Puntarenas, Costa Rica Ferry (The Ultimate Step-by-Step Guide)

The Paquera ferry will not operate until it undergoes repairs due to a collision. The Naranjo ferry runs 24/7 to cope. Expect a 30-minute difference between docks. The Friendship Bridge remains closed until July 2024 when traveling from San Jose to Tamarindo or South Guanacaste. Alternatives include taking the Nicoya Gulf ferry or driving via Liberia. Tickets are available online or at the ticket office near the ferry dock (Boletaria).

The ferry from Puntarenas to Paquera is an excellent option for reaching Montezuma, Tambor, Santa Teresa, Malpaís, Paquera, or any Nicoya Peninsula beach. 

However, there is a lot of outdated information about boarding ferries in Puntarenas (or in Paquera), so I feel your pain if you’ve been combing the internet for a long time. 

This post provides detailed guidance on ticket purchase, crossing procedures for cars or pedestrians, and ferry duration, along with answers to some of the frequently asked questions about the Puntarenas ferry.

Puntarenas Ferry’s New Developments (as of April 2024)

On April 9th, the Paquera ferry was damaged in a crash, so it won’t be running from Paquera until they fix it.

Instead, the Naranjo ferry will run all day to help out. The Naranjo dock is about 35 minutes north of Paquera.

If you’re driving from San Jose to places like Tamarindo, Samara, or the Nicoya Peninsula in April through June, don’t use the Friendshiis because it’s closed. 

You’ll have to either take the ferry across the Gulf of Nicoya or drive around through Liberia.

Keep reading for a thorough step-by-step guide on using the Puntarenas ferry. 

Part 1: What You Should Know About Puntarenas Ferry 

The Puntarenas Ferry sails between Puntarenas, on the central Pacific coast, and Paquera, on the Nicoya Peninsula. It covers 11 nautical miles in about 70 minutes.

This large ferry can carry 170 cars and up to 700 passengers, but it’s rarely complete. Because of its size, it stays very stable in the water, so you won’t feel much movement from waves or wind.

FRIENDLY ADVICE:

  • If you’re traveling from or to Guanacaste or other places up the coast, driving along the peninsula roads might be a better choice.

The scenery along the ferry journey is stunning. If you’re going between the southern Nicoya Peninsula and the central Pacific coast/San Jose, it offers a nice break from driving or taking the bus. 

Part 2: Buying Ferry Tickets

You have two options for getting ferry tickets: online or in person.

Buying tickets online:

You can now purchase ferry tickets for the Puntarenas-Paquera route (and vice versa) online in advance.

It’s a good idea to do this whenever possible because it ensures you have a spot, especially during busy holiday weeks like Christmas, New Year’s, and Semana Santa (Easter), when the ferry gets crowded.

Just remember, you can’t buy tickets online less than 2 hours before you want to leave. So, if you’re planning a last-minute trip, you’ll need to buy your tickets at the ferry terminal. 

But if you’re traveling without a car, like on a bus, you usually don’t need to stress about tickets running out.

To buy online, go to QuickPay CR, the website for ferry tickets. Don’t worry if it’s all in Spanish. You can activate Google Translate. Here’s the step-by-step process: 

Step 1: Choose which direction you’re going. 

booking puntarenas costa rica ferry Guide

When you open the website, you’ll see the above page first. To choose where you’re going, pick either Paquera or Puntarenas from the drop-down menu under ‘Salida y Destino.’ After that, just select the date you want to travel.

Step 2: Choose the number of tickets and vehicle.

booking puntarenas costa rica ferry Guide

When you click “Next,” you’ll see another list where you have to pick either “Vehículo” or “Personas.” If you’re not driving a car, pick “personas.”

If you’re driving a rental car, choose the first option, “Light Vehicle (Vehículo Liviano).” Then, it’ll ask you how many people are in your group. 

booking puntarenas costa rica ferry Guide

If you picked “people,” you just have to enter the number of people. Once you’ve completed the process, click “Siguiente,” which translates to “Next.”

