Cuba & Costa Rica Blog
About this blog
Written by Cuba and Costa Rica expert Christopher P. Baker, this blog will update readers on life in these two diverse and exciting countries.
- Last blog post on Costa Rica and Cuba
- First-ever group motorcycle tours of Cuba successful
- Cuba’s Mariel port readying for Panama Canal expansion
- Musings on wildlife encounters on Costa Rica’s Osa Peninsula
- Cuba’s Steam Trains puffing their last gasp
- My top five thrilling activities in Costa Rica
- Cuba’s fun February festivals include Harleys, Books, Cigars
- Five top volcano viewing experiences in Costa Rica
- New road along Costa Rica / Nicaraguan border mired
- Cuba’s Hotel Campoamor at Cojímar to be restored?
- Cuban revolutionary Celia Sánchez honored in new book
- Christmas challenge for Costa Rica’s sexually abused girls
- Costa Rica opens Chinatown in downtown San José
- David Soul films Hemingway’s car restoration in Cuba
- National Geographic Expeditions receives license for Cuba tours
Don't get the wrong ferry in Costa Rica
Travelers driving to the Nicoya Peninsula need to do a little planning to figure out the best way across the Gulf of Nicoya.
The only north-south highway in Nicoya is Highway 21, which runs down the eastern ("inland") flank of the peninsula. Spur roads snake west over the mountains, connecting beach communities to civilization. Excepting a short section south of Sámara, no paved highway links the various beach resorts, which are connected by a network of dirt roads roughly paralleling the coast; at times you will need to head inland to connect with another access road.
Your ultimate destination will dictate the best approach. Get things wrong and you may regret it! Not least because several sections of the narrow dirt coast road require river fordings – no easy task in wet season, when many rivers are impassable (the section between Sámara and Malpaís is the most daunting and adventurous of wet season drives in the country). Plan accordingly, and allow much more time than may be obvious by looking at a map.
If you're heading for the far northern beaches (Playas del Coco and Bahía Culebra) it's a straight shot: follow the Pan-American Highway to Liberia then turn west on Hwy. 21, which eventually loops south.
For Playa Flamingo, Tamarindo, Nosara and Sámara, it's best to turn west off the Pan-American Highway and take Hwy. 18 via the Puente de Amistad con Taiwan (Friendship with Taiwan Bridge). You can then take Hwy. 21 north to the appropriate turn-off for your specific beach destination.
You can also reach the above beaches by taking one of two ferries that depart Puntarenas. Here's where you need to pay attention.
Ferry Naviera Tambor (tel. 506/2661-2084, ferrypeninsular [at] racsa [dot] co [dot] cr) ferries departs Avenida 3, Calles 33, in Puntarenas for Paquera daily every two or three hours 5 a.m.-p.m. ($2 pedestrians, $9 car and passengers). Take this ferry to reach Tambor, Montezuma and Malpaís. Sure, it looks like you can turn north and follow Hwy. 21 also. True enough! But BIG mistake! When I last drove it, the mountainous road north from Paquera to Playa Naranjo was a real skunk, only partially paved, with large sections worn to the bone.
Playa Naranjo is also served by ferry and makes a perfect landing stage if you're heading to Sámara or Nosara, but NOT south for Tambor, Montezuma and Malpaís. The Coonatramar Ferry departs Puntarenas from Avenida 3, Calles 33/35 at 6:30 a.m., 10 a.m., 2:30 p.m., and 7:30 p.m. ($1.60 adult, $0.75 child, $3 motorcycle, $10.50 car).
See my Moon Costa Rica for complete details.