Traveling to and around the Nicoya Peninsula can seem intimidating at Costa Rica can seem intimidating to navigate at first glance.

Driving around, traveling to, and navigating the off-beaten paths of the Nicoya Peninsula is easier than you think!

This post explores the different ways to travel to Costa Rica’s Nicoya Peninsula and how to get around once you get there!


Views of the Volcanos in Northern Costa Rica

Costa Rica’s International Airports

Depending on where you start your journey (the northern or southern area of the peninsula), may determine which you choose to fly into.

San José International Airport

San José is the capital city of Costa Rica. The airport is in the northwest region of the capital city, which is nice because you can typically avoid driving through the hectic streets of the city.

The location of the airport is on the mainland of Costa Rica. Taking the ferry across the Gulf of Nicoya or driving over the gulf to the northern part of the Peninsula are the two available routes.

Liberia International Airport

Liberia is in the northern Guanacaste region of Costa Rica. The location of this airport is extremely convenient for travel to and from the Nicoya Peninsula.

It is a pretty developed area with paved streets, highways, and plenty of American fast-food restaurants.

The airport is smaller than San José, but it is newer, nicer, and more modern. There are several nice shops and restaurants in the terminal, along with water bottle refill stations.

Getting to the Nicoya Peninsula

Before you go, check if your hotel or resort will arrange your transportation.

Renting a Car

Renting a car is a popular choice and gives you to explore different parts of beautiful Costa Rica.

Driving on the peninsula does typically require a 4×4 mid-size or full-size SUV due to the road conditions – especially in the rainy season.

Puntarenas to Paquera Ferry

San José International Airport to the Puntarenas to Paquera Ferry is a 1.5 – 2 hour drive.

The ferry ride across the Gulf of Nicoya is about 70 minutes. The ferry website has information and departure times – as these change from season to season.

Be sure to arrive at least 30 minutes before the departure time.

This is the link to buy a ferry ticket in advance. They only sell a limited number of tickets online. So, if you find a ferry time sold out online, there is always the option to get to the dock early and buy a ticket in person.

To buy a ticket in person, find the blue sign that says \”Boleteria\” for ticket sales. It is inside a small café across the street from the ferry docks. It\’s pretty hard to miss – the ticket line normally wraps around the side of the café. *Be sure to have your driver\’s license with you.

Once you get your ticket, there will be ferry attendants who help direct you to the staging lanes.

Take a Domestic Flight to the Peninsula

Skip the Ferry and take a domestic flight to any of these small-town airports on the Nicoya Peninsula – Tambor, Nosara, Samara, or Nicoya!

These typically go for $100-$200 per flight.

You will find that most of these popular tourist destinations have rental car companies or ATV/golf cart rental shops.

Shared Tourist Shuttle

If you don’t want to fuss with the driving or extra cost of a domestic flight – opt for a Shared Tourist Shuttle! This is a relaxing and cost-effective way of getting to the Nicoya Peninsula.

Several tour shuttle companies service both international airports and will deliver you to the most popular destinations in Costa Rica, including the Nicoya Peninsula. *Note: Some companies do not pick up at the airports and do not include larger luggage such as surfboards.

Tropical Tours (not sponsored) is a company we saw often during our travels. After researching – they are a great company to go with! They offer a door-to-door shared shuttle that takes you from where you land to where you are staying. Large luggage, like surfboards, is not an extra charge.

One thing to be mindful of with these is that your travel time can be a little longer depending on how many others are traveling on the same shuttle.

Driving in Costa Rica

Don’t drive at night.

Driving in Costa Rica can be easy and many of the roads are paved.

However, if you are new to the area, try to avoid driving at night.

Even the paved roads can be winding and have unexpected turns. Other roads on the Nicoya Peninsula, especially in the southern region, can be rough, extremely bumpy, and have large potholes.

Also, during the rainy season, the road conditions can become dangerous and difficult to navigate.

Pay attention to the speed limit & road signs.

The speed limit is marked clearly in kilometers. You will see these signs frequently, and be sure to pay attention because the speed limit can change frequently.

Other common signs are “Ceda” which means yield (these are commonly seen before the 1-lane bridge crossings), “Alto” is Stop, and “Despacio” is Slow.

While you are driving on the peninsula, you will go through many farm towns and small villages. Be aware of school zones! They often have large speed bumps and signs as you approach the school crossings.

This is when it comes in handy to have your translator app (in Spanish) downloaded for offline usage!

There are toll roads.

One of the main routes from San José International Airport to the Puntarenas/Paquera Ferry is a toll road.

Each tollbooth has an attendant so don’t worry about having exact change, but you do need to make sure that you have colones available.

Be prepared to pay around 500 colones for each toll.

Getting gas in Costa Rica is so easy!

The gas stations are full-service.

Just pull up to the pump, stay in your car, and tell the attendant how much gas you would like.

They take credit cards or cash!

Rent an ATV.

If you are taking a shuttle or domestic flight to your destination and forgo renting a car, rented ATVs are a popular mode of transportation once you get to the peninsula.

The roads can get dusty, so you may want to bring a bandana if this is your plan.

Don’t go without a navigation app!

Waze App is a great navigation app and is used by many Costa Ricans and tourists.

Google Maps is what we chose to use – because we were able to download the country of Costa Rica onto our Google Maps app before we arrived. This allowed us to use the navigation app even when we didn’t have cell service.

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