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Driving from Arenal to Mal Pais

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Boston
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Driving from Arenal to Mal Pais

Has anyone made this trip and is there a best route? The Puntaneras ferry sounds like an inconvenience as it says to be there 2 hour before departure and you cant make reservations etc. I would like to drive the whole way but ONLY if it is safe. Dont want to fly as there are no direct flights from arenal to Tambor but will if the drive is unsafe.

Santa Teresa, Costa...
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1. Re: Driving from Arenal to Mal Pais

There is nothing 'unsafe' about avoiding the ferry and driving up to the bridge that crosses over the top end of the Gulf of Nicoya. Most everyone complains about the bad, wash-board road between Paquera and Naranjo. If you don't mind going a bit slower, enjoying the scenery and avoiding the ferry waits, then drive up to the Friendship Bridge and then up to Canas and around lake Arenal. If you are concerned about driving, then hire a driver and relax!

If you go to the link below, I found the route by putting in start: Malpais beach and your destination: La Fortuna, The route is in red. The program gives good directions and an ETA.

yourtravelmap.com/costarica/…

San Jose, Costa Rica
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2. Re: Driving from Arenal to Mal Pais

If you like to drive ...that is the way...

Arenal to San Ramon...take Pan Am Hwy...toward Puntarenas...once you see the Amistad bridge...take that oad...all the way to Nicoya..take road to Nandayure...all the way to Playa Naranjo...to Mal Pais...

Long ride...slow in some areas but nice...

Just to clarify...some times you have to be at the ferry with enough time...but is not all the time...maybe one hour ahead of departure...

roadadvisor

Boston
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3. Re: Driving from Arenal to Mal Pais

thank you this is very helpful!

Costa Rica
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4. Re: Driving from Arenal to Mal Pais

An alternative to the route proposed by roadadvisor is to drive around Lake Arenal, through Tilaran and on to Canas where you will get the PanAmerican highway. Turn left and in about 20 minutes, you will be at the turnoff for the Friendship Bridge and the town of Nicoya.

To me, going south to San Ramon and then back north to the turnoff to the bridge seems the long way. But- roadadvisor drives Costa Rica for a living so maybe he is right.

The only warning I would give is to not drive the route to Mal Pais during rainy season when it is much more difficult and could be impassable in some places. Maybe in the beginning it would be OK, but later in the season, probably not.

Also - where is the information that you have to be there 2 hours ahead of time? I took a look at the ferry information on www.nicoyapeninsula.com and didn't see it there.

Wefish88?

Edited: 04 April 2011, 17:30
Santa Teresa, Costa...
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5. Re: Driving from Arenal to Mal Pais

Hi!

I posted above suggesting the drive up the peninsula, across the bridge to Canas and around Lake Arenal. When I punched the info into the mapping program (see link), this is the route that came up. I have no idea why roadadvisor is suggesting a route that is longer and is the same route that you would generally take from San Jose to Arenal.

I find the ferry route fine if you are going to the central coast or to San Jose, but to go north, to Arenal or Monteverde, I would take the bridge route. Yes, the ferry is a nice trip, but it doesn't make sense if you have already done the route to get to the peninsula and if you want to see some new territory or if you are trying to save time.

There is another route to take that is seasonal where you ford a couple of rivers and end up at San Francisco de Coyote and then head across the peninsula to Jicaral. The road is good and you avoid the rough road between Paquera and Naranjo, but you should get local advice to be sure you can cross the rivers....and pay close attention to the directions, leaving enough time in your day in case you get lost!

To drive around Mal Pais and area in the dry or green season requires a 4x4 (for clearance more than the traction). September and October is very wet and can be problematic. If you are not familiar with driving in slushy snow, then driving in this area can be a challenge because the muddy roads act exactly like driving in slush.

If you are trying to catch a ferry, you should be in line at least 1 hr. in advance. The smaller ferry (Tambor I) fills up very quickly. The larger ferry (Tambor II) has no problem accommodating all the vehicles in the line-up and you can pretty much guarantee getting on it no matter how early or late you get into line. You just have to check schedules to be sure which ferry is running at what time and hope they haven't switched! Of course, the holiday weeks and weekends are very busy and it just ads to the unknown!

San Diego...
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6. Re: Driving from Arenal to Mal Pais

My husband and I just got back from Costa Rica and took the opposite route (Mal Pais -> Arenal) via driving + ferry crossing. The entire trip took about 7 hours and we simply followed the route instructed by our GPS (which we found to be pretty reliable for all of our Costa Rica travels). We arrived at the Ferry in Mal Pais about 30 minutes prior to departure (though in this case the ferry left about 20 minutes late). We happen to take the small ferry (holds about 30 cars on the trip from Paquera to Puntarenas) and it took about an hour and a half to cross. On the way there (from Puntarenas to Paquera) we arrived about 90 seconds before the ferry left (this time the big one that hold 170 cars) and got on with no problem (not that I recommend this strategy). Suffices to say, for us, 20 mins early would have been fine, but be sure to call ahead (2661-2084) to find out the latest schedule (it changes frequently).

So basically, the route broke down to this:

Mal Pais -> Paquera: 1 hr 40 mins

Ferry waiting time: 20-30 mins

Ferry Crossing 1 hr 30 mins

Puntarenas -> La Fortuna about 3.5 hrs

Hope that helps!

Maine
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7. Re: Driving from Arenal to Mal Pais

Taking the ferry worked out great for us. We were there during Holy Week and go to the ferry at Puntarenas about 5 minutes before it left and we got on with no problem. In Paquera we arrived about 30 minutes before departure and also got on no problem. We timed it so that we were there for the big ferrry, which was very comfortable. The whole ferry experience was easy and clear, with no problems or worries of any kind. Way easier and nicer than had been suggested elsewhere. Staff at the dock was very helpful. Roads to and from the ferry at both ends were fine. Puntarenas itself is unattractive, but the ferry ride is nice. Very reasonably priced, too. We recommend the ferry--it was easy, relatively on time, and cheap!

San Jose, Costa Rica
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8. Re: Driving from Arenal to Mal Pais

I have no idea why roadadvisor is suggesting a route that is longer and is the same route that you would generally take from San Jose to Arenal.

I make myself clear...IF YOU LIKE to drive...of course it is maybe better to drive Arenal to Puntarenas...ferry to Paquera...Cobano...Mal Pais...

A few good options...

Sorry maybe my English is not good enough...but I try to answer the question in the best way possible...based on the question by LIA 123 Boston...!

The Puntaneras ferry sounds like an inconvenience as it says to be there 2 hour before departure and you cant make reservations etc. I would like to drive the whole way but ONLY if it is safe.

And my answer again...it is safe and a nice drive...long but nice...common sense please...

roadadvisor

9. Re: Driving from Arenal to Mal Pais

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