San Juan del Sur to Monteverde

Getting from San Juan del Sur to the border is super easy. You have two choices. 1) You can grab the bus from San Juan del Sur to Rivas in the morning and go all the way to Rivas. From there look for the bus heading to Peñas Blancas or the Frontera and get on. Alternately, you can just take that bus from San Juan del Sur to the highway junction near La Virgin (see photos here) and get off there. That same bus from Rivas to the border will pass on the highway and you can flag it down to be picked up.  The only downside to waiting on the highway is that you never know how full the bus will be and you may have to stand. This really isn’t a big deal since the trip to the border is only about 25 minutes! However, there is also a small chance the bus wont stop to pick you up.


(Note: Have a look at each individual page after reading this to find price updates as they may not be reflected here in the ‘route’ section.  2019 prices as provided by a traveller: Costa Rica border to Liberia is 1776, Liberia to la Irma is 2050, and La Irma to Santa Elena Is 1250)


We have two traveller experiences to share for you on this trip:

Travel advice #1 (Feb 2018)

The latest blogger to do this route is Vanessa from Modern Mix Travel. Read about her route and experience here: How to bus from San Juan del Sur to Monteverde in 5 easy steps 


Travel advice #2

A cool travel couple from Charlie Travels have written a great blog post on how to get from the Nicaragua border to Monteverde. Click the link below to have a read:



Travel advice #3 (August 2017)

This one comes from Travel Blogger Sara at fromheretoeverywhere. She kindly wrote out the who trip step-by-step for you below! What a great gal.


8.00 – 8.40 ~40mins

San Juan Del Sur – La Virgen (take the bus for Rivas, ask to be let off at La Virgen junction)

Should cost 10 cordobas but the guy charged us 30 cordobas and wouldn’t give us change!


8.40 – 9.05 ~25mins

La Virgen – Peñas Blancas (bus arrived 2 mins after we got off the Rivas bus, I think they run every 20mins)

20 cordobas but again think we were overcharged, locals looked like they were paying 10 cordobas


35mins border crossing
40min wait for bus


10.20 – 12.10 ~1hr 50mins

Peñas Blancas – Liberia (there is a ticket office at the border but when closed you can just pay the bus driver before boarding)

$3.50 / 1665 colones


13.00 – 14.40 ~1hr 40mins

Liberia – Irma (take the 1pm bus for Puntarenas, ask to be let off at Irma junction and then walk across the road to the Monteverde stop)

2000 colones


15.00 – 17.00 ~2hrs

Irma – Monteverde / Santa Elena (Sign on the bus stop reads “10am y 3pm” – there is no bus later than 3pm so you need to make sure you arrive early!)

1200 colones

Total time = 9 hours (departing San Juan del Sur at 8am, arriving Santa Elena at 5pm)

Total cost approx. $12 (vs. $65 shuttle booked with private company!)


NEWEST – Traveler advice #4 (Jan 2019) 

Thanks Jerome for this detailed summary.


“I just did the journey from Monteverde to San Juan Del Sur yday (Jan 4th 2019) and posting this to help anyone who’s looking at doing this trip or exploring how to do it.

1- I took the TransMonteverde bus at 6am, headed to Puntarenas with a stop in Lagarto. I paid around 1200 colones as i didnt specify i was getting off before Puntarenas and elsewhere in the comments, it’s mentioned the ticket to Lagarto cost 875 colones so make sure you ask for this. I bought my ticket the day before.

Put your luggage on last so you can get it quickly when you get off.

2- I got off the bus at Lagarto, right at the entrance of the InterAmericana Highway. Follow this on your google maps to see where the hwy is and time your stop but its pretty clear as the dirt road meets a paved T. There was a few others getting off there too. We got there @ 750am. When you get off, walk right across a bridge about 150m and there’ll be a bus stop.

3- At 8:15am, the blue bus to Liberia arrived. The ticket cost 2350 colones ($3.90USD)

4. I got to Liberia about 10am and there was a bus to Penas Blancas, leaving from the same bus stop straight away. Just ask someone you see.
I changed some colones to Nicaraguan cordobas from a guy there. Check the rate for 1000 colones. Official rate is around 54. I was quoted 50 which was close enough for me as I only changed 10,000 colones ($16 USD), enough to get me to SJDS before I could go to an ATM. This also saves needing to do this at the border.

5. The bus from Liberia went around an hour until there was a minor car accident near the bus which the driver blamed the bus driver so we had to get off and they waited til the police arrived. I shared a cab to the border with some other travellers for 2000 colones. Barring this, you should get to Penas Blancas in about an 1.5 – 2hrs and the bus costs around 1650 colones ($2.70). I still got to the border around 1145am.

