“We are visiting Costa Rica in August. We want to spend five days afterward in Panama. What is best way to travel to Panama from San Jose? Air travel is dicey. Do you recommend buses? We’d like to visit David and Boquete plus Panama City. Gracias.”
— John P., United States
In fact, it can be a straightforward proposition to fly from San Jose to Panama City. You can fly Copa direct. I think you go through El Salvador with Taca, which can make for a convoluted trip.
However, yes, bus travel between the two countries is a good option. Those I know who’ve done it say it’s comfortable and less horrible than you might imagine. Plus it’s cheap. The cost is time. The bus travel time between the San Jose and Panama City is about 16 hours.
One alternative could be to take the bus from San Jose to David and then to take a bus or a plane from David to Panama City.