Monteverde is our final stop in Costa Rica. Our next destination is Granada, Nicaragua. This trip to get there, from Monteverde to Nicaragua is a simple day trip. It’s an early start and there are two options in terms of how you get there. (as well as a pricey private transfer, which we avoided). This journey is from Monteverde to Granada, Nicaragua, however the route is the same if you’re going from Monteverde to San Juan del Sur or from Monteverde to Ometepe. You simply need to get off the buses earlier!
Monteverde to Nicaragua Bus Route
While the route from Monteverde to Granada doesn’t look in anyway logical on a map, it’s relatively simple. There are at least 2 steps.
- Get from Monteverde to La Irma. This is the stop on the Pan American / InterAmerican Highway where you pick up buses heading for the Costa Rica – Nicaragua border. If you Google for La Irma and you’ll find a small spot seemingly with nothing there. That’s where you’re aiming for.
- From La Irma, you pick up a bus bound for Nicaragua and San Juan Del Sur, or Ometeppe or Granada. Simples. Kind of.
- If your bus from La Irma is not an interational bus, then you’ll probably get as far as La Liberia, where you’ll need to pick up a bus to the border.
- At the border you’ll need to pick up a bus to your final destination.
Monteverde to Nicaragua – Easy Option
The first option, the one that we took, is the easiest. It involves getting a public bus from Monteverde to La Irma. Then (having pre-booked a ticket on an international bus service, like Central Line or Trans Nica) wait for your international bus and scoot on through to your final destination in Nicaragua. Its not always necessary to prebook the ticket. These buses do sell seats on the fly, but only if there is a seat available.
We booked our seats from our accommodation, the friendly, helpful folks at the Cabinas Vista al Golfo > we really recommend them, you should check out their availability. There was no mark up on the seat price with them.
Monteverde to Nicaragua – Public Bus Option
The second option is to take public buses all the way. It’s not that difficult.
- Take the same bus from Monteverde to La Irma (you can even take a later one). Then, from La Irma.
- You simply flag down a bus that’s heading to Liberia, or better still Peñas Blancas – this is the name of the border crossing.
- If you got to Liberia, then find a bus to Peñas Blancas (this is the border town on the Costa Rica side
- Walk across the border.
- Get a taxi from Penas Blancas to Rivas, or flag one down at the border that’s heading to Rivas
- Find a bus that’s going to Granada, or wherever it is that you’re going to.
If you’re going to Ometepe, then you get to Rivas and then share a taxi to the ferry. For San Juan del Sur, you aim for La Virgen or Rivas and then share a taxi to San Juan del Sur.
Step by Step Guide – Monteverde to Nicaragua
Monteverde to La Irma
The bus station in Monteverde is easy to find, but it’s at the top of a hill!. It’s more of a bus stop than a bus station and it’s next to the Plaza Monteverde shopping centre.
Monteverde Bus Station Location
The buses from Monteverde to La Irma leave at 0420 and 0600. In order to catch one of the international buses from La Irma to Nicaragua, you’ll need to be on the 0420 bus. In fact to make it to Nicaragua same day you’re better off getting the early one. It’s the cooler part of the day if nothing else!
Monteverde to La Irma Bus Tickets
Buy your ticket on the bus. The tickets from Monteverde to La Irma cost 1500 colones each. Just ask the driver for La Irma. You can track your route on Google, and also ask the driver to let you know when you get to La Irma.
La Irma – What’s There?
La Irma isn’t much. It’s basically a bus stop, a petrol station and a “café” on the Inter-American Highway. When we arrived there at 0615 the café wasn’t open. The petrol station has a few snacks if you have colones to spend.
When we left on our Central Line bus from La Irma to Granada at 0800, the café still wasn’t open. There is shade at the bus stop. The road is busy and gets busier as the morning wears on. The shop at the petrol station is limited, to say the least. It’s here that you might be able to spend your last few colcones.
BUT. Be sure to save enough, as you’ll need to pay the tourist exit fee at the border.
