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About Costa Rica tour transportation
If you don’t plan to rent a car in Costa Rica (see our related blog post Renting A Car In Costa Rica: Should You Do It? if you need help making this decision), you may be asking yourself how you’ll get to wherever you plan to go in Costa Rica. Though our related blog post Costa Rica Transportation: 12 Ways To Get Around Costa Rica can teach you how to travel between cities and towns in Costa Rica, the article below focuses on Costa Rica tour transportation. In other words, the transportation services that tour operators provide between Costa Rica hotels and attractions that are featured during organized day tours.
If you’re at all like Ricky and I, you enjoy being active while you travel. You’re probably planning on doing and seeing a lot while in Costa Rica, and right about now you’re in the process of researching various fun and educational Costa Rica day tour options. Want some advice? Don’t forget to also look into the transportation services you’ll need to experience each of the day tour options you settle on. For example, if you plan to go zip-lining or tour a set of hanging bridges in Costa Rica, consider how you’ll get to and from the adventure parks that provide these activities. Is transportation to and from the adventure parks automatically provided by Costa Rican tour operators? Or does it require separate coordination? Are pick-ups and drop-offs offered directly at your hotel? Are those services free or do they require payment of an extra fee? We answer these questions about Costa Rica tour transportation (and more) for you below.
How much does Costa Rica tour transportation (i.e., hotel pick-ups and drop-offs) cost?
The short answer is: It depends on which tour operator is running the tour.
With respect to offering Costa Rica tour transportation, there are two types of tour operators in Costa Rica:
- Tour operators who automatically include round-trip transportation to and from hotels that fall within a normal pick-up zone. Extra fees are charged to travelers who stay at hotels that fall outside of the normal pick-up zone.
- Tour operators who do not automatically include round-trip transportation to and from any hotels. Extra fees are charged to all travelers who want the tour operator to provide round-trip transportation. Exact prices vary by hotel location.
Each tour operator in Costa Rica sets their own tour transportation rates (i.e., their hotel pick-up and drop-off fees). To offer a rough idea of pricing, tour transportation fees could be as low as $10 for a round-trip service for your entire family, or up to $20 for a round-trip service per person in your family (i.e., $40 for a group of 2 people, $60 for a group of 3 people, and so on). Below are a few examples to help you understand how pricing for tour transportation in Costa Rica works.
Are hotel pick-ups and drop-offs priced per person or per group?
Adding confusion, some tour operators charge their Costa Rica tour transportation fees per group (typically groups of 1-4 people, 1-5 people, or 1-8 people, depending on the tour operator) and others charge their Costa Rica tour transportation fees per person. If and when you receive a quote from a tour operator for tour transportation, make sure you clarify whether the price given is per person or per group, and for groups that include how many people (if it’s the latter).
Costa Rica tour transportation pricing examples
Example A: Tour operators who automatically include round-trip transportation to and from hotels that fall within a normal pick-up zone.
Desafio Adventure Company is a La Fortuna-based tour operator that automatically includes free round-trip transportation to/from hotels that fall within their normal transportation zone. Desafio Adventure Company typically charges $20-25 (per group, not per person) for a one-way pick-up or drop-off service at hotels that fall outside of their normal transportation zone, or $40-50 (per group, not per person) for a round-trip pick-up and drop-off service.
If you reserve a Costa Rica day tour operated by Desafio Adventure Company and you plan to stay at a La Fortuna hotel that falls within Desafio Adventure Company’s normal transportation zone, your hotel pick-up and drop-off service will be free.
If you reserve a Costa Rica day tour operated by Desafio Adventure Company and you plan to stay at a La Fortuna hotel that falls outside of Desafio Adventure Company’s normal transportation zone, it would be best to budget around $40-50 per small family/group.
Example B: Tour operators who do not automatically include round-trip transportation to and from any hotels.
Sky Adventures is a La Fortuna- and Monteverde-based tour operator that does not automatically include round-trip transportation to/from any hotels with their tours, regardless of where the hotel is located. Sky Adventures typically charges $17 (per person) for round-trip transportation to and from hotels that fall within their normal transportation zone in La Fortuna, and $10 (per person) for round-trip transportation to and from hotels that fall within their normal transportation zone in Monteverde. Extra fees (on top of the regular, flat rate tour transportation fees of $17 per person and $10 per person) are charged to travelers who need transportation to and from hotels that fall outside of Sky Adventures’ normal transportation zone.
If you reserve a Costa Rica day tour operated by Sky Adventures in La Fortuna, it would be best to budget $17 per person in your family/group for tour transportation. If you reserve a Costa Rica day tour operated by Sky Adventures in Monteverde, budget $10 per person in your family/group for tour transportation.
If you reserve a Costa Rica day tour operated by Sky Adventures (either in La Fortuna or Monteverde) and you plan to stay at a hotel that falls outside of Sky Adventures’ normal transportation zone, you’ll need to budget more than $17 per person (for La Fortuna) or $10 per person (Monteverde). Exact pricing is determined by Sky Adventures according to the property you plan to stay at.
