I booked my trip to the Blue Osa Yoga Retreat and Spa with the expectation that I'd be able to Google straightforward tips on how to get to Puerto Jimenez from the SJO airport by bus ... I was somewhat mistaken. Blog after blog, forum after forum, website after website: each tip contradicted the other; I was left timid and confused. Set on not taking the fifty-minute connecting flight via Sansa or Nature Air ($100-200 one way), I crossed my fingers and went on my way.
Here is my first hand experience of how to get from SJO Juan Santamaria International Airport to Puerto Jimenez, connecting in San Jose, by bus.
Duration: approx. 9 hours driving time
Realistic Timing: 2 days
Transportation: 15 minutes walking, 2 buses
Total Transportation Cost: 8,060 CRC ($15-16 USD)
Hotel Cost: $26 USD
I arrived at SJO in Costa Rica around 11:45 am and quickly went through immigration / customs (approx 30 minutes). Don't forget to bring your pens, guys. The airline never supplies them.
Signage was pretty straightforward, in both English and Spanish, so I exited the airport with ease, greeted by a swarm of people I didn't know. Families, chauffeurs, taxi drivers, shuttles; they buzzed around me in search for a familiar face or new client.
FIND THE BUS STOP FROM SJO:
I already knew where I wanted to go: el autobús. Thankfully the taxi drivers in Costa Rica are helpful, even when you deny their services, so I was directed to cross the street to the parking lot and walk along the left side of the curving structure. The ramp-like sidewalk curved right, leading to the street and a nearby bus stop (also known as la parada de autobús). There were three buses at the stop, including one with the sign "San Jose" on its rear.
Although the directions from travelers online suggested I only take the TUASA labeled bus, a local Tico reassured me the bus in front of us would suffice.
I boarded the bus, and greeted the driver.
"Para San Jose? Coca cola?"
I was now reassured that the bus was going to the correct neighborhood, Coca Cola. I guess its called this because there is a Coca Cola distribution center not too far away.
I boarded the bus and paid 500 colones (used to equal $1), only to learn that the exchange rate has since changed, as well as the bus tarifa.
FYI: The new exchange rate is about 535 CRC per 1 USD. The new bus fare is 555 colones.
Arrive AT TUASA Terminal (COCA COLA):
Some thirty minutes or so later, we arrived in San Jose, at the last stop. It brought us to the TUASA Terminal (according to Google Maps), which is right next to the clinica and what I think was a church, on Avenida 2 between Calle 12 and 14.
Walk to Terminal San Carlos
When I got off, I knew I had to get to the next bus stop, Terminal San Carlos, so I walked straight up Calle 14 until I got to Avenida 9 (about a 10-15 minute walk), where I then turned right and walked one block over to the San Carlos bus terminal (also known as Terminal Atlántico Norte).
At this point it was already 13:30 (1:30 PM) and I knew there was no bus waiting for me. I just wanted to scope out my surroundings and clarify if the morning bus left at 6:00 or 8:00 the next day, as well as find where the heck the boletería specifically for Blanco Lobo buses were located (which is the ticket office for the bus that goes to the Puerto Jimenez route) .
Find the Blanco Lobo Ticket Booth:
I eventually asked a couple of taxi drivers, who gave me mixed answers. Then I met one driver who accurately directed me to the ticket window (located up the short steps on the other side of the peach colored wall, where the wooden bench is) and explained that the bus time used to be 6:00 but they recently changed it and it is now at 8:00. Somehow I felt confident with his answer.
Since I knew I wouldn't make the bus to Puerto Jimenez that day, I booked a nearby hotel at Hotel San Jose, on Calle 14 and Avenida 5. It is on the left side of Calle 14 if you are coming from the San Carlos bus station, and on the second floor, above a few sodas (stores/restaurants).
NEARBY HOTELS + Food:
The hotel wasn't anything to write home about but was clean and cheap. I paid $26 for my own room and bathroom for the night. They gave me a towel, soap, cable TV, and an extra blanket, and even had hot water. I went outside and ate rice, beans, chuletas, and freshly squeezed pear juice at the soda directly below the hotel for 2,300 CRC.
Anticipating night fall and the surrounding city dangers, I headed back to my room and prepared for my next journey.
I woke up the next morning, after achieving sleep despite the late night city commotion, and quickly dropped off my key and walked up the block to the station.
The Next Morning:
I arrived at the bus station at 7:00 am to a closed ticket window. Worried, I ran to another window for buses heading towards Puerto Viejo and asked if anyone was coming to the Puerto Jimenez window. The attendant reassured me that the Blanco Lobo window (for Puerto Jimenez buses) opened at 7:30, so not to worry.
I waited anxiously on the wooden bench by the stairs and peeked over to the ticket window every five minutes, afraid that the line would fill up and the bus would sell out. I was wrong. It was totally fine. The boletería opened at 7:30, as indicated, and I paid my 7,505 CRC ticket to Puerto Jimenez on the 8:00 bus.
Find the Correct Bus Lane:
Mistakenly, I forgot to ask which lane the bus would arrive in, so for the following 15 minutes I nervously watched a flock of buses fly in and out of the station, wondering which one was mine. I finally got the courage to go back to the Blanco Lobo window and bashfully asked the attendant where the pick up area for Puerto Jimenez was. He looked at me like I was mad, and urgently pointed to the first bus lane, where a green and white bus awaited.
Oops. I guess my pride almost made me miss the bus. I seriously hate asking for directions!
I hurried over to the first lane, where the big sign for the Monteverde boletería is located and confirmed that I was about to board the correct bus. I threw my large backpack under the coach style bus and headed on board, greeted by air conditioning and new seating.
Whoa. Yes, I said air conditioning and new seating. It was awesome!
The Bus ride Experience:
Less than 20 people boarded the bus with me and I had a seat to myself the majority of the ride. There were many drop off stops, but the bus driver only accepted pick up passengers that pre-purchased a ticket, so many people weren't able to get on.
There were also two rest stops:
- One bathroom break, 2.5 hours later for 10 minutes
- One meal break, another 2 hours later for 30 minutes, at a open bar/restaurant called Restaurante El Brujo.
FYI: The second stop is when the driver takes your bus ticket so be sure not to throw it away.
The remaining 3 hours were easy and I was quite comfortable napping the majority of the way there. I kept my purse close to me as I always would, no matter the country, so I didn't have a problem there.
When I finally arrived to the last stop, Puerto Jimenez, I was immediately approached by taxi drivers. Before I could respond, a soft voice from behind the crowd called, "Olivia?".
A woman emerged, with a warm smile. I responded, "Blue Osa?"
"Si, bienvenido a Costa Rica."
I returned a grateful smile, happy to not have to search for a way to get to Blue Osa, 25 minutes away. As we walked to her car, I responded, "Pura Vida!" ... on my way to a new journey.