Getting there & away
The turnoff for the paved road to Cariari is about 1km east of Guápiles, at the Servicentro Santa Clara. If you are heading to Tortuguero, you can leave your car at the Hotel Central (per day US$2) or at the guarded parking in La Pavona. (Do not drive to La Geest, as parking is not available.)
Cariari has two bus terminals: the one serving San José is at the southern end of town, while the one serving Guápiles and Caribbean destinations is about five blocks closer to the center, behind the police station.
Despite what you might hear from overzealous tour operators, the most common route to Tortuguero is through La Pavona, a private farm on the Río Suerte (this is not a town, and does not show up on most maps). Buses for La Pavona depart from the central bus terminal behind the police station; buy tickets from the Coopetraca window. Boats from La Pavona to Tortuguero are timed to meet the buses, so you won’t have to wait long for your connection.
The private Bananero (709 8005) boat company also provides transportation from Cariari to Tortuguero via a private plantation called La Geest (not on maps). Bananero buses leave from the San José bus terminal.
Guápiles US$0.50, 20 minutes, depart every 20 minutes from 6:30am to 10pm.
Puerto Limón US$2.25, 2½ hours, depart at 4:30am, 8:30am, noon and 3pm.
Puerto Lindo (for Barra del Colorado) US$6, depart at noon and 2pm (dry season only).
San José US$2, three hours, depart at 5:30am, 6:30am, 7:30am, 8:30am, 11:30am, 1pm, 3pm and 5:30pm.
Tortuguero via La Geest US$10, three hours, depart at 1:30pm and 3:30pm.
Tortuguero via La Pavona US$10, three hours, depart at 6am, noon and 3pm.