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Top 4 Best Ways How To Get From Arenal to Manuel Antonio

How To Get From Arenal to Manuel Antonio

Hundreds of thousands of tourists travel from Arenal to Manuel Antonio every year. If you’re planning on going this route, and you’re not sure whether you should rent a car and drive, take a flight, take a shuttle, hire a private car service, or use the public transportation system, this article is for you.

I’ve helped hundreds of tourists find the best option from Arenal to Manuel Antonio. And in this article, I will discuss the four main ways to get from Arenal to Manuel Antonio, from public buses to private car services.

Let’s dive in and find out which option is best for you.

Transportation From Arenal to Manuel Antonio

  1. Public Transportation
  2. Group Shuttles
  3. Private Car Service
  4. Driving (Car Rental)

Let’s dive right in:

There are four ways to get from Arenal to Manuel Antonio. You can use public transportation, go on a group shuttle, hire a private transportation service, or drive a rental car. Generally, the first two options are more affordable, and the latter is more convenient.

Public transportation is the cheapest option from Arenal to Manuel Antonio. However, hiring a private car service or a private shuttle is the fastest and easiest option. And going on a group or shared shuttle generally gives you the best balance of time and cost. 

Keep scrolling to find out how each option ranks against each other based on its pros and cons so that you can make the best of your trip from Arenal to Manuel Antonio. 

Let’s explore each option’s pros and cons to help determine the best way for you to get from Arenal to Manuel Antonio, starting by comparing prices.

Top 4 Cheapest Transportation Options From Arenal to Manuel Antonio

Transportation Service Price Per Person (USD)
Public Transportation $20 – $30
Driving (Car Rental) $30 – $60
Group Shuttle $50 – $60
Private Car Service $120 – $130


  • The above rates do not include the 13% IVA tax.
  • These prices assume there is a minimum of two travelers.
  • Renting a car consists of the base rate, insurance, and fuel.
  • Prices can fluctuate throughout the year based on market conditions and demand.

Note: The above prices are estimations to give you an idea.

Keep reading more detailed information on each service and how they work.

Arenal to Manuel Antonio Bus

The cheapest way to get from Arenal to Manuel Antonio is to use the public transportation system. However, the trip is not straightforward because no direct bus connects these destinations. You must take a taxi from Arenal to La Fortuna and then four buses to reach Manuel Antonio, and the journey will take between nine and ten hours

Let’s look at the step-by-step process for getting from Arenal to Manuel Antonio by bus. Along with the instructions, I will share the links to Google Maps landmarks, which will be essential to make this trip. 

1. First, you must take a taxi from your lodge in Arenal to . The first bus you need leaves at 9 AM, so depending on where in Arenal you’re staying, I recommend you take your taxi between 8 AM and 8:30 AM to give you enough time to get to the terminal. This taxi can cost between $10 and $20 from Arenal to La Fortuna.

2. Once you arrive at , you must take the 9 AM bus from La Fortuna to San Ramon, which takes about two hours to reach San Ramon. This bus will cost about $4.25, and you will arrive at the arrive at the arrive at the

Churchill at Puntarenas Costa Rica

5. Once you arrive at the Note: I recommend you tell the driver where you’re heading (i.e., the name of your hotel or a well-known landmark nearby) as the bus makes several stops from Quepos to Manuel Antonio. Even though the driver will probably not speak English, he will understand where you’re going if you give him the place’s name. And if you’re staying in an Airbnb, it’s best to ask your host for a reference you can use to give the driver. 

There you have it. That’s how you get from Arenal to Manuel Antonio by bus. Even though the trip is relatively inexpensive ($20 – $30 total), the journey is long, taking up the entire day.

Besides, switching buses four times can be tiring. And none of the above four bus routes has air conditioning, making the trip hot and uncomfortable. Additionally, you can’t purchase the tickets ahead of time and may not get a seat, so you would need to travel standing on some of the routes.

From experience, having helped hundreds of tourists over the last decade, I can tell that only a teeny tiny percentage of travelers going from Arenal to Manuel Antonio use public buses. Most travelers use the alternatives explained below, as they’ve determined that the cost savings achieved by using public buses are not worth the long trip and the lack of comfort.

That being said, let’s explore the other ways to get from Arenal to Manuel Antonio.

Drive From Arenal to Manuel Antonio

Now that we know how long it takes to get from Arenal to Manuel Antonio using public transportation let’s talk about how to make this trip much faster. 

