How to Get From Monteverde to Panama in 1 Day

Costa Rica, Panama     Destinations, Getting To and Fro
TQP bus outside the out-of-the-way terminal in Punrarenas.
TQP bus outside the out-of-the-way terminal in Punrarenas.
Need the cheapest way to get to southern Costa Rica from Monteverde? There are two routes that will get you from Monteverde to Paso Canoas in about 12 hours.
Itinerary / Cost via Puntarenas
₡1,600
5:30am TransMomteverde bus to Puntarenas, arrive 8am
₡2,155
9am Transportes Quepos Puntarenas (T.Q.P) bus to Parrita, arrive noon
₡8,490
1:10pm Tracopa bus to Paso Canoas, arrive 5:15pm
₡12,245
Total (approx $21.50)
There are two basic routes to take out of Monteverde to get to Paso Canoas on the border at Panama. You can go from Monteverde west into San Jose, then south to Paso Canoas, or go from Monteverde south to Puntarenas on the coast, then continue south from there.

What at first might seem like a waste of time going all the way into the city first, might not be the worst idea. It only takes 45 minutes longer, costs almost the same, has one less transfer, and you get a nice comfy air conditioned Tracopa bus the entire trip down. Ahhh.

There are of course things like private shuttles and local flights, but those don't even come close to falling within our budget, so here's the way you go when you're traveling on the cheap.
Itinerary / Cost via San Jose
₡3,060
5:30am TransMomteverde bus to San Jose, arrive 10:30am
₡2,000
Uber to Tracopa station (??)
₡8,490
11am (aircon) Tracopa to Paso Canoas, arrive around 6pm
₡13,550
Total (approx $24)


All in all, even though it was a hot sweaty trip, I'm glad I went down the coast via Puntarenas because I got to see something different. See My Trip From Monteverde to Panama, but next time I'd probably go through the city.

Monteverde to Puntarenas

Transmonteverde is the only bus service in and out of Monteverde so that keeps it simple. The bus office is in the Mega Super mall. You can buy your tickets online or at the office. There are currently two early morning buses to Puntarenas, one at 5:30am and one at 6am. They take slightly different routes. If you opt to head south via San Jose instead, this is also where you'll get the San Jose bus.

Centrocoasting.com is a good resource for various bus schedules around Costa Rica, but try as they may, they are not always up to date. It takes a lot of web searching to try to get up to date information and schedules and it's just not always possible.
Monteverde to Puntarenas bus schedule at the Transmonteverde ticket office.
Monteverde to Puntarenas bus schedule at the Transmonteverde ticket office.
It only takes about 2 1/2 hours to get to Puntarenas. First the bus will drop off people going to the ferry (and on to the Guanacaste coast), then it'll drop you at the T.Q.P. bus office. It's not very obvious and is off the main road. I'm hesitant to call it a terminal (see photos) but I guess that's what it is. Here you can buy your ticket to get to Parrita.

The terminal is basic, but it has bathrooms and there is a local soda just outside to grab a bite.
TQP bus terminal and ticket office in Puntarenas
TQP bus terminal and ticket office in Puntarenas
TQP bus terminal in Puntarenas is not very cheery, but at least it has chairs and bathrooms.
TQP bus terminal in Puntarenas is not very cheery, but at least it has chairs and bathrooms.

Puntarenas to Parrita (Quepos)

There's no air conditioning on this bus, but it's a nice ride down the coast. You go over the Rio Tarcoles, through Jaco, Playa Hermosa, and on down to Parrita. It's not hard to miss your bus, it will be the only one that pulls up in front of the bus office and everyone waiting will get on.
Down the coast toward Playa Hermosa
Down the coast toward Playa Hermosa
The bus went through the town of Jaco. That's all I needed to see. Blech.
The bus went through the town of Jaco. That's all I needed to see. Blech.
Further down the coast we go ....
Further down the coast we go ....
Tracopa routes and times are all nicely listed on the Tracopa website, other than a few misquoted times which lead to my mistake in Parrita. Note where the buses stop along the way. The Directo buses stop in Parrita, but not in Quepos. So you can go to either Parrita or Quepos, but the earlier bus doesn't stop in Quepos, only Parrita.
Here's the bus station in Parrita where you wait for the Tracopa to come along.
Here's the bus station in Parrita where you wait for the Tracopa to come along.

Parrita to Paso Canoas

The main bus terminal is right on the main highway, and has a lot of little shops, including sodas and snack shops. The Tracopa ticket office is in between the shops and on the left. Ask if you need to but it's a pretty small area so it's easy to find. The bus doesn't come inside the terminal, but stops on the road, so keep an eye out for it. Ask which color bus when you buy your ticket (currently it's the orange bus but could be green or pink).

The comfy air conditioned coach will take you right to the border at Paso Canoas. If you're going to cross the border, Costa Rica Immigration is just up the road to the left, on the right hand side at the bus terminal. The ATMs on the corner will dispense US dollars (to use in Panama) or Costa Rican colones.
Panama border on the Cost Rica side. There are some hotels, restaurants, and ATMs here in Paso Canoas.
Panama border on the Cost Rica side. There are some hotels, restaurants, and ATMs here in Paso Canoas.

via San Jose

Take the early TransMonteverde at 5:30 in the morning from Monteverde as stated above, but I hope I don't need to say this, get on the bus going to San Jose instead of to Puntarenas. ;) It takes around 4.5 hours and will drop you at the 7-10 bus terminal. As with most bus stations, it's not the safest area to walk around, so you're best taking an Uber or taxi (around $5?) the 2 km to the Tracopa bus terminal. Or if you want to walk, plan on about 30 minutes to get there.

From there, catch a Costanera (not the slow windy Cerro de la muerte route) straight to Paso Canoas. There are currently 3 buses per day on that route, 7:30 am, 11 am, and 1 pm and the trip takes about 7 hours for approximately $15 USD.

The comfy air conditioned coach will take you right to the border at Paso Canoas. If you're going to cross the border, Costa Rica Immigration is just up the road to the left, on the right hand side at the bus terminal. The ATMs on the corner will dispense US dollars (to use in Panama) or Costa Rican colones.

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