How to get from Costa Rica to Nicaragua

How to get from Costa Rica to Nicaragua

Jun 23, 2021

Updated August 2nd, 2022

How to get to Nicaragua from Costa Rica

Getting to Nicaragua is a journey that is well worth any inconvenience it may bring. These days most international travelers find that routing through Costa Rica is the easiest way to get to Nicaragua. Flying directly to Managua, Nicaragua is an option but at this time flight options are limited to a few select latin american airlines including Avianca, AeroMexico and COPA.

The international airport in Liberia, Costa Rica (LIR) is only a 1h20m drive to the Nicaraguan border and offers a great variety of direct flights from cities in the US, Canada and Europe (here is a list of all direct flights available). In some cases, especially when coming from Europe, flying into San Jose, Costa Rica (SJO) though 5h30m from the border is the way to go.

Note: If you have already done some research and are just looking for ground transportation options please skip to the bottom of this article.

Bienvenido a Nicaragua, The land of Lakes and Volcanoes. Lake Cocibolca and la isla Omotepe greet you on your arrival.

Essential border crossing information:

Nicaragua entry requirements

To enter Nicaragua you must have at least 6 months validity on your passport. You must also present a current vaccination record or a negative COVID PCR test taken within 72 hours of your arrival to Nicaragua. They have been strict about timing. 

It is also strongly recommended that you fill out this pre entry immigration https://solicitudes.migob.gob.ni/Tramites/RegistroN form 7 days prior to your arrival to Nicaragua. 

You will be required to pay $14 US dollars to enter Nicaragua. IMPORTANT: You must have cash in USD for this.

Costa Rica entry/exit requirements

Costa Rica has again streamlined entry for visitors post pandemic. To enter Costa Rica you will only be required to provide proof of onward travel (return plane ticket or international bus ticket departing Costa Rica) and reservation details for your lodging (this can be in Nicaragua). 

If you are heading straight to the border from the airport you can get a transit visa which will save you the $10 exit tax if you leave the country within 12 hours of arrival.  

The crossing process at Peñas Blancas  

If you have a Costa Rica transit visa you can go straight to customs when you arrive at the border for your exit stamp. 

If you do not have a transit visa or have been in Costa Rica for more than 12 hours you will be required to pay for an exit visa at one of the small offices located about 100 meters back from the customs building on the east side of the highway, before going for your stamp. 

Once you have checked out of Costa Rica you will walk about 300 meters along the road that leads to Nicaragua before passing through a checkpoint where first the Costa Rican and then a few steps later the Nicaraguan customs officials will ensure that you have your Costa Rica exit stamp on your passport. After the checkpoint you will walk another 200 meters or so to the Nicaraguan customs building (big white building).  

Passing through Nicaraguan customs is expedited if you have filled out the aforementioned pre entry form. You will be required to pay $14 USD to enter Nicaragua. 


  • The carts and border hustlers can be money well spent, especially if you are carrying heavy luggage or traveling with youngins. Budget a $5-$10 tip for their services.
  • Nicaraguan customs can be tough on bringing in expensive non personal items, so if you are planning on bringing quantities of merchandise, especially electronics, you may want to think again.
  • Drones are not welcome in Nica unless registered. If you are traveling with a drone you can leave it with the Nicaraguan customs and they will return them to you when you depart the country, or you can try to disassemble and spread the pieces through your luggage and hope they won’t catch on to you. (I know a few people who have succeeded with this technique)       

Ground transportation from Costa Rica to Nicaragua 

Bus – Busing is the most affordable way to get around either Nicaragua or Costa Rica, especially if you are traveling solo, on a budget and do not have strict time constraints. If traveling from San Jose then you will likely be best on either TicaBus https://www.ticabus.com/ or NicaBus https://www.nicabus.com.ni/ which are international bus lines that offer services direct to Nicaragua. Another great resource for busing is  https://www.rome2rio.com/  

Shuttle – Caribe Shuttle https://www.caribeshuttle.com/schedules-daily-shuttles offers a daily shuttle for $45 leaving Liberia at 9:15am for San Juan del Sur. 

Taxi – Though there are plenty of options, on the Costa Rican side we have been very happy with the Johnny Transfers based in Liberia Cell/Whatsapp +506 6158 1814 

In Nicaragua I happily recommend Irma Gutierez, she is incredibly helpful and has the license required to enter the Nicaraguan customs office which can be very helpful. Irma is based in San Juan del Sur and can be reached at cell/whatsapp is +505-8513-6033.