Driving is the fastest way to get from Arenal to Manuel Antonio, which will take between 4 and 5 hours. A more precise estimate will depend on the traffic conditions and your experience driving around the country. On average, tourists take 6.5 hours to go from Arenal to Manuel Antonio.

Compared to all the other ways to get from Arenal to Manuel Antonio, driving is the fastest way, as shown in the following comparison table. 

Top 4 Fastest Ways to Get from Arenal to Manuel Antonio

Transportation Service How Long it Takes
Driving* 4 – 5 Hours
Private Transfer* 5 – 6 Hours
Group Shuttle 6 – 7 Hours
Public Bus 9 – 10 Hours

*Going on a Private Transfer will be faster than driving if you’re not used to driving in Costa Rica.

Aspects to Consider When Driving from Arenal to Manuel Antonio

Let’s discuss a few drawbacks of driving in Costa Rica, which you should consider before renting a car from Arenal to Manuel Antonio. 

Driving Time Can Be Much Longer Than GPS Apps Estimate From Arenal to Manuel Antonio

Generally, driving from Arenal to Manuel Antonio takes 4-5 hours. However, these averages are more realistic and applicable to local Costa Ricans used to driving in our country, and it’s not the case for foreigners. 

If you search on Google Maps for the route from Arenal to Manuel Antonio, Google usually estimates the driving time to be less than four hours. However, from my experience working with hundreds of tourists, I rarely see anyone get across that distance in that timeframe. 

The distance between Arenal and Manuel Antonio is 225 kilometers (140 miles), which is relatively significant but not excessive. However, the roads in Costa Rica are pretty narrow, and traffic can get out of control at any given moment should an accident block the streets. Consequently, Google estimations can be disproportional, and your driving time can escalate quickly. 

For example, I drove from San Jose to Monteverde the other day, and Google estimated my driving time would be 3 hours and 50 minutes. And then, there was a landslide on Highway 1 (one of the main roads you will need to use when driving from Arenal to Manuel Antonio), which turned my travel time upside down. What was supposed to be a four-hour drive ended up a ten-hour endeavor, and I got home at 1 am.

Even though this was an extreme case, this type of thing happens in Costa Rica regularly. Our country’s topography, with huge mountain ranges, volcanoes, and vast nature, makes the roads vulnerable to these events. ThereforeI recommend adding 30 to 90 minutes to the estimated driving time the GPS device/app gives you.

Driving is Not the Easiest Way to Get From Arenal to Manuel Antonio

Driving from Arenal to Manuel Antonio seems like a simple thing to do. After all, you might be an avid driver, and a four-to-five-hour ride might not be a big deal. However, driving in Costa Rica can be very different from how you’re used to driving at home. 

In Costa Rica, crazy local drivers, unpredictable and harsh weather conditions, and narrow roads make driving here a challenge and an overwhelming task for some

For example, on highway 1, one of the main routes from Arenal to Manuel Antonio, it’s common to see local drivers going full speed, passing multiple vehicles on a relatively narrow road. Witnessing a car pass like that on these roads can make some drivers feel uncomfortable and anxious. 

We, Costa Ricans, have witnessed this scenario many times before, and it still feels a bit uncomfortable for me. Getting past at full speed in such narrow streets means the car passing by comes very close to you, and it’s not cool. And it’s one of the main complaints I’ve heard from foreigners visiting Costa Rica for the first time. 

On the other hand, the weather conditions in Costa Rica are pretty unpredictable. Costa Rica has more than 300 microclimates (a local set of atmospheric conditions that differ from those in the surrounding a. And that means you can experience a handful of different atmospheric conditions over a four-hour drive. 

You might leave Arenal with a clear sky when suddenly a cloud forms thirty minutes later, pouring rain all over the place. Driving under changing weather conditions is not a big deal from December through April (Costa Rican summertime) as there are few rain showers, and they’re not too hard.

However, rain is more prominent from May through November (Costa Rican rainy season). During this time of the year, it rains more often and much harder, especially during September and October, when heavy thunderstorms are a daily norm. Generally speaking, driving during those months is significantly challenging, even for locals, especially during the afternoons when the rain is more likely to come. 

And lastly, a final aspect that makes driving in Costa Rica challenging for foreigners is the poor condition of the roads. There are many potholes, so you must be extra careful, and 100% focused when driving in our country. You will want to dodge those bad boys as they can be so sharp that they can flat your vehicle’s tire.

