Although many people will fly to Montezuma, most of us take the Puntarenas-to-Paquera ferry. If you’re taking a transport, bus, or taxi, you won’t have to worry about the details, but if you’re driving, its a good idea to read through the details below to familiarize yourself with the procedure. Of course, most people don’t read this and just show up and manage to figure it out, but this will save you a bunch of confusion.
The first thing you need to know is that the ferry is at the very tip of a long isthmus. To find it, just keep driving through Puntarenas until you get to the very end, and you’ll see the ferry terminal at the end. I recommend driving down the left side of the Puntarenas isthmus, because it’s more scenic… you can see the beaches, touristy stuff, and sometimes a huge cruise ship docked at the pier. This road will wrap around the tip in a big u-turn and head back the other direction for one or two blocks to reach the ferry parking.
Often the ferry parking is full and you’ll need to line up on the LEFT side of the road.
You must wait for an official ferry employee to come to your car to give you a laminated ticket, and with this laminate you will go to the ticket booth on the right side of the road, next to a Musmani bakery (which has excellent chicken empanadas that are better than any food you’ll find on the ferry). In the ferry ticket line, they give priority to CAR tickets (as opposed to pedestrians) and you can walk to the front of the line. They do this so they can more quickly load the cars on without someone blocking the line.) At some point before loading the ferry, they will start to move the cars into the parking lot in front of the ferry, so at least the driver needs to stay in or near the car while waiting.
When you drive onto the ferry, ONLY the driver (and small children) can be in the car. Passengers must walk onto the ferry. No one seems to be sure of why this is, but it’s always been this way. It’s the same when driving off the ferry, which always makes the off-loading take a lot longer than it should, but for some reason they insist to do it this way.
Starting in 2012, there are now two large ferries, and so most of the time you’ll be able to make it onto the ferry without showing up particularly early, unless it’s on a Friday, in which case it will be busier and then you should arrive at least an hour early. It’s also busier Dec through April during the high season. Coming back (Paquera to Puntarenas) it’s busiest on Sunday.
The ferry journey is about an hour, and you can sometimes see whales, dolphins, schools of manta rays, large jellyfish, and schools of flying fish. My father and sister once even saw an orca from the ferry! The ferry passes several beautiful islands, and the whole journey is quite beautiful. Each ferry has two places to buy food, which is really low quality like in all ferries worlwide… even the coffee is bad and it’s otherwise difficult to find bad coffee in Costa Rica.
If you’re coming to the Southern Nicoya Peninsula from Puntarenas, then after driving 3-4 minutes you’ll see on the left a side a sign for Playa Organos. It’s a beautiful, magical spot that’s worth a stop if you want to see the old Costa Rica before all the tourist development.
1. The price is around 12,000col ($24) for car+driver and a bit under $2 for passengers.
2. Driving from the ferry in Paquera it’s around 30 minutes to Tambor, 60 minutes to Montezuma, and 80 minutes to Malpais/Santa Teresa.
3. There are two different ferries disembarking from the same place. Be sure to take the ferry to Paquera, not to Naranjo. If you do accidentally take the Naranjo ferry, you can then drive from Naranjo to Paquera in an hour, but the road is gravel and often pretty terrible.
4. You may find unofficial grifter-type guys trying to help you figure out where to park, buy your ticket, etc, and they’ll ask you for a tip. You don’t need their help and the ferry employees don’t want you to give them money.
Ferry Schedule (2012):
Puntarenas to Paquera:
Paquera to Puntarenas: