Bus Directions for Budget Travelers
If are traveling in Costa Rica before you come to Peace Retreat and are on a budget or eager for an authentic experience, you may choose to take public transportation instead of a taxi or the Peace Retreat airport shuttle.
The public bus system in Costa Rica is extensive, but it can be difficult to get specific information about the bus schedules, especially for remote destinations like Playa Negra. If you know Spanish, go to Yo Viajo Costa Rica’s website to figure out the schedules: https://yoviajocr.com/chronos/. The newest Lonely Planet travel guide also has decent information about public transportation. Bus schedules can change quickly, however, and it is always recommended that you ask locals or bus drivers to confirm the bus schedules in person (a speaking knowledge of Spanish would be advantageous). There are some webpages with bus schedules (www.visitcostarica.com/en/costa-rica/bus-itinerary or www.thebusschedule.com/cr), but they are not always up to date either.
A useful tip: Download Google offline maps of Los Pargos/Playa Negra or maps.me before your arrival to Costa Rica, and look up the directions to Peace Retreat, and take a screenshot of the location if you will not have cell reception/wi-fi.
In the town of Liberia, go to the main bus terminal. The ticket counter is located at the very right once you enter the terminal. Purchase a ticket to Santa Cruz for about 1000 cólones. The bus leaves every 30 minutes starting 5:30 a.m., and the whole journey takes about takes about 90 minutes .
From Liberia Airport, you can take the same bus directly from there, since the bus stops at the airport along the way. The bus’s final destination is Nicoya, which is about 55km away from Santa Cruz. In order to assure that you do not miss your Santa Cruz stop, ask the driver to tell you when to get off (“Me avisa cuándo tengo que bajarme?”). After arriving in Santa Cruz, walk five blocks to the Mercado (market) where there are buses to Playa Negra (walk across the plaza central to the left corner, continue for one block, turn left, and walk three blocks). At the Mercado bus station, buy your ticket at the counter (approximately 1000 cólones), and walk left to find the direct buses to Playa Negra. There are only two buses a day at 11:30 am and 6 pm (on Sundays and public holidays, there is only the 11:30 bus). If possible, catch the 11:30 bus because it will be dark by 6 p.m., and arriving after dark to Peace Retreat is not recommendable. The bus takes about 75 minutes to reach Playa Negra.
If you miss the bus in Santa Cruz, you can also buy a ticket at the counter on the very right for Playa Junquillal, a beach located 8.6 km south of Playa Negra. These buses leave at: 4:45 a.m., 6:45 a.m., 10:15 a.m., 12:15 p.m., 2:15 p.m., and 5:50 p.m. Get off at Paraíso (ask the driver to tell you where to get off). From the bus stop, it is about 5 km to Peace Retreat, and you can walk there, hitchhike, or ask locals for a taxi service (around 6 dollars).
To leave from Playa Negra back to Santa Cruz, there are two buses per day going to Santa Cruz at 5:45 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. (only one at 6 am on Sundays and holidays). From Santa Cruz there are buses to multiple destinations: other beaches in Guanacaste, Liberia, San José, and Nicoya. These buses, however, leave from the other bus station in town. Ask a local or consult your map for the location.
From San José
From the airport to downtown San José, you can take a bus ($1.50), Uber ($10-17), currently only available around the San José area), or a taxi ($20-30). Inquire about these options at the information booth at the airport.
When you arrive in the town of San José, there are two options: to take the bus to Tamarindo then cab to Peace Retreat, or take the bus to Santa Cruz, following the directions above. To give a comparison, the bus to Tamarindo takes about 5 hours and costs approximately 5500 cólones. The cab ride from there to Peace Retreat costs around $30-35 (about $15,000-20,000 cólones) and is about 20-30 minutes. The bus to Santa Cruz is about 4.5 hours, costing about 4600 cólones, and the connecting bus to Playa Negra from there will be about 1000 cólones. The Tamarindo option will hence cost much more, but it gives you more flexibility on when you arrive to Peace Retreat, for you do not have to wait around for the 6 p.m. bus in Santa Cruz. This option is good for travelers with a slightly bigger wallet or multiple travelers who can split a cab. Useful tip: Paying with the local currency will often get you a better deal/exchange rate.
There are two bus terminals with buses for the Guanacaste region: Tralapa bus terminal and Terminal 7-10. Both terminals have buses to both Tamarindo and to San José, and the two terminals are fairly close to one another. Compare the schedules, and see what works best.
As of March 2019, the bus schedules are as follows:
From Tralapa Terminal, the buses to Tamarindo depart: 7 a.m., 2 p.m., 4 p.m.. To Santa Cruz: 4:30 a.m., 8:50 a.m., 9 a.m., 12:00 p.m., 2 p.m., 5 p.m., 6 p.m. They do not have a website, but they have a Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Tralapa/314491328653159.
At Terminal 7-10, a company called Empresa Alfaro operates the buses to the Guanacaste region: http://www.empresaalfaro.com. There are only two buses to Tamarindo: 11:30 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. (5635 cólones). The buses to Santa Cruz depart: 7 a.m., 9:45 a.m., 11 a.m., 12:30 p.m., 2:00 p.m., 4:30 p.m., 7 p.m. (5425 cólones). The Empresa Alfaro buses have air conditioning, whereas the Tralapa buses do not!
Once you arrive in the touristy downtown of Tamarindo, you will see the sign for the taxi stop diagonally across the street from the bus stop. Go there and negotiate a price for Los Pargos. Most taxi drivers speak English, and you can show them the map for Peace Retreat once you approach Los Pargos.