As far as I know, the buses at the bus station in Alajuela near the airport only go north. If you check a map, you will see that to pick people up in Alajuela for travel to Manuel Antonio would be a good bit out of the way.
You will need to go into San Jose and get the bus from there. Sorry.
The stations in the Coca Cola area have a bad reputation for petty theft but not really anything violent. Just be vigilant about your stuff.
You could consider taking a shared van shuttle. It is more expensive than the bus but you can picked up near the airport and transported to your hotel in Manuel Antonio. http://www.shuttlebus.co.cr If you want to take a look at this, your origin should be "Rio Segundo."Edited: 07 January 2011, 08:08
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There is actually a way of doing this. However, it is probably not for everyone.
We have done this several times the last time being at the beginning of December.. You can only catch the colectivo (non direct) buses to Quepos though. But often the timing is actually better.. For examle last time we landed after 2 PM. It was too late for the 2.30 Directo to MA. WE did not want to wait till the 6 PM directo. So - we went to plan B.
From the airport take a cab to a place called Puente Villa Bonita. It is not right in Alajuela but is along the highway. The cab drivers seem to know where it is. It is about 5 minutes from the airport - before but not too far from the Hotel Aeropuerto - and costs about 4 or 5 dollars. Many of the buses stop there. So you will see a lot of people there. It is sort of just under a bridge and beside a gas station. You have to watch for the bus that you want and signal it to stop. Though our experience for Quepos has been that there were others waiting for the same bus we were. If a bus leaves San Jose at 3 PM - for example - it will arrive at the Puente Villa Bonita area about a half hour later.around 3.30...
As I said - this is not for everyone - especially if it is your first trip to Costa Rica or if you have a lot of luggage. The bus may be full and you could end up standing for part of the trip. Besides - the colectivos just go as far as Quepos and then you'll have to take a taxi to your hotel.
Also - if you check
http://www.thebusschedule.com - it shows some connections you can do. Haven't tried them so I am not recommending them but I think it shows to take a bus from Alajuela to Atenas and then catch the bus to Quepos.
All this said - the direct bus from the Coca Cola or the shared shuttle are simpler.
The way back is another story. It is simple. No worry about standing at the side of a highway and flagging down a bus. Any of the buses from MA - directo or colectivo will stop on the road in front of the airport if asked. If you have luggage to go underneath tell them when you get on and they will put it in a separate area. There are usually others who want to get off there. However if you are worried, remind the driver somewhere near - like when you pass La Garita. or see the Hotel Aeropuerto.
As for the Coca Cola - Hattie pretty much summed it up. If you are prudent and vigilant and aware of your surroundings it should be fine. If you allow yourself to be distracted or just carelessly leave your luggage or belongins out of your grasp they could be snatched.
raquelEdited: 07 January 2011, 14:52
Your best bet is to go downtown. The buses from the Coca Cola terminal leave very early in the morning and there's hardly anyone around except for a few people setting up shop and some taxi drivers. I would say it's a safe. During the rest of the day when downtown gets crowded is when that area seems a little shady but even then it's nothing to be too concerned about as long as you watch your belongings. By that I mean, don't put your backpack down on the floor or set your hat on a table unattended and you should be fine. The types of theft that occur there are opportunists crime, so just don't create any opportunities.
Once other thing, If you catch the express bus out of Manuel Antonio I think that you can get dropped off at the airport. I took a trip out there mid November by bus and on the way back to San Jose we stopped by the airport to drop a few people off. I assume all you have to is ask or request the drop off when you purchase your ticket at the terminal.
Best of luck :)
As far as I know, you would have to take a taxi to the Coca Cola station to catch this bus to Quepos/Manuel Antonio. I highly recommend that if you do that you only take a DIRECTO bus (not colectivo), or you will stop at every one horse town from here to there, and they are not always the modern buses. On the way back from Manuel Antonio, the bus will stop and drop you at the International Airport (out front, you have to walk about 2 blocks to the terminal). You might want to consider the shuttles of Interbus or Grayline to get out (save the time and money paying a taxi to the Coca Cola station), then take the public bus back. The direct public buses are fast and reliable, but keep an eye on your luggage and pocketbook and don't store anything over your head that you can't see. Unfortunately, theives know where the easy targets are, but if you are aware and careful it's all good. Enjoy!
Raquel is a real expert on Manuel Antonio...she even have her great cottage there...she knows Manuel Antonio...
I was just in Manuel Antonio trying to get to Alajuela so just wanted to update this information since it's changed in the last several months. Since they built the new toll highway, the San Jose bus from Quepos is not stopping in Alajuela/airport area first anymore so we would have had to take a cab from the Coca Cola station. Interbus was not a great option for us because we wanted to stay later in MA but we found a private transfer, Hector, that managed to get us there for $110 which was almost the same price as the shuttles for 2 people and was faster. Sansa was also a tempting option since I love aerial views and it takes less than 30 minutes but be aware of their luggage restrictions (think it's 30 lbs).Edited: 27 March 2011, 14:38
For inexpensive travel between Alajuela and San Jose, there are two bus lines: Tuasa (the big red bus) and Station Wagon Alajuela (not really a station wagon but a regular city bus.) You can get a taxi from the bus station in the Coca Cola area to one of their stations and get to Alajuela and the airport for less than $1 per person. The buses run about every 15 minutes or less.