Getting To Banana Azul
“A good traveler has no fixed plans….
and is not intent upon arriving” – TAO
General Tips – Costa Rica is a great place for a vacation and well over 2 million people visit this small country every year. But please note that Costa Rica is a developing country and not a fully developed country. This means among many things, things will not be the same as in North America or Europe. So, expect things like bad roads, lack of signs, crazy drivers etc etc.
Another reality of traveling in developing countries (some more than others) is crime. Costa Rica has its share of crime against tourists (almost all non-violent). I do not say this to scare you, but only to be realistic and take certain precautions so you will limit yourself to the possibility of being a victim. Here are just a few general tips while traveling in Costa Rica.
- Watch your bags very carefully in Bus Stations and at bus stops. Do not leave bags unattended.
- If bags are in overhead on bus, don’t leave them unattended during road stop if you get off the bus. Bags underneath are not usually a problem as they know “the good stuff” is in carry-on.
- Be weary of people offering to carry your stuff for money. This always happens when you get off busses. If they do handle your bags, they expect a tip. 500 colones (almost $1 is plenty)
- Careful of people (especially locals), that are overly friendly and start recommending other hotels etc. They do not usually do this out of the goodness of their heart. They usually get a commission.
- Do not leave bags unattended in your car. Also always make sure your car is not parked out on street overnight unless you feel it is secure with a guard.
- When parking in city areas on street, there is usually a person on the street (they wear orange vests) that will watch your car. They are worth every colone. I will usually give them 500 colones when I park and another 500colones when I return (total almost $2). This is usually double what locals pay, but I can have never had anyone take anything out of my car, and the guy will many times even stop traffic to allow me to pull out safely
- Do not flash money around. Also note that many places do not accept US $50 or $100 bills
- Try and pay with local currency where possible. Paying with dollars is a sure way to get short-changed on exchange and shows other people you are “green” at traveling in CR.
Airport Arrival; First of all it is important you have a valid passport. You do not need a Visa to enter Costa Rica from most countries. If you are unsure, please contact the Costa Rica consulate or check here for an over view.
San Jose; Most people that come to Costa Rica always do at least one night in San Jose – Either upon arrival or when exiting the country.
Many people ask for a hotel recommendation. My personal favourite is Colours Oasis but realize that is not ideal for everyone. My other recommendation as long as you are not looking for an urban experience is Casa Bella Rita. You can not get better hosts.
There are other hotels listed here that we deal with that might appeal to you depending on your needs.
Taxi - Costa Rica airport has no indoor public areas. All people waiting for arrivals and all taxis and tour operators have to wait outside the main exit door.
When you get out of the secured area, there will no doubt be people trying to sell you a ride to your hotel or anywhere else in Costa Rica. These are usually unauthorized people and unless you are used to negotiating with these people, we do not recommend you travel with them. Chances are it will be no cheaper than using one of the Orange Airport Taxis (approx $25).
Bus Ticket Service - We have a service for the Caribbean or Manuel Antonio where if you are arriving at the airport we will meet your flight at the airport with your bus ticket already purchased so you are guaranteed a ticket and bring you to the bus terminal in San Jose where you catch your bus.
Private Driver – We can arrange a private driver pick you up at airport. He will be standing there with a sign with your name on it. They come in vans and drivers speak good English. The cost is $215 and can be up to 8 persons. This is ideal for more then 2 persons and can handle all luggage etc.
Public Bus – For adventurous and more seasoned travelers, I recommend the public bus. Just ignore all the taxis and walk out on to street right in front of airport terminal. You will see a public transit stand. Almost every bus there is heading to downtown San Jose. Make sure you ask the driver. The cost is about 75 cents. If you have no colones yet, give them 1 US dollar.
Tell the bus driver where you are going and “hopefully” he will drop you off at the closest spot. Then get in a taxi (they are usually red) and get local taxi to take you to your hotel or bus station. Make sure meter is on. It is known in Costa Rica as “Maria”. The absolute most it should be for anywhere in downtown is $5.
For the Truly Adventurous; Does the thought of a white water rafting trip on the way down or return from Puerto Viejo do it for you? We can arrange a tour bus pick you up in San Jose, take you to the Pacuare River, go on a 4 hour rafting trip which includes breakfast and lunch and drop off at your hotel in Puerto Viejo or take it on your return trip to San Jose or Arenal. Cost is $99 per person and they take care of all transport and your entire luggage etc. Click here for more information and to book this tour.
Driving – Most rental cars will arrange to pick you up at airport or have a shuttle bus for the bigger companies. NOTE – most guests swear by the added expense of GPS! If you get lost in San Jose, best to pay a Taxi to lead you to the Highway to Limon.
The exact gps map coordinates of Banana Azul are latitude 9.65837, longitude -82.77346.
If people are interested in renting cars, there is only one car rental place in Puerto Viejo and we do not recomend them. Our customers have better experience with Adobe in Limon. They have no problem dropping off and picking up car at Banana Azul. Car rentals with Adobe can be arranged here. So, if there is a problem with the car, it is easy to change. You can also pick up or drop off a car at the airport or other locations. A car can even be waiting for you when you arrive at Banana Azul.
Your car rental company will give you a map and there are signs on how to get to downtown San Jose.
Driving to Puerto Viejo is really easy. You will have to find the highway to Limon. It has easy access from downtown and once you are on that highway, it is almost impossible to get lost.
It is important that you know that you will encounter multiple radar speed traps. If you do not want to be pulled over, you need to watch all the speed limit signs. If you get pulled over, just agree to pay the fine. The rental car company will add it to your bill. It is common for police to try and scare you into telling you they will take the vehicle or plates. This is just to scare you into paying them money. Just stick to your guns and tell them to write you the ticket. If you are really good at it, you can many times talk your way out of it.
Please note: If you have not left San Jose by 2:00pm in afternoon, you will be driving part of the way at night. We do not recommend this for first time travelers in driving in Costa Rica. Some roads do not have lines. Rain can be bad and there are potholes and people walking/cycling that you can not see very well.
You will first go through the mountains and will be very high up. It is likely that you will encounter fog (clouds) and rain. Please drive with your lights on. Most of the local drivers do not.
The drive through the mountains is beautiful. You will see many vistas and real rain forest jungle. As you are about to exit mountains into flat land (just after a bunch of ugly billboards) there is a restaurant on your right (usually with many trucks out front). It is called El Yugo. It is okay for a roadside stop, but my absolute favorite is Roberto’s Rancho just a little further down on the left at the corner of Route 32 & #4. Sit down service, great Costa Rican Food & Very secure parking.It is also a good break after about 1.5 hours into the trip.
The road from there to Limon (approx 2 hrs) is practically straight with no hills. It is small towns and banana plantations. Please note there are many trucks as Limon is a port city and this is the truck route. Also note, you will see a sign or two for Puerto Viejo on the way to Limon. This is not the correct Puerto Viejo. You have to reach Limon and drive down coast. (also note on this stretch, there are many speed traps and local cops love foreigners as it can mean a free lunch at a better restaurant)
When you hit Limon, just before you enter city centre you will see a sign (at the Colono gas Station) where you turn right to go to Puerto Viejo. From that sign you just follow the coast all the way down (approx 1 hour). The drive is beautiful (but mind the pot holes).
After about 1 hour of driving, you will come to the little town of Hone Creek. At that point your about 5 kilometers from the turn off to Banana Azul and Casa Las Brisas. . You will drive past a hardware store called San Francisco. A few hundred meters past the hardware store is a bus stop with a roof on it, (right across the street from Pulperia Violetta). At the bus stop take a left and follow along beach. If you passed the Point Bar & Grill, you just missed the turn off)
And to get to Banana Azul you just proceed along beach until you come to La Perla Negra Hotel. Banana Azul is 200 meters past Perla Negra Hotel and has a wood gate with a sign. Guests of Casa Las Brisas check in at Banana Azul Hotel
See Puerto Viejo Map here for all locations.
Public Bus to Puerto Viejo –Take a taxi to Caribe Bus Station. Note there are 3 main terminals in San Jose and it is very important you go to Caribbean Station. At Caribe Station, you go to ticket counter behind all food outlets. You ask then for ticket to Puerto Viejo Talamanca. Please note there is another Puerto Viejo in Siquerres and you do not want that bus. Ticket cost is approx $9.
There are 5 buses a day (6:00 am, 10:00 am, 12 noon, 2:00 pm & 4:00 pm). There is one rest stop just outside of Limon for a bathroom and drink break). Count on needing at least two hours from plane arrival to go through customs and get a taxi from airport to bus station. For example; If your plane arrives at 12:30 in the day time, you will have to look at catching 4:00 pm bus.
There is full bus schedules (including local buses for Talamanca region) for the whole area located at this link..
Take bus right into town of Puerto Viejo (final stop), there will be taxis waiting to offer you a ride. The maximum cost should be $4 (2000 Colones) to Banana Azul and Casa Las Brisas. It is a light 20-30 minute walk if you can manage your luggage ok. (note; negotiate cab rate before getting in as all cars here have no meters). Just give them instructions as above.
Tourist Shuttles – They are small air-conditioned tourist shuttles and cost about $45 per person each way. They will pick you up (hotel/airport) and drop you off at your door. They can be really great when you are tight for airport times.
Private Driver – Want to leave on your own schedule in a private 10 person air-conditioned van? We can hook you up with a private English speaking driver to bring you door to door service to and from ttPuerto Viejo. Cost is $190 (up to 10 persons). We can arrange private transport anywhere in the country. Just contact us for a quote on almost any transfer. You can click here to book private driver.
I am sorry if all this seems a bit much, but I just wanted to try and give people as much info as possible. Many people seem to have much anxiety about getting here. Just relax. It’s easy.
This list is by no means complete and if you feel there are things are missing or incorrect, please let me know.