*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?
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).
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
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.
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.
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?
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
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
A car with a driver costs $25 for a one-way ticket.
Single passengers cost about $1.50 per person.
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.
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?
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
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.
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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