How to get to Malpais
From the capital, San José, drive to the port town of Puntarenas and then cross the Gulf of Nicoya by ferry to Paquera (see ferry schedule).
From San Jose to the ferry in Puntarenas
There are two highways from San Jose which lead to Puntarenas: the toll free Panamericana is a single lane road, often clogged by trucks. It passes by the city of San Ramon and then winds down from the highland to sea level.
The newer road is the Calderas highway which often takes less than 1.5 hours until Puntarenas. In total the travel time from San Jose to Mal Pais is roughly 5:30 hours.
In the Santa Teresa and Malpais area be prepared that the roads are horrendous. Most of them are unpaved, rutted, dusty, and with giant potholes.
From Monteverde and Arenal it can be faster to drive through Tilaran and over the Tempisque bridge. Then continue via Naranjo – Paquera.
From Liberia or other northern parts of Costa Rica drive to Santa Cruz, then Nicoya – Naranjo – Paquera.
From Paquera it’s 55 km to Mal Pais – approx 1.5 hours driving.
|Puntarenas to Paquera|
|5:30 am||9 am||11 am||2 pm||5 pm||8 pm|
|Paquera to Puntarenas|
|5 am||9 am||11 am||2 pm||5 pm||8:30 pm|
|Travel time across the Gulf of Nicoya is 70 minutes.|
Direct Bus from/to San Jose
Two daily buses connect San Jose to Santa Teresa and vice versa. The bus doesn’t drive into Malpais. The closest bus stop is at the “Cruze”: the road intersection at Playa Carmen. As the bus comes from the northern end of Santa Teresa it passes by the Cruze at around 6:20 am / 2:20 pm.
|Departure from San Jose and same time from Santa Teresa|
|6:00 am||2:00 pm||Travel Time: 5:30 h|
|Cost: approx. $ 14 with the ferry ticket included. You don’t have to change buses on your trip.|
Taxi Boat between Jaco and Montezuma
A mini-bus picks you up at your hotel in Santa Teresa or Mal Pais to bring you to Montezuma. From here you cross the Gulf of Nicoya in a taxi boat to Jaco. Once in Jaco another mini bus takes you to San Jose or to Quepos and Manuel Antonio.
|Taxi Boat to||Cost pp||Travel Time|
|Jaco||$ 50||Departure in Santa Teresa /Mal Pais at 7:45 am
Departure with taxi boat in Montezuma at 9:30 am
Arrival in Jaco: approx. 10:45 am
|Manuel Antonio||$ 80|
|San Jose||$ 95|
|Destination||Cost per person||Departure||Travel Duration|
|Samara||$ 50||8 am||4:30 h|
|Liberia Airport||$ 55||8 am||5:30 h|
|Monteverde||$ 60||8:45 am||5 h|
|Arenal||$ 60||8:45 am||5:30 h|
|Any hotel in Malpais will help you to book your trip.|
Flights to Tambor
The Costa Rican national carrier Sansa flies to Tambor several times per day. Flight duration from San Jose to Tambor is 25 min. As you fly with small airplanes the weight limit for luggage is restricted.
From Tambor it’s a 50 minute drive to Santa Teresa and Mal Pais. A taxi will cost you around $50. You can also have a rental car delivered at the airport.
Weather and Seasons
The main tourist season in Mal Pais and Costa Rica in general is the time when it‘s cold in the Northern Hemisphere: from January to March. This time coincides with the dry season on Costa Rica‘s Pacific coast, where Mal Pais is located.
Tourists have a sunshine guarantee until mid of May when the first rainfalls after the dry season will occur. In dry season temperatures during the day can go up to 100 Fahrenheit. March and April are the hottest and driest months.
The period from May to August is called Green Season because intermittent rain showers let the plants thrive again. These weather conditions are very pleasant because temperatures are moderate and the rains mainly occur in the late afternoon and at night. You also enjoy less crowds and hotels often give better rates.
In July there is the “little summer” – around 3 weeks with almost no rains at all. For parents with kids on school holidays it’s the perfect time for visiting Costa Rica.
Rainfalls become heavier and more prolonged in September/October which makes traveling more difficult. Road conditions become precarious and can sometimes thwart travel plans.
In November the rains become fewer and fewer. It’s a great time again to visit Mal Pais because nature is still green and hotels have low season rates. High season starts mid of December and the weather circle starts all over again. There will be no rain for almost 5 months. Gradually the plants will wither and the landscape will take on a dull color. Roadside foliage will be covered with the dust from the roads until the rains come back again in May.