We just finished a 1-2 week trip and I thought I'd share our experiences. I'll repost this in the appropriate forums with Costa Rica for maximum use.
....Then drove down from Monteverde to Puntarenas to take the ferry across to the beaches. That was probably 3 hours also. Half the roads are paved. The unpaved portions are better and not as steep as the those between Tilaran and Mondeverde; but still rocky, bumpy.
The turn of Highway 1 to Puntarenas is not well marked in either direction. From Monteverde look for the gasoline transfer station with tanks and lots of truck on the ocean side of the road; turn off is after that. Just drive straight down that road to the end of the peninsula (there are signs). Then you need to find the guy organizing the ferry lines and get in line for the appropriate ferry. He hands out the magic ticket that allows you to buy a ticket for the ferry (rationing to make sure they don't overfill) from the office housed in the corner across the street from the ferry dock. One ticket for the car; one for each passenger; passengers need to walk on board. Good upper deck party scene on the ferry.
The next Paqera ferry was already sold out when we arrived, but there was room on the Naranja ferry, so we took that, and drove about 1.5 hours south to Pauera. These were the worst roads on the trip in terms on no paving and worst ruts/rocks. But no hills, so no big deal, just takes some time.
Spent the night at the Curu Reservation just down the road from Paquera. The reservation has a lot of wildlife; worth the stop. They have marked trails through the jungle and swamps, loads of monkey troops of various varieties, lots of ground animals, birds, etc. Although the cabins are nicely spread out privately right off the beach, they are quite basic. Think concrete floors, wooden cots, plastic covered matresses. But they do have running water, sinks, showers; though very basic. The dining hall and welcome center are more modern, so they are clearly trying to upgrade, but have funding limitations. Nice beach directly across from Tortuga. They have a center where they are helping support monkey that have been abused or domesticated and abandoned; see the sign off the road inside the reservation. We also ate at the restaurant located in the hotel on the main street in Paquera, think it was Galliama, or something close to that. Good inexpensive food, good service. Seems to be a social place; bar, pool talble, pool outside, etc.
Also stayed at El Jardin in Montezuma. Good mid-ranged priced hotel. Rooms were fine; hotel well maintained, staff was fine also. Located right in Montezuma. But note that they charge you extra to pay with your credit card; the only place in Costa Rica where that was done on our trip. They also priced in dollars, but they charged your card in colones, which are then coverted back to dollars if you are a US traveler. Some of our party stayed at the YlangYlang; which is a high end property down the beach. Nice property, well maintained, but there is no direct road access to the property which can make it inconvienient. You either have to hike a full 10 minutes down the beach to get to it, or wait for the jeep that goes there on a certain schedule (e.g. 8:30, 11, etc.). That makes it a pain checking in and out, if you have kids, etc.
During our stay we did:
- Tourtoga island tour: fun, great boat ride down the coast on a nice day, nice snorkeling (though not Carribean quality), great sandy beach where you have lunch and relax. We did Zuma tours, but I coveted the Cabrini (sp?) tour. Nicer boat, better lunch, better equipment, etc. Not sure what their price is, but would check that out. Zuma was OK, but we found the need to manage them a little.
- Rainsong Wildlife Sanctuary. We did this on a lark; actually were headed for Cabo Blanco, but I would move this up on my priority list. They are an underfunded local wildlife animal rescue park, but it is a great chance to see many types of local wildlife up close that you may, or may not, be lucky enough to catch in the wild; and even pet in some cases. Look for the sign on the right of the road before Cabo Blanco. Flip them a nice contribution to help them along!
- Beaches. We hit beaches along the road between town and Cabo Blanco. Nice, and pleasant, but not the best I've seen globally. And unlike some other countries where the towns rake the beaches to gather the garbage that washes up, they don't in Montezuma; pity. Also note that on the beaches north of town, the operators run horseback rides along the beaches, and the horses leave their traces.
- Waterfalls. There are many. We hiked to Delicates (sp?), a short hike off one of the sides roads a couple of miles from town up a very hikable slope (not a straight down fall). Nice, short trip. Others did Montezuma, which I understand was a little more challenging hiking and direction wise but also fine.
- Dinners: Playa de Les Arisas: good, great beach view, though that is of questionable value at night, maybe a little overpriced. YlangYlang - nice, but per my comment above, I think you get a better quality/value at the local restaurants.
We drove back to San Jose. The ferry is again the tricky part; had to wait in line for 2 to get our turn. We considered driving around, but it is 4/5 hours, and there is no real way to know what ferry you will get on since they have different capacities. Also no way of knowing what the line is up at Naranjo. Its about 90 km to San Jose once you get over, but remember the road is only two lanes and heavily traveled, so you are likey to get stuck behind slow moving vehicles, so plan maybe 3/4 hours.
Stayed at the Hampton Inn at the airport on the way back. Note that they located right with Dollar and some other rentals places, so that could be convienient. Standard Hampton Inn, solid mid-tier room, good breakfast.