Both Johnny and Irma work with networks of drivers and will be able to arrange for a reliable ride even if they are not available themselves. 

Car rental – You are not able to cross the border with a rental car, though it is possible to drop one off on one side of the border and pick one up on the other. Alamo and National car rental companies offer this service.  

Ox Cart or Donkey – My personal favorite, and the best option if you really want to take it slow and experience authentic culture LOL.  

More tips for taking Peñas Blancas crossing 

  • If you are late and would prefer to get some rest close to the border then Cabañas Cañas Castilla is a great option. Less than minutes from the border this affordable and comfortable riverside lodge is run by a friendly couple who migrated from Switzerland 25 years ago. https://www.canas-castilla.com/cms/
  • La Cruz costa rica located about 20 minutes from the border crossing at Peñas Blancas is a beautiful tico town with great views and kiteboarding opportunities in Bahia Salinas. 
  • If you find yourself stuck in Liberia, Hotel Villa Hermosa is clean, affordable and run by some of the friendly Costa Ricans I have met.  https://www.tripadvisor.ca/Hotel_Review-g309240-d11600862-Reviews-Hotel_Villa_Hermosa-Liberia_Province_of_Guanacaste.html

Los Chiles – The other crossing

Ay yae yae los Chiles, spicy! That’s a town in Costa Rica on the Rio Frio which flows into lake Nicaragua. 

This route makes sense for people who are in the La Fortuna area of Costa Rica as it’s only about an hour and a half to the border from there. 

Look out for Iguanas as you pass through the area of Muelle (Iguana hot spot). 

It used to be a romantic boat ride down the Rio Frio, now simpler but less flavour land border crossing.For the master chef I bet you could cook it up according to the old recipe as seen here.

Not many people use this border crossing which means it’s practically empty. Which makes for a fast and very easy process to go through immigration on both sides of the border. 

The Border officers are much more relaxed about the official rules, so for people doing a border run there is a good chane travelers won’t need to wait the standard 72 hours in the other country before renewing their visa. 

The physical border crossing itself is quite short, on the Tico side (Costa Rica) buses drop you off right in front of the immigration/border office. After clearing immigration it’s just a 100m walk on a paved road to reach the Nicaraguan office. 

On the Nica side of things, mini-vans pick up/drop off passenger right at the border and take about 45-60 minutes to reach San Carlos. These vans leave when full. 

Now you are in Rio San Juan, the gateway to Nicaragua’s Caribbean.





Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Yoga Retreat Packages

Yoga is a crucial element of our life here at Costa Dulce since it is the foundation of the holistic lifestyle we embody. Yoga and wellness is the key to take care of ourselves, our surroundings, and the people we love. Learn more about our Yoga Program.

Surf in Private Paradise

Costa Dulce provides the perfect opportunity to learn how to surf. This is your chance! Nicaragua is a great place to learn but many try and do it at the crowded and more popular surf breaks. Learn more about our Surf Program.

Relax with our Spa Treatment

Treat your body with a relaxing massage, nourish your body/face with a natural mask or energize your body and skin with our signature coffee/ coconut oil scrub, two of Nicaragua’s finest ingredients. Learn more about our Spa services.

Recent Posts

Best Time to Surf in Nicaragua

Best Time to Surf in Nicaragua

Best time to Surf in Nicaragua is now! As a surfer every single day of your life is the best time to surf. But we can get a little more specific depending on where you are as a surfer. Different styles and skill levels have different ideas on what is the best surf in...

read more
An Eco Lodge in Nicaragua

An Eco Lodge in Nicaragua

For too long humans have been making decisions without being conscious of our mother earth. Now we must take her into consideration every step of the way. And that includes you planning your vacation.   We must think about how our actions affect the planet....

read more
Benefits of Breathwork

Benefits of Breathwork

Until recently when people looked at how to get healthy according to western medicine, the first thing everyone thought was to change your diet. Next thing people would say you don’t drink enough water. Rarely did anyone think about how they breathe.  How long can we...

read more

Stay in touch

Sign up for our newsletter, stay in touch with the Costa Dulce family and get updates, news + discounts on your next stay.

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This