Privates on Request
Depending on where you're coming from, you can travel to Malpaís by car, boat or plane. The options are outlined below.
From San José
If you're coming from the San José Juan Santamaría International Airport, head north along the Inter-American Highway (Interamericana) for 85 km until you reach the Costanera Highway (road #34), the turnoff for the port town of Puntarenas. You'll drive 4.3 km before turning right at the Puntarenas entry and continue for another 12 km until you reach downtown Puntarenas. Continue on the same street until you reach “La Punta,” the point when the road reaches the beach. Turn right and in about 200 meters you'll see a line of cars and a dock on the left side. This is the ferry. In total, this 120-km trip from San José will take around 2.5 hours to complete.
Once at Puntarenas, you'll board the ferry and cross the gulf of Nicoya, getting off at either Paquera or Naranjo. Naranjo is 20 km north of Paquera, so if you get off here you will simply have to drive a bit farther than if you take the ferry to Paquera.
In terms of crossing on the ferry, you have a few options. To get to Paquera, take either the “Ferry Peninsula ADIP” or “Ferry Naviera Tambor.” The first leaves at 8:30 AM, 1:30 PM and 8:30 PM. The latter leaves at 5:00 AM, 9:00 AM, 11:00 AM, 2:00 PM, 5:00 PM, and 8:00 PM. To get to Naranjo take the “Ferry Coonatramar,” which leaves at 6:30 AM, 10:00 AM, 2:30 PM, and 5:00 PM.
Once you reach Paquera, turn left at the main street's intersection and drive for 40 km along hwy 160 until you reach the Playa del Carmen intersection. Turn left and you will be in Malpaís in 3 km. A right turn will take you to Santa Teresa.
If you want to avoid taking the ferry when driving from San José, you can continue along the Inter-American Highway towards Liberia. After 128 km, take a left onto the road that leads to La Amistad Bridge. Drive for 50 km along this road until you reach hwy 21. Take a left onto hwy 21. You'll essentially continue on this road for another 130 km until you reach Malpaís. Hwy 21, does, however turn into hwy 160 as it turns west from the southeast corner of the peninsula. Again, remember that when you reach the intersection at Playa Carmen, take a left to get to Malpaís.
If you're coming from Liberia, head south on hwy 21 towards Santa Cruz. You'll continue along this (passing by the turnoff for La Amistad Bridge) through the towns of Nicoya and Paquera, before heading west onto hwy 161 after Paquera. From there, the directions are the same as above when driving from Paquera.
If you don't want to drive, you can take a shuttle. The roads in Costa Rica are often in bad condition and have poor signage, so this can be a good option. The following are the rates for various shuttles to/from destinations in northern Costa Rica.
- ›San José: $50 per person
- ›Tamarindo: $45 per person
- ›Monteverde: $45 per person
- ›Samara: $45 per person
- ›Arenal: $50 per person
Traveling to Malpaís by boat is quick and easy. A taxi boat picks up travelers in Jacó, speeds them across the Gulf of Nicoya, and drops them off along the shores of Montezuma. The boats leave daily from Herradura Beach, which is just north of Jacó, at 10:45 AM. The ride takes about an hour. Once in Montezuma, travelers can either take a bus or taxi to Malpaís. Return trips to Jacó leave Montezuma at 9:30 AM.
Small airports in Samara, Punta Islita, Tambor, Nosara, and Tamarindo serve Malpaís and Santa Teresa. Both Nature Air and Sansa fly into these destinations. Once on the peninsula, visitors can rent a car or arrange for a shuttle to get them the rest of the way to Malpaís. It should be noted, however, that the road along the western coast of the Nicoya Peninsula is in poor condition. This means that if you fly into Tamarindo, Nosara or Samara, your shuttle will first take you to Santa Cruz and then will take hwy 21 around the peninsula to get to Malpaís. An indirect route, for sure, but it's better than getting stuck in the mud.