Step 3: Fill in your details.

puntarenas costa rica ferry Guide booking

On the following page, fill in your details as shown in the picture. If you’re renting a car and don’t know your plate number yet, you can enter “RENTALCAR.”

When you get to the ferry, they will ask you to go into the ticket office and give them your license plate number. They will update your ticket, and you’ll be on your way.

  • Número de documento: Your document number. It could be your passport. All Costa Rican natives have ID numbers. 
  • Nombre del cliente: Your full name
  • Número de teléfono: Your phone number
  • Correo Electrónico: Your email

You’ll notice a “Datos para Factura” button directly beneath the email field. You need to click this button before you can move on to the next page.

booking puntarenas costa rica ferry Guide

A window will pop up, like in the screenshot above. However, it requires national identification. Unless you’re a citizen of Costa Rica, leave all fields blank and click “Sin Factura” at the bottom.

Agree to the T&C, then click “Comprar” to proceed to the payment page.

Pro Tip

  • If the website shows no tickets, it doesn’t mean the ferry is full. You can limit online sales by purchasing directly at the dock.

Step 4: Payment

After you confirm your information in a small pop-up box, a new browser tab will open for you to click “Confirmar Compra.” 

Provide your credit card details. Remember that tickets are non-refundable. 

Once you buy the tickets, they’ll email you the receipt and confirmation. Screenshot your emailed ticket.

If you can’t find tickets for your desired date or time, they might be sold out online. In that case, you’ll need to buy them in person, as online purchases may not be available.

Purchasing tickets in person

To buy your ticket in person, head to the ticket office across the street from the ferry dock, at the end of the “Paseo de los Turistas,” and 2 km from the town center on the right side. You will see a big blue sign that says “BOLETERIA.”

When you’re buying tickets in person, tell the cashier how many adults and children you have, as well as if you’re bringing a car.

FRIENDLY ADVICE:

  • During busy tourism months, such as weekends or December to April, arrive 1.5–2 hours early to buy tickets in person. For peak holiday times like Christmas, New Year’s, or Easter, aim for 2-3 hours early if you can’t buy tickets beforehand.
  • If you didn’t buy tickets online and are driving onto the ferry, join the regular car line. An employee will give you a plastic ticket and tell you to go to the ticket office. You need this plastic ticket to buy a ticket for your car.

Part 3: Obtaining the Puntarenas Ferry Schedule and Ticket Prices

Every day, ferries travel back and forth between Puntarenas and Paquera. It takes about an hour and a half each way. The schedule is mostly the same for both trips, except for the last one of the day.

Here are the times:

From Puntarenas to Paquera From Paquera to Puntarenas
5:30 AM 5:30 AM
9:00 AM 9:00 AM
12:00 PM 12:00 PM
6:00 PM 3:00 PM
8:30 PM 6:00 PM
8:00 PM

 

Now, about the prices:

  • Adult: CRC 810 (about $1.21)
  • Child: CRC 485 (about $0.72)
  • Light Vehicle: CRC 11,400 plus 13% VAT (equivalent to about $19.18).

Keep in mind, different rates apply to different types of vehicles, and while people do not pay VAT, vehicles do.

Pro Tip:

  • Keep an eye out for official updates on when schedules change. If you’re coming from Paquera, check out this website.

Part 4: Getting onto the Ferry

When you get to the dock area, the first thing is to find the yellow gate and blue sign labeled “Entrada de Pasajeros/Passenger Entry.” 

Next to this gate or sign, there’s an extensive paved area where cars, vans, trucks, and buses line up. 

Don’t worry; just drive in and join the line. If there’s space, stick to the left. A ferry staff member will show you where to park.

Once your car is in line, you can buy the tickets. After getting the tickets, return to your spot in the queue.

Usually, they want only the driver to stay in the car during boarding, so other passengers often get out and walk onto the ferry when it’s time. But if you have young children or elderly passengers, they might make an exception.

