Although it is one of Costa Rica’s most spectacular destinations – for its gold and white sand beaches, world-class surfing, warm blue Pacific Ocean, and lush rainforest – the southern Nicoya Peninsula stays off the beaten tourist path. The reason is the region’s remote location.
Going by ferry is the traditional way to get to the towns and beaches of the southern Nicoya Peninsula – Tambor, Montezuma, Mal Pais and Santa Teresa. The ferry leaves from the Central Pacific port of Puntarenas, and takes about 90 minutes to cross the Nicoya Gulf to Paquera. Add on to that time at least another 20 to 30 minutes on each end for loading and unloading the ferry. If it is high tourist season or a holiday and you are traveling with a vehicle, you need to be in line at the ferry terminal at least an hour or more before the ferry departs to ensure you’ll get on board. The trip definitely is picturesque and not overly expensive – 810 colones per adult passenger and 11,400 colones for a car one-way – but you had better not be in a hurry.
Domestic flights travel from San Jose to Tambor via both Nature Air and Sansa Airlines, and although quick – about a 35-minute flight – tickets cost from $160 to $220 round-trip.
A fast and fun way to get to the Nicoya Peninsula without having to drive, take a ferry or an expensive domestic flight is by Boat Taxi from Herradura Beach near Jacó to Montezuma at the tip of the Peninsula. Zuma Tours uses fast 30-passenger boats to cross the Nicoya Gulf in an hour. Boats travel in the morning, when the weather is usually nicer, departing Montezuma at 9:30 a.m. and from Herradura Beach at 11:00 a.m. The fare is $40 per adult one-way; there are children’s rates and toddlers (3 and under) are free.
Besides being quick and easy, the trip is scenic across the beautiful blue Gulf. Chances are high you could see dolphins, manta rays, sea birds, sea turtles, and maybe even a whale. The boats have canopies so you are protected from the sun, and your luggage is stored in plastic bags for water protection.
Zuma Tours offers shuttle transportation from the beach town of Jacó to Herradura Beach, and can arrange rental cars at either Herradura or Montezuma, or transportation to other destinations. Additionally, they offer boat tours to Tortuga Island and other Nicoya beaches.
- Reservations in advance are required.
- Luggage: 20 kg maximum per person.
- Surf boards and boxes have an extra cost of $10 per piece.
- Bicycles and pets are not accepted.
Where to stay on the Nicoya Peninsula
Santa Teresa Beach is known for its shimmering light sand, excellent surf conditions, interesting volcanic reef formations and stunning sunsets over the Pacific Ocean. The coast is lush and green, in transition from the northern dry forest to the southern tropical rainforest. Santa Teresa is an easy 30-minute drive (or boat ride) from Montezuma, where the boat taxi disembarks.
The luxury boutique Hotel Tropico Latino faces the white sands and brilliant blue sea of Playa Carmen at Santa Teresa. Set on four acres of lush, tropical gardens, beachfront accommodations are comfortable and elegant. Hotel Tropico Latino specializes in surf and yoga vacations, and features a full-service beachfront spa and an award-winning restaurant. Top internet travel site TripAdvisor named Santa Teresa one of the “Best Beaches in Central America” three years in a row, and awarded Hotel Tropico Latino a Certificate of Excellence.
Article by Shannon Farley