Flat tires do not usually cause many accidents in Costa Rica, but they can still be a hassle. Since most roads are narrow, you will need to find a safe parking stop so you can change the tire. Changing tires is not super fun, and it can be incredibly discouraging if it begins to rain in the middle of the process, as it’s happened to me a few times. 

Costa Rica Rental Car Comparison Tool

After considering the above drawbacks, if you decide that renting a car is still a good option, it may be time to find a reasonable Rental Car. And I recommend using the . You can find the best car rental deals in one place. All you need to do is choose the city or airport where you plan to pick up a car, and the Costa Rica Rental Car Comparison Tool will instantly display the best deals across the major rental car companies in Costa Rica. Give it a try. 

Arenal to Manuel Antonio Private Shuttle

We have already explored how complicated it is to get from Arenal to Manuel Antonio using public transportation. We also covered how driving can be problematic, so what’s the easiest way to make this trip? 

Booking a private car service is arguably the easiest way to get from Arenal to Manuel Antonio by land.

Hiring a Private Transportation Service, or a “Private Shuttle,” as locals call it, is the easiest way to get from Arenal to Manuel Antonio. You can arrange a specific time and place with a private shuttle, and a transportation company will pick you up and take you to your lodge in Manuel Antonio. 

Here at Arenal Tours, we offer a private door-to-door service, so you can relax and enjoy the ride while we take care of the heavy lifting and drive for you. 

That way, you don’t need to worry about carrying your personal belongings around using public transportation. Neither will you need to worry about driving in a foreign country with roads that might differ significantly from the streets you’re used to riding back home. 

Instead, you arrange the pickup time and place. Then, one of our local professional drivers will pick you up with a modern vehicle to take you from your departure place in Arenal to your destination in Manuel Antonio.

The only disadvantage of hiring this type of transportation service is the price. Going on a private transfer is the most comfortable, convenient, and straightforward option but also pricey. 

Depending on the pickup and dropoff places, a private transfer from Arenal to Manuel Antonio will usually cost $284 for 1 to 6 passengers. And your pickup time can also influence your pricing. For example, if you want to depart Arenal before 7 am or after 5 pm, there is a $20 additional fee for this service. Additionally, private transfer prices will increase as demand rises, especially during the busiest days, so I recommend booking ahead of time. 

Arenal to Manuel Antonio Shuttle

Getting a group shuttle from Arenal to Manuel Antonio is an excellent choice for solo travelers and couples. A group shuttle is a daily shared transportation service from Arenal to Manuel Antonio. A modern Van with air conditioning and WiFi will pick you up at your lodge in Arenal and take you to Manuel Antonio.

Generally, taking a group shuttle, or a “shared shuttle,” as the locals call it, is the most recommended door-to-door way to get from Arenal to Manuel Antonio for most travelers. Group shuttles are convenient and provide the best balance, saving time and money for travelers in most cases.

Here at Arenal Tours, we offer group shuttles, where you share the shuttle service with fellow travelers and the cost, making it an excellent option for solo travelers and couples. Using our group shuttle to get to Manuel Antonio will be far more convenient than riding the public bus and significantly less expensive than hiring a private transfer. 

Using our group shuttle is also more manageable and less stressful than renting a car and driving. The price can change depending on the seasonality and demand, but it’s usually around $47 per person per way. 

Book a Group Shuttle from Arenal to Manuel Antonio here

Arenal to Manuel Antonio Flight

There are no direct flights from Arenal to Manuel Antonio. Instead, the closest option is to take a taxi from Arenal to La Fortuna, then a domestic flight from La Fortuna to SJO Int. Airport, followed by a 1-4 hours layover, another flight from SJO to Quepos, and another taxi to Manuel Antonio.

Even though going with the above route is highly impractical, I decided to include this topic because many travelers have asked me about it. In an ideal world, there would be a direct short flight from Arenal to Manuel Antonio, but unfortunately, that’s not the case.

However, you can arrange a flight through a private helicopter, which would cost between $1,000 and $2,000 and would take less than an hour to get to Manuel Antonio.

If you’re interested in this service, send us a message, and either myself or someone on my team will connect you with a private helicopter transfer. 

Here’s the end of this article. Thank you for reading this far, and feel free to share this info with fellow travelers as you deem appropriate. Happy travels and ¡Pura Vida, amigos!

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About the Author

Daniel Lalinde

I am the founder of send us a message, and we will happily assist you! 


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