Coming to Costa Rica from France or Europe:

Useful information

Air France has been running direct flights Paris – San José since 2016 and currently runs 3 flights a week from Charles de Gaulle during the tourist season.

The last few years have seen numerous new direct flights, making it very easy to travel from Europe to Costa Rica:

  • From Switzerland with Edelweiss: Zurich – San José
  • From the UK with British Airways: London – San José
  • From the Netherlands with KLM: Amsterdam – San José
  • From Germany with Condor: Frankfurt/Munich – San José
  • From Spain with Iberia: Madrid – San José

The number of airline routes that have been launched in just a few years shows just how popular Costa Rica has become among European travelers.

Coming to Mal Pais from San José

Mal Pais is relatively easy to reach from San José, there are several possible options:

  1. By plane: domestic flight San José – Tambor

Two national airlines run flights San José – Tambor. Count 45 minutes for the flight then a 20-minute drive to Cobano (the region’s main town) and finally a 25-minute drive to Mal Pais.

This is by far the fastest way to get to Mal Pais from San José, maybe also the one with the least charm for those who have a taste for adventure.

venir a malpais avion

The two airlines are:

2. The ferry from Puntarenas

From San José, drive to Puntarenas (or bus or taxi), this will take around 2 hours (highway), then take the ferry to Paquera on the other side of the Gulf of Nicoya. If you are traveling with a vehicle, plan to arrive early, 2 hours before is ideal. The crossing lasts for less than two hours and is a wonderful way to enjoy the sights of the Gulf of Nicoya. It isn’t rare to spot dolphins and other ocean animals during the crossing. The ferry has an air-conditioned lounge and bar, relaxation guaranteed!

When you arrive in Paquera, a small port surrounded by the jungle, you will only be a 1hr20 drive away from Mal Pais, passing by Tambor and Cobano.

venir à malpais ferry

3. Taxi boat: Jaco – Montezuma

Two taxi boat companies operate at least one return journey between Jaco (beach resort 1hr30 away from San José) and Montezuma on the other side of the Gulf of Nicoya (only a 35-minute drive away from Mal Pais).

The drive between San José and Jaco is easy as it is a highway, however be mindful of traffic jams when leaving San José as this can considerably increase the journey’s duration.

The crossing lasts for approximately one hour, in faster shuttle boats that can take around twenty people. The journey is a great way to enjoy the beauty of the Gulf of Nicoya and its marine wildlife, it is frequent to be able to spot dolphins, flying fish and other animals.

Taxi boat companies:

  • Cocozuma
  • Zumatours

Routes in the Mal Pais region

A tarmac road that is in good condition connects Paquera (where the ferry arrives) to Cobano (the region’s main town), passing by Tambor (airport).

To get to Mal Pais, you have to take a road that is approximately 11km, in rather good condition during the dry season, although it is always recommended to watch out for potholes along the way. The route leads to “El Cruce”, the crossroads that marks the border between Santa Teresa and Mal Pais, with many shops, restaurants, banks, car rentals, not forgetting “Playa Carmen”, the popular surf spot. Voilà! You have arrived!

Getting round Mal Pais

It is recommended to rent a 4-wheel drive, however this isn’t an absolute necessity during the dry season (a SUV at the minimum). On the other hand, during the rainy season, a 4WD is definitely required should you wish to visit the Mal Pais region. Locals and most travelers once they have arrived forget all about their cars and get round on a quad or bike, which are much more practical ways to travel on the roads.

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