Other important things to know about Costa Rica tour transportation
Hotel pick-up services don’t require separate reservation
Simply inform the tour operator (when you reserve your desired Costa Rica day tours) of the name of your Costa Rica hotel and they’ll coordinate the tour transportation service(s) alongside the tour reservation. An exception to this rule would be if you needed to hire out-of-town transportation. For example, if your hotel is located by the beach in Tamarindo and you want to experience a day tour run in the La Fortuna area of Costa Rica, you’ll need to arrange a city-to-city transportation service that will transport you between Tamarindo and La Fortuna. This type of transportation isn’t considered “tour transportation” and it requires separate reservation.
Hotel pick-up times are determined by tour operators
When you reserve a Costa Rica day tour that includes a hotel pick-up service, the tour operator will give you a specific hotel pick-up time. Note that the hotel pick-up time you receive may be a time that falls before (anywhere from 1 hour to 5 minutes) or after (anywhere from 5 minutes to 30 minutes) the official tour start time. Several factors influence your tour pick-up time, including where your Costa Rica hotel falls in relation to where the tour takes place or where the tour operator’s office is located. The most important thing to note is that, in most cases, it isn’t your responsibility to choose a hotel pick-up time. The majority of tour operators in Costa Rica will provide you with one on your tour confirmation document.
To ensure you don’t miss your pick-up service, wait for it in your hotel’s lobby
Most tour operators won’t go so far as to pick you up directly at your hotel room. Instead, they’ll wait for you at (or near) the hotel’s lobby. Usually drivers are pressed for time as they have a list of other travelers waiting to be picked up at other hotels in the area. To help the day’s tour run smoothly and not begin with a delay, head down to your hotel’s lobby about 10 minutes before your scheduled pick-up time.
Ways to reduce the costs of tour transportation (i.e., how to avoid paying hotel pick-up and drop-off fees)
Rent a car in Costa Rica
The easiest way to avoid paying hotel pick-up and hotel drop-off fees is to rent a car and drive yourselves wherever you want to go in Costa Rica. It’s almost always an option to drive yourselves to and from tour operators’ offices in Costa Rica, where you can catch their free tour transportation. If you’re unsure whether you should rent a car for your trip, our related blog post Renting A Car In Costa Rica: Should You Do It? can help you weigh the pros and cons.
Choose Costa Rica hotels that fall within tour operators’ normal transportation zones
Though this isn’t always the case, most hotels that are located within close proximity to city and town centers fall within tour operators’ normal transportation zones, where hotel pick-up and drop-off services are commonly free or inexpensive. Some tour operators will also offer free or inexpensive transportation to/from popular hotels that are situated further away. If you’ll be relying on tour transportation throughout your trip, your hotel choice (specifically, the hotel’s location) can significantly impact the amount of money you’ll pay (or save) on tour pick-up and drop-off fees. See our related blog post Choosing A Costa Rica Hotel: Are You A Knowledgeable Traveler Or An Informed One? for more information on why hotel location should be a key consideration when you plan a trip to Costa Rica.
Minimize the number of hotel pick-ups and drop-offs you need
If the tour operators that run the tours you’re interested in want to charge you pick-up and drop-off fees to and from your hotel, schedule your day tours in a way that minimizes the number of times you’ll return to your hotel. For example, schedule your morning activity with a pick-up at your hotel and a drop-off in your destination’s city or town center (transportation to/from town centers is usually free). Then, schedule your afternoon activity with a pick-up in your destination’s town center and a drop-off at your hotel. Not only will you get a chance to explore, dine, and/or shop in your destination’s downtown area, but you’ll save money on hotel pick-up and drop-off fees since you’ll only pay each once during the day.
Vacation rentals and Airbnb properties: Do they qualify for Costa Rica tour transportation?
Sometimes yes, but usually no. A few years ago, it was tough to find a tour operator in Costa Rica who would offer pick-up and drop-off services at Costa Rica vacation rental and Airbnb properties as commonly as they would Costa Rica hotels. As the popularity of Costa Rica rental properties continues to rise, however, we’re seeing more and more tour operators opt to travel to and from vacation homes. The majority still don’t, though, mainly because rental properties can be tough for them to find.
This reality means that if you choose to stay at a vacation rental or Airbnb property in Costa Rica, there’s a good chance you’ll need to find your own way (via rental car, walking, taxi, or local bus) to get to and from the tour operator’s office where organized day tours generally start and end. Of the select group of tour operators that are willing to provide pick-ups and drop-offs at Airbnb properties and other vacation rental types, several charge extra fees for the transportation service. If you’re looking to avoid paying Costa Rica tour transportation fees, consider staying at hotels, not vacation rentals or Airbnbs. Alternatively, request to be picked up and dropped off at the location nearest to your rental (i.e., the closest hotel) that qualifies for free tour transportation. This can help you minimize the amount of walking/driving you’ll do, or the amount of taxi/bus fare you’ll pay.
QUESTION TO COMMENT ON: What experiences have you had with hotel pick-ups and drop-offs for Costa Rica tours?