There are a number of transportation options to and from Puntarenas, the vibrant coffee-exporting gateway of Costa Rica. From the comfort of a luxury train to bouncing through picturesque country roads in a local bus, options exist to meet the whole range of comfort loving to intrepid travelers.
Domestic flights operated by Sansa Airlines and Nature Air will transport you from Juan Santamaría International Airport in San Jose to Tambor Airport, a quaint airport located to the west of the province of Puntarenas ($100-150). The gorgeous 25-minute flight in a small craft will provide stunning vistas of the countryside and shimmering Pacific below. However, this option might not be practical for most, as the airport is located across the bay from Puntarenas, and a one-hour ferry will transport you to your final destination in Puntarenas.
Three ferry routes operate from Puntarenas, one to Playa Naranjo (1.5 hours, also allows autos, $24 with a car) and the other to the coast just north of Paquera (about 2 hours, passenger ferry only, about $5 per adult). You’ll absorb stunning views of the Puntarenas coastline as the sea breeze works through your hair.
A service operated by America Travel called the Tico Train runs every weekend departing from San Jose’s Pacific Railroad Station to Mata De Limon, near Puntarenas ($25 per passenger). From there, the company transfers you to an air-conditioned charter bus for the short ride to town. The trip, winding through lush mountain passes and orchards, might provide the perfect experience for a Costa Rica family vacation.
For the intrepid traveler, a bus station exists just one block from the cruise dock with links all over Costa Rica, including San Jose. The journey is slow: for example, the typical two-hour drive to San Jose (about $5 per adult) takes between three to four hours as all bus companies stop to pick up passengers. Also beware your belongings, keeping all valuables within eyesight: while the buses are quite safe, petty crime can be a problem.
Many shuttles exist from the airport in San Jose that will go straight to a hotel or other tourist destination. All shuttle companies departing from San Jose International are safe and reputable, and the trip will take about two and a half hours from Santa María International Airport, costing you about $60.
For the maximum amount of freedom, car rentals abound around Santa María International Airport (about $30 per day). However, getting insurance is suggested as roads in Costa Rica are often pothole-filled and don’t have stop signs. Yet, your Costa Rica family vacation might be made that much more special with the freedom to stop at the picturesque farms and waterfalls along the way.
The fastest, easiest, and most private experience is through hiring a private vehicle from hubs to resorts, beaches, hotels, or wherever your final destination may be. Visit one of the booths at the airport and safe, certified drivers will take you straight to your destination for between $140-200.