My next stop South from Nicaragua was Costa Rica and from San Juan del Sur it’s only a short distance to the border. Once I dropped my rental car off at Pelican Eyes Resort I had them call me a taxi to the border town of La Cruz which is a 45 minute drive and costed 650C/$25. Once reaching the border I went to the Nicaraguan immigration office to pay my exit fee of 45C/$1.70 and off I went. Like most borders in Central America you can expect to be bombarded by currency exchangers, vendors and people offering to carry your bags and offer to get you to the front of the line etc. I steer clear of these people and don’t trust anyone with handling my bags regardless of being in a heavily policed and high security area such as a border crossing.
Once I cleared customs and exited Nicaragua I then made a short walk over the border to the town of Penas Blancas where I had to enter Costa Rica through the small immigration office. I was quickly stamped into the country and got the next bus to Liberia which is the major city in the North of the country and the second largest city in Costa Rica next to San Jose which is the capital city located a few hours further South.
This bus costed 1000 Colones/$2 and took just under 2 hours to go 80km to the El Mercado bus station which is the first step in going anywhere else in the country. I was headed for the remote beach town of Santa Teresa which was my fave surf spot of years gone by and my first step was to catch a bus to Puntarenus and from there I would need to catch the ferry to Paquera which spans the Gulf of Nicoya.
The bus was operated by Reina del Campo and costed 4500Col/$9 and this price included the 500Col/$1 for my board. Like most buses down here it made a lot of stops but I was in Puntarenus 3 hours later and had plenty of time before the 8:30 pm ferry destined for Paquera. Puntarenus is a rough town and I don’t suggest walking anywhere with anything of any value.
This being said I got the first taxi I could find and got a ride directly to the ferry terminal. You buy the tickets to Paquera at a small booth located at the entrance of a bakery across from where the cars are loaded onto the ferry. These tickets are on sale a few hours before each upcoming ferry and sold on a first come first serve basis. f you are going across with a car it’s a good idea to get there early and get in line as soon as possible so that you guarantee a spot on the boat.
The tickets to ride the ferry are 810C0l/$1.60 per person and this is roughly an hour and a half from when the horn blows and the lines are cast off until docking on the other side. Once on board you can choose to ride on the outer decks of the ferry or inside which is air conditioned. If you are a first timer it’s always nice to ride the ferry during the day and take in the scenery while transiting the gulf. It’s also not uncommon to see dolphins and manta rays while on the ferry and the best way to get lucky enough to see them is to ride on the upper deck.
This is the website for the ferry and it is very helpful when deciding what route to take or how much time you will need to make the trip to Santa Teresa, Montezuma, Tambor or the other towns on the Nicoya Peninsula. Click here for more information on schedules and fees. www.navieratambor.com
The ferry takes 1.5 hours to make it over to the other side and if you are travelling during the day you can buy a ticket to ride the bus to that passed through the many coastal communities that line the peninsula all the way down to Santa Teresa which would be my final destination. If you are travelling on the night ferry you won’t have the option of a public bus and it costs 40 000Col/$80 to go all the way or less depending on where you are travelling to. I got lucky and bumped into some old friends and we split a taxi which worked out great and there were others passengers I saw piling into a minibus and splitting the cost which is what I’ve also done many times making this trip.
The towns on the way down the coast are Tambor, Montezuma, Cabuya and Cobano which can be considered the business centre of the area although it’s still quite limited but can be handy depending on what you need to purchase. Reaching Santa Teresa by taxi takes about an hour and fifteen minutes depending on how crazy the driver is and if you aren’t used to driving fast on bumpy dirt roads my suggestion is to take a gravol before you ride the ferry so that you get the full benefit of it before you hit the road.
Other options for getting to this area is taking the boat taxi from Jaco to Montezuma either with Zuma Tours or Cocozuma Tours. They both charge 20 000C/$40 and it take around 1 hour to make the passage. If you are coming from San Jose this is the easiest option as Jaco is a short distance from the city and this saves a lot of time in transit. Once in Montezuma you can easily get to Santa Teresa either by the daily buses, shuttles or a relatively short taxi ride. Montezuma is also a fun town and it has a great swimming beach and the best waterfall in the area! You can swim behind the waterfall and hang out which is a great thing to do while in town and if you are brave enough there are rocks you can jump from high up from the lower waterfall. There are also two other waterfalls that feed into the main section if you hike a little further up.
If you aren’t on too tight of a budget and can afford to fly then taking a short flight to Tambor and getting a taxi to Santa Teresa is the easiest and by far the fastest option if leaving from San Jose. Nature Air offers 4 daily flights to and from Tambor from San Jose which are 35 minutes in duration and start at 40 000Col/$79. Sansa also offers 5 daily flights to and from Tambor for 45 000Col/$87. Once in Tambor it’s a 35 minute drive to Santa Teresa and slightly less to Montezuma.
Gone on a whim…