As you drive onto the ferry, the staff will direct you to a parking spot on the ship. Lock up everything and head to the upper decks, where your group is.

The ferry has an open parking area on the lower deck and two upper decks for passengers and crew. 

If you’re taking your car, you’ll go up to the passenger decks after parking. The same goes for buses. 

To keep your stuff safe during the trip, only access can go on the vehicle’s deck. However, it’s always wise to keep valuables like cash and passports with you.

Part 5: What to Do on the Ferry Ride

The ferry provides amenities like bathrooms and a cafeteria where you can buy snacks, chips, empanadas, food, drinks, and coffee. 

There are both indoor and outdoor seating areas, as well as air conditioning and televisions. You’re free to sit wherever you like. They offer free WiFi, but you need to sign up to use it.

Pets are welcome on the ferry, but there is a designated area where they must be leashed.

The top deck has a canopy to shield it from the sun and offers excellent views of the gulf and nearby islands.

FRIENDLY ADVICE:

  • Remember to protect yourself from the sun, even with the canopy. The wind can easily blow away hats.
  • The middle deck, fully enclosed with air conditioning, a larger snack bar, TVs playing kids’ shows, and more comfortable seating, is ideal if you prefer to be indoors.
  • Each deck has a small elevator accessible to people with disabilities; just ask a staff member for assistance.

The journey from Puntarenas to Paquera takes about an hour, during which you’ll enjoy scenic views of the Gulf of Nicoya, including islands and the Nicoya Peninsula coastline.

Part 6: Leaving the Ferry Upon Arrival

When the ferry gets near Paquera, they’ll announce that drivers should go back to their cars. After the ferry stops, people walking will leave first, and then the cars.

After you leave the ferry, you can catch a taxi, hop on a bus, or drive to wherever you’re going next. Buses from Paquera go to Cobano, Montezuma, and Santa Teresa.

PRO TIP: Is “First to Board” always “First to Disembark”?

If you’re going to be in a rush after arriving at your destination, you’d want to know if the last ones to board are the first ones to get off so you can plan your ticket purchase timing. 

Well, the last time, we were the first ones on and ended up on the bottom level. I’ve heard that being last on means you’re first off. 

But it’s a RORO ferry, so if you’re in a car, you’ll be on the lower deck, which doesn’t always get off first. Sometimes, they open the loading hatch early for the vehicles on the upper deck. 

Friendly Advice

  • Strap a cooler to the roof of your car to stay on the upper lane, and maybe arrive a bit late to get a spot in the middle lane.

As mentioned earlier, the ferry to Paquera had an accident, so the dock’s closed. Naranjo’s ferry is the only option, and with the bridge closed, it’s going to be hectic, especially with the narrow roads. Make sure you have a reservation and arrive early to avoid chaos.

FAQs

Where does the ferry from Puntarenas go?

The ferry trip from Puntarenas to Paquera lasts about an hour. Enjoy stunning views as you sail through the Gulf of Nicoya. Keep an eye out for some islands along the way, as well as the coastline of the Nicoya Peninsula.

How much is the ferry ticket to Puntarenas?

Ticket prices differ depending on the type of ticket you need. There are fares for adults and children, as well as rates for vehicles like motorcycles, ATVs, and cars. For the latest prices, you can check here.

How long is the ferry from Puntarenas to Naranjo?

By ferry, it takes about 1 hour and 15 minutes to travel from Puntarenas to Playa Naranjo. This is the fastest route and costs $2 per person. 

How do I get from Puntarenas to San Jose?

It typically takes around 3 hours to travel from Puntarenas to San Jose. It’s worth noting that taking the bus is slower than driving yourself or using a taxi. 

The level of traffic congestion between Puntarenas and San Jose can vary depending on the time of day. Weekdays tend to have more traffic, especially from morning until afternoon, compared to weekends.

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Born in California, Michelle traveled extensively through the USA and Europe before moving to South Florida during the pandemic. Her career in Marketing has taken her all across the world. Her favorite country is France but she'll never turn down a beach vacation!

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