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How to travel from San Jose, Costa Rica to San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua

Traveling from San Jose, Costa Rica to San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua, has been a popular trip for locals, ex-pats, and visitors wanting to have a short vacation to another country. 

How far is San Juan del Sur from San Jose?

The distance between San Jose to San Juan del Sur is 199 miles or 320 kilometers.

Getting to San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua from San Jose

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1. Bus from San Jose to San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua

In order to reach San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua from San Jose, Costa Rica via bus, you first have to travel from San Jose to Rivas, Nicaragua. Rivas is actually a popular entry point to the country because, in the said location, several public buses are going to different parts of Nicaragua.

From San Jose, bus companies that travel to Rivas include Tica Bus, Nica Bus, and Central Line. The earliest trip you can get is with Tica Bus, which leaves at 3 AM. The last trip of the day is serviced by Nica Bus and leaves at 11:55 PM. 

It is important to choose either the earliest or the latest bus trip when going to Rivas. That way, you get to arrive there in broad daylight, doing away with unnecessary hassles or security issues that you may encounter should you arrive at nighttime. 

There will be a short stop for legalities during your bus trip. You will have to pay exit tax to Costa Rica and entry tax to Nicaragua. In Nicaragua customs, you will be asked to go down, present your baggage for inspection and obtain your clearance. Your bus operator will guide you through the whole process.

In Rivas, you will be dropped off at a waiting shed where you can catch a chicken bus going to San Juan del Sur. 

It costs 26 to 42 USD to travel from San Jose to Rivas by bus. Add about a dollar for the chicken bus ride. The total travel time is about eight hours.

2. Shared Van Shuttle

Enjoy the comfort of being picked up either from the Juan Santamaria International Airport or in your San Jose, Costa Rica hotel with this shared shuttle service to San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua.

It takes seven and a half hours to reach San Juan del Sur via shuttle. The cost for this trip ranges from 72 to 89 USD, depending on your choice of shuttle provider. Transport companies only have limited departure timings for this route, so make sure to plan your arrival or check out accordingly. 

Easy Ride Costa Rica has daily shared shuttle services leaving San Jose between 7:30 and 8:30 AM. On the other hand, Caribe Shuttle has vans traveling to San Juan del Sur from 5 AM to 12 PM. Be aware of the limited baggage allowance that these companies might have.

Be ready to switch vans during your trip should the transport company require you to do so. There will be a short stop for legalities as with other modes of transport.

You will have to pay an exit tax of 9 USD to Costa Rica and an entry tax of 13 USD to Nicaragua. In Nicaragua customs, you will be asked to go down, present your baggage for inspection and obtain your clearance.

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3. Private Transfer from San Jose to San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua

The same shuttle transport companies we are considering for the shared shuttle option will most likely have private transfers as well. This is a perfect choice if you think you cannot meet the demands of a shared shuttle regarding the time of departure and other restrictions. 

A private van transfer gives you the liberty to travel at your own pace with your group of people. There is also no limit in the number of baggage that you can bring, and pets are most welcome to come with you to San Juan del Sur. 

It will take you about seven hours to reach Nicaragua from Costa Rica via private transfer. This is highly dependent on the number of stops you make and how long you intend to stay at each stop. The cost for this option can reach up to 500 USD for a trip, regardless of the number of persons in your party.

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4. San Jose to San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua Flight

There is no airport in San Juan del Sur, so you cannot fly directly from Juan Santamaria International Airport. The closest airport to San Juan del Sur is in Managua, Nicaragua (MGA). The airport is 65 miles or 104 kilometers away from your point of destination.

The cost to fly from SJO to MGA ranges from 243 to 347 USD. Carriers such as Avianca and Copa travel this route. A direct flight takes about an hour to complete. 

You will be spoiled with many choices on how to go from Managua to San Juan del Sur. You can hop on a bus from Mercado Huembes, an airport shuttle, a private transfer, a taxi, or a rent-a-car. It all depends on how fast and efficient you would like to arrive at San Juan del Sur.

5. Driving with Rental Car

Driving by rental car from San Jose to San Juan del Sur is not advisable at all. Because of the border control, which will restrict you from bringing the car across another country, the paperwork and added fees prove to be a hassle to partake.

While it is possible to hire a vehicle to drive yourself to Nicaragua regardless of other formalities to consider, leading rental companies do not allow a one-way option. You will have to rent a car from San Jose to the Costa Rica side of Penas Blancas and then leave the car with a company representative there. Pass by the border on your own and arrange for another rented car once you reach the Nicaragua side of the border. 

It is quite a challenge to look for a car company to make this option possible for you.

6. Uber or taxi

You can hire a taxi or an Uber from San Jose to the Costa Rica side of Peñas Blancas. The fare depends greatly on the day and time of your booking. You will have to pass by customs on your own from the border and continue your journey to San Juan del Sur by taking a chicken bus.