The best way to get from Costa Rica's capital city of San José to Tortuguero National Park is with a direct flight. The thirty-minute journey doesn't cost much more than a shared shuttle, the small planes often fly low allowing you to see the scenery, and it saves precious vacation time.
If you'd prefer not to fly, you can book a shared shuttle or hire a private transfer to get to the boat in La Pavona, where you'll take the hour and 15-minute boat ride to Tortuguero. A shared shuttle is more economical while a private driver can be more convenient. A less desirable option is to rent a car and drive to the boat, but you'll be leaving your car at the dock and not using it while in Tortuguero. Note- there are restrooms, a parking lot, and snacks available at the dock in La Pavona.
Nature lovers will enjoy this itinerary which takes you from the capital of San José to several of Costa Rica's stunning National Parks over 14 days including Tortuguero, Arenal, Monteverde, and Manuel Antonio.
Duration: 30 minutes
Flying is a fast and easy way to traverse the route from San José to Tortuguero. There are multiple direct flights with different airlines from the San José airport to the Tortuguero Airport. Though it costs a bit more than the other options, it's well worth the time you save.
By Shared Shuttle and Boat
Duration: 6.5 hours
A shared shuttle is usually more economical than a private transfer, and almost as fast. Although you can book a shuttle and boat separately, it's also sold as a package. While there is some waiting around for other travelers with this option, you'll still have a comfortable and convenient ride. The shuttle will pick you up from the airport or your hotel and take you directly to the dock at La Pavona, where you will enjoy a beautiful boat ride to Tortuguero, with lots of wildlife viewing along the way.
By Private Transfer and Boat
Duration: 6 hours
With a private transfer option, you will have a car and English speaking driver all to yourself, and with a larger party, this option is as affordable as a shared shuttle. Your car will pick you up in San José wherever you'd like, and everything is on your schedule. You can stop to snap a photo, use the restroom, or even pick up groceries whenever you'd like.
Rather than booking the car and boat separately, a package deal makes sure your car and boat rides are coordinated. The boat ride through the rivers and canals spotting wildlife along the way is considered a favorite by many travelers.
By Rental Car and Boat
Duration: 6 hours
If you're renting a car for the duration of your vacation, you can drive the 2.5 hours from San José to La Pavona, leave your rental car in a secured parking lot (for a fee), then get a public water taxi from the dock into Tortuguero. The 2.5-hour drive takes you down a curvy road with vistas of the cloud forest. Boats leave four times per day with the last boat departing La Pavona at 4:30. If you're coming directly from the airport, be sure to change your dollars for Colones and be prepared with some coins for the tolls you will encounter.