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The Ferry of Costa Rica. Everything you need to know!

One of the fastest ways to go to the Nicoya Peninsula from San José, the Caribbean, the north or south of Costa Rica, is by crossing the gulf by ferry. In this blog, I will give you the most important information that you need to know to make this experience highly profitable.

And even though Costa Rica is a small country which you can cross in one day from east to west, driving many hours is not what we want to do during our vacation. But there is an option that we can use to relax, enjoy beautiful views at the Gulf of Nicoya and save a lot of time on the highway. For this reason, we will be talking about this beautiful route that is partly on land and partly on the sea, which you can finally consider for your trip.

I would like to remember you that if you need to rent a car or use private transportation for your adventure in Costa Rica, we will be happy to help you with your booking, just This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

If you decide to take the ferry, the ferries you will be travelling with have two floors for cabotage (maritime traffic) of vehicles and two others for transporting people. The cars usually go to the lowest part of the boat, while trucks and bigger vehicles or wagons go to the main floor. The passengers on the other hand will be comfortable on the higher floors where they can find food, music, and a nice environment to enjoy the trip.

What is the route that the ferries travel?

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The sea route crossing the Gulf of Nicoya connects in just one hour and some minutes the maritime landing points that are located at the terminal at Barrio El Carmen in Puntarenas and the terminal of Paquera or the dock of Playa Naranjo, avoiding many hours of a difficult and exhausting trip on the road.

What attractions can I see on each route?

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During the trip, you will have a beautiful view of the Gulf of Nicoya, its islands, vegetation, and wildlife. We were lucky and saw some manta rays jumping outside the water just some meters away from the boat, as well as gulls and pelicans flying around us, but later I will give you some more details about the magic of this place.

The Gulf of Nicoya

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It has an impressive marine and coastal landscape of humid zones, rocks, extensive mangroves, and great biodiversity. You can also see many rocky islands that fill the Gulf.

Around it is the Tempisque river which constantly leads organic material of great nutritional value for the marine wildlife into the Gulf, which is why mangrove swamps thrive on the coast. In Costa Rica, the mangroves are protected since they are very important for sea life. The birds that nest in their foliage and mud in their roots, protect clams, cankers, and pawns.

Most people living in this zone depend on seafood and fishing in general. But from July to August, fishing is prohibited because it is the time of incubation of sea life.

The lower part of the Gulf of Nicoya is very different from the upper part. There are many mangroves and the area is less populated. Densely forested hills and headlands touch the sea, closing secret bays.

The islands

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On the way, we can see many islands like Chira, Venado, Caballo, Tortuga, Cedros, Bejuco, Pan de Azúcar and Negritos, which are housing a great number of birds and fauna, but the largest one and the one with the most interesting story is the Isla San Lucas, where the old prison “Cárcel de San Lucas” is located, were the least dangerous prisoners of the country were sent.

The most dangerous prisoners were taken to Isla del Coco and later to the Central Penitentiary of Costa Rica. Over time, the prison was transformed into a prison that housed slightly more dangerous criminals and with the goal of not distorting the initial idea of the place, the prisoners were transferred to the Central Penitentiary. Since 1991 the prison is closed and now administrated by the MINAET (Environment and Energy Ministry).

Nowadays, San Lucas is a wildlife reserve and the old installations a historical centre. Furthermore, this little place in the Gulf inspired the novel “La Isla de Los Hombres Solos” (en: The island of the lonely men) by José León Sánchez, who spent some years in this prison.

What can I do when I don’t have a car and want to take the ferry?

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There is no problem if you want to take the ferry just for a trip or if you want to cross the beaches of the peninsula of Nicoya. You just need to buy a ticket and wait that the boat arrives at the dock. Actually, the people have to enter the boat walking and just the driver can enter by car, so it is not necessary to have a car to take the ferry. On the other side, there are always public buses waiting for the people arriving with the boat, so you can just take one and continue your trip.

What services does the ferry offer?

On the ferry, there is a room with air conditioning, a bar, television and comfortable seats where you can relax and wait that the ferry crosses the gulf. But if you don’t want to miss the view, I recommend you to go to the third floor, where you can find tables, a bar with snacks and food, seats and the best view you can get. There are also public bathrooms on every floor of the boat.

What do I have to do once the ferry arrives?

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Usually, they tell the drivers before the arrival that they can go to their vehicles, this time the companions can join the driver and leave the boat with the car. Once the ferry arrives, people that are not going in a car start leaving the boat from the upper levels at the same time the cars are leaving. After leaving the boat, you don’t have to do anything else, you can just continue your trip to your destination.

