By Car: The long and winding stretch of the Inter-American Highway between San José and San Isidro is one of the most difficult sections of road in the country. Not only are there the usual car-eating potholes and periodic landslides, but you must also contend with driving over the 3,300m (10,824-ft.) Cerro de la Muerte (Mountain of Death). This aptly named mountain pass is legendary for its dense afternoon fogs, blinding torrential downpours, steep dropoffs, severe switchbacks, and unexpectedly breathtaking views. (Well, you wanted adventure travel, so here you go!) Drive with extreme caution, and bring a sweater or sweatshirt—it’s cold up at the top. It’ll take you about 3 hours to get to San Isidro.
Tip: If you want a break from the road, stop for a coffee or meal at Mirador Valle del General ((tel) 8384-4685 or 2200-5465; www.valledelgeneral.com; at Km 119), a rustic roadside joint with a great view, gift shop, hiking trails, and orchid collection. These folks also have a few rustic cabins, as well as a zipline canopy tour.
By Bus: Musoc buses ((tel) 2222-2422 in San José, or 2771-0414 in San Isidro) leave from their terminal at Calle Central and Avenida 22 roughly hourly between 5:30am and 6:30pm.
Tracopa ((tel) 2221-4214 or 2771-0468; www.tracopacr.com) also runs express buses between San José and San Isidro that leave at 6 and 8:30am and 12:30, 2:30, 4, and 6:30pm from Calle 5, between avenidas 18 and 20.
Whichever company you choose, the trip takes a little over 3 hours, and the fare is roughly C3,500. Return buses depart San Isidro for San José roughly every hour between 4:30am and 6:30pm. Buses from Quepos to San Isidro leave daily at 5:30 and 11:30am and 3pm. The trip duration is 3 hours; the fare is C2,500. Buses to or from Golfito and Puerto Jiménez will also drop you off in San Isidro.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.