fortuna Costa Rica is known for adrenaline-packed adventures, and with that, comes the risk of fall, injury or accident. Don’t be left with huge hospital bills and protect yourself with the right travel insurance.
Travel insurance is one of those things I hope you never have to use. But in case you do, you’ll want reliable insurance on your side. Plus, it’s such a small cost for peace of mind. Please, don’t leave home without it!
I used HeyMondo insurance on my trip to Costa Rica and can recommend it.
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