Getting to the Nicoyan central beaches

Our guide to driving to the central Nicoya Peninsula beaches

Costa Rica’s Nicoya Peninsula encompasses an expansive stretch of the country’s rugged northwest Pacific coast, lined with miles of largely uninhabited crystalline beaches, a rolling interior of dense forests and wind-swept cattle ranches, and a secluded interior gulf interspersed with quiet estuaries, mangroves, mysterious islands, and hidden beaches.  Until recently, due to its geographical isolation from the mainland and unsophisticated road-system, the areas quaint pueblos and scattered fishing communities remained largely undiscovered by foreigners.  Today, visitors easily brave the logistical challenges and flock to the plentiful, fit and funky beach-towns along the shoreline.

Driving to the Peninsula’s central beach towns, Nosara, Samara, Ostional and others, requires one of two options: a ferry ride across the southern Gulf of Nicoya, or crossing the Tempisque Bridge to the north.  Both options include passing through the peninsula’s principal town, Nicoya, located approximately 200 km from San Jose. On average, driving from the capital to the central coast of the Nicoya coastline takes between four to five hours.

The Coonatramar Ferry – Nosara, Samara, Ostional, and other beaches

In order to access these beaches, your first option is to take the Coonatramar Ferry, which departs right next to the Naviera Tambor Ferry in Puntarenas (on the mainland) to the small port-town of Playa Naranjo.  From San Jose take Route 27 northwest towards Liberia via Orotina and Caldera, and then exit onto the ramp for Route 23 to Puntarenas.  Note that Route 27 is a toll road, so you’ll require up to $6 USD in local currency to complete the one-way drive (depending on your point of departure).
The port is located at the northernmost tip of Puntarenas, following the main road through town (Centenario/Av. Central), and is relatively well marked. Once you’ve arrived, wait in the Coonatramar San Lucas Ferry line until a Coonatramar employee gives you a vehicle pass (ficha). At this point you (or a passenger) should go to the nearby Coonatramar office to buy the required tickets with cash-only, USD are also accepted. You or your passengers will not be permitted to enter the ferry without pre-purchased tickets. A regular passenger vehicle runs roughly $16 (9,000 colons), each adult passenger $1.80 (1,005 colones), and children $1.05 (600 colones).  Prices and ferry times are subject to change so plan ahead.
The Coonatramar Ferry offers regular, 75-minute crossings, to and from Playa Naranjo and Puntarenas four-times per day.  Travellers can choose from open-air seating to an air-conditioned lounge.  Food and beverages are available for sale on all voyages.

Once you’ve arrived in Playa Naranjo, follow the signs to Route 21, destination Nicoya.  From Nicoya take Route 150 towards Playa Samara.  Stay alert to the road signs, before reaching Samara you’ll see indications for the neighboring beach towns, including Nosara, Carillo, Ostional and others.  If you’re using Google Maps or your vehicle’s GPS, take care to follow the main roadways as most of the Peninsula’s roads are unpaved and even un-passable during the rainy/green season.

Pan-American Highway (Interamericana) to the Tempisque Bridge

Your second option is to head northwest from San Jose on Route 1, the Pan American Highway (Interamericana,) towards Liberia. At km 168 turn west (left) onto Route 18 to the Tempisque Bridge which crosses over the Tempisque Estuary and connects with the Nicoya Peninsula. From there, follow Route 21 to Nicoya. From Nicoya take Route 150 towards Playa Samara. Stay alert to the road signs, before reaching Samara you’ll see indications for the neighboring beach towns, including Nosara, Carillo, Ostional, and others.

For more information see: or call +506 2661-1069 / +506 2661-9011.