How to Get to Puerto Viejo from San José: A Step-by-Step Guide

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Puerto Viejo is nestled on Costa Rica’s south Caribbean coast and boasts stunning beaches, lush rainforests, mouthwatering Afro-Caribbean cuisine, and a relaxed Rasta vibe. 

Unlike other corporate resort areas along the Pacific coast, Puerto Viejo attracts a multicultural variety of travelers, including backpackers, surfers, and free-spirited individuals. It is widely known for the giant waves in Costa Rica and is home to some of the country’s most eye-catching views.

What to Expect When Visiting Puerto Viejo

Expect to encounter a melting pot of cultures, from Afro-Caribbean to indigenous influences, which make the local food scene a must-try, with dishes like rice and beans, jerk chicken, and fresh seafood. The beaches here are stunning, with Playa Cocles being a favorite for surfers and sunbathers alike. 

Don’t be surprised if you hear reggae beats filling the air as you stroll through town. The pace is slow, and life is simple, making it the perfect escape for those looking to unwind, connect with nature, and enjoy the vibrant culture. Puerto Viejo has it all, whether you’re into wildlife, waterfalls, or just kicking back with a cold cerveza. So, grab your flip-flops and prepare to experience the Caribbean coast like never before!

Travel Preparations: San José to Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica

Before embarking on your journey from San José to the enchanting Caribbean charm of Puerto Viejo, it’s essential to make some travel preparations:

Packing Essentials

Puerto Viejo’s tropical climate requires sunscreen, a wide-brimmed hat, and comfortable beachwear. Don’t forget insect repellent for the rainforest and suitable footwear for beach exploration.

Accommodation Reservations

Puerto Viejo offers a range of accommodations, from beachfront bungalows to eco-friendly lodges. To secure your ideal lodging, especially during peak seasons, consider booking your stay well in advance.


While many places in Puerto Viejo accept credit cards, carrying some Costa Rican Colón (CRC) for local markets and small businesses that may prefer cash payments is wise.

How to get to Puerto Viejo from San José

Driving to Puerto Viejo

driving to Puerto Viejo From San José

While renting a car offers flexibility, consider if it’s needed for your entire stay in Puerto Viejo, as bicycles and taxis are popular modes of local transportation:

  • Take Route 32 from San José to Puerto Viejo. Use GPS or Waze with “Puerto Viejo de Talamanca” as your destination.
  • Drive through the mountains with dramatic views, but avoid night driving due to dense fog and poor visibility.
  • Route 32 can be prone to rockfalls and landslides during heavy rain; consider alternate routes if needed.

Driving Time & Distance to Puerto Viejo

  • From San José: 140 miles (220 kilometers), approximately 4 hours
  • From Cahuita: 10 miles (16 kilometers), 20 minutes
  • From Limon: 37 miles (60 kilometers), 1 hour
  • From Arenal: 190 miles (310 kilometers), 6 hours
  • From Manuel Antonio: 240 miles (390 kilometers), 7 hours
  • From Liberia: 270 miles (430 kilometers), 7.5 hours
  • From Tamarindo: 300 miles (475 kilometers), 8.5 hours

Alternate Driving Route to Puerto Viejo

In case Route 32 is closed due to rockfalls or landslides, follow this alternate route:

  • From San José, take Route 2 to Cartago, then Route 10 to Siquierres.
  • Follow Route 32 to Limon and Route 36 to Puerto Viejo.
  • This alternate route is approximately 140 miles (230 kilometers) and takes around 4.5 hours.

Public Buses to Puerto Viejo

MEPE buses offer daily transportation between San José and Puerto Viejo:

  • The journey takes about 4.5 hours, with a cost of ₡5,500 (about $11).
  • Buses depart San José at 6 am, 10 am, noon, 2 pm, and 4 pm.
  • Return buses from Puerto Viejo depart at 7:30 a.m., 9 a.m., 11 a.m., and 4 p.m.
  • Depart from Terminal Atlantico Norte, Calle 12, Ave 7 – 9, in San José.

Important Note: Ensure you take the bus to Puerto Viejo de Talamanca, not Puerto Viejo de Sarapiquí.

Private Shuttles to Puerto Viejo

For a comfortable and convenient option, choose My Pink Bus:

  • These vans provide door-to-door service from the San José airport or your hotel to Puerto Viejo.
  • These shuttles even offer wifi and complimentary water bottles. 
  • The cost is approximately $55 per person.

You can book a ride with our San Jose to Puerto Viejo shuttle here.

Uber & Taxis to Puerto Viejo

From San José, you can opt for Uber to Puerto Viejo. The 4-hour drive will cost around $200, which is more budget-friendly than official taxis.

Flying to Puerto Viejo

While no airports near Puerto Viejo, the closest ones are in Tortuguero (80 miles north) and San José (90 miles northwest). Plan your journey accordingly.

Frequently Asked Questions

Which airport should I fly into for Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica?

The nearest airport is Limon Airport (Aeropuerto Internacional de Limón), approximately a 1.5-2 hour drive from Puerto Viejo.

Can you fly to Puerto Viejo from San José?

No, there are no direct flights from San José to Puerto Viejo; travelers typically reach Puerto Viejo by roa

How do you get to Puerto Viejo?

You can get to Puerto Viejo by driving (4 hours via Route 32), taking a bus (about 4.5 hours), using private shuttles, or opting for Uber/taxis.

Is Puerto Viejo Costa Rica worth visiting?

Puerto Viejo is worth visiting for its stunning beaches, lush rainforests, Afro-Caribbean cuisine, and laid-back Rasta vibe. It attracts backpackers, surfers, and nature enthusiasts, offering a unique perspective of Costa Rica.

 New to Puerto Viejo?

Now that you know how to get to Puerto Viejo from San José, you might be ready to plan the rest of the trip. Our compact Puerto Viejo guide shows you the best areas to stay, restaurants you don’t want to miss, and many more tips for your visit!

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