6. Pay your Costa Rican exit fee first (5000 colones) – you can do this at a window outside (its signposted) and they give you a receipt or with your card within the immigration office itself. Go through immigration after paying. This was really smooth and quick (10 mins total). I didn’t need to complete any forms (Australian passport).

7. Go through a couple of passport checks. On the Nicaraguan side, they held my passport for about 20 mins and asked me to wait for some unknown reason. It wasn’t stressful. They eventually waved me through.

8. Go through Nicaraguan immigration, they asked how long i’d be there (2 wks) and if i had an outward ticket (I didn’t as i read it wasnt needed). More discussions and then they let me through. Again, I didnt need to complete any forms. You pay the $12 USD direct to them, make sure you have this currency to make it easier.

9. Leave immigration and you’re in Nicaragua! Walk down about 50m and there’s buses on the left. Take one that goes to Managua or Rivas, check it goes past La Virgen. Touts on the street will tell you the bus is only direct to Managua or there’s no buses or something (neither is true) and offer you a taxi for $20 USD, not a bad option but i was dedicated to the grind by now. I took the bus to Managua – it left 5 mins after I arrived. Get on, sit down and then pay after, a guy comes down the aisle to collect. It costs 30 cordobas ($1USD) to La Virgen and takes 30 mins.

10. Follow this on Google Maps and go to the front as you approach, tell them your stop is La Virgen (“proxima parada a la Virgen por favor”) and they’ll stop for you. Tell them you need to get your bag from under the bus (if needed – “tengo una bolsa debajo el bus”). Facing the way the bus arrived, turn left and go down the road towards SJDS, you’ll see a couple of signs saying welcome to SJDS.. there’s a bus stop about 100m down to wait in the shade. I got here about 1.10pm.

11. I had to wait a while til the bus, it eventually arrived at 2pm. It costs 20 cordobas ($0.60usd). It was one of the old US school buses and quite busy. I had to get them to put my big bag on the roof but it was secure. Arrived about 2.40pm in San Juan Del Sur at the ‘Market’ bus stop which is central and walking distance to everything.

TLDR: It takes around 8-9 hours and 5 buses. It’s time consuming but not difficult. Transport only costs are around $11 USD vs $65 for the shuttle which is still 3 or 4 hours. Familiarise yourself with the route on Google Maps so you can track your blue dot and get off where you need to.
Complete the route and chill like a true backpacker champion in SJDS. Like everything in life, take snacks and enjoy the journey!!” 


Don’t forget to read the extra traveller tips in the comments below!

25 travel tips for San Juan del Sur to Monteverde - share your tips below!

  1. Lukas

    Thank you all for the good descriptions, we just did the Tour from SJDS to Monteverde and here are our expériences.
    We took the chicken bus from San Juan to La Virgin at 8:40 and we arrived at 9:25. We paid 40 Córdobas but really insisted on the price. At La Virgin Junction there came a chicken bus just 1 minute later to Penas Blancas and we paid 50 Cordobas per person. We arrived at the border at approx 9:50.
    As already mentioned from some fellows earlier: many people talk to you when you leave the bus, just ignore them and walk to the migration (approx 10 minutes along the road and the cue of waiting trucks). At the Nicaraguan migration you pay 1$ at the door and 3$ at the desk. After leaving the country it is another 15 minutes walk to the migration of Costa Rica. The direction is not very clear as if there are not many people walking but most of them in buses and cars. But just walk along the road in direction of Costa Rica and you will finally see the migration office. There was a little cue but we were done in approx 30 minutes. Just make sure you have your departure ticket from Costa Rica to show to the migration officer (we heard from people who could enter the country because they had no departure ticket to show).

    After finishing migration (at 10:45) there are the ticket shops for the busses on the right hand sight. We went to the green one, company is called “Transportation Deldú” and the sign also says “ San Jose”. Undortunately we were told that the 11:30 bus is full and we can only get a ticket for standing for the whole right. we decided to do it because the next bus would have been at 2:30. The price was 12$. And here is the thing: you can actually buy your bus tickets BEFORE you go through the migration of Costa Rica, so you make sure you get your seats 😉 because the ticket counter is accessible before as well 🙂
    The ride actually was not as bad as expected, we just sat and lied on the floor and the ride was only 2,5 hours. We arrived at La Irma at 2 o’clock, had good lunch at the restaurant and the bus to Monteverde was supposed to come at 4 pm (the sign is finally changed or better said: painted over with 4 pm ;)). The bus finally came at 4:20, cost us 1750 colones and the drive up to Monteverdo was magical. Just amazing scenery and sunset. We arrived in Santa Elena at 6pm.

