san jose to manuel antonio

How to go from San Jose to Manuel Antonio -Bus, Shuttle, + More

Whether you begin your journey in Costa Rica by flying into the airport in San Jose, or by crossing overland borders, you’ll likely want to go to Manuel Antonio National Park.  (And if it’s not on your plans, then you should put it there now!).  Located on the Pacific Coast of Costa Rica, this National Park is simply glorious and it’s easy to get to.  Manuel Antonio is renowned for easy hiking for the glorious sandy beaches and the amazing opportunities that it affords to spot wildlife up close.  The National Park and the nearby town of Quepos are both a delight and are the main attraction of this Central Pacific area of Costa Rica.  It’s easy to get to Manuel Antonio and there are lots of options for transport between San Jose and Manuel Antonio, but what’s the best way to go from San Jose to Manuel Antonio?  And what are the options for traveling to Manuel Antonio from San Jose?  Here’s our guide on how to get to Manuel Antonio from San Jose.

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You can visit Manuel Antonio on a day trip from San Jose (there are more details here), but to get the best experience you’ll want to come here for at least two nights.  Manuel Antonio National Park is one of 30 in Costa Rica, and this, here on Costa Rica’s Pacific Coast, is the smallest.  I wrote more about what to do, see and experience in Manuel Antonio here.

Where to Stay in Manuel Antonio

Here’s our pick of the best places to stay in Manuel Antonio.

Parador Nature Resort and Spa is about a 4-minute walk from the beach. This wonderful property is situated in Costa Rica on the Punta Quepos promontory, bordered by 12 acres of wildlife-rich tropical rainforest with magnificent views of the Pacific Ocean and Manuel Antonio. This eco-luxurious resort has three swimming pools and three restaurants. The Parador Nature Resort and Spa’s bright, air-conditioned rooms all have balconies with views of the beach, garden, or forest. All rooms include cable TV, a minibar, and a coffee maker. There is free Wi-Fi in all rooms. You can check rates here.

The Arenas Del Mar Beachfront & Rainforest Resort is about a 2-minute walk from the beach. It has a seasonal outdoor swimming pool, a garden, a bar, and a communal lounge. This property has a restaurant, a 24-hour front desk, and room service, as well as complimentary WiFi. There is a hammam at the resort, as well as nightly entertainment and room service. Air conditioning, a flat-screen TV with cable channels, a coffee maker, a bath, a hairdryer, and a desk are included in the apartments. This glorious place fills up quickly, so reserve early

The Hotel Playa Espadilla is just a one-minute walk from the beach. This hotel is a 1-minute walk from Playa Espadilla Beach and has an outdoor pool, complimentary breakfast, and a tour desk. Tennis courts are also available at Hotel Playa Espadilla. This property’s air-conditioned rooms have a cable TV and a private bathroom with a shower and toilet. A big spa bath is included in the deluxe junior suite. Book a room here.

How to go from San Jose to Manuel Antonio

Here are the options for how to go from San Jose to Manuel Antonio, keep reading for more details and the best options for your time in Costa Rica.

Where is Manuel Antonio

Manuel Antonio National Park is located on Costa Rica’s Pacific Coast, about three hours from San Jose and one hour from Uvita.  Manuel Antonio is about 150 kilometers (95 miles) from San Jose. It takes between 3-4 hours to go overland from San Jose to Manuel Antonio

How to Go from San Jose to Manuel Antonio – Transport Options

In this guide on how to go from San Jose to Manuel Antonio, we’ll cover the fastest way to travel go from San Jose to Manuel Antonio, the easiest way to go to Manuel Antonio from San Jose, and the cheapest way to get to Manuel Antonio from San Jose.  There are large buses that travel this route, and road transport includes shared shuttles, minivans, and private transfers.  Our guide on the best things to do in Manuel Antonio is here.

How to get to Manuel Antonio from San Jose

For transport from Manuel Antonio to San Jose, then you have several options.  You can take a minivan from San Jose to Manuel Antonio, you can take the bus from San Jose to Manuel Antonio, you can also take a shared shuttle from San Jose to Manuel Antonio, drive to Manuel Antonio or you can fly to Manuel Antonio from San Jose.  Taking a day trip to Manuel Antonio is also one of the best day trips from San Jose.

