As we took the decision not to hire a car, we had a lot of learning to do in terms of how to get around. Again, like the accommodation options, we took the middle ground on transportation. While some people choose to employ a driver for all of their trip and others choose to rely on public transport, we opted for private transfers and shared shuttles.
1. San Jose to Cahuita (private shuttle)
Marco came to our rescue for this trip, as he coincidentally needed to drop someone off at SJO the day we arrived. Unfortunately with our flight diversion situation, we then didn’t meet him when we intended, but all got sorted out in the end. Marco has a spacious van, and although it’s a long way from being new, it was comfortable, had two-point seat belts in the back and air conditioning.
Most of all though, Marco was an excellent driver and reassuring as the first Costa Rican we met. His English is fluent and he willingly stopped for us to get essentials, tolerated my snoring when I dropped off to sleep, identified crops and birds we saw on the journey and also stopped to get us lychees on that first trip. He liaised with Yordi about our first accommodation arrival time, and took us somewhere to get lunch when we were going to arrive too early. Wow – went well over and above what we needed from a driver.
2. Cahuita to Tortuguero (shared shuttle)
This trip was organised as part of our Roots package. It was eventful but organised. The shared shuttle was run by Exporadores and the staff were clear with information and helpful. We enjoyed the unexpected stop at the Exporadores base for breakfast and were thankful that the driver for the leg to the boat was able to be decisive when we had to change the port we were heading to and then had to wait for an accident to be cleared up ahead. We were also grateful that we bypassed the chaos and queues at La Pavona and were literally driven to the waters edge to transfer to our boat, which only had people from our bus on it. The boat part of the journey was fantastic – one of my favourite parts of the trip!
3. Tortuguero to La Fortuna (shared shuttle)
This was also organised by Roots and run by Exporadores. Unfortunately the detour to the Exploradores base meant that we were not travelling the most direct route and the journey took a lot longer than it needed to have done. If I’d know this was how it was going to be organised, I’d have asked Roots to organise a private transfer from the dock (or asked Marco to pick us up, as he’d originally offered to).
4. La Fortuna to Monteverde (shared shuttle)
This was the jeep-boat-jeep transfer that Zoe has posted about, and although I knew the boat would be shared didn’t realise the ‘jeep’ was going to be a shared shuttle bus on both sides. The La Fortuna side was fine, but the Monteverde side switch to the buses from the boat was chaotic and included an unexpected stop at a tourist shop / service station. I was surprised that some people on this trip weren’t aware they were going to have to carry their own bags between the shuttle and the boat and thought they were going to have a porter or something!
5. Monteverde Taxis
While we intended to use Ubers and taxis in La Fortuna, we didn’t need to because of David’s help (see Hotel La Bijagua under accommodation). However, in Monteverde, the Sky Adventures rep advised us to use a taxi instead of their transport. The first one we picked up was on the taxi rank in the centre of Santa Elena – but the Sky Adventures lady said that anyone in there would call us one if needed too. This driver gave us his WhatsApp and understood my Spanish (and replied in English). We paid about 5000 colones for four of us to Sky Adventures. We also had a taxi driver take us to the night tour (organised by Don Rodolfo tours) and he was great, with very good English and also gave us his WhatsApp in case we needed any other journeys. The key seems to be making contact with one taxi driver so you can call them to do your return journeys, but all activity locations can call them too. I was surprised to discover that most of these drivers work for a company – they do not own the taxis they drive and are not independent.
6. Monteverde to San Jose (private shuttle)
This was organised through Miranda Tours. I’d asked for an English-speaking driver and was told we’d been upgraded to an SUV. A car arrived that wasn’t spacious nor high-riding though, and this made the journey uncomfortable. The driver didn’t speak English so couldn’t tell us anything about the journey or plans, and once we were on the main road drove much faster than the speed limits which was scary. Teresa who had organised this trip had been so lovely and helpful, so I was disappointed not to be able to write a positive thankyou to her afterwards. This was the only journey where I felt we were at risk of having an avoidable accident.