We will be flying in to San Jose Costa Rica in January for 3 weeks, and would like to spend part of that time in Nicaragua. What is the easiest, least expensive way to get to Lake Nicaragua area?
Bus it, Man
Rome2rio says there are three bus services from San Jose, Costa Rica to somewhere near Lake Nicaragua (Peñas Blancas, Costa Rica or Rivas, Nicaragua). Indeed following up on the bus company websites one finds the information below. Note that ticket costs often don't include immigration taxes to enter/exit Costa Rica and Nicaragua. At the time of writing these are as follows (according to the Trans Nica FAQ page):
- Costa Rica: Salida $7USD y entrada $2USD.
- Nicaragua: Salida $2 y entrada si es extranjero $14USD, si es nicaragüense $1.
1. Trans Nica
Trans Nica buses depart from San Jose and stop in Rivas. At the time of writing there are three economy and one executive departures per day. The economy fare is 54
USD return, and the executive fare is 76
For more information here is the FAQ page of Trans Nica (in Spanish). Below is a screenshot taken from the linked page, showing detailed information on the bus service:
2. Marvelus Travels
Marvelus Travels operates a bus from San Jose to Rivas. At the time of writing there are two departures per day. The fare is 37
USD one-way. The journey duration is advertised as 7 hours. Below is a screenshot of the Marvelus Travels website:
3. Bus 505
According to this unofficial website, there seems to be a mysterious bus n. 505 which serves the route from San Jose to Peñas Blancas. There are six departures per day, of which two are express buses. In this case you are looking at 6 hours to cover 293km (not sure if this is the express service or not). Quoting from the linked website:
505 SANTA ROSA AND PEÑAS BLANCAS (from San José)
- DEP. ev. day from 100 mts north of Terminal Coca Cola at 4:30, 5:00, 7:00, 7:45, 13:20, 16:10; RET. 5:00, 7:15, 10:30, 10:40, 13:30, 14:45, 15:30.
- Only DEP. 4:30 , 7:00 and RET: 10:30, 13:30 are express buses.
- 293 km, 6:00 hrs.
You can take a bus from San Jose or any major city (Transnica, Nicabus and other big companies have good deals with comfortable buses).
You can fly from any airport for around $100, give or take.
Or you can boat it.
Source: a Costa Rican
Take a national bus to Penas blancas, walk over the border and the take a national bus to your final destination, on the way back you can take a boat and cross over to Los Chiles (Costa Rica). I did it when I was visiting Nicaragua after arriving by plane to Costa Rica