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Traveling to Santa Teresa, Costa Rica

Directions to Mal Pais

When traveling to a place as beautiful and remote as Santa Teresa, Costa Rica you may find yourself roaming off the beaten path to get there. Fortunately there are a variety of travel options to fit every budget to reach this amazing travel destination. They range from public buses, private taxis, shared mini-buses, to rental cars or even a quick flight. No matter what travel method you decide on, relax and enjoy the ride, you are now on “Tico Time”.  Pura Vida!

Travel to Santa Teresa by Air

Local Airplane Service to Tambor
The quickest and most convenient way to reach Santa Teresa is by air. If this option fits into your budget then this is definitely the recommended way to travel. The flight takes about 20 minutes and it is a beautiful way to see the country.

Sansa and Nature Air are the two domestic airlines. They offer daily flights from San Jose and other destinations in Costa Rica. The closest airport to Santa Teresa is Tambor. Tickets generally run about $60-$90 USD each way depending on the time of year and availability. Be sure to pay attention to luggage restrictions on these flights because the weight and size limits are different then international flight.

Costa Rica Beach Rentals can also arrange a private charter flight for you and your group. Prices start at $480 (for 4 people) and go up from there depending on the number of passengers and your final destination.

We can have a taxi or rental car waiting for you when you arrive in Tambor. A taxi will cost around $60 depending on the size of your group and it takes about 45 minutes to arrive in Santa Teresa.

Private Helicopter Service to Santa Teresa

If you are looking for the most direct flight to Santa Teresa there is also an option to use a helicopter service. You can travel with up to six people making the helicopter a vehicle of choice for some of Santa Teresa’s high-end travelers. Prices start around $2000 for 4 people.

Driving to the Nicoya Peninsula

If you choose to travel by land, be it car or bus, the travel time is pretty much going to be between 5-6 hours. It’s approximately 2 hours from the airport to the embarcadero in Puntarenas, 1.5 hours on the ferry, and then 1.5 hours from Paquera to Santa Teresa. You can probably do it faster if you drive quickly and don’t hit a line at the ferry, but who wants to stress out? Especially on vacation…. If you miss a ferry and have to wait for the next one there are some great restaurants at the docks where you can enjoy some local food and cold drinks while you wait.

Costa Rica Rental Cars

Traveling to Santa Teresa in a rental car is always a great option as you can use it to explore the area. Having a vehicle offers easy access to a wide variety of beaches, restaurants, activities and attractions around the entire peninsula. Costa Rica Beach Rentals can arrange a rental car for pickup anywhere in the country. We always recommend a 4X4 due to the many dirt roads, varied weather conditions, and rough terrain on the Nicoya Peninsula.

Driving to Santa Teresa

From San Jose
If you are coming from San Jose the fastest road is going to be Route 27 to Puntarenas. At the docks you will be looking for the ferry to Paquera, not Naranjo. Tickets are purchased for the vehicle and passengers at a booth across the street from the loading dock. Only the drivers are allowed on the parking deck so all passengers must enter and exit the ferry on foot. The ride on the ferry is very nice with plenty of scenic views and even two snack bars offering a variety of food, drinks, and sometimes a little dancing and karaoke.

After getting off the ferry you will follow the road to Cobano and then head to the crossroads of Santa Teresa and Mal Pais, otherwise known as Playa Carmen. To the right is Santa Teresa and to the left is Mal Pais.

From Liberia

If you are traveling from Liberia or somewhere around the Tamarindo area you don’t need to take the ferry. The best way to get to Santa Teresa from Liberia is to take Highway #21 through Santa Cruz, then continue on to Nicoya, Naranjo, Paquera and then over to Mal Pais and Santa Teresa.

There is only one year-round drivable road that connects the northern part of the Nicoya Peninsula with the south and that is the route mentioned above. The coastal road from Nosara and Samara is shorter but you have to cross a few rivers so it is only passable in the dry season. The coastal road is not marked very well so it’s not necessarily recommended for people who are not familiar with the area.

Keep in mind that the roads on the Nicoya Peninsula can be pretty rough. Some sections are paved but others are not, so take it slow and be ready for some bumps.

Explore the Country by Shuttle Bus

A shuttle bus is a great option for people who would like to enjoy the view but want to leave the hassle of driving to the pros. There are several shuttle options available and most will pick you up directly from the airport or your hotel room and drop you off right at your vacation rental in Santa Teresa. If you have a large group then you can arrange for a private shuttle otherwise you can hop on a shared shuttle which is a great way to meet other travelers.

Hire a Private Driver or Taxi at the Airport

There are also many private drivers and taxi services that are available to transport you from the airport to your rental house in Santa Teresa. The average rate is around $160 for up to four people. That price normally includes the cost of the vehicle on the ferry. You can book the transportation in advance or you can hire a driver at the airport when you arrive. If you hire a driver from the airport be sure to discus the rate before you leave so you are not caught off guard when you get there.

Water Taxi from Jaco

The water taxi from Jaco to Montezuma is a great alternative if you are already in the Jaco area. Passengers are picked up in Jaco and driven to the departure point in Herradura Beach (just north of Jaco). The boat leaves 7 days a week at 11am (weather permitting). The Water Taxi takes approximately one hour to get you from Jaco to Montezuma and generally runs around $40 a person. When you arrive in Montezuma, a shuttle is available to take you to your vacation rental in Santa Teresa.

The Water Taxi a perfect opportunity to observe wildlife, including dolphins, manta rays, turtles, and the occasional whale. It is also an adventurous way to get across the gulf on Nicoya. Reservations for the water taxi must be made in advance and there may be an additional fee for surfboards and large bags.

Most Economical Way to Travel is by Local Bus

For budget travelers there is also a direct bus available twice a day from the San Jose bus terminal to Mal Pais. Buses depart at 6AM and 2PM daily. Bus fair is $12 per person and includes the price of the ferry ticket. The bus drops you off at the ferry, goes on the ferry with you, and picks you up again on the other side. Make sure to keep your receipt, so that you can get back on the bus in Paquera.

Remember that how you get Mal Pais or Santa Teresa is part of the adventure. It doesn’t matter if you decide to travel with the backpackers on a bus, or on a private flight with your family. Be sure to “take it easy” and to enjoy all of the wonderful sights and experiences that Costa Rica has to offer.

If you would like more information about traveling to Santa Teresa, or would like us to help arrange a vehicle or flight for you please Contact Costa Rica Beach Vacation Rentals. If you would like to find out more about vacation rentals and local news and events in Santa Teresa Costa Rica, sign up for our monthly mailer or follow our RSS feed.



  • Philippe says:


    I just read your post about travelling in costa rica. My girlfriend and I will be travelling costa rica in a month and we are debating between renting a car or using public buses. We leave from Liberia Airport, although we’d like to rent a car our first destination in Santa Terese and then montezuma/manuel antonio park however to get there by car we need to drive to puntarenas, take the ferry and then drive to montezuma as there is no ferry in jaco to montezuma. If we take that option we lose almost a day of travel and it bugs us. I was trying to figure out other options, like using public buses but then again I’d like some information about it. Is there a public bus that goes to santa teresa from Liberia (area) airport or is there stop in nosara/samara?

    Any additionnal information would be great, as we try to figure out our travelling.

    Thanks in advance,



    • Philippe,

      I hope you found the post useful. There isn’t a direct bus from Liberia to this area so I would suggest renting a car to make the drive down. You can drop off the car here and then take a taxi boat from Montezuma over to Jaco. They run daily trips and it only takes an hour. It’s a fast and convenient way to get over there. Once you’re in Jaco you can rent another car there or use public transportation/shuttle services to explore that area of the coastline.
      Feel free to send us an email for more specific directions or to answer any other questions you may have. https://costarica-beachrentals.com/contact-us/

      Thank you,
      Brett Callahan

  • Kande says:

    Hi guys, I took a bus yesterday from San jose to Santa Teresa (same service takes you to Montezuma, Mal pais). You have to take the bus from a shopping centre called Terminal 7 10. It is next to Terminal Atlantico Norte (100 metres). There are plenty of other services from Terminal 7 10.

    • Kande,

      Thanks for the update. The bus recently started leaving from the 7 10 terminal instead of the Coca Cola Terminal in San Jose. I’m glad you made it to town safely. Enjoy!

    • chris says:

      hi bro.
      thx for the info, do you know what time goes the bus? we arrive at 5 pm… maybe its to late for the bus?

      best, hang lose from germany

      • Chris,

        I’m glad you found the information helpful. If you get in at 5 then you are going to be a bit late to get the direct bus. There are local buses that can take you to the ferry in Puntarenas but you’d have to leave from downtown SJ. I’d suggest trying to negotiate a decent cab fare to the ferry and then you can grab the bus in Paquera when you arrive on this side.

  • Kande says:

    Also, if you are coming from the Airport. The bus actually stops across from the Airport at a service station. Ask around at the airport and I heard taxi drivers are a rip off, they charge you a lot. UBer is a great option in Costa Rica. Make sure you have cash to buy bus ticket and most of the place only take cash. Do not exchange money at the Airport, it is super expensive rather do it at the shopping centre Terminal 7 10 with Western Union or Bank or you can exchange at the town you are going to.

  • marissa says:

    can you bring surfboards on the bus?

  • Heather says:

    My hubby and I travelling to LIR ariport and thinking of taking a taxi to Santa Teresa. I google the cost and it said about $125US. I mentioned this to the receptionist at the resort and she said it is $300 (one way) and I should check my sources. Do you have any suggestions? Thanks

    • Hi. $125 is most likely for a shared shuttle service. The make stops sometimes to pick up other clients at different locations so if you want a private taxi $300 is the going rate. Thank you!

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