Fly from San Jose to Manuel Antonio

The fastest way to get to Manuel Antonio from San Jose is to fly.  The closest airport to Manuel Antonio is the town of the Quepos, which is just 10 km (6 miles) from Manuel Antonio.  Flights to Manuel Antonio from San Jose are operated by Costa Rica Green Airways and Sansa Airlines and there are several flights each day.  You’ll pay between US$80- US$120 for a flight.  You can check flight prices and schedules here.

Flights from San Jose to Quepos only take about 30 minutes.  Flights depart San Jose for Manuel Antonio from the San Jose International Airport (SJC) to Quepos Airport (XQP).  However, you’ll also need to take into account getting to the airport in San Jose – I wrote about that here.  It will take about 15 minutes to get to Manuel Antonio from Quepos airport in a taxi.

The flight time to Quepos from San Jose is super quick as planes fly over the Escazú mountains that sit between Manuel Antonio and San Jose, but the overland routes used by buses and transfers have to go around them or through the mountains.

Driving from San Jose to Manuel Antonio

Renting a car in Costa Rica is easy and safe.  Roads are good here, drivers are probably the best in Central America and you’ll also get a good quality rental car.  You can check rental car rates for Costa Rica here.

Driving from San Jose to Manuel Antonio gives you the most flexibility in your trip.  The drive from San Jose to Manuel Antonio takes about 4 hours if you go through the mountains on Route 301.  If you take the coast route (route 34) then it’s around 3 hours.  Be aware that there are toll roads on this route, that are best paid in cash.

You’ll go through 3 toll booths on the road from San Jose to Manuel Antonio and each will cost you from 180 colones to 900 colones.  You can pay in US dollars (but only in small denomination bills), but your change will be given back in colones (and don’t expect a good rate!).  You can also pay with a credit card if you need to.

If you’re leaving San Jose during either the morning or afternoon rush hour, then you’ll need to be aware that the traffic is usually bad and you will be held up.  It’s probably also best not to drive from San Jose to Manuel Antonio in the dark, so plan accordingly.  It’s dark around 6 pm in Costa Rica.

If you want to break your journey, or stop along then the way, then consider Jaco – which I wrote about here – it’s about 90 minutes from San Jose.

If you need to rent a car in Costa Rica we recommend Discover Cars for car hire.  You can search, compare and save up to 70%, with no hidden fees and free cancellation, it’s the perfect option! Get a price for a rental car in Costa Rica here.

Shuttle to Manuel Antonio from San Jose

The most convenient way to travel to Manuel Antonio from San Jose is to take a shared shuttle.  Shared shuttles from San Jose to Manuel Antonio pick you up from your hotel or hostel and drop you at your accommodation at the other end.  This trip takes about four hours and has one break en route for restrooms and a quick leg stretch.  Most shared shuttles between San Jose and Manuel Antonio are 10-15 seater minibusses.  All have air conditioning and are generally comfortable.  There are several companies that run this route and you’ll find that most of them off two services a day.  Shared shuttles are more expensive than a bus from San Jose to Manuel Antonio, but you’ll also save on transport at either end getting to and from the bus stations.  Shared shuttles will also go from San Jose International Airport to Manuel Antonio.

Minivans from San Jose to Manuel Antonio

Slightly smaller than the shared shuttles are shared minivans.  They carry fewer people and go a little faster.  So if you’re looking for an option of going to Manuel Antonio that’s a bit quicker but not as expensive as a private transfer then this is what you want.  You can check the rates and put in your preferred departure time here.

Buses from San Jose to Manuel Antonio

The cheapest way to go to Manuel Antonio from San Jose is to take the bus.  This is how we traveled on our first trip to Manuel Antonio.  Many buses from San Jose will go to Quepos and then, if you’re staying in Manuel Antonio you’ll need to take the (frequent) local bus from there.  You can read more about Quepos and Manuel Antonio in our guide here.

In Costa Rica, use bookaway for private and shared shuttles – and to check bus schedules and prebook where possible – you can see all the routes and schedules, and prices for Costa Rica buses here.

There are two types of buses that go from San Jose to Manuel Antonio (and they actually go to Quepos rather than Manuel Antonio), these are direct buses and colectivos.  Direct buses, aka “directo” go directly to Quepos/Manuel Antonio and colectivos will stop to pick up passengers along the route.

This is the cheapest way to go from San Jose to Manuel Antonio.  However, you’ll need to get to the specific bus station where these buses leave (and they’re not always within easy walking distance).

The company that runs this route is:  Tracopa

Tracopa – and you can travel with them for as little as 5300 colones – but you’ll need to go to their ticket office to buy the ticket.  There are 8 buses a day to Quepos from San Jose, at their bus terminal, which is in Labertino on Calle 5.  Buy your ticket beforehand (preferably the day before) to guarantee a seat.  The bus takes around four and a half hours to get there.

How to Get from Quepos to Manuel Antonio National Park

If you arrive at the Quepos bus station, then there’s a bus that runs to Manuel Antonio from Quepos.  It starts at 530am and runs until about 930pm departing about every 30 minutes.  The bus goes to the National Park and passes lots of hotels along the way.  The cost depends on where you get on / get off, but it will be around 335 colones.

Taxi from San Jose to Manuel Antonio

Taking a private taxi to Manuel Antonio from San Jose is the fastest way to go to Manuel Antonio.  It is the most comfortable way to travel.  You can check prices for San Jose to Manuel Antonio taxis here.  This is also the most expensive way to travel to Manuel Antonio from San Jose.

Map of Bus Stations and Airports going from San Jose to Manuel Antonio

bus and train stations san jose to manuel antonio

You can also see the bus station and airports from San Jose to Manuel Antonio here

The quickest way to get from San Jose to Manuel Antonio

The quickest way to go from San Jose to Manuel Antonio is to fly, but then you will need to consider getting to SJC and getting from Quepos airport to Manuel Antonio (as well, of course, as your carbon footprint).  It takes about 30 minutes to fly to Quepos from San Jose.

The easiest way to go to Manuel Antonio from San Jose

The easiest way to get from San Jose to Manuel Antonio is to take a shared shuttle (check prices here) or a shared minivan, which is smaller, and therefore a little quicker, and with fewer drop-offs and pickups. It is easier again to get a door-to-door transfer, but this tends to be expensive, however, if you are traveling in a group of 4 or 6, it could be worth it.  (Check private transfer rates to Manuel Antonio here)

The cheapest way to go from San Jose to Manuel Antonio

The cheapest way to get to Manuel Antonio from San Jose is to take the Transcopa bus, but the cheapest way you can go and pre-book is to take a shared shuttle – reserve your seats here.

The most comfortable way to go to Manuel Antonio from San Jose

The most comfortable way to go from San Jose to Manuel Antonio is to take a private transfer.  Private transfers to Manuel Antonio from San Jose take around 3.5 hours and are a luxurious if expensive way to travel to Manuel Antonio.  You’ll benefit from pickup from your hotel and drop off directly at your hotel.  If you have a group of 4 or 6 people, then this might be cost-effective for you and you can check the rates of a taxi from San Jose to Manuel Antonio here.

The best way to go from San Jose to Manuel Antonio

The best way to go to Manuel Antonio from San Jose is to take a shared shuttle, which will pick you up from your accommodation and drop you off at your hotel in Manuel Antonio.  You can check the times of these shared shuttles and prices here.

Popular Routes Around Costa Rica

Here are our guides to some of the popular routes around Costa Rica.

Travel Tips for Exploring Costa Rica

Final Words on How to Go from San Jose to Manuel Antonio

Manuel Antonio National Park is one of the most visited places in Costa Rica and it’s really easy to get to from San Jose.  Whether you decide to self-drive, take a shared shuttle, fly or get a private transfer, this is not a difficult journey.  We recommend taking a shared shuttle to Manuel Antonio from San Jose, as the most convenient way to travel to this fabulous National Park.

Stock images in this article are courtesy Deposit Photos.

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