Let’s start at the beginning. You’re planning a trip to Tamarindo. You’ve already booked your Tamarindo vacation rental, so you will be purchasing a plane ticket that lands you either in the Juan Santamaria International Airport (SJO) in San Jose, or in the Daniel Oduber International Airport (LIR) in Liberia. Which one is better? Good question. It depends on the length of your vacation and the places you most want to visit. Tickets into San Jose (the capital) are often cheaper than tickets into Liberia, but San Jose is a 5-hour drive from Tamarindo. (Best-case scenario estimate on time, there.)
Photo by Farhath Firows
Liberia is only about one hour away from Tamarindo and other favorite beaches, which makes it a vacation favorite. If you’re coming to do a full Costa Rica tour and plan to spend time in the Central Valley as well as in Guanacaste, then SJO might be your better choice. Otherwise, forget it. Spend the extra money and fly into LIR, because what you save on tickets you will spend overnight in a hotel and on transport to Tamarindo.
Assuming you take our advice and fly into LIR, here is:
How to get to Tamarindo from LIR
- Shuttle van transfer
The easiest, cheapest way for you to get from the Liberia airport to Tamarindo is on a shuttle bus. Tamarindo Shuttle is a reliable company that has been operating this route (and many others!) for many years. Tickets are affordable and you can book them online. The great thing about a shuttle bus, in addition to the price, is that you don’t have to worry about being overcharged, about getting lost, or about your luggage disappearing—you just get off the plane and into the van. Next thing you know you’ll be climbing out of the van at your Tamarindo hotel.
If it means anything to you, this is the way Tamarindo locals (like me) get to and from the airport. Wink, wink.
- Private shuttle transfer
If you are traveling with a large group or if you prefer to hire your own van for privacy or for the privilege of not having to share, private shuttle transfers are also an option. Contact us for private Liberia to Tamarindo shuttle information and reservations. We may have a sister company that does the best private transfers in Costa Rica!
- Rental car
Renting a car might even be the #1 option if: you are not going to be super tired when you arrive, it’s going to be daylight when you arrive, and you have a healthy spirit of adventure. Hear me when I say: DRIVING FROM LIBERIA TO TAMARINDO IS EASY. You have to make all of 3 turns, after you leave the airport, to arrive at the beach. Finding your Tamarindo Vacation rental or your Tamarindo Hotel, however, can be another matter. Roads are narrow, twisty, not always well-lit and signs are usually confusing or non-existent. But we do drive on the right side of the road here and if you need to stop and ask for directions, everyone knows where Tamarindo is. So, think it over. If you’d like a rental car to meet you at the airport in Liberia, let us know. We can make that happen, and we work with only the best.
You can take a taxi. This is the best method to get to Tamarindo ONLY if you have for some reason failed to plan ahead and make other arrangements. Why? Because taxi drivers can charge you whatever they want. If you haven’t booked a shuttle, you haven’t rented a car, and you need to get to Tamarindo, sooner or later you’re going to pay whatever you have to. We don’t have safety concerns about taxis from Liberia to Tamarindo, but you will pay more than necessary. If that’s not a concern for you, then don’t worry about it. Get off the plane, throw your bags in a taxi, and get here!
Tamarindo Bay’s stunning dry-season shades of blue.
- Public bus
Please don’t take the public bus. We’re putting it on the list because it IS an option, but don’t do this to yourself. It will take you about 3 hours to get from the Liberia airport to Tamarindo, and there will not be air conditioning or potty stops. To find out if there will be a bus arriving at the airport at the time you need one, Google Transportes La Pampa. If you are traveling with little or no luggage and spending as little money as possible is of the utmost importance to you, the bus may be your best bet. I’ve been on the public bus to Liberia many times. You will survive. But you’re a tourist and I’m not. Just saying. This trek is not for the faint-hearted. And don’t try this with a lot of large suitcases, please.
If you decide that flying into San Jose is better for an option for you, then you’ll want to know:
How to get to Tamarindo from SJO
Not be predictable, but the best option is still often a shuttle van. For about $50, a shuttle company can take you from the airport or your San Jose area hotel to Tamarindo. They generally leave in the morning and in the afternoon. Surfboards and other special-sized luggage will incur an extra charge. They are comfortable, safe, punctual, and reasonably speedy.
- Rental car
Another option available to you is to rent a car and drive from San Jose to Tamarindo. If you know your way around Costa Rica, this could be a comfortable option for you. If you don’t know your way around Costa Rica it can be nerve-wracking, as your phone with a US chip may not be able to get online without wi-fi–and you will not have wi-fi in your rental car. But don’t let me talk you out of an adventure! If you are curious and love surprises, reserve a car that will be delivered to you at the San Jose airport and let the fun begin! If you do this, let me recommend that you take Route 27 out of San Jose, not Route 1. Either way works, but Route 27 circumvents some wild, winding mountain roads that you don’t really need to navigate on vacation.
Tamarindo has a tiny airport! Small planes make the Tamarindo/San Jose trip