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Directions to Santa Teresa and Mal Pais

There are many ways to travel to Santa Teresa. Whether you decide to fly, drive, or take a boat ride, you'll be glad you made the trip. Below are some of the common ways to get to Santa Teresa. Once you're in Santa Teresa, see the directions to Casa Helena at the bottom of the page.


Flight to Tambor/Taxi to Santa Teresa

The fastest way to get to Santa Teresa is to take a local flight. Sansa Regional, Aerobell, and Green Airways all have multiple daily flights from San Jose to Tambor. There are also flights from Liberia to Tambor, but they are less frequent.

The flight takes about 30 minutes from San Jose. Once you land in Tambor, you'll take a 40 minute taxi ride to Santa Teresa.

We can have a taxi waiting to pick you up at the airstrip. If you want to rent a car, we recommend a taxi to Santa Teresa, and then renting the car once you get here.


These flights are small, and fill up fast, so be sure to book in advance. Remember that these flight have low weight limits, with fees for extra weight. During busy times they may refuse to take overweight luggage or send it on the next flight.


Crossing Gulfo de Nicoya by Ferry


When driving to Santa Teresa, you will almost certainly cross the Gulf of Nicoya by ferry. (There is an overland route which goes through Naranjo, you can read about it here).

Several times a day the ferry departs from Puntarenas and arrives in Paquera about 75 minutes later.


The time and frequency of the ferry depends on the season, so be sure to check the ferry departure times on their website.


Tickets for the ferry must be purchased in advance from the ticket booth. You will not be allowed on the ferry without a ticket. A ticket must be purchased for every person, as well as the vehicle.


If the ferry has already reached its capacity for automobiles, you will need to wait for the next one. This often happens during peak season. It is recommended that you arrive early to ensure a place on the ferry.



Rental Car


There are many rental car companies in Costa Rica, but not all of them have offices in Santa Teresa / Malpais. The advantage of a rental car company with an office in Santa Teresa, is that you rent a car for part of the time you're here, instead of for the whole trip. Or you can rent a car to get from one town to another, and then drop of the rental when you're in town.


National, Budget, and Enterprise have car rental locations in Santa Teresa.

If you plan on driving to Santa Teresa, make sure to check out our detailed driving directions below




There are shared and private shuttles destinations in every major tourist town. The shared shuttles are cheaper, but leave at specific times of the day. The private shuttles are more expensive, but will work on your schedule. We can help arrange a shuttle or taxi that can pick you up from where you are (whether it is the airport or somewhere else) and bring you directly to Santa Teresa.



Direct Bus from San Jose


A direct bus, run by Transportes Cobano,  leaves twice a day from Downtown San Jose (Terminal 7-10) and brings you to Mal Pais/Santa Teresa.

The bus departs from downtown San Jose at 6:00am and 2:00pm. The 6:00am bus arrives at about 12:30pm, and the 2:00pm bus arrives at about 8:30pm. (The direct bus leaves from Santa Teresa at the same times as well)

The bus bring you directly to the ferry, goes on the ferry with you, and picks you up again on the other side. Make sure to keep your receipt, so that you can get back on the bus in Paquera.

The bus schedule is timed so that it gets to the ferry shortly before departure, so wait time is minimal and the trip is streamlined. If the ferry schedule changes, this may affect the bus departure time. You can always call  Transportes Cobano to confirm departure time. Phone numbers: 2221-7479 --- 2642-1112 --- 2642-1117

Once the bus arrives in Santa Teresa, it drives up the road for several kilometers. Tell the driver you want to get off at Banana Beach, and the bus will drop you off on the main road, right in front of Casa Helena.

Water Taxi from Jaco


One of the more unique ways to get to Santa Teresa from many places in Costa Rica is the Water Taxi. A shuttle will pick you up and take you to Herradura Beach (just north of Jaco). The water taxi leaves from there every day at 11am (weather permitting). The shuttle can pick you up from many places in Costa Rica, including Manuel Antonio, Dominical, Uvita, Airport and San Jose (and many more).

The water taxi will arrive in Montezuma about an hour after it leaves Herradura. The water taxi will provide you with plastic bags to protect your luggage from the water. You will get your feet wet getting into the taxi boat from the shore.

The ride affords you the perfect opportunity to observe wildlife, including dolphins, manta rays, turtles, and the occasional whale, depending on the time of year.

Detailed Driving Directions to Santa Teresa and MalPais


When driving to Santa Teresa, the trip can be divided into 3 parts.

  1. Getting to Puntarenas

  2. Taking the ferry from Puntarenas to Paquera

  3. Going from Paquera to Santa Teresa

Step 1: Getting to Puntarenas

When driving from San Jose, there are two roads one can take to get to Puntarenas.  The first one is the Pan-American Highway (Carratera Interamericana Norte), i.e. Route 1. This is an older, more winding road, and takes about 2 hours.

There is a newer toll road, called the Caldera Highway (Autopista del Sol), i.e. Route 27. Taking this route cuts the driving time to about 75 minutes from San Jose to Puntarenas. This is the recommended route. Make sure to have some colones on you to pay the tolls.

If you're driving from Liberia we normally recommend bypassing the ferry, and driving down the peninsula. This is a shorter drive, but sections of the roads are in worse condition, and not all turn offs are clearly marked. Because of this, we highly recommend a 4x4, and using a GPS program such as Waze is necessary.


Sometimes the GPS programs will recommend a route that looks shorter, but will end up taking longer, because of the condition of the roads. It may direct you through rivers that may be unpassable at certain times of the year. Because of this, we recommend the route that takes you through Santa Cruz, on passed  Nicoya, then Jicaral, Naranjo to Paquera to Tambor, and then on to Santa Teresa. You can see a map of this route below.

Alternatively, you can drive down to the ferry, and then continue on to Santa Teresa. This will add several hours to your trip.

Step 2: Taking the ferry from Puntarenas to Paquera.

Once you arrive in Puntarenas, drive to the end of the peninsula, to the ferry departure point. You will start to see signs directing you to the ferry. Note that there are two different ferries, one to Paquera, and one to Naranjo. Make sure to take the ferry to Paquera. Before you board the ferry, you must put the car in line to get a voucher from the attendant. Once you get the voucher, go to the ticket window to purchase a ferry ticket for the car and each passenger in the vehicle. Drive the car onto the ferry when directed. Once you park your car you can get out and go to the passenger section of the ferry.

Step 3: From Paquera to Santa Teresa

Once you get off the ferry in Paquera, start driving to  Santa Teresa. Cobano is the town before Santa Teresa, and you can follow signs to there, or Santa Teresa or Malpais to make sure you are going in the right direction.

Once you get to Cobano, turning left after the bank will take you to Montezuma. Continuing straight will take you to Santa Teresa. When you reach the crossroads at the entrance of town, turn right (north) to enter Santa Teresa. Drive 1 kilometer north to get to Casa Helena.

Driving Map from Liberia International Airport (LIR) to Santa Teresa and MalPais

Direction to Casa Helena

One you've arrived in Santa Teresa, here are directions to get to Casa Helena. Turn right at the crossroads at the entrance of town. drive about 1km along the road. You'll see signs for Banana Beach Restaurant and Banana Beach Bungalows. Continue on the main road, passed the turn off for Banana Beach.


Directly across from Peace Loft Santa Teresa, you'll see an archway on the left. Turn in at the archway. If you pass the Green World Organic Supermarket (on the right), you've gone too far. The driveway leading to the villa is on the right. You'll see a driveway with a swing-arm gate. You'll be in touch with us along the way, so we'll know what time you arrive, and have someone waiting to let you in to the villa.

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