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!

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

  1. Gustavo


    We just did the route from Monteverde to Ometepe Island via Lagartos.
    The route is basically the one describded by Jerome, just a few additional information:

    – On step 2 when you reach the main road at Lagartos make sure to cross the bridge as the Bus stop is there!
    The bus driver from Monteverde told us to stay where we got off the bus and the locals stayed as well. A few buses passed by but they didn’t stop (including one that said Peñas Blancas).
    One bus to Liberia stopped, but the driver complained that we were at wrong place and he shouldn’t have stopped.
    (Also the TicaBus stops at Lagartos, a fellow traveller stayed there waiting as she had a prepaid ticket already).

    – On step 9 we found the bus terminal a bit hidden. The buses are basically on the left side of the building where the passport control is, but once you leave the building you have to walk straight along a wall/fence throught some parking lot until the final turnstile.
    Once crossed, turn left and go back on the other side of the wall until you find the busses.

    – As we we were heading to Ometepe we got on a bus to Managua via Rivas. If you say San Jorge they will drop you at the roundabout between Rivas Terminal and San Jorge. We were told that a bus stop was there at the beggining of the road heading to San Jorge. We flagged two buses saying San Jorge, but they didn’t stop (maybe because it said EXPRESSO on them). We ended getting a Collective Taxi 20Cordobas (0.50$) each (same as the bus I believe).

    At the end both us and the fellow traveller using the Ticabus arrived at the same time getting on the 15:30 ferry.

    Another thing that surprised us was that at the border crossing on Nicaragua side now there’s a person looking for tourists and charging 1$. This is not the Nicaragua entrance fee, just a Municipal tax (of the nearest town, I guess) that found a way to get some funds… Needless to say nobody asked/checked for this afterwards, and only tourist looking persons are charged.

    Safe travels!

    • Kate Milne

      Hey, I’m looking at doing this in the next few days, from Monteverde. I’m a bit confused, do you need to go to Lagarto or La Irma? And it seems in reverse some people go from the border straight to La Irma, is the stop in Liberia needed? Thanks so much!

  2. Joost

    I’ve just completed this journey from San Juan yo Monteverde, still works except prices of the busses are all a bit higher in Costa Rica.

    In Nicaragua it’s 20c and 20c
    In Costa Rica border to Liberia is 1776, Liberia to la Irma is 2050 and la Irma to santa Elena Is 1250

    • Joost

      Border is just 1$ + 2$ btw on the Nica side.

    • centrocoasting

      Thanks! price change noted above.

  3. Maik

    Did this on January Second!
    Nicaragua was empty the last months, but San Juan was crowded again during New Years Eve. So be carefull on crowded days:
    Bus to La Virgen: They wanted to charge us 40 Cordobas each. I negotiated 30. The Locals all paid 25.
    To Peñas Blancas we jumped a few minutes later in a green bus. It came from Managua and we had to pay 50 each. (Same amount as locals had to pay for the whole ride from Managua to Peñas Blancas). So you might better wait for the Bus from Rivas.
    We arrived at the border around 9.45
    Leaving Nicaragua was okay (1$ US +4$ US) but entering Costa Rica took more than 2 hours. There were hundreds of people staying in a line some 100 meter along the road. All the big bus lines dropped there customers in front of the line. Families with children could also pass to front. Good thing was there was absolutely no time for checking the onward connection. They did not even ask for it.
    Busses to San Jose started constantly every 5-10 minutes but there were long waiting lines. Every Passenger had to buy a Ticket at the desk and than wait in line till a empty bus arrives. A Ticket direct to La Irma costs only 4,5 US$ with Deldu. It saved us a lot traveltime (2 hours 10 minutes to La Irma from Peñas Blancas (or short before, than we got stuck in traffic for 30 minutes in the last 5 km), but all in all it’s faster and cheaper than going to Liberia first)

    We we couldn’t reach the Monteverde Bus as we left the border 1.15pm (spent 3.5 hours at the border in total!!), but hichhiking from La Irma went well.
    So if you leave after holidays (especially after New Year) think about a extra day of surfing!

    • centrocoasting

      Thanks for sharing!

  4. Loui

    Did this today. The Buses to La Virgin and Peñas Blancas where 20 C$ each.

    At the Border the wanted to have Proof of onward-travel out of the country and actually made an american family pay for an Tica-Bus out of CR. I showed them a fake flightticket i made with and that was totally fine and easy.

    Took a 10am bus to Liberia (1655 Colones) from where i got the Bus to Puntarenas (1950 Colones) which dropped me at La Irma, where i had to wait for like 20min to get the bus to Monteverde (1100 Colones).

    Thanks everybody who contributed! IT was really easy that way. And i also met a group of travellers that payed 30$ for a shuttle “to” Monteverde that dropped them off at La Irma at 11am so they Had to wait for 4 hours. Definitely not worth spending that money.

    • centrocoasting

      Sweet, thanks for the additional info!

  5. Melanie

    We did the trip following the advice mentioned under number 1 and it went perfect! As a matter of fact, we did the exact same route, with the exact same timing – with only two differences: we crossed the borders (out nicaragua, in Costa Rica) within 10min and the last bus (from La Irma to Santa Elena) cost us a bit less than what was described above: 1150 colones. The whole trip actually felt quite relaxt as we knew that at the border we had to wait for the 11.15 bus (we didn’t search for an earlier one as we had to wait at la Irma for the 3pm bus anyway), and we had a nice lunch at la Irma so we only had to really ‘wait’ for half an hour. There was another bus coming at that stop which we originally wanted to enter, but a nice local told us that was not the correct one – it only went to Juntas, so tell the bus driver where you are going so you know you are on the right one! Our correct bus came quite on time (3.05pm). I truly recommend this route for other travellers, it saves so much money and you arrive quite relaxed at your destination, even though it was a long day!

    • centrocoasting

      Thanks so much, Melanie!

    • centrocoasting

      Thanks, I have linked you above!

  6. Ellen

    The bus from the border to liberia was today 1665 colones.

    • centrocoasting


  7. Maverick

    Haha, shouldn’t you be charging for that kind of kneldewgo?!

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