Taking the Ferry
Puntarenas Ferry Terminal
If you are coming from San José and going to Cabuya, Montezuma or any beach on the Nicoya Peninsula, taking the ferry from Puntarenas to Paquera is your best option. Since 1992, Naviera Tambor has been in charge of two vehicle ferries, the Tambor II, and Tambor III. Each can hold up to 175 average-sized cars and more than 100 passengers.
You can now purchase tickets online at the Quickpay CR website. The website is in Spanish, and they only sell tickets from Puntarenas to Paquera. The online booking is new and may have glitches. They only sell a certain number of tickets online. The rest are bought at the ferry dock, in person.
Puntarenas Ferry Location
The Puntarenas ferry is at the very end of “Paseo de los Turistas”, the main road that goes through the town of Puntarenas all the way down to the landspit. You will go past the lighthouse, where you can see the ferry and the docs on the left-hand side. The drive from San José is approximately 2 hours.
As getting on the ferry is on a first come, first serve basis, you should arrive at least one hour before the sailing, especially in high season – December to April.
Buying your Tickets
As you arrive at the Puntarenas ferry dock, an officer will direct you to a marked lane, and give you a pass to present to the ticket office – the Boletería. This pass allows you to buy a ticket for the vehicle and driver, the only one who can drive the vehicle onto the ferry. Passengers have to buy separate tickets and board the ferry on foot.
The same applies to buses. Only the bus driver can take the bus onto the ferry. Passengers have to buy their individual ticket and board the ferry on foot.
All tickets are paid in cash, in Costa Rican colones. They do not accept debit or credit. The attendant will give you two pieces of paper per ticket, a green and a white one. Hold onto both. You will need to give the green ticket to the ferry officer as you board.
The Ferry Ride
The ferry cruises through the Gulf of Nicoya and the ferry ride takes approximately 70 minutes. There are open areas on the top deck with benches where you can enjoy the view and ocean breeze. It is common to see other boats on your voyage. Sometimes, dolphins will follow the ferry and play in the waves.
The ferries have bathrooms, a cafeteria where you can buy snacks, water, coffee and drinks. All departure and arrival information is announced in both English and Spanish.
Getting Off in Paquera
When the ferry is close to Paquera, you will hear an announcement for drivers to return to their vehicles. Once the ferry is docked, the foot passengers will get off first, then the vehicles.
Passengers belonging to vehicles will need to pay attention as their driver gets off the ferry to get in the vehicle and leave.
To return to the Costa Rican mainland from the Nicoya Peninsula, you will need to reverse the steps and take the ferry from Paquera to Puntarenas.