The Travel Guide to the Peninsula de Nicoya, Costa Rica, with detailed Maps, Hotels and Tourist Information
From San José it takes only 1 hour to drive on the new Orotina/Calderas road to Puntarenas where you take the » ferry to Paquera or Naranjo. Alternatively you can circumnavigate the Gulf of Nicoya by continuing north from Puntarenas, direction Liberia, and turn off at km 168 to drive over the Tempisque Bridge.
From Liberia drive down the Highway #21 to Santa Cruz, which is the fastest way to get to Tamarindo. To get to the middle and southern part of the peninsula you can also drive on the Interamericana (Highway #1) until km 168 and then take the road over the Tempisque bridge. See » Map of the Nicoya Peninsula
There is only one year-round driveable road which connects the northern with the southern part of Nicoya Peninsula. The road is in good condition
and paved except for a 24 km stretch of gravel road between Paquera and Naranjo.
» Along the Gulf from Naranjo to Paquera
While on the map it looks shorter to take the coastal road from Samara to Mal Pais/Santa Teresa it can actually take longer and you risk to get lost or drown your car in a river. Don't trust Google Maps or your car navi too much: the roads they indicate are sometimes barely drivable. You will criss-cross rolling countryside on rutted dirt roads and cross several rivers. If you have time and are adventurous check out the description and road map for » Driving from Cobano to Playa Coyote.
The Nicoya Peninsula is notorious for its horrendous roads. Few parts are paved and potholes abound. During rainy season roads sometimes transform into giant mud swamps, while in dry season you jolt in a collective dust bowl over rutted dirt roads. A solid four-wheel-drive is useful though not necessary for most of the tourist areas.
There aren't many gas stations on the Nicoya Peninsula. On the southern peninsula there is one gas station in Paquera, two more
in Cobano and another one near Santa Teresa.
On the northern Nicoya Peninsula gas stations are a bit more common, but there are none on the road from Nosara to Tamarindo and from Samara to Santa Teresa. In a pinch ask locals if someone sells gasoline from a barrel.
Patience while driving is a virtue. Car accidents are frequent due to bad road conditions and unexpected hazards. Driving at night in general is highly inadvisable.