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Top 3 Best Ways How To Get From Rio Celeste to Arenal

How To Get From Rio Celeste to Arenal

Many people travel from Rio Celeste to Arenal annually. And you might be planning on going this route, but you’re probably not sure whether or not you should rent a car, take a flight, hire a private car service, or use the Costa Rican public transportation system to make it, right?

You’re not alone. Many people have come to me with this question, and I’ve helped them find the best ways to get from Rio Celeste to Arenal in the best way for them.

This article will discuss the three main ways to get from Rio Celeste to Arenal, from public buses to hiring a private car service. Let’s dive in and find out which option is best for you.

Transportation From Rio Celeste to Arenal

  1. Public Bus
  2. Private Shuttles
  3. Driving (Car Rental)

There are three ways to get from Rio Celeste to Arenal. You can use public transportation, take a private shuttle, or drive a rental car. Generally, the first option is more affordable, and the latter is more convenient.

Public transportation is the cheapest way to get from Rio Celeste to Arenal. On the other hand, hiring a private transportation service is the easiest and the fastest option, while driving a rental car gives you more flexibility and freedom. 

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

Let’s start by comparing the different ways to get from Rio Celeste to Arenal by how fast and how affordable each option is:

How Long Does it Take to Get From Rio Celeste to Arenal

Depending on your transportation, it takes 1.5 to 2.5 hours to get from Rio Celeste to Arenal. For example, if you travel with a local, experienced driver, it should only take an hour and a half to get to Arenal. On the other hand, this trip will take two hours and a half if you use public transportation.

Fastest Ways to Get From Rio Celeste to Arenal

Transportation Service How Long it Takes
Private Shuttle 1.5 Hours
Driving 2 Hours
Public Bus 2.5 Hours

Cheapest Ways to Get from Rio Celeste to Arenal

Transportation Service Price Per Person (USD)
Public Transportation $70 – $90
Driving (Car Rental) $30 – $60
Private Transfer $100 – $110


  • These are estimations to give you an idea.
  • 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.

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

Rio Celeste to Arenal Bus

The cheapest way to get from Rio Celeste to Arenal is to use the public bus. However, the trip is not straightforward because no direct bus connects these destinations. And it’s not very comfortable because you may need to travel standing for a long time and the buses lack air conditioning.

There is no direct bus from Rio Celeste to Arenal. You must take a taxi from Rio Celeste to Upala and then a bus from Upala to Ciudad Quesada, which stops multiple times along route 142, which goes around Lake Arenal. 

Before making this trip, you must research where you’re heading. More specifically, if you’re heading to a hotel or Airbnb, you should speak with your host and tell them you plan to get there by bus from Upala to Ciudad Quesada. Ask them for an iconic landmark you can use as a point of reference for the bus driver. If your host tells you that the bus does not pass by your lodging, you will need to travel to La Fortuna downtown and take a taxi from there to your destination.

If you’re departing from Rio Celeste National Park, you can ask the receptionist to call a taxi. Receptionists at the park speak English, so you can explain that you’re heading to Upala’s terminal to take the bus from Upala to Ciudad Quesada. They will then present this to the taxi driver, who will likely not speak English. This taxi will take about an hour and cost between $65 and $80.

Once you arrive at the . And before you get on the bus, you must let the driver know where you’re heading (the point of reference your host gave you, assuming they confirm that the bus passes by that point).

The bus driver will likely not speak English, so if you don’t speak Spanish, I recommend you carry a note (ask your host to send you a short email with the instructions for the bus driver) and hand it to the driver. 

Some inns, such as Agua Inn in Nuevo Arenal or Tabacón Thermal Resort & Spa, are right along the bus route. However, even though the 142 route passes through where most lodgings are in Arenal, it does not go through El Castillo, a sector between Arenal and La Fortuna. El Castillo is home to Arenal’s Volcano National Park and iconic lodges like Nepenthe B&B, and Essence Arenal Boutique Hostel. Therefore, if you’re heading to this area, you must wait to arrive at La Fortuna and then take a taxi to El Castillo, which will cost about $20. 

If that’s your case, you will need to tell the bus driver that you’re heading to La Fortuna as you get on the bus, so when he gets there, he will let you know or shout out “La Fortuna.” Otherwise, he might not make the stop, or he might make it, and you will not know about it, and you will miss it. And if this happens, you will need to get off at Ciudad Quesada and take a one-hour, $70-$100 taxi from Ciudad Quesada to Arenal.

That’s how you get from Rio Celeste to Arenal by public bus. If you prepare beforehand by following the above tips and instructions, you should be able to make it without a problem. Otherwise, it can become significantly challenging, especially if you don’t speak fluent Spanish.

Now that we know how to get from Rio Celeste to Arenal using public transportation, let’s talk about how to make this trip much faster using other means of transportation, such as driving or hiring a private shuttle.

Drive From Rio Celeste to Arenal

Generally, driving is the fastest way from Rio Celeste to Arenal, except if you lack experience driving in Costa Rica. Otherwise, a Private Car Service (a.k.a. a Private Shuttle or Private Transfer) will be faster. However, it would be best to consider other factors and caveats before renting a car to make this trip. Let’s explore them. 

Aspects to Consider Before Driving From from Rio Celeste to Arenal

Driving from Rio Celeste to Arenal is simple, but it’s not necessarily easy. There are crazy local drivers, unpredictable and harsh weather conditions, and narrow roads in bad shape. 

Costa Ricans drive significantly faster than foreigners. In addition to this, since we know the roads, as locals, we can make risky moves that might scare someone who has never driven in our country. For example, it’s common to see local drivers going full speed, passing multiple vehicles on a relatively narrow road.

If you live in Costa Rica and have been through that route thousands of times, you will not see anything particularly wrong with this. But if you come from a developed country where the roads are much broader, and there are usually multiple lines on all the highways, you might see such a move as imprudent. 

On the other hand, you have the unpredictable weather conditions of Costa Rica. You might be driving with a clear sky when suddenly a cloud forms ahead, pouring rain all over the place. Driving under changing weather conditions might not be such a big problem during the summertime from December through April, but it can get extremely challenging during the rainy season. 

In Costa Rica, the rainy season is not so bad from May through August. However, it can get scary sometimes during September and October, especially if you stumble upon a storm while driving. These are the top 2 rainy months and the top months for accidents on the road. 

The rain also causes a lot of damage to the roads, which worsens during the rainy season. Many potholes come to life during this time of the year, and it takes a couple of months for the government to repair the cracks. 

A tourist’s main problem with potholes is that they can make a vehicle’s tire explode. Exploding tires do not usually cause many accidents in Costa Rica. However, they can easily create a trip very stressful for a tourist, who will need to phone in the car rental to get another vehicle and then file the insurance paperwork. It’s not dramatic, but it can ruin a few hours of your dream vacation time. 

Costa Rica Rental Car Comparison Tool

Now that you have the ins and outs of driving from Rio Celeste to Arenal, it may be time to find a reasonable Rental Car. If this is your case, I recommend using the . You can find the best car rental deals in one place. Choose the city or airport where you plan to pick up a rental car, and the tool will instantly show you the best deals across the major rental car companies in Costa Rica. 

Private Shuttle From Rio Celeste to Arenal

We have already explored how complicated it is to get from Rio Celeste to Arenal 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 Rio Celeste to Arenal.

Hiring a Private Transportation Service, or a “Private Shuttle,” as locals call it, is the easiest way to get from Rio Celeste to Arenal. 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 Arenal. 

Here at Arenal Tours, we offer a private door-to-door service, so you don’t need to worry about carrying your luggage or walking around the public roads, compromising your safety and belongings. 

You also don’t 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 Rio Celeste to your destination in Arenal. 

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 will usually cost $220 for 1 to 6 passengers. The pickup time can also influence your pricing. For example, this service might get $20+ higher if you want to travel at night. And prices for private transfers are also subject to increase as demand rises, especially during the busiest days, so I recommend booking ahead of time. 

Rio Celeste to Arenal

There are no Group Shuttles from Rio Celeste to Arenal

I’m leaving this topic for last since, as of the time of writing this article, this route is not available, yet, many travelers have asked me about it. Therefore, the closest option would be a private shuttle discussed in the previous section.

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! 


Use our Rental Car Comparison Tool to Find the Lowest Prices (Guaranteed) On Car Rentals To Visit Costa Rica. Choose the city or airport where you plan to pick it up, and our tool will show you the top deals in real-time.