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Buses to/from San Jose to Puerto Viejo
There are many different bus terminals in San Jose. Direct buses for Puerto Viejo leave from the Terminal de Autobus Atlantico Norte located on Calle 12 between Avenidas 7 and 9 in Barrio Mexico in San Jose. This is a little confusing since Puerto Viejo is in the Atlantic coast South but the name wasn't changed when the bus company serving Puerto Viejo moved there. If taking a taxi there to be completely clear you can ask for "parada del bus de Mepe, para Puerto Viejo Talamanca, antigua parada de bus de San Carlos" (see map).
there are two towns called Puerto Viejo. You want Puerto Viejo de Talamanca (also known as Puerto
Viejo de Limon). The bus company that comes here is Transportes Mepe.
Last time we checked, ticket prices were 5,270 colones (about $9.50 US) for this approximately 4.5 hour trip and the bus makes one 20 minute stop in Limon for bathrooms and something to eat. The trip to Cahuita from San Jose is about 4,535 colones (about $8.00 US) and takes 4 hours. Only the noon bus continues on to Cocles, Chiquita, Punta Uva and Manzanillo (the others turn around and continue to BriBri and Sixaola). So if you're staying south of town either get the noon bus or take a taxi or local bus to your hotel. The schedule is below.
Starting Nov 28, 2012 buses to Puerto Viejo and Cahuita leave from Terminal Atlantico Norte (sometimes locally referred to as "Antigua parada de bus de San Carlos") located on Calle 12 between Avenidas 7 and 9 in Barrio Mexico in San Jose. Buses to Limon leave from the Caribbean Bus Terminal located on Calle Central about 8 blocks North of the Parque Central. Many websites and travel guides still specify the old terminal for buses to Puerto Viejo so make sure you go to the correct terminal.
If the express bus schedule does not meet your needs, you can also take one of the very frequent buses to Limon (3 hours) and then transfer there to a bus heading to Puerto Viejo which will take another 1 1/2 hours or so. Buses to Limon leave from the Caribbean Bus Terminal located on Calle Central about 8 blocks North of the Parque Central. Before you head to Limon though, make sure there will be a connecting bus to Puerto Viejo otherwise you'll be stuck in Limon overnight or taking a taxi. You can also save a couple of dollars going this route. Note that in Limon you will need to transfer from the main bus terminal where the San José buses arrive to the Puerto Viejo terminal which is a few blocks away. If you have much luggage at all, take a taxi (it should cost no more than $2). It is not recommended to walk around Limon with conspicous amounts of luggage, it could make you a target.
Transportes Mepe direct service between San José and Puerto Viejo:
Tickets for Transportes Mepe buses are only available in person at the bus terminals in San Jose, Puerto Viejo, Cahuita, or Limon. It is not possible to purchase tickets online or by phone from MEPE. Buses don't sell out that often and the company will sometimes add extra buses leaving San José if needed but occasionally they are sold out or there's nothing but standing on offer at the last minute.
There are some third party services who offer prepurchase of tickets. The one we have good experience with includes pickup at the airport or area hotels. A driver will meet your flight at the airport with your bus ticket already purchased so you are guaranteed a ticket and bring you to the bus terminal in San Jose where you catch your bus. To get more information or purchase this service:
From San José to Puerto Viejo, seats are reserved so please look for your assigned seat number on your ticket. On the way back, seats are not reserved so if seating is important to you, push your way to the front of the line!
Tickets can be purchased in San Jose at the Atlantico Terminal (open daily from 5:30 am to 6:00 pm, look for the ticket office, not the bus stop), in Puerto Viejo at the MEPE office next to Hotel Maritza / across from the bus stop (locate it on map) and in Cahuita at the bus station. You can buy your ticket in advance for your return trip at any time from any of the MEPE offices.
From Puerto Viejo to San Jose, it is possible to buy your ticket at the MEPE office in advance and then flag down the bus at one of its intermediate stops (e.g. in Playa Negra or Hone Creek but not just anywhere along the route) on the day of travel but this can be a little stressful as they don't routinely stop at those stops and you won't know why/if the bus is late so I'd recommend you just take a taxi into Puerto Viejo and board at the main bus stop.
Transportes Mepe Phone Numbers:
San José: (506) 2257-8129
Limón: (506) 2758-1572
Puerto Viejo: (506) 2750-0023
Schedules are subject to change but scheduled departure times don't change often. Buses normally run full schedules every day with only Easter Sunday and Christmas Day having shortened schedules. Sometimes extra buses are added at peak times. However pickup time at intermediate stops (including Puerto Viejo) and the length of the trip can vary based on weather or road conditions. Confirm the schedule when purchasing your ticket or call ahead.
Connecting via Limon
There are also frequent buses (generally every half hour) from the Caribbean Bus Terminal in San Jose to Limon where you can catch a connecting bus to Puerto Viejo. See the local transport page for the bus schedules from Limon on to Puerto Viejo. Note that the express San Jose to Puerto Viejo buses do not stop at the bus terminal in Limon, they stop at a restaurant a little out of town, so you cannot transfer to one of the express buses in Limon but must instead pick up one of the local buses.
Other Bus Schedules
To get to Puerto Viejo on the bus from other locations such as Arenal or Pacific Beach towns you will need to first take a bus to San Jose. If you're coming from Arenal you can save time and hassle by instead taking a van shuttle or booking a rafting trip.
For routes in other parts of Costa Rica, you can find bus schedules and pickup locations for every public bus in Costa Rica from the official Costa Rica tourism board site here.
There are plenty of other ways to get here: tourist van shuttles (Interbus and others), whitewater rafting, private service, driving, flying and more. Check our transport overview page for more information.