How to Get from Nicaragua to Monteverde, Costa Rica by Public Bus

We wrote another post on this, but it was filled with lessons learned and commentary from our personal journey. Since alot of people have been visiting that page for what I’m presuming are the actual directions, I figured that it was time to write something straightforward and quickly helpful. Something you can save to your phone if need be!

Here we go. 

First, Get Yourself To The Border

This is so easy you have no idea — unless of course you’ve done it before. From where ever you are, take a chicken bus to Rivas. Once you’re at the bus station in Rivas, guys will probably be shouting at you/shepparding you/asking you “where you go?” And they might even be psychic and ask if you’re going to the border. Reply yes.

Or tell them, “the border”. Specifically, the name of the place is Peñas Blancas.

You can also take a taxi directly to the border from Rivas. We’d just finished a boat ride from hell, so when a taxi driver offered to take us, we agreed. It’s obviously more expensive this way, but for us, it was worth it.

Go Through the Border

This is a straightfoward(ish) process as long as you follow the herd and go where people point you to. Like all things in Nicaragua, we found that people are amazing and will help make sure you get to where you need to be.

That said: when you arrive at the border, there will be guys trying to help you fill out your customs form. The guys are NOT official, they will expect a tip (propina), and you don’t need that form yet. You’ll be given one to fill out later, at no charge.

For help getting through the border, Along Dusty Roads has a great deal of information. However, they do suggest that it’s nearly impossile to get to Monteverde/Santa Elena from the border without a night stop over somewhere. This isn’t true. Keep reading to find out how we did it.

Welcome to Costa Rica! Now it’s time to go to Monteverde / Santa Elena from the border

Like you, we couldn’t really find ANY information on how to do this. We figured there had to be a way without going to San Jose first or spending the night somewhere. Just look at a map and you’ll what we meant! And by George, you can do it. Here’s how.

Step 1: Start your border crossing bright and early. 

Aim to be at the border for when it opens or you will be in a huge line, and you risk missing the last bus to Monteverde in the same day. Yes it sucks waking up at an ungodly hour, but it’s worth it!

Step 2: Buy a ticket from the public bus counter at the Costa Rican border to Cruce Sardinal. 

You’re going to have to trust me when I say that the bus ticket counter will be obvious once you pass through the Costa Rican border. If you use the toilet before you cross, look through the fence to your right and you’ll see the ticket counter.

Don’t use the Tica bus, use the public bus! It might be helpful to let the ticket agent know you want to go to Monteverde. The ticket cost us about $6 USD (you’ll pay in colonies) – the price is posted and listed on the ticket.

Step 3: Get off the bus at La Irma

This isn’t half as straightforward as it sounds because Cruce Sardinal isn’t a bus station. It’s in the middle of the road by a gas station. After being on the bus for about 1 hour 45 minutes, we suggest that you ask the driver where you need to get off to go to Monteverde. They likely won’t volunteer this information so keep asking.

 

where you get off the first bus

#TravelTip: pre-load Google maps on your phone before you do this journey, that way you can follow along using your GPS. The second bus will take you through Juntas, so you’ll need to change buses BEFORE Juntas. 
Step 4: Walk across the street to the bus stop, and get the next bus.

 

the actual bus times!
 
This is the second and final bus. It cost about $3USD. Get on this one, and you’ll go straight to Monteverde/Santa Elena. Remember when I said to start your border crossing early? Well, that’s because the last bus of the day comes sometime between 2:30-3:30pm.

So, there you go, public bus from the border to Monteverde is possible, is relatively inexpensive ($9USD per person), and took around 5 hours with waiting time. Plus, it ends up with a stunning bus ride from La Irma to Santa Elena/Monteverde.

  — Cyn

Rescued Monkey Update

When we were in Costa Rica, we went to the Jaguar Rescue Center. Maybe you remember…

I told you about the monkey who was 20 years old and for her whole entire life, she was caged and unloved? And how she finally made friends with a baby monkey who was rescued by the Jaguar Rescue Center as well? 

Well, I have an update on those little darlings! They’re doing well, and the older monkey has become the baby’s adoptive mom.

Cue happy tears!

Happy endings really are possible. 

image from Jaguar Rescue Center’s Facebook page
To get stories like these first hand, follow the Jaguar Rescue Center on Facebook.
— Cyn

How and How Much to Get from Puerto Viejo to Bocas Del Toro?

So it’s time to leave Costa Rica for Bocas Del Toro, Panama.

The $30 USD shuttle From Puerto Viejo might seem tempting but the Sixaolo border crossing it’s so easy and much cheaper to do it yourself. Trust me, we just did it on May 5th, 2015. DIY the border crossing and you could save upwards of $16.75!!

Here’s how (and how much) to get to Bocas Del Toro from Puerto Viejo:

1) Take one of the earlier buses from Puerto Viejo to Sixaola. Starting at 6:30am, they come every hour.

Note that the bus may say Limón on it. Just ask the driver to make sure you’re getting on the right one. The bus takes about 1.5 hours, and the border closes at 5:00pm Costa Rica time.

Cost for bus from Puerto Viejo to Sixaola: $3.25 USD (you pay in colonies obviously)

2) The driver will kick you off the bus at the end of the line. If you get off on the road, walk straight ahead and up a tiny hill toward the Sixaola River (Rio Sixaola). It take 1-2 minutes. Cross the crazy old bridge. This is where you exit Costa Rica. Make sure you do this!

3) Go through Costa Rica Customs. It’s on your right in a tiny building. You have to fill out a short exit paper and pay an exit fee. The $7.00USD exit fee is payable via credit card (you do it with a machine) and you may or may not get a receipt. It doesn’t matter, the customs officers watch you pay. If you don’t have a credit card, you can pay cash but it’s a little more ($8 I think). 

There’s a free toilet here if you need it. It’s kind of gross and had no toilet paper on offer at the time of our border crossing.

Likely, Panamanian shuttle drivers will start soliciting you here. I recommend not to commit to one just yet because you can shop around for prices once you officially enter Panama. More on crossing the border.

4) Start walking straight again. You’ll be ushered into a suspect looking building and asked to pay for a stamp in your passport. It’s $4.00USD and it isn’t your Panama visa.

5) Carry on walking until you can turn left. Turn left and walk past a parking lot on your left. On your right is where you officially enter Panama.

It’s possible to cross without official paperwork being completely. It’s ILLEGAL and you’ll be in shit a few kilometres down the road when you hit a checkpoint. 

Do you really need proof of onward travel? We got asked for proof of onward travel. We showed the border guy a print out of our flight confirmation email to Colombia. He looked at the paper and said fine. He didn’t verify in any way that what we showed him was legitimate. We didn’t have a boarding pass (obviously).

Someone we met didn’t have onward travel. The border guy wouldn’t let him through…after about 20 minutes and a $20USD bill later, his passport was stamped.

We DO NOT recommend offering bribes or gifts or using fake tickets to enter any country. 

6) All of your paperwork is done now. It’s time to haggle with taxis/van drivers. It costs about $20 to go to Almirante by taxi, which is where you get the boat to Isla Colon (the main island home to Bocas Town). You can split the price with other people. I travelled with 4 other people and we each paid $4.00USD.

The van drivers will lie and tell you that if you take their van, you’ll save money on the boat. It’s total bullshit. The boat costs $6.00USD per person – it’s standard fair. That being said, you can negotiate with the van drivers for a decent price to the boat dock in Almirante (we got them down to $25 for 5 people).

It’s possible to take public buses. We didn’t so I can’t help with that.

Total cost from border to Almirate: $4.00USD.

7) You’ll be dropped off at the water taxi area. It costs $6.00USD and the boats run frequently. Sit back and enjoy the ride. It’s interesting (notice the toilets at the end of the docks!) and beautiful!

Total cost to get from Puerto Viejo to Bocas Town on Isla Colon: $13.25 USD

Remember, if you cross with the shuttle, you still have to pay all the border crossing fees. It’s cheaper to go by yourself!

It took us about 4 hours to get to Isla Bastimentos, which is about 35 mins by boat from Bocas Town.

**(Directions from http://www.puertoviejosatellite.com/)

Happy travels! 

–Cyn 

Crossing The Great Panama – Costa Rica Divide

We woke up at the butt crack of dawn on May 5th to begin our journey from Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica to Bocas Del Toro, Panama.

Some people would have taken the $30 shuttle. That would’ve been super easy and we could have slept (in) a bit. But not us, my friend. 

We are not some people! We’re more exciting! Adventurous! We’re better than people who take shuttle buses!

Besides $30 per person was too expensive. (We took the cheaper option.)

Plus we’d been laying on beaches/in swimming holes for the better part of 3 weeks. Our brains basically shut down and turned into brain-jellyfish. We needed some kind of adventure to wake us up. 

So here we were at 6:00am waiting for the first bus to Sixaola.

You know, so we could beat the huge line of people waiting to border cross.

Hahaha! 

There were no people. Only us, a couple of annoying but nice people from Spain, and a chica from New Jersey.

Guess who was first in the 5 person line. That’s right! We were.

We’d heard that in order to cross the border, you have to walk across an old railway bridge. Well, that was totally 100% accurate.

  
Get a load of that thing!! It really brightened my really early morning.

You had to watch your step because some of the boards were loose. They just kind of swung around when you stepped on them, threatening to drop unaware crossers into Rio Sixaola.

 

Rio Sixaola
Rio Sixaola

There really wasn’t a huge point to this blog post, I just wanted to show you the bridge because I really liked like it/found it really amusing.

 

no makeup Sixaola bridge selfie
no makeup Sixaola bridge selfie
 
— Cyn 

Look a Sloth in the Eye at Jaguar Rescue Center, Costa Rica

What would you give to be able to look a sloth in the eye? How about if it was a baby?

You can do just that at the Jaguar Rescue Center in Puerto Viejo, Limón, Costa Rica. The Centre is a non-profit and an absolute delight for animal lovers!

Except it’s also kind of sad. 

I say it’s kinda sad because every single animal that’s there is there because something horrible has happened to it.

  

An iguana that fell and broke its spine. He can barely move his tail now and without use of his tail, he has no way to defend himself. 

A young crocodile that was supposed to be dinner but the method of execution was ineffective. It arrived at the Jaguar Rescue Center full of holes from a broom handle and missing an eye.

The beautiful wildcats that had been destined to be someone’s pets after poachers killed their mothers for fur, and tried to sell the baby. A double payday for poachers, a double heart break for the cats. 

 

The sloths — and yes, you can look them in the eye — arrived as babies after their mothers were electrocuted (on telephone wires). The baby monkeys were there for similar reasons. One baby sloth had melted to its dead mother and had to be surgically separated. 

  

But perhaps the saddest, you can decided, is the monkey who had been a pet for 20 years. Except she wasnt treated even half as well as we’d treat a dog. 

For 20 years she lived in a cage. For 20 years nobody hugged her, played with her, touched her. Her cage was opened once a day when her owners gave her a banana. Nobody loved her for 20 years. The average lifespan for her type of monkey is 25 years. 

For the next 5 years though, she’ll be loved. The staff and volunteers at the Jaguar Rescue Center will take good care of her. I know they will. They’d reintroduce her into the wild if they could — but she wouldn’t survive. She never even had the chance to feel a tree branch under her fingertips. 

She can’t really do monkey things but she’s befriended a tiny baby monkey. A huge step for a once lonely, neglected sweetheart. 

If you want to help, why not adopt a beautiful baby monkey or sloth? Adopt here!

  

Not all animals, no matter how cute or beautiful or playful or exotic, are meant to be pets. They are not ours! They’re not here for our entertainment or to make us feel good about ourselves.

The amount of respect that the Jaguar Rescue  Center’s staff and volunteers have for the animals is simply awe-inspiring. There is so much love for all of the animals, from the snakes to the birds, the tree frogs to the croc, the iguana to the owls, the ant-eater to the wild cats, and of course, the sloths and the monkeys.

It’s so obvious that the rescues are in good hands. I hope if you’re ever in Costa Rica, you get a chance to visit the Caribbean coast and take a trip to the Jaguar Rescue Center. The $18USD fee is well worth it, especially since it goes to the animals. Even Stephen Fry found time to film at the Jaguar Rescue Center the day after we were there!

Every animal there has a story that can break your heart. But thanks to the Rescue Center, and it’s volunteers and supporters, their stories can have much happier endings.

While I looked the beautiful sloth in the eye, I felt so happy. What a privilege to be so close to these animals! I never thought I’d see one in real life. Yet at the same time, my heart ached for the animals that have been harmed at the hands of humans. A mixed bag of emotions for sure.

   

Want to help? 

You can volunteer (beware, baby monkeys might crawl all over you!) or donate now to ensure the next injured animal can be rescued too. Or, you can adopt your favourite!

Also follow the Jaguar Rescue Center on Facebook for daily updates on their rescues. 

  — Cyn

Where we stayed near the Jaguar Rescue Centre, Playa Chiquita and Punta Uva: 

Casa Moabi – super nice hosts, clean, comfortable, hot shower, fantastic shared kitchen and plenty of howler monkeys to spot! Well, you’re surrounded by jungle here so you can’t help but spot the monkeys 🙂

Airbnb Cabin with the Hernandez family – rustic, basic yet comfortable, relaxing, well located and with a lovely family.