Both Nicaragua and Costa Rica are countries rich in natural beauty, where Nicaragua rules in volcanoes, all 19 of them, Costa Rica makes up for it in waterfalls and lush rainforest. That’s before coastal towns on both the Pacific and Caribbean side come into the equation. Both countries are easily discovered and small enough to conquer by land traveling in either direction. Here’s how it’s done.

How to get from Nicaragua to Costa Rica?

Whether you’ve flown into the capital Managua or come overland from Guatemala there are a few hot spots not to miss on your Nicaragua trip. Most travelers limit their time in the capital and head south to the more colourful and chilled towns of Granada, Ometepe and San Juan del Sur. After you’ve exhausted the volcano activities, relaxed by the lakes and checked out the waves, it’s time to check out Costa Rica.

backpacker walking towards a bus stop in Nicaragua

A traveler walks to the bus station in Nicaragua.

Bus from San Juan del Sur to Costa Rica

San Juan del Sur, or SJDS, is the last town on the traveller’s itinerary in Nicaragua with the border only an hour from this surf town. The border can be reached by public bus, organised shuttle or taxi. For those on a tight budget the difference between the door-to-door shuttles and public transport is substantial considering it’s an easy border crossing and onward journey. If you take the public transport option it’s suggested to start your journey early so you can get to your final destination in Costa Rica within the same day.

From San Juan del Sur get the bus from the market in town that’s destined for Rivas and ask to be dropped off at La Virgen. Once off the first bus, cross the road and sit in the small bus stop (that’s in the opposite direction that the first bus was traveling) and wait for the bus traveling southbound to the border, Penas Blancas. Once you arrive at the border you will need to exit Nicaragua and pay an exit tax (USD$3 in 2019), walk through no man’s land to Costa Rica, complete the Costa Rica immigration familiarities and voila – you’re in Costa Rica! Depending on your final destination in Costa Rica your onward travel will be different. Below details the most common and easiest destinations to reach from the border within the same travel day.

Sunset at Tamarindo

The sun sets over the pacific ocean in Tamarindo.

Bus from Costa Rica border to Tamarindo

Once officially in Costa Rica onward travel to Tamarindo requires two buses. Firstly at the border purchase a bus ticket to Liberia. This bus goes every 30-45 minutes starting early in the morning and finishing around 5:30pm. Once in Liberia at the Terminales de Buses Municipal find the ticket window for the bus to Tamarindo. These buses go every hour and take between 2.5 – 3 hours.

The Cloud Forest in Monteverde

Monteverde’s lush cloud forest.

Bus from Costa Rica border to Monteverde

Similar to onward travel to Tamarindo, the first step is to get to Liberia in order to find the next bus needed to get to Monteverde. Bus tickets to Liberia are easy to find at the border and the bus departs every 30 – 45 minutes. This trip should take approximately 2 hours. Once in Liberia, purchase a ticket for a bus heading towards Punta Arenas, and tell them you would like to be dropped off at the Irma junction. In order to complete this journey in one day, you need to take the 1pm bus from Liberia. Once in Irma cross the road and stand at the Monteverde/ Santa Elena bus stop. There are only two buses per day that go to Monteverde, 10am and 3pm, make sure you make the 3pm one.

 A couple watching the sunset, taking from a drone

A couple enjoying the sun set by the shore.

Bus from Costa Rica border to Jaco (Southern Pacific Coast)

Follow the first two steps above, take a bus to Liberia and a bus to Punta Arenas. Instead of getting off the bus stay on until you arrive in Punta Arenas. From there catch a bus to Jaco which can either be a direct bus to Jaco or a bus to Quepos which goes past Jaco. If taking the latter, the city centre is 3 kilometers from where the bus will drop you on the highway. It’s suggested to take a taxi to your accommodation.

Bus from Costa Rica border to La Fortuna

From the Costa Rican border catch the direct bus from Penas Blancas to Canas. At Canas head to the bus terminal, which is a 15 minute walk and grab the 2pm bus to Tilaran. From here you can catch the last bus to La Fortuna which leaves at 3:30pm.

Bus from Costa Rica border to San Jose

Direct buses leave frequently, every 1-2 hours, heading towards Costa Rica’s capital, San Jose. Once through immigration head outside and find the ticket window of Transportes Deldu, who service this bus journey.

A girl floating in the pool at Selina Nosara

A woman relaxes at the pool in Selina Nosara.

Where to stay in the Costa Rica:

Whether it’s having your head up in the clouds near Monteverde’s cloud forest, relaxing by the resort pool in Nosara or sleeping in a tepee amongst the lush jungle in Puerto Viejo, Selina properties in Costa Rica allow you to enjoy all sides of traveling. Make lasting friends, connect with the conscious community and experience the Selina way of traveling.

Connecting you to more Selinas…

How to travel around Costa Rica

Costa Rica has so many desirable destinations – an abundance of beach towns, chilled
mountain towns and a buzzing capital. Knowing how to get from beach to beach, or the mountains to the beach is necessary to have a smooth journey through this diverse country. Have a look at our guide.

Is Panama your next stop?

If you’re heading to Panama next, there are two main borders from Costa Rica into Panama, one on the Caribbean side and one on the Pacific Coast side. Check out our guide that helps with useful information to get you through the borders.

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