Ferry Tambor. Route Puntarenas - Paquera

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If you have planned to visit the beaches of Montezuma, Tambor, Santa Teresa, Malpaís and other places around and you are at the Central Valley, Caribbean or at the South of the country, the fastest and most comfortable way is to take the ferry to Paquera; like this, you are saving at least 4 hours of driving.

Another important point to keep in mind is that you can buy the tickets online and choose the services you need, days or weeks before your trip. The online sales are limited though, so you can also come a little bit earlier and stand in line; the rest of the spaces are being sold at the Naviera Tambor, just crossing the street in front of the boat. Visit this website to buy your tickets.

If you want to know the current timetables and fares, you can consult them on this website.


Ferry Puntarenas - Playa Naranjo

From the same dock at Puntarenas downtown leave the ferries to Playa Naranjo, so when you are planning to go to Sámara, Nicoya or places around, this is the route you have to take.

There is also an online platform for the tickets of this route, its schedules and costs. Here you can choose the service you need and the page will guide you step by step.


I recommend you to use the ferry because even though Costa Rica is a small country, the distances are getting a lot shorter when you combine land and sea routes. Furthermore, it's a good break for the drivers.

If you have questions just This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., we are always ready to help you, or you can leave a comment below. You can also use our online chat, and we will be happy to help you to plan your trip to our Central American paradise Costa Rica.


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  • Janaina & Dieter, Brazil

    The trip was wonderful! Your help was invaluable and without your choices it would not have been so good! I am very very satisfied and very happy with the choices you made!

    Thank you very much for everything!

    Janaina & Dieter, Brazil
  • Kathrin, Ines, Matthias & Ingo, Germany

    Hello dear Aline, many thanks to you for the great compilation and organization of the trip. We were able to spend eventful, interesting and wonderful days in Costa Rica and will keep them in good memory. A thank you also goes to the ARA Tours team, which was available 24/7 for problems and questions, which were solved and answered quickly and reliably. The punctuality of the transfers offered should also be emphasized. In summary, it was a wonderful holiday.

    Kind regards

    Kathrin, Ines, Matthias & Ingo, Germany
  • Carina & Thomas, Germany

    Hello dear Aline,
    Now we have arrived back at San Jose Airport after a great trip. Everything worked out great and the tour was just perfectly planned and organized. Thank you very much. We take a lot of positive memories with us.
    Best regards.

    Carina & Thomas, Germany
  • Yvonne, Switzerland

    The Costa Rica trip together with my family is already behind us - it was wonderful!!! Everything went smoothly from A to Z, we had a wonderful time, no incidents and wonderful experiences.
    We all enjoyed it very much; the nature is enormous, but also the warm-hearted people, the cleanliness, the food - we are very enthusiastic!
    At this point I would like to thank you very much for your support in the preparation, for all the bookings, clarifications and enquiries!!!
    We visited the waterfall in La Fortuna and had a great view of the Arenal. In Monteverde we did a Hanging Bridges and Zipline tour and in Nosara a surf course. In Finca Rosa Bianca we did the coffee tour, it was all great, fun and interesting 😊. All in all, we saw lots of animals, always ate well, enjoyed the beaches....even in rainy weather 😊. Often we were even glad that it was overcast, otherwise it would have been almost toouuu hot for us.
    So THANK YOU again so much for everything!!!!

    Yvonne, Switzerland
  • Christina, Switzerland

    Many thanks for the extensive support (before, during and after the trip) and the professional handling of our concerns. With your support we had a smooth and unforgettable vacation in Costa Rica! Our favorite hotels: Hotel Plaza Yara and the Poas Volcano Lodge - a dream!
    All the best

    Christina, Switzerland
  • Jeanne, Bernd & Bill, USA

    Yay! I´m glad we are back on track. Thank you again for helping us with all these changes.
    I´m glad we choose ARA-you are amazing! Thanks for all your help! It made it a very memorable visit!

    Jeanne, Bernd & Bill, USA
  • Janka, The Netherlands

    Hi Eli & ARA Team,
    We have spoken to the guest and they are super enthusiastic about their Costa Rica roundtrip! Everything was well organized, nice hotels, nice mix of activities & beach and they have big compliments for you guys!!
    Many thanks for all the good work!! The guest highly appreciate it!!
    They had lunch nearby in Ara Ambigua Lodge, and they loved this place. Friendly staff and good food!
    Do you work with this accommodation? If so, we would love hear 😊
    Once again, heads off for this amazing trip!
    With warm regards

