Getting Here and Around

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Getting Here and Around

This region is one of the country's most accessible. The southern coast is a three- to four-hour drive from San José, over mostly decent roads (by Costa Rican standards), and public transportation is frequent and reliable. Gas stations are plentiful between Guápiles and Limón, but their numbers dwindle to one between Limón and Puerto Viejo de Talamanca. The northern Caribbean coast is another story: the total absence of roads means you have to arrive by plane or boat. Most travelers go with a tour booked through one of the large Tortuguero lodges.

If you're driving here, remember that fog often covers the mountains in Braulio Carrillo National Park, north of San José, by early afternoon. Cross this area in the morning if you can. Always exercise utmost caution on the portion of highway that twists and turns through the park. Check road conditions before you set out; occasional landslide closures through Braulio Carrillo necessitate leaving San José from the southeast, passing through Cartago, Paraíso, and Turrialba, then rejoining the Caribbean highway at Siquirres, a route that adds another 90 minutes onto your trip.

You can fly daily from San José to the airstrip in Tortuguero (TTQ) via Nature Air. Nature Air also flies Thursday and Saturday to the small airport in Bocas del Toro, Panama (BOC).

Autotransportes MEPE, which has a lock on bus service to the south Caribbean coast, has a reputation for being lackadaisical, but is really quite dependable. Drivers and ticket sellers are accustomed to dealing with foreigners; even if their English is limited, they'll figure out what you want. Bus fares to this region are reasonable. From San José, expect to pay $3 to Guápiles, $5.50 to Limón, $8.50 to Cahuita, $9.50 to Puerto Viejo de Talamanca, and $12 to Sixaola and the Panamanian border.

If you prefer a more private form of travel, consider taking a shuttle. Gray Line Tourist Bus has daily service that departs from many San José hotels for Cahuita and Puerto Viejo de Talamanca. Tickets are $44 and must be reserved at least a day in advance. Comfortable air-conditioned Interbus vans depart from San José hotels daily for Cahuita and Puerto Viejo de Talamanca. Reserve tickets ($45) a day in advance.

Nature Air (Aeropuerto Juan Santamaría, San José, 10109. 2299–6000. www.natureair.com.)

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