La Irma to Peñas Blancas – Central Line Bus
There are several international buses plying this route – Trans Nica and the Tica Bus both passed us. They all arrived before our Central Line bus did. It’s pretty hard to figure out which is the right bus until they’re on top of you, so we stopped every bus that came past. (Neurotic much? Probably just concerned that we were going to miss the bus!!) The answer was the same each time. “Last, last”. The Central Line bus generally runs slower than the other buses.
Our Central Line bus finally arrived at 0800. We got our bags underneath and found a seat. There are no allocated seats and seats recline right into your knees. There was allegedly WIFI on this Central Line bus but no one got it to work on this trip.
NOTE for these buses in Costa Rica. The bus leaves from San Jose and goes to Granada. Even if you are only travelling for part of the journey you buy a ticket (and therefore the seat) for the entire journey.
Once we’d boarded the bus we drove about 1.5 kilometres and then had a 30 minute stop at a roadside café! Typical. From there, we went straight through to the border. Our route was from here at the border, via Rivas to Granada. The journey from La Irma to the Peñas Blancas border took 2.5 hours (after the 30 minute stop!).
Costa Rica to Nicaragua BORDER CROSSING
Tourist Exit fee at Peñas Blancas Border Crossing
You need to pay a US$7 exit fee in order to leave the country at this Peñas Blancas border crossing. There are fees elsewhere and they differ from this, so check carefully prior to arriving at the border. It is possible to pay this at a bank in Costa Rica prior to leaving, you’ll get a receipt and you just need to keep it.
On the Central Line bus, it’s easy. The conductor will speak to everyone, find out who needs to pay the fee and then pay it for you once you give the cash. You can pay in Colones or US dollars – so you might want to reconsider spending that last bit of cash in the petrol station shop!.
If you are on the public bus, then you need to do this yourself. You pay the fee in a green shed about 100 metres BEFORE you get to immigration. Don’t be the numpty who queues at immigration and then finds that you have to go back to the green shed to pay and then come back and queue again.
Costa Rica EXIT Immigration at Peñas Blancas
Everyone has to get off the bus. It’s necessary to take luggage with you through immigration.
Our conductor paid our exit tax for us (he needs your passport to do this), while we waited in the immigration line. By the time we got to the front he was back with our passports. Immigration was easy.
Nicaragua ENTRANCE Immigration at Peñas Blancas
As well as your exit free from Costa Rica, there’s also an entrance fee to Nicaragua. This is US$10. Again the conductor will pay this if you’re on the Central Line bus
Monteverde to Nicaragua Buying Bus Tickets
Tickets for the leg of the journey from Monteverde to La Irma can only be bought on the bus when you board in colones.
From La Irma to Nicaragua on Central Line or any of the international buses, you need to purchase before departure. You may be able to convince an international bus to stop and pay cash to the conductor, or you may not. Tickets on the public buses that ply the InterAmerican highway in Costa Rica and the Nicaraguan buses are sold on the bus when you board.
Where to Buy Monteverde to Nicaragua Bus tickets in Monteverde
To buy a ticket on the Central Line from any location in Costa Rica through to Nicaragua simply ask at your hostel. If they’re not an agent for the bus they will know someone who is.
We stayed at the great Cabinas Vista Al Golfo, who are an agent for Central Line bus. Get prices and availability here. They speak excellent English, although if you want to practice your Spanish they will also help you. We paid US$35 for our tickets from La Irma to Granada. This included the cost of the conductor dealing with the tourist exit and entry fees for us.
Monteverde to Rivas, San Juan del Sur
If you’ve taken the Central Line bus, then you’ll just need to tell the conductor (he will come around and ask) where you want to get off. Popular stops are
- Rivas for Ometepe Island
- La Virgen for San Juan del Sur
- Rivas for San Juan del Sur
Central Line Bus Arrival in Granada
The Central Line bus stop is on the main route 4 on the edge of Granada. It’s outside a petrol station and although the driver did stop at a pharmacy some 500 metres prior to this he wouldn’t let us get off there. My swearing in Spanish is becoming fluent.
Getting from Monteverde to Nicaragua is an easy journey, even if it requires an early start. If the weather had been cooler we would have used the public bus route, but the Central Line bus from Costa Rica to Nicaragua is a very easy option.
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