How to Get From SJO to Costa Ballena, Costa Rica

Bodhi Surf + Yoga / Surf + Yoga Camp Blog / How to Get From SJO to Costa Ballena, Costa Rica

The Costa Ballena region is an amazing place to visit with plenty of activities to do and sights to see, and the only a three and a half hour drive will take you to this pristine and paradisiacal area of the country. There are several options for getting from San Jose (specifically from SJO / Juan Santamaria Airport) to the Costa Ballena area. The one that you choose will be dependent on a few factors, namely a) what the intention behind your trip is, b) your budget, c) your arrival time in San Jose, d) the number of companions you are traveling with. Guests coming to do a vacation with Bodhi Surf + Yoga have transportation included to ensure optimal relaxation and enjoyment during their Costa Rican vacation.

Bodhi Surf + Yoga guests

Bodhi Surf + Yoga provides airport transfers for our guests

We provide transportation for our surf and yoga camp guests who are arriving from Costa Rica’s main international airport to our lodge for a few main reasons. Driving is a huge responsibility, and driving in a foreign country when you’ve just traveled a great distance is an even greater one. Since our guests come to Costa Rica to relax, unwind, and disconnect, we know it’s preferable that their transportation is taken care of. For Bodhi guests, their only task is to arrive ready to have an amazing, memorable, and restful experience. We ensure that they get to us safe, sound, and feeling rested and ready to surf, do yoga, relax in the pool or hammock, and get some good quality fun-in-the sun time.

For those coming down to experience the wonders of Costa Ballena on their own, there are a few main ways to get down. Uvita has become the hub of the Costa Ballena region, with multiple grocery stores, banks, a major Tracopa bus stop, and other services and attractions. For that reason, we will be discussing the SJO – Uvita – SJO route, taking the above-mentioned considerations into account.

Relaxing Vacation Costa Rica

The intention of your trip to Costa Ballena

Regardless of the intention of your trip, the official Bodhi Surf + Yoga recommendation is to get some kind of transportation option (bus or shuttle) down to Uvita. If your vacation plans require you having a vehicle in the area, you can easily rent a car from one of the agencies in Uvita. The main reason we recommend this option is that driving in Costa Rica can be stressful. Costa Rica uses a different address system, it gets dark year-round by 6pm, traffic leaving San Jose can be very heavy, and for a majority of the year it can be rainy in the afternoons. Our years of experience in the tourism industry have shown us that guests leave more rested and calm if they have relinquished the driver’s seat while on vacation.

Of course, many people come to Costa Ballena as part of a larger road trip around the country. If that’s the case, then renting a car and taking your time to wander around is a great option. Just note that while Costa Rica looks small when you look at it on a map, there are very few roads that are designed for 100km/hr (65mph) or more driving. Note that roads are windy and often single-lane.

Travel to Costa Ballena

Your Costa Rica vacation budget

If you want to spend less, your best bet may be to take a Tracopa bus down, we say may because it still depends on how many travel companions you have, what time your flight arrives into San Jose, and where you end up staying if you can’t make it all the way down to Uvita in one night. If you are traveling solo, we would recommend either the bus or a shared shuttle — we recommend Easyride. The shuttle may be a little more expensive, but it’s also a lot less planning and logistics on your part as it picks you up directly from the airport, whereas the Tracopa bus station is near downtown San Jose (about a 20-30 minute drive).

Approximate prices (SJO – Uvita)

  • Tracopa bus: $10-20 USD + $20-30 taxi or Uber ride to bus station
  • Easyride shuttle: $60
  • Private transfer: $240 USD and up

Your arrival time to SJO Aiport

The travel time from SJO to Uvita will vary, depending on which method you end up choosing. That means that if you get into SJO in the late afternoon or evening, you may have to stay over a night in San Jose and come down the next day. The last Tracopa bus leaves San Jose at 6:40pm, and the last shared shuttle leaves SJO at 3pm. You can also schedule private transportation if you arrive outside those times. Considering safety factors and ease of travel, our recommendation is that if your flight arrival time is after 4pm, it’s best to stay the night in Alajuela or San Jose and come down to Uvita the following morning.

Approximate travel times (SJO-Uvita)

  • Tracopa bus: 4-4.5 hours + 30-45 minute taxi or Uber ride to bus station
  • Easyride shuttle: 4-5 hours (depending on number of fellow passengers)
  • Private transfer: 3.5-4 hours

Surf trip Costa Rica

Your number of travel companions

If your group is five people or more, you may have already calculated that hiring a private transfer your best bet. A private transfer is also wonderful because if you hire a good driver, he or she will stop when you need to, point out and even stop in areas of interest (like at Tarcoles, the infamous “crocodile bridge”), and provide you with a great introduction of Costa Rica!

Other ways to get from the San Jose airport to Uvita

  • There are domestic flights that you can jump on from San Jose that will get you a little closer to Uvita. There is a Nature Air flight from San Jose to Quepos that is quite easy to jump on, the only reason it’s not on our recommended list is that this option doesn’t entirely solve the problem of getting to Uvita, which is an additional 45-minute drive.
  • You can take a taxi down, and will in fact be bombarded with taxi drivers offering you this option as you exit the airport. However, this is likely to be a very pricey ride down.

We hope this helps prospective visitors to Costa Ballena with some information to choose the best travel option for them. For any additional questions, please don’t hesitate to contact us!

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About the author


Adrianne is the fun-and-food-loving socialite of Bodhi Surf + Yoga. If she's not whipping up a feast for Bodhi Surf + Yoga guests, or out in the water giving surf lessons, she's probably busy writing for the Bodhi blog or keeping people up-to-date on the goings on via social media!

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