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From Playa Samara to Mal Pais using public transport

A "how to" guide

View World Trip 2012 - Actual on dariusz's travel map.

You would think that in a country as developed as Costa Rica getting from tourist destination A to tourist destination B would be a breeze. In a way you would be right, if you’re willing to spend $45 per person, you can grab a direct shuttle and be there in no time. However, if you’re a budget backpacker things get a little more dicey.

We woke up at 6am in Playa Samara so that we could eat our included breakfast prior to making our way to Mal Pais down the Nicoya Peninsula. The distance between the two places is less than 100km but there is no way other than by car or the shuttle discussed above to get there directly. We wanted to catch the 8am bus to Nicoya, a transportation hub on the peninsula, because the next one was at 10am and we had no idea when the next onwards bus would be.

When we got to Nicoya around 9am it became quickly obvious that grabbing the earlier bus made no difference since the next onwards bus to Cobano (a town 10km from Mal Pais) was at 1pm. It was going to be a 5 hour wait. We took our time and found a lunch spot that offered free wifi , so we were at least able to confirm our accommodation in Mal Pais.

As 12:30 arrived we realized there were far fewer people at the bus terminal and lots of them were queuing for some bus. Wanting to find out if it’s the Cobano one we needed to take I went to one of stalls I asked for directions before. The lady pointed at the line but said “Playa Naranjo” instead of Cobano. Surprised, I used my broken Spanish (she spoke no English) to inquire further and it turned out that there was no bus to Cobano, but instead we should take the bus to Playa Naranjo and then take a Ferry from there at 5pm to Mal Pais. I was pretty sure there wouldn’t be a Ferry all around the peninsula like that but at this point it was our only hope so we boarded the bus.

When we arrived at Playa Naranjo my fears were confirmed. There was no onward bus to Cobano and the Ferry didn’t go to Cobano but rather to Paquera where once again there was a promise of a bus to Cobano. It was 3:30pm and we had just spend 7 hours travelling so waiting until 5pm for a Ferry that would take us to Paquera and then HOPING that a bus might be there to take us further did not sound so appealing. We started talking to a taxi cab driver and he told us there was definitely a bus from Paquera to Cobano at 4:40pm and he could take us to Paquera but for $40. Since we met a really nice couple from the UK on our way trying to make it to the same area as us, we talked the cab driver down to $30 and split the cab 4 ways.

When we arrived in Paqeura the fun continued. The taxi cab drivers informed us that, sure there was a bus from here to Cobano, but no bus from Cobano to our final destination. They of course offered us their services for a hefty price. We decided to take our chances and wait for the bus which arrived relatively on time.

Arriving in Cobano around 6pm the bus driver informed us that there in fact was no bus onwards to Mal Pais today and that we had to take a Taxi. Tired and wanting to just get to our lodge as soon as possible we bargained with the local cabbie and managed a ride for $15. When we arrived in our lodge the care taker informed us that she thought we’d get here much later because the last bus to Mal Paid gets here at 7:30pm.

It was quite the crazy journey and there were times we didn’t think we were going to make it all the way in one day. However, everyone we met on the way was super helpful, if not entirely well informed. I really felt very comfortable taking advice which was always offered and sometimes even unsolicited. I am not so sure that there was a bus to Mal Pais at 7:30pm, I think the bus driver knows better, but I can’t be sure. In the end we spent $45 on the journey in total, so exactly half of what the shuttle would have cost, but we definitely spent twice as much time getting there. Therefore if you are on a budget and like adventure then by all means take the local transpiration, it is a ton of stops but very possible and people will help you out along the way, but if you only have two or three weeks, just splurge on the shuttle.

Posted by dariusz 18:41 Archived in Costa Rica

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