Driving to the Nicoya Peninsula

Car in Costa Rica
Back to Nature

From San José take the new highway Ruta 27 via Orotina and Calderas to Puntarenas (approx 1 hour). For the tolls on the highway you should have at least $8 in Costa Rican Colones in small cash. Drive defensively and be aware that when two lanes become one, “CEDA” means Yield.

To the Southern Nicoya Peninsula (Montezuma, Santa Teresa, Malpais) drive into Puntarenas to take the » Ferry across the Gulf of Nicoya.
To the Northern Nicoya Peninsula (Tamarindo, Nosara, Samara) drive past Puntarenas and continue until KM 168. Here turn left to the bridge over the Tempisque River.

From Liberia it’s less than an hour to reach the beaches of the Northern Nicoya Peninsula. For Samara and Nosara drive on Highway #21 via Santa Cruz to Nicoya where you turn to the right. To continue to Santa Teresa or Montezuma see the following description.


From Tamarindo/Nosara/Samara to Santa Teresa/Montezuma

Road map Santa Teresa to Tamarindo
Recommended route for Santa Teresa to Samara, Nosara, Tamarindo

There is only one year-round road which connects the Northern with the Southern Nicoya Peninsula. The route via Nicoya – Naranjo – Paquera is all paved in pretty good condition. See also: » 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 actually takes longer and you risk to get lost or drown your car in a river. Also, don’t trust Google Maps or your car navi if they indicate alternative shortcuts: their road suggestions are sometimes barely drivable. You will criss-cross rolling countryside on rutted dirt roads with multiple river crossings. If you have plenty of time and are adventurous check out my detailed description of the » Coastal Route to Samara.

Drowned car in Costa Rica
Drowned car in a river

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 four-wheel-drive vehicle is useful, particularly towards the southern part of the peninsula.

There aren’t many gas stations on the Nicoya Peninsula. On the southern peninsula there is only a gas station in Paquera, and two more in Cobano.
On the northern Nicoya Peninsula gas stations are a bit more common, but there are none between Nosara and 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.

Please do not forget:
Never leave any valuables unattended in your car !
» Tips for Travel Savety