    Janka, The Netherlands
  • Thomas, Deborah, Eva & Paula, Switzerland

    Dear Priska
    Happily I write some words to you in English, so you can easily forward them also to Ara Tours, please. Thank you all, we spent a magic time in Costa Rica! Baumeler's and Ara Tours organisation and logistics were perfect, everything worked out even better than we expected. The tours were brilliant, we really enjoyed everything very very much!
    All the accomodation was absolutely wonderful... the setting, the quality, the food, with happy helpful friendly staff everywhere. It was a wonderful way to experience this beautiful country the way we did, on a private tour with personal guide and drivers. We saw and learnt sooo much - it would have been impossible to do so on our own.
    Especially we praise our brilliant guide Fernando Perez, we benefited so much from his truly wide knowledge and deep love for his Country which he passed on in lovely encouraging way. We even became friends and we will meet in Switzerland coming September! Also our driver Carlos Sandi was great, not only as a driver but also as a compagnion, animal spotter and photographer. Thank you!
    So.... now we just enjoy our last day...
    Sunny greetings, pura vida

    Thomas, Deborah, Eva & Paula, Switzerland
  • Yvonne & Andrea, Switzerland

    Hello all
    Unfortunately, our wonderful trip is already over and everyday life has caught up with us again. We would like to thank you very much for everything. The trip was planned exactly according to our wishes and we have seen so many beautiful places.
    Thank you Stefanie!
    We have felt completely comfortable and top cared for by you. Via Whats App we got immediate answers to our questions, with the car everything worked out great. In all locations we were treated very warmly and nicely. It was just so indescribably beautiful, we will dream of the beautiful experiences for a long time. In any case, we will warmly recommend you and hope for a next time. Thank you, thank you, thank you.
    Best regards.

    Yvonne & Andrea, Switzerland
  • Anita, Switzerland

    We have arrived safely in Switzerland and have already returned to work.
    It was a wonderful trip you put together for us.
    Your excellent service, as well as the 24 hour support service from ARA Tours, was truly outstanding.
    I have already recommended you several times and would book with you again and again. Thank you very much and keep me informed if there are any interesting offers.
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    Anita, Switzerland
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    Hello Pedro, our time in CR is coming to an end and we wanted to say "thank you very much for organizing a phenomenal week". Everything has been well organized and we have seen many beauties of nature. Thanks!

    Lukas & Isabelle, Switzerland
  • Reinout & Yvonne, The Netherlands

    Thanks Jenny for the clear answer. We will make an appointment via the link you gave us.
    Today we visited National Parc Cabo Blanco. What an amazing park, so quiet for tourists, so full of animals, really lovely and therefore together with Monte Verde, Cahuita and Corcovado the park today, Cabo Blanco, scores high in our ranking of most beautiful parks of CR.These parks give us reason, together with the Pura Vida in CR, to come back soon. We'll keep in contact.

    Reinout & Yvonne, The Netherlands
  • Dominik, Germany

    Good day Jennifer
    As we have already told Simone, the stay at Lapa Rios is extremely enriching, thanks to the well planned planting and the untouched environment we see a lot of animals. Contrary to the plans before the stay, we do not want to visit more animals in captivity at the end. We will have a look at the few hours before we leave.
    We thank you and your team very much for the excellent advice and the permanent support! We can only recommend Ara Tours.
    Best regards.

    Dominik, Germany
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    A big thank to you, you saved our vacation!
    Communication already worked very well in Germany. The help from you, especially through Aline, should be mentioned here. This was fantastic from the first WhatsApp message to the last. We already know Costa Rica, so we knew what we wanted and what not. Ara Tours was an important point of contact for us. We are very grateful to Aline precisely because our actual travel agent cancelled our trip 36 hours before departure. She immediately organized everything for us. Whether the hotel in beautiful Punta Leona, the tours to the national parks, even the shuttle service with the great driver Guillerno Ortega has to be mentioned here. We are very grateful to you, dear Aline, but also to the entire Ara Tours team. You too made our almost 3-week trip to Costa Rica unforgettable again. We would love to come back and of course we will book through Ara Tours again.

    Daniel, Jana & Theo, Germany
  • Alexander & family, Switzerland

    Thank you, everything really worked out great. Super organization and at any time quick info / help / support from you!
    We liked it very much. The conclusion in Quepos was crowning. We liked the beach in the National Park Manuel Antonio very much. We would have liked to stay longer, but we take home many wonderful, unforgettable impressions. PURA VIDA!
    Many thanks to you Aline! We will gladly recommend you to others.

    Alexander & family, Switzerland
  • Neumann Family, Germany

    - The route was super planned, first on the beach time to arrive and then only from Monteverde with excursions inland etc. and at the end again beach - perfect!
    - Support from Ara Tours was VERY good!!! Through Whatsapp reachability the service was great, very quick answers / very flexible, good suggestions etc. Also with the doctor Ara Tours helped with translations by phone - that was really very, very good!
    - The home stay day was an absolute highlight - very authentic - so we got to know the locals REAL, the family was super friendly and very open and have talked about everything. Not at all touristy perceived.

