When you land at the Puerto Jimenez Airstrip there are litterally dozens of Black Vultures everywhere. Kind of an eerie feeling being as they are considered a "cleaning up the dead" type bird! Tons of Scarlet Macaws & Parrots hang around the airstrip as well.
Fly to get to Puerto Jimenez to get a gorgeous view and a nice quick ride (an hour from San Jose). Two airlines deserve the Puerto Jimenez airstrip: Sansa and Nature Air
FlySansa looked less expensive but we were too late and the flights were all booked 2 months ahead, we couldn't make a reservation. We booked easily with Nature Air over the phone. Nature Air also offer a few city-to-city flight (instead of flying back to San Jose). Fly Sansa offers a week or 2-weeks pass for a fair price.
Look around and shop, but I think for this destination, it's worth it to buy a plane ticket. It's a 8 hours drive with your car (leave early as not to get caught at night on those roads), or a 10 hours bus trip.
Look at the maximum weight allowed for your luggage (we didn't exceed it) and the delay to check-in.
Collectivo works as taxis and buses around here. Except for a few exceptions (there's a few top of the line air conditionned red jeep taxi available), we got around in a collectivo which is no more no less than an old pick-up truck accessorise of two wooden plank benches in the back. Sometimes, there's a fabric roof hung over them. More than enough and easy to accomodate your need. 2 peoples, 8 peoples, luggages, parcel... we even pack up 19 passengers at some point, returning from the Corcovado park, as not to let anyone behind... THAT was freaky!
If you go outside of town, to the road of Matapalo and Carate, the Collectivo leaves at 6h (and 13h I think) from the bus stop in Puerto Jimemez. 2 blocks south and 2 block west of the soccer field. Behind the Carolina and the El Regalon (superstore). It cost about 7$ per person each way. You can buy ticket at the snack bar counter (but we got in and paid the driver once we got there... we didn't know). Buy a ticket at the snack counter in carate to get back.
It takes an hour to reach Matapalo, and then another hour to get to Carate. They leave Carate at 16h, get to Matapalo at 17h and reach Puerto Jimenez just before dark at 18h.
If you hire a cab, it cost more of course. We paid 20$ to get to (and back) Playa Plantanares a few miles down off road to reach the ocean. It was a pick-up collectivo. And we paid 40$ to get to (and back) Matapalo on our own close jeep (air condition, nice and luxurious). We wanted our own time frame to get to Matapalo and not be depended of the collectivo. We were still a bit shock of our ride back from Carata I think! But we would have paid 28$ (7$ p.p. both way) for a collectivo, and then 40$ for our private taxi... we figured we could afford the luxury. Otherwise, to reach Matapalo, take the Collectivo at 6h, get to Matapalo at 7h and wait on the side of the road to take the Collectivo at around 17h at night. Or hitchike.
We heard renting cars there cost a lot. I think around 1000$ a week, because they are big new sturdy 4x4 and need a strong insurance. Because of the road, they break a lot...
If you can afford it, it's probably very fun to get around on your own terms, it seems there's a lot to discover on your own around here. There's not a lot of organised transportation. Nothing is really organised here...
And altought the road itself his horrific, there's only one so you can't get lost!
The cheapest way to get around is of course on bike. It's hot and large part of the roads aren't shaded, so plan lot of sunscreen and water. But it's very fun to ride along the roads near Puerto Jimenez.
We rented nicely kept mountain bikes for 1$/hour near the italian restaurant in town. Close to the collectivo stop. Probably 2 blocks north of the church, 1 block west of the main street. Mine had a basket in front and they even threw in for free a lock. Very friendly and affable service.
When we were there a new shop had just opened. They rent VTT and bike. I hate them because VTT are very noisy in this town that was so quiet before. But maybe it's fun to rent. And they must be new, they opened in february 2006. Near the Internet Cafe Cafenet on the main street. Don't know if they are good...
This great little truck was waiting at the airport to take us to our lodge. You sit on the back on sideways bench seats, and the ride is rather bumpy. Fortunately it doesn't take too long to get to our accommodation. Throuhg the little settlement of Puerto Jimenez and out into the countryside, past agricultural land then into the rain forest.
If you’re looking for a quick and easy way to get from place to place while in Costa Rica check out the internal flights. Air travel, on prop planes, is almost equivalent to bus travel in the country. It’s relatively inexpensive and much faster than driving. You have a choice of two commercial airlines that fly domestically and flights can be chartered to more remote locations with ease. Nature Air is one of the two commercial airlines in the country. As with Sansa, their competitor, the planes are small prop planes that seat about15 to 20 people. Their flight record is great as is the service. Most flights average a half hour to 45 minutes in duration as the country is so small. Nature Air features a more user friendly website, and although their flights average about $10 US more per flight than Sansa, they are the only carbon neutral airline in the skies and they have more choices when it comes to direct flights. We chose Nature Air because it was easier to navigate their website, book flights online and they had better connections and flight options than Sansa. The staff was friendly and helpful and we really enjoyed our flights. Because these are smaller planes be aware that there is a weight limit for both checked luggage and carry-ons. Passengers are allowed ONE checked bag with a maximum 30 lbs weight limit and one carry-on with a 10 lbs weight limit. Checked luggage is weighed at check in and they will charge you if you are over the 30 lbs limit. The carry on is weighed along with you, so if you’re not overweight you can probably get by with a little over the 10 lbs limit.
Sample Prices: We booked a last minute, one way flight from San Jose to Puerto Jimenez for $99 US and one was from Puerto Jimenez to Quepos for the same price. If we had booked earlier there were better deals.
If you’re looking for a quick and easy way to get from place to place while in Costa Rica check out the internal flights. Air travel, on prop planes, is almost equivalent to bus travel in the country. It’s relatively inexpensive and much faster than driving. You have a choice of two commercial airlines that fly domestically and flights can be chartered to more remote locations with ease. Sansa Air is one of the two commercial airlines in the country. As with Nature Air, their competitor, the planes are small prop planes that seat about 15 to 20 people. Their flight record is great as is the service. Most flights average a half hour to 45 minutes in duration as the country is so small. Their prices tend to run about $10 US less per flight than Nature Air and they also feature one and two week “Air Passes” (although I am not quite sure how the passes work) that supposedly allow you to fly unlimited around the country. The drawbacks: their website is difficult to navigate and book flights. In fact it was impossible for me to book one way flights on their site. And most of their flights originate out of San Jose so if you want to get from Point A to Point B (and neither is San Jose) you’ll have to connect through San Jose and pay for both legs of your trip separately.
There are several ways to get to the “town” of Carate, the southern gateway to Corcovado National Park. Taking a taxi from the city of Puerto Jimenez, might not be the most economical or fastest way, but it is very easy. Most, if not all, of the hotels, lodges and tent camps on the road to Carate will arrange for a taxi to pick you up at the airport and transport you directly door-to-door. The advantage of a taxi is they’re usually air conditioned and you have your own, comfy seat. Also you can ask the driver to stop along the way if you desire to take a picture or what have you. We hired a driver on the way into Carate (because the only transportation alternatives we were given by our lodge were private taxi and charter plane so we chose the cheaper option) but know that if you’re on a budget you can also take the Collectivo. Our driver was friendly, and punctual (he was waiting for us when our plane landed) and he even took the time to stop and point out wildlife to us along the road. We were aware that the trip between Puerto Jimenez and Carate takes on average 2 to 2.5 hours in the dry season, but our ride really only took 1.5 hours. We didn’t need to worry about having cash on hand either, as the payment to our driver was made by our hotel and just put on our bill. Taking a taxi isn’t cheap. It’s $80 US one way (but can seat 4 passengers comfortably so if you can split the cost, do). But the roads are unpaved and rough on cars (you also have to cross several rivers on the journey) and it’s not likely that your driver will be able to pick up a return fare so the price is justified. You may be able to find a taxi cheaper if you arrange it yourself, but ours was arranged by our hotel. It’s more expensive than driving yourself or riding the Collectivo but cheaper than chartering a plane.
The Puerto Jimenez Airport is small, to say the least. It consists of an open air waiting area with ticketing offices for the two commercial airlines that fly in and out, Sansa and Nature Air. There are also clean restrooms and a small snack stand that also sells souvenirs. There is only one gravel runway that serves for both departing and arriving flights. Charter flights also run out of this airport. There is a grocery store within walking distance and a charter office as well. Locals also use the runway as a path to get through town. You can walk into town from the airport but there are also taxis waiting for flights to arrive if you don’t feel like walking. As with the rest of the small, domestic airports in the country, there’s not much security but you still feel safe.
The cheapest way to get between Puerto Jimenez and Carate is definitely by taking the colectivo. It’s also a great way to feel like a local. The colectivo is basically a pickup truck with a tarp fashioned over the truck bed to act as a roof / sun protection. Two wooden planks are fixed to each side of the truck bed. It’s not the most comfortable seat in the world, but it’s a fun way to travel. And be aware that the roads are unpaved so expect a bumpy ride. If you’re taking the colectivo get there early to get the best seat (the ones nearest the truck cab). They squeeze in as many people as they can for the ride so prepared to be cozy. We had 4 people sitting on each plank and three standing up, hanging off the back, then another 2 adults and 2 children smooshed into the cab along with the driver. If the colectivo fills up many times they will call for another one to pick up the passengers they can’t fit, but that’s not always possible. They turned away passengers on our trip and denied them another colectivo, another reason to get there early. The ride between Puerto Jimenez and Carate takes about 2 hours and the driver will stop for a 5 minute break halfway through the ride. The cost is $7 US one way.
Leaves Puerto Jimenez for Carate: 6 am & 1:30 pm daily.
Leaves Carate for Puerto Jimenez: 8:30 am & 3:00 pm daily.
The flight from San Jose was spectactular, flying reasonably low over the stunning countryside in a small aircraft.
Arrival at Puerto Jimenez was nice and easy. You get off the plane, hang around at the bottom of the aircraft until the open the cargo door, and then just grab your bags as they unload them.
The departure lounge was an open grandstand with a roof (like you see in football stadiums), and you can see the fire engine in the front of this photo!