Mal Pais isn’t the end of the world, but you can see it from here!
Despite the short “as the crow flies” distance between San Jose and our little beach town, most means of getting here will take around 6 hours. It’s all a matter of time and money.
These options will help you to work with the time and money you’ve got:
Transportes Cobano operates the direct bus service, which leaves from San Jose every day at 6 am and 2 pm. It costs roughly $14 and takes about 6.5 hours. On the plus side, there is 1+ hr long ferry ride across the Gulf of Nicoya in the middle to break up the journey.
You can avoid going from the airport in Alajuela in to San Jose by asking a taxi driver at the airport to take you to Puente Villa Bonita, about a $5 cab ride, and the bus passes this stop about 30 minutes after leaving San Jose.
There are a few shuttle services that run SJO-ST, as well as most other tourist destinations in Costa Rica, usually in the mornings. Some also offer hotel/shuttle packages if your flight arrives in the afternoon or evening.
Sansa and NatureAir both offer direct flights from SJO to Tambor, just an hour drive from Mal Pais. Flights are about 25 minutes and run multiple times per day, though schedules are pared down during the low season (Aug-Dec). And though the scheduled flights may be fewer, your chances are greater of sitting up front with the pilot, because why not? Pura Vida!
Arrange a rental car, taxi or shuttle from Tambor to Mal Pais.
On demand, but probably the least economical option. A taxi from the airport (SJO or Liberia) is going to cost you well over $100, but you’ll generally spend less time traveling. Make sure to agree on a price before accepting the ride.
Probably the best bang for the buck if you’re interested in seeing the country at your own pace. Watch out for hefty fees (and generally sub-quality cars) when dropping off at a different location than your pick-up.
If you’re coming from San Jose, Route 27 is a toll road and the fastest way to get to Puntarenas, where you pick up the FERRY to Paquera. You will need to coordinate you drive with the ferry schedule, found HERE! A regular rental car will cost about $25, plus the tickets for the driver and each passenger, roughly $1.50 each.
A few companies in Montezuma, just on the inside of the peninsula, offer shuttle/taxi boat services. You might see dolphins, giant manta rays, or sea turtles on the taxi boat, which runs across the Gulf of Nicoya between Montezuma to Heradura, near Jaco. Travel beyond that can be arranged.