Getting from Jaco to Montezuma (and Mal Pais)

The sleepy, surf-loving towns of Montezuma, Mal Pais, and Santa Teresa are somewhat to difficult to reach. The nearest airport is tiny Tambor, which involves about an hour of driving, with a big chunk of that route on unpaved and tricky gravel. Otherwise, Liberia airport is over 4 hours away, and also involves a patch of gravel driving.

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the desired destination: Montezuma

So what can you do? If you’re like most people, you’ll be arriving to San Jose International airport, and you have a couple options.

The two traditional transportation methods unfortunately suck: spending a whole day on crowded, hot, and confusing public buses, or a slightly faster option of taking the bus to Puntarenas and then the slow and frequently delayed public ferry, and then either another bus or a shuttle. Either way you’re in for some discomfort and frustration.

Luckily, there is a quick and convenient option available.

If you don’t mind paying just a bit more in order to save an entire day, speedboat service is the way to goZuma Tours offers shuttles from San Jose to Jaco (the route is a bit less than 2 hours), and from there a speedboat shuttle to Montezuma (1 hour). The total package price from San Jose to Montezuma is only $75. If you’re traveling further, onto Mal Pais or Santa Teresa, Zuma Tours can also shuttle you there (for only $10, including a direct hotel drop-off). They run daily shuttles back and forth between Mal Pais/Santa Teresa and Montezuma.

Jaco in itself is great for a one or two day stopover, especially if you just arrived from overseas and want to decompress. A simple drive under 2 hours, you’ll save almost $100 if you book a shuttle over taking an airport taxi. I had a blast in Jaco – I learned how to waterfall rappel, and stayed at the BEST hostel in the whole world – before Zuma Tours picked me up promptly in the morning for my transfer to Montezuma.

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The van was comfortable, the driver was on time and very efficient. We picked up other passengers, filling the van, and were driven to the beach. Once at the beach, every passenger had the option to put their luggage inside plastic bags, to protect them from any possible spray.

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We loaded onto the boat, received safety instructions, and suited up in our stylish orange lifejackets.

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The one hour ride was fun, refreshing, and absolutely beautiful (and much preferred to sweating away, squished like a sardine in a public bus).

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Once in Montezuma, each passenger retrieved his or her luggage and went off – either to a hotel there in Montezuma, or further afield to Mal Pais and Santa Teresa.

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Necessary Details

You can book the shuttle directly on the Zuma Tours website by clicking here. Don’t hesitate to contact Zuma Tours by clicking here with any questions – the staff are extremely helpful and speak English.

Make sure to wear sandals or other shoes that can get wet (tennis shoes would be a no-no) as you’ll be boarding and disembarking in the water.

Sit on the right side of the boat from Jaco to Montezuma, and on the left from Montezuma to Jaco to avoid sun in your face and getting too hot.

While Zuma Tours provided me with a complimentary one way boat ride from Jaco to Montezuma, I loved their service so much that I purchased the return ticket myself. As always, I was not obligated to write this post, and the opinions I share remain unbiased and honest



A short vacation in Thailand turned into a life abroad with a canceled ticket home. Nearly a decade later and after living in Bangkok, Rio de Janeiro, Puebla, and Puerto Vallarta, Steph is on to her next adventure and living back in beautiful, cosmopolitan Mexico City. She is living, traveling, and working (both as an expat therapist and an international health insurance representative) around the world to find the beautiful, inspirational, and interesting while sharing it with you!

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