COSTA RICA TRAVEL — A shuttle flight from Arenal to Manuel Antonio is quick, but driving allows you to see quite a bit of the country.

The shuttle flights are convenient and both domestic airlines, Sansa and Nature Air, offer daily service. However, only Nature offers direct flights, Sansa stops in San José.

For short stays in the country or on a budget, flying is the way to go.
For short stays in the country or on a budget, flying is the way to go.

The cost of the flight ranges from US$65 to US$118 ( plus costs at the airfield) per person. The airport (airfield) in Arenal is actually in La Fortuna, a few kilometres east of the town; in Manuel Antonio, it is about 7 kilometres east of the town of Quepos and the ride to Manuel Antonio from the airfield is about 10-15 minutes. When searching flights, search for “La Fortuna” and “Quepos”.

The fight is under an hour and keep your camera in your hand (don’t pack it) for some of the great views and photos.

Driving around Costa Rica is not always the most enjoyable experience, but the roads between the Arenal and Manuel Antonio are in good condition and it is a relatively easy route and if you have the time, it is well worth the journey.

There are several ways to make the trip.

One, is Arenal, La Fortuna, Cuidad Quesada, Naranjo to the San José airport, where you can then decide to adventure into the San José city area or head west of the airpor to the Ruta 27 to the Costanera (the Pacific coastal highway), passing the beach town of Jacó, to Quepos. Manuel Antonio is about 7 kms south of the town of Quepos.

The other land route is La Fortuna to San Ramón, a great view of the valleys and green areas of Costa

Driving between Arenal and Manuel Antonio offers the best way to see Costa Rica.
Driving between Arenal and Manuel Antonio offers the best way to see Costa Rica.

Rica, leading to the Interamericana. From here you can go right (west) ending up in Puntarenas for the Costa Nera south; or left (east) headed for the San José airport. The exit to the Ruta 27 is at Coyol, a few kilometres west of the airport, or you can continue onto San José city.

The third option, one seldom taken but offers the best sights is headed west of Arenal to Nuevo Arenal, Tilarán ending up at Cañas, where  you take a left on the Interamericana, a right at the Puntarenas exit for the Costanera south.  This route is probably the longest, but offers views like the lake Arenal, as you will be driving three quarters around the lake, the wind farm, the small towns and then the ride is along the Pacific coast, with lots of stops for food and services.

Either route will take between 5 and 7 hours of driving time, not counting the stop time for sightseeing, services and traffic.

Yet another option is the bus, which offers economy travel and great experiences. But taking the bus between Arenal and Manuel Antonio can be long, an entire day or two, if you don’t plan it well.

If the bus is your thing, there is an express service between La Fortuna and San José and then San José

Local buses. Photo courtesy of
Local buses can take you make great towns. Photo courtesy of

If you’re short on time (a few days in country), then take a flight. But, if you have the time, rent a car or hire a car service.and Quepos. Fortunately, the two bus stops in San José are within the same block in the area known as “la coca cola” (just like the soft drink). If you time it right, you can take the early morning bus from Arenal and then mid-day or afternoon bus to Quepos.

Now, for the adventurer side in you, there is the option of taking local buses from town to town to town.



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