    Neumann Family, Germany
  • Marine & Bruno, France

    We would like to thank you personally for this beautiful trip that you organised for us and for the follow-up that you did throughout the stay. A big thank you also to Jennifer d'Ara tours! Thank you again and have a great week!

    Marine & Bruno, France
  • Walter, Switzerland

    We really appreciated your (almost) daily updates from Costa Rica on Covid and related issues. That was a highlight compared to other incoming agents worldwide! We thank you for your effort and wish you that you manage the coming time well and stay healthy.

    Walter, Switzerland
  • Ronald, Germany

    Our great compliments for keeping us informed every day on the developments. We wish you all the best and keep yourself and families in good health and mood during this unprecedented period!

    Ronald, Germany
  • Kathrin, Germany

    You are really super! It is impressive how you manage the crisis with your super flow of information and the great reversal. Hats off!

    Kathrin, Germany
  • Michael, Germany

    Hello, we were on a round trip in Costa Rica from 27.11., which was booked through BigXtra and organised by them. We would like to take this opportunity to thank you very much. The tour was simply amazing! The support by Carlos was just great. We have done many trips before, but this one was an unforgettable experience thanks to Carlos. Carlos speaks very good German and was able to sensitively introduce us to Costa Rica, its incomparable nature and its great, friendly inhabitants. Pura Vida became for us a term for the attitude towards life in Costa Rica. Please say hello to Carlos from us and once again a huge thank you to him in the name of the whole group of 8. We wish him only the best for his future.

    Michael, Germany
  • Evelyne, Switzerland

    Wie just did a 4 week trip in Costa Rica which was organised from ARA tours and we really liked it - well done Ara Tours! We also had a guide - his name is Enrique. His German is really good and he knows a lot about Costa Rica and he showed us a lot of animals. We had a wonderful time with hime - thank you so much Enrique!

    Evelyne, Switzerland
  • Tanja, Germany

    perfect tour perfect tour guide pablo, everything very well organised 👍👍👍👍🇨🇷🇨🇨🇷 were thrilled

    Tanja, Germany
  • Ines, Germany

    Many thanks and great praise to our tour guide Mauricio and our bus driver Adrian! We felt very comfortable during the 2 weeks in Costa Rica. The wide-ranging knowledge of Mauricio and the super driving skills of Adrian were particularly admirable. Thanks to the eagle eyes of both of them, we had the opportunity to observe a variety of animals in Costa Rica. Thank you for everything!

    Ines, Germany
  • Sabine, Germany

    I can only recommend ARA Tours. Thanks again to Nicole for the great planning of the tour and the support. Our tour guide Peter Käser was simply incredible (a walking encyclopaedia) and always had an answer to all my questions about the flora and fauna and the history of CR. Our driver Julio carried my father on his hands, for which I am very grateful. CR is also worth a trip for wheelchair users at any time (with ARA Tours, of course).

    Sabine, Germany
  • Thieme Family, Germany

    We would like to thank you once again for organizing our trip [...] through the beautiful country of Costa Rica. Our special thanks go to our tour guide Enrique, who with his extensive knowledge of flora and fauna about his country brought it very close to us and made us want to come even a second time. We were very glad and happy to travel with him, as he was also very committed to our problems on site, in addition to his competent function as a tour guide.

    Thieme Family, Germany
  • Antonia-Maria & Boris, Austria

    Thank you from the bottom of my heart for your sensational effort! I do not know such a competent tour guide as with you really from nowhere else... and we have already traveled a lot... 🙏🏻🍀

    Antonia-Maria & Boris, Austria
  • Katja, Germany

    I wanted to thank you again for the great Costa Rica trip. We flew back home very happy and with many great impressions. A compliment for the super organisation. Everything worked out perfectly (except for the handover of the rental car, which was force majeure...). So thank you again and I have already recommended you to friends:-)!

    Katja, Germany
  • Denise & Alain, Switzerland

    Thank you very much for your email and the tickets. We really appreciate how quickly and efficiently you deal with our requests each time!

    Denise & Alain, Switzerland
  • Philippe, Switzerland

    Hello Christine Thank you very much for this information. The support is super👍 many thanks Gruss

    Philippe, Switzerland
  • Marianne & Stefan Gräub, Switzerland

    Otherwise, the planned trip was a complete success. Everything went well and the visits you organised were all very interesting. The visits you organised were all very interesting and gave us a great insight into the respective topics. The fact that the Ticos are very friendly and always ready to help was fully confirmed.

    Marianne & Stefan Gräub, Switzerland

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