You can reach pretty much any populated place (and a lot of not-so-populated places as well) in Costa Rica by bus easily and inexpensively. We found fares ranging from about 80 cents to go to a nearby small town (for example from Palmares to San Ramon) to about $8 for long bus ride. We have found Costa Rican buses to be clean and comfortable, and our bus rides have been pleasant. On the longer routes, you can reserve your seats in advance. We really liked seats three and four which are the front row of the passenger side of the bus. Not only do you get a great view out the large front window, but you can keep an eye on the exits and the baggage area. We had heard stories of people’s luggage being stolen from buses, so we had a little anxiety about that the first time we travelled by bus with our luggage. Fortunately, we did not encounter any problems. A little trick we’ve learned is to take a bicycle lock with you and lock your suitcases together when you stow them either under the bus or in the storage area onboard the bus. This will make it very difficult for anyone to easily slip away with it.
None of the buses we rode had bathrooms on them; however, on the longer trips, the buses stop for about 20 minutes at a place where you can purchase food and drinks and use the facilities.
Bus service is frequent in the cities, but you may find there are only one or two buses a day on less common routes. You can view the Costa Rican bus schedules and click on “List of Stopping Points” to see a list of all of the places you can go. We also found that drivers are willing to drop you off (and frequently pick people up) anywhere along the route.
It is important to note that sometimes popular buses are standing room only. We only encountered this once when people were returning from San Ramon to Palmares after a busy day of shopping. We boarded the bus before it reached the mall, so we had seats, but from the mall to Palmares, there were almost as many people standing as sitting. I don’t believe they overfill buses on the longer routes since tickets for those routes are sold before the bus leaves the station.
We love riding the bus here and would probably do it more often, but we like to take our dog places with us, and pets are not allowed to ride the bus here.