By Plane: Sansa ((tel) 877/767-2672 in the U.S. and Canada, or 2290-4100 in Costa Rica; www.flysansa.com) and Nature Air ((tel) 800/235-9272 in the U.S. and Canada, or 2299-6000 in Costa Rica; www.natureair.com) both have several flights daily to a small airstrip in Tambor airport (airport code: TMU; no phone). The flight is about 30 minutes, and fares range from $84 to $124, one-way.
By Car: The traditional route here is to drive to Puntarenas and catch the ferry to either Naranjo or Paquera. Tambor is about 30 minutes south of Paquera and about an hour and 20 minutes south of Naranjo. The road from Paquera to Tambor is paved and taking the Paquera ferry will save you time and some rough, dusty driving. The road from Paquera to Tambor is paved, and taking the Paquera ferry will save you time and some rough, dusty driving. The road from Naranjo to Paquera is all dirt and gravel and often in very bad shape.
Naviera Tambor ((tel) 2661-2084; www.navieratambor.com) car ferries to Paquera leave Puntarenas at 5, 9 and 11am and 2, 5, and 8:30pm. The trip takes 1 1/2 hours. The fare is C11,400 per car, including the driver; C810 for each additional adult, and C485 for children. Arrive early during the peak season and on weekends because lines can be long; if you miss the ferry, you’ll have to wait 2 hours or more for the next one. The ferry schedule changes frequently, with fewer ferries during the low season, and the occasional extra ferry added during the high season to meet demand. It’s always best to check in advance.
The car ferry from Paquera to Puntarenas leaves at 5:30, 9 and 11am and 2, 5, and 8pm. Note: If you have to wait for the ferry, avoid leaving your car unattended, as break-ins are common.
The Naranjo ferry ((tel) 2661-1069; www.coonatramar.com) leaves daily at 6:30 and 10am and 2:30 and 7:30pm. The trip takes 1 1/2 hours. Return ferries leave Naranjo for Puntarenas daily at 8am and 12:30, 5:30, and 9pm. The fare is C9,000 per car, including the driver; C1,050 for each additional adult; and C600 for children.
Another option is to drive via La Amistad Bridge over the Tempisque River. I recommend this route only when the ferries are on the fritz, or when the wait for the next car ferry is over 3 hours. (When the lines are long, you may not find room on the next departing ferry.) Although heading farther north and crossing the bridge is more circuitous, you’ll be driving the whole time, which beats waiting around in the midday heat. To go this route, take the Inter-American Highway west from San José. Forty-seven kilometers (29 miles) past the turnoff for Puntarenas, turn left for La Amistad Bridge. After you cross the Tempisque River, head to Quebrada Honda and then south to Route 21, following signs for San Pablo, Jicaral, Lepanto, Playa Naranjo, and Paquera.To drive to Tambor from Liberia, head out of town on the main road to the Guanacaste beaches, passing through Filadelfia, Santa Cruz, and Nicoya on your way toward the turnoff for La Amistad Bridge. Continue straight at this turnoff, and follow the directions for this route as listed above.
By Bus & Ferry: Transportes Cobano ((tel) 2642-1112) runs two daily direct buses between San José and Cóbano, dropping passengers off in Tambor en route. The buses leave from the Coca-Cola bus terminal at Calle 12 and Avenida 5 at 6am and 2pm. The fare is C7,000, including the ferry ride, and the trip takes a little over 4 hours.
Alternatively, it takes two buses and a ferry to get to Tambor. Empresarios Unidos de Puntarenas express buses ((tel) 222-8321) leave San José daily every hour between 6am and 7pm from Calle 16 and Avenida 12. Trip duration is 2 hours; the fare is C2,750. From Puntarenas, take the car ferry to Paquera mentioned above. A bus south to Montezuma (this will drop you off in Tambor) will be waiting to meet the ferry when it arrives in Paquera. The bus ride takes about 40 minutes; the fare is C1,200. Be careful not to take the Naranjo ferry because it does not meet with regular onward bus transportation to Tambor.
When you’re ready to head back, buses originating in Montezuma, Cóbano, or Malpaís pass through Tambor roughly every 2 hours between 6am and 4:30pm. Theoretically, these should connect with a waiting ferry in Paquera. Total trip duration is 3 1/2 hours. Buses to San José leave Puntarenas daily every hour between 5am and 8pm.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.