The public bus – MEPE – is the most economical way to travel. The bus system in Costa Rica is generally on time and efficient. However, in Costa Rica, the land of Murphy’s Law, there are unforeseen delays of every imaginable kind. Things always take longer than you expect them to. It is best to plan for this and allow yourself extra time. Still, bus travel is a great way to experience some cultural immersion.
If you are not a seasoned traveler you may not know that you need to keep your luggage in hand at all times. Before boarding, the driver will put your large suitcase in the storage area accessed from outside the bus. He should give you a ticket which identifies your bag. Keep your valuables in a carry-on to keep with you on the bus. Do not put that bag in the overhead storage, keep it on your lap or on the floor. And keep a strap around your wrist or your leg, just to be safe in case you fall asleep. Do the same while you wait in the bus station – keep your luggage in hand. This is not meant to scare you but to inform you. Where there is poverty there is thievery. It’s true anywhere in the world. If this is your first trip to Costa Rica and you don’t speak Spanish, my recommendation is to take the shared shuttle for a more relaxing experience. But, not to deter you, for the adventurous, taking the bus can be fun.
To go by bus on the same day you arrive, your flight will need to land no later than 2:00 p.m. It can take time to get through customs, out of the airport and across town to the bus station. The airport is on the west side of San Jose. The bus station is on the east side. If traffic is congested it can take an hour or more to get to the bus terminal. Buses leave for Puerto Viejo at 6:00am, 8:00am, 10:00am, 12:00pm, 2:00pm and the last bus leaves at 4:00pm. Try to avoid taking the 4:00 p.m. bus, afternoon traffic can get congested and the trip may take longer.
You can take a taxi ($40.00) from the airport to the bus station or you can go by bus (around $10.00).
I’ll show you how to do it the economical way:
7. Grab a cab in front of the bus terminal. Go to the bus terminal Atlantico Norte It is on Avenida 9, calle 12 in Barrio Mexico but the driver will know that. Transportes MEPE is the name of the bus company. Go inside to the ticket counter. Make sure you purchase your ticket for Puerto Viejo de Talamanca as there is another Puerto Viejo in the same province. Buses leave for Puerto Viejo at 6:00am, 10:00am, Noon, 2:00pm and the last bus leaves at 4:00pm.
It’s a lovely 4 1/2 hour ride, enjoy it. After a few hours, the bus will stop for a ten minute break to eat and use the rest room. The bus passes the port city of Limon, where you’ll see the ocean. From there you have an hour ride to reach Puerto Viejo. The bus stops in the center of town but Hidden Jungle Beach House is just before the entrance to town. Ask the bus driver to stop at Kaya’s Place. Take the road by Kaya’s Place (right next to their sign). Make your first left and you are here!
The buses to the Caribbean sometimes sell out. Purchase or reserve your tickets in advance if possible. Tickets are only sold at the Bus Terminals. You can call the Transportes Mepe office in San José to reserve a ticket but you’ll have to speak Spanish. No credit card is needed but you must go to the ticket window at least 30 minutes before the bus leaves to get your reserved ticket. If you cannot reserve a ticket, just be sure to get an early start and if the first bus is full you can wait for the next one.
Transportes Mepe Phone Numbers:
San José : (506) 2257-8129 or 2258-0134
Limón : (506) 2758-1572
Puerto Viejo : (506) 2750-0023