How to Get from Juan Santamaria Airport (SJO) to San Jose, Costa Rica

Ok, backpackers. This one is for you. As I was preparing for my trip to Central America, I decided to begin in Costa Rica and fly into Juan Santamaria Airport (SJO) near the capital, San Jose.

The problem here is the word near.
sjo to san jose.png
So how do you get from SJO into the actual city of San Jose?

Assuming you don’t have a car, you have 2 options:

  1. Take a Taxi. I call this the easy way out. There are no shortage of taxis just outside the airport. A taxi will cost you about $25 for the 45ish minute ride into the capital. (30 without traffic, possibly over an hour with traffic). If you’re landing particularly late, I would take this option as San Jose can be a little seedy.
  2. Take the local bus. The local buses arrive at the airport frequently to take people to the town of Alajuela or to San Jose. Just ask the driver – “San Jose?” The ride should cost you around 500 colones (about a dollar). Make sure to get some small bills inside the airport. We used the ATM (cajero automatico) just outside of the duty free shop after we passed through customs and got some smaller change inside the shop.

If you’re balling on a budget like myself, I’m sure you’ve opted to take the bus.


Now what?

Busing from SJO to San Jose

1. Exit the airport – don’t forget your colones!

2. Walk around the car garage. The bus stop is exactly on the other side of the garage.
sjo-airport3. The front of the bus should tell the destination. Look for ones that say San Jose. We took a red TAUSA bus that cost 500 colones. Just ask the driver if you’re unsure if that bus is heading to San Jose.

4. Now you wait. We arrived to SJO around 5 pm, and the traffic was crazy! It took us about an hour and a half to arrive to the Parada Alajuela in San Jose. When we arrived around 7 pm, it was dark, yet the streets were still bustling.

(Note: If arriving to SJO late, consider the safety of a taxi especially if you are travelling alone. San Jose is not known for being particularly safe. That being said, I’ve arrived after dark to the city twice now and had no issues getting around safely.)

5. Arrive at Parada Alajuela off Avenida 2 and in between Calle 14 and 12.

Tada! You’re in San Jose!

If you’re like us, you didn’t come to Costa Rica to hang out in San Jose. I looked on for a cheap hostel for the night near Parada Alajuela. I found Andea Hostel which is off Avenida 2 between Calles 28 and 30, about a ten minute walk from the bus stop. It was a nothing special yet adequate hostel for $13 / night per person. In the morning we woke early, took a cab to a different bus station, and made our way to Uvita.

station to hostel.png

Just like that, we had made it into SJO and onto our next destination.

Bienvenido a Costa Rica. Pura Vida!!!


Did you find this helpful? Did you experience something different than posted above? Please help out your fellow backpackers and post about it in the comments!

6 Comments on “How to Get from Juan Santamaria Airport (SJO) to San Jose, Costa Rica

  1. We took the bus to and from the airport into San Jose and the bus everywhere else except to some ruins that the bus didn’t go to. The one thing we learned was the it was no good to just remember our bus stop was on a corner with a church or park because EVERY bus stop had a church or park! 🙂

  2. Pingback: 5 Things to Do in Uvita and Dominical, Costa Rica | Infinite Geography

  3. Pingback: Central America. 6 Weeks. 4 Countries. $2650. Part 1: Costa Rica – Infinite Geography

  4. Thanks for the information. I used public transportation in Vietnam and I’m hoping to do the same in San Jose.

    • No problem! I had a hard time finding this info, so I decided I had to pass on what I learned to my fellow travelers. Enjoy your trip 🌎

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: