*Updated in July 2019 from December 2017 article*

Did you know that there is a ferry which can be taken from Puntarenas, Costa Rica to either Paquera or Naranjo on the Nicoya Peninsula? By taking this Costa Rica ferry you can save yourself a whole lot of travel time on your vacation. And, let’s be real, we all want to get to our vacation destinations as quickly and smoothly as possible.

Where does the ferry in Costa Rica go?

cruise ship puntarenas

The ferry port is located at the very tip of the city of Puntarenas. From there, it is possible to take a ferry either to Naranjo or Paquera (and back).

Most people take the ferry to Paquera because that is the best option if you are then going to Santa Teresa or Montezuma.

If you are traveling to Playa Coyote or Playa Bejuco you are better off taking the ferry to Naranjo.

Here’s a map so you can see what we mean.

The ferry process

puntarenas ferry terminal

Buying tickets

It is now possible to buy tickets online. Yeay!! You can do so on the QuickPayCR website.

Just note that they do ask that you arrive 30 minutes before departure time. They ask this because they will hold your spot for you. If you do not show up they may give your spot away to someone that did not book online ahead of time.

We will get in to the cost and timetable further on in this article.

Crossing by bus

If you are taking a bus from San Jose to the Nicoya Peninsula the bus will likely go on the ferry.

If you are traveling by private bus the ferry rate is likely included in your ticket price. The bus driver will give you your ticket and you will exit the bus to walk on the ferry. The bus driver will the park the bus in the ferry and you will get back on the bus on the other side.

If you are traveling by public bus you will likely have to purchase your ferry ticket on your own. This can be done when you disembark the boat at the ferry ticket office.

Crossing by car

If you prebook your tickets online then you just need to pull up when you arrive and an attendant will let you through.

If you do not prebook you ticket you will join a line of other cars when you arrive. The attendant working will tell you if you can go buy tickets or if you need to wait.

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If they are unsure if all vehicles will fit on the ferry they will have you wait in line until they have a better idea if you will be able to make it on.

When it comes time to buy tickets it is best to have one of your passengers go buy the tickets at the nearby stand. That way the driver can stay in the car and stay in line if the cars move up.

Crossing by foot

If you have transportation to the ferry and transportation on the other side, it is possible to just walk on the ferry (with a ticket of course).

You can book your tickets online ahead of time with the QuickPayCR website, but if you are traveling by foot it usually is not necessary. I have only seen the ferry actually filled to the max with people on big travel days such as Easter week.

However, if you already know exactly which ferry you plan on taking, it doesn’t hurt to book ahead of time. At least you then have your ticket and don’t need to stress.

If you do not book your ticket ahead of time you just need to go to the ticket booth before you get onto the ferry and purchase a passenger ticket.

Disembarking

An announcement will be made on the ferry stating that it is time to disembark.

If you have traveled by bus you will need to walk off of the ferry. Your bus will drive off of the ferry and pick you up on the side of the road.

If you have traveled by car the driver will go to the vehicle to drive it out. The passengers of the vehicle need to walk off the boat and meet their car/ driver on the side of the road after exiting the ferry.

If you have walked onto the ferry, you can walk off and continue your journey.

What can you expect on the ferry?

puntarenas ferry view

The ferry has plenty of room for you to sit either inside or outside. Last time we took the Puntarenas ferry the AC was cranked up so high inside. It was much more comfortable to sit outside.

There are plenty of bathrooms on board and a snack bar where you can buy things like chips, candy bars, sodas, beer popcorn etc.

The benches are not the most comfortable, but they are manageable for a little over an hour.

Important info about the ferry

paquera costa rica

Timetable

The ferry leaves from Puntarenas to Naranjo every day at 6:30am, 10:00am, 2:30pm, 7:00pm.

From Puntarenas to Paquera: 5:00 am, 9:00 am, 11:00 am, 2:00 pm, 5:00 pm, 8:30 pm

From Naranjo to Puntarenas: 8:00pm, 12:30pm, 4:30pm, 8:30pm

From Paquera to Puntarenas: 5:30 am, 9:00 am, 11:00 am, 2:00 pm, 5:00 pm, 8:00 pm

Cost

A car with a driver costs $25 for a one-way ticket.

Single passengers cost about $1.50 per person.

Directions

When trying to get to the Puntarenas ferry port you need to enter “Naviera Tambor Ferry” if using Waze or Google maps. Do not enter “Puntarenas ferry” because this point gives you directions to the Nicoya Peninsula side.

To get here you will need to drive through downtown Puntarenas. There are a lot of traffic lights and things can get a bit backed up here.

For directions to the Paquera ferry (if going from Montezuma or Santa Teresa back to Puntarenas) you can enter “Ferry Paquera” in both Waze or Google Maps.

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For directions to the Naranjo ferry port you can enter “Boleteria Ferry Playa Naranjo” in Waze and “Ferry Playa Naranjo” in Google Maps.

I know, it is super confusing!

Also, keep in mind that Waze wants you to take the ferry. If you do opt to drive around you will need to check the route and make sure it is not taking you across on the ferry.

What to Bring

The ferry ride is only 70 minutes long so you don’t need to bring much. I always bring a few snacks, sunscreen if I want to sit outside, and some motion sickness pills just in case. On windy days it does get a bit choppy.

Should you take the Puntarenas ferry?

Puntarenas ferry

We have done things both ways. We have taken the ferry and we have also driven around to the Nicoya Peninsula. Taking the ferry is definitely easier.

A few months ago we stayed at an Airbnb on the Nicoya Peninsula and we told our host that we had driven around. His response was, “You drove?!? I did that once with my wife. We got divorced after.” Haha!

We don’t think the drive is THAT bad, but it is definitely long and interesting.

If you are planning on traveling from San Jose, Jaco, or Manuel Antonio over to the Nicoya Peninsula (Montezuma, Santa Teresa etc.) or vice-versa, the fastest and easiest way to do this is definitely by taking the ferry.

The downside to taking the ferry is that if you miss it or it is already full you can be left waiting for several hours for the next one.

Our tips for the ferry

ferry view costa rica

Arrive early

When it is full, it’s full. You’ll have to wait for the next one if you haven’t booked online ahead of time.

Keep the most important valuables with you

You will probably leave your suitcases in the car during the ride, but keep things like passports and money on you. I’ve never heard of anyone having their car vandalized while on the ferry, but it is always best to be a bit cautious.

Don’t plan on hanging out in Puntarenas

Puntarenas is not a place you probably want to spend much time in. I call it “the armpit of Costa Rica,”….sorry Puntarenas!

If you need to spend the night in Puntarenas, there are plenty of hotels at various price points you can stay at.

Many of the roads on the Nicoya side are not paved

You will need a rental car with four-wheel drive for exploring the Nicoya Peninsula. We have partnered with Adobe (our favorite rental car company here) to give you a 10% discount on your car rental. You can find out more here.

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We love the Nicoya Peninsula!

Montezuma and Santa Teresa are two of our favorite places in all of Costa Rica. We definitely suggest checking out these areas if you can. By taking the ferry it becomes very easy to get to both places.

Should you take the ferry to Samara?

From San Jose it is faster to drive to Samara than it is to take the ferry. I suggest driving around mostly because at least you will then be on paved roads the whole way. If you take the ferry you will have to drive about an hour on unpaved roads which seem to always be under construction.

If you have any questions about the Puntarenas ferry in Costa Rica please leave them in the comment section below and we’ll be happy to help you out!

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ferry costa rica

11 COMMENTS

  1. Thank you, Sarah, for your helpful information. That is quite reassuring. I feel more comfortable now. Costa Rica seems like a lovely place. I am sure after our first trip we will return in the future winters. Thanks again for all your help.

    Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

  2. Hello! We are planning to go to Montazuma and Pacific coast using ferry crossing from Puntarenas to Paquera. Through our hotel we booked a private shuttle involving two vehicles/drivers for our trip. The first vehicle will pick us up at SJO, and take us to Puntarenas, where we will spend the night after a long travel day. The second vehicle is supposed to wait for us at Paquera Ferry Landing the next day.

    We are told to pay the entire amount to the first driver who drop us at Puntarenas. We are unfamiliar with how private shuttle operates in Costa Rica. Is it a common practice to pay in full to the first driver and pay nothing to the second? We don’t want to ask questions perceived as offensive but we are concerned if the second driver does not show we have no way to recover our portion of paid amount.

    Any observation or suggestions are very much appreciated. You have a nice site. The information is very help. Enjoyed it a lot. Thank you!

    • Hi Helen,
      Do you know what the shuttle company name is? I can let you know how trustworthy they are. 🙂 Also, You will love Montezuma! Its my favorite place! Definitely spend a morning walking the beach. You can work for hours there.

      • Thank you, Sarah, for your reply. I actually don’t know the name of the shuttle company. I asked the hotel person, and he did not answer that particular question. He only told me the two drivers came from the same company. I will ask the question but before doing so I want to get a sense about the common practice concerning private shuttle in Costa Rica. I don’t want to offend anyone since the hotel seems to just try to be helpful to us.

        It’s nice to know you love Montezuma. We will spend several days there. We love long walk. Definitely we will walk the beach, go to Cabo Blanco, etc. Really look forward to that. If you have any favorite spots in Montezuma, let us know. Thank you again.

      • Hi Helen,

        Yes, if the two drivers are from the same company you should be completely fine. Most hotels work with very reputable companies, so it should not be a problem. They want you to have the best experience as well so that you are happy with their hotel, so I would guess that it will be OK.

  3. Hello,
    Thanks for all your information. It is very helpful. My question for you is…
    If our flight lands in SJO at 12:41pm, which ferry time should we plan to take if going from Puntarenas to Paquera. I see there is a 5:00pm time but worry that may be cutting it short. I dont want to be scrambling going thru customs and renting the car and finding our way down. Please note that Ill be arriving Dec 26 2019 so I worry about holiday traffic as well.
    Thanks,
    Robert

    • Hi Robert,

      Traffic actually shouldnt be too bad heading from the airport. If anything, all the locals will be heading from the beaches back to the city so most traffic will be in the other direction. As long as you get on the road from the airport by 2:30 you should have no problem making the 5pm ferry. You should be fine. The one hold up will likely be the rental car. It is hard to say how many people will be working/ in front of you in line. It can take a bit of time.

      • Thank you for your response. We ended up going thru ‘Montezuma Expeditions’ to bus us to Montezuma. Online there was no rental availability so it appeared to be our only hope. But now that we are here and checked into a hotel near the airport, I see there are alot of rental places that you do not see online. It was $100 US dollars for my wife and I and they pick us up at the hotel, drop us off at the ferry, and another shuttle picks us up and takes us into Montezuma. Talking to them when we called, they were professional and helpful, so let hope all goes well.
        Happy Holidays
        Robert

  4. Hello! I’m planning my first trip to Costa Rica! I will be heading there this January. I’m flying into San Jose and plan on staying in Monteverde for a few days and then making my way to Santa Teresa. I’m renting a car (my entire trip will be close to 2 weeks). I just want to confirm that the ferry runs 7 days a week? Thank you so much! Your website has been super helpful. Still overwhelmed with how much I should try to do on my first trip. I want to see everything but also want to relax at some point!

    • Hi Alison! Yes, the ferry runs 7 days a week. Haha it is overwhelming to plan. There are just so many options! Let us know if you have more questions as you figure out your plans. 🙂

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