  2. Artan Muzhaqi

    The last bus to monte Verde from Irma is now st 4pm and the first one is at 10:00 am.

  3. Jake

    Just did this route today and it’s really easy but if you leave San Juan too early then involves lots of waiting around.

    Can follow the same steps as above to the border (we split a taxi with some others for $25 USD)

    Then from the border buy a bus ticket at the green ticket office on the right hand side by immigration (3160 colon per person I think). The earliest bus you want to take is the 11:15am towards San Jose and tell them you want to get off at La Irma. (Worth keeping an eye on your map as our driver nearly drove past La Irma).

    This will get you to La Irma for 2pm-2:30pm but the bus to Monteverde/Santa Elena leaves at 4pm (Not 3pm anymore) so you could potentially get the next bus from the border (unsure what time this leaves so can only be sure you’ll make it in time by getting the 11:15am bus).

    There’s a small restaurant and a shop at the intersection of La Irma by the bus stop and a fairly clean, free toilet too. Bus at 4pm costs 1250 (roughly) and got us to Santa Elena around 5:30pm

    Hope this helps… Happy Travels!

    • Anna

      The next bus from the border to San José stopping at La Irma is at 13:30. I think it’s risky but you may get on time to La Irma.

      If you don’t want to wait you can catch the 12:00 bus to Liberia. Once in Liberia (around 13:45) ignore everybody and go from the regular Terminal to the Pulmitan Terminal, just one block away. There’s a bus at 14:15 going to Las Juntas that stops in La Irma at 15:55 and they promised us the connection will work. The bus to Monteverde came exactly at 16:26 and left at 16:31. Locals said it’s from 16 to 16:30 but they all showed up around 16:17. We discovered that we could have gone to Las Juntas and there wait in the terminal to the Monteverde bus. It’s the same as La Irma but you don’t wait in the middle of nowhere. We got to Santa Elena at 18:30.

      Crossing the borders was more than one hour for us in total. We got there just after two big Ticabuses and the officers were having lunch and giving a shit about the huge line.

      Also noticed that in Nicaragua, before entering the migration office there were a lot of guys promising to take us to La Irma. We did not trust them and preferred to cross the border first expecting to find them again once crossed. Nobody showed up at the other side of the border. We’ll never know if it was true.

  4. Claire


    Thanks a lot for this description. I can add the following information:

    From the border I took a direct bus to La Irma (7 dollar). There I had to wait for the bus to Monteverde, as there are only 2 buses per day: at 10 am and at 4 pm.

    • Shon

      Hi! Is there a certain bus company that this bus to la Irma from the boarder is?

  5. Nanne

    The bus directly from the border to Irma makes the trip more easy! The bus to Monteverde now leaves at 4 instead of 3o’clock.

  6. Daniel

    Thanks for all your explanations. We made it perfectly to la Irma. Even though the sign still says 3pm the bus runs at 4pm. Locals told it‘s changing now and then.
    Safe travels

  7. JourneyMan Dan

    I took the 8am bus from San Juan Del Sur to La Virgin, 30 Cordoba. I waited a while at the bus stop there for the bus heading to the border. A collectivo with one seat available pulled up. I paid $2 for a ride to the border. At the border I paid $5 for the exit fee. On the other side I asked around for the bus to La Irma. The tickets are sold on the right hand side (west). There are multiple stands for different buses. For La Irma go inside the one place with a door and ask. He said $5 for the ticket, but gave me 195 in Collones in change. I was there around 9:30. Shortly later a bus pulled up. I asked multiple people to make sure it was the right bus. Seats are assigned, it was a double decker bus.
    Fortunately I was keeping track on when we got close to La Irma. The bus drove right pass the bus stop. I had to run down to tell the driver to stop. I knew there were only two buses to Monteverde from there. I got there around noon and had to wait for the 3pm bus (There’s a restaurant with wifi). At the bus stop several people showed up who took the 8:40 bus out of San Juan Del Sur. (I think they also got a direct bus to La Irma). One couple showed up just 15 min. before the Monteverde bus, not knowing it was the last of the day. There are a few other buses going towards Monteverde, don’t get on. You’ll see a bus that has “Monteverde” on the front. I think the bus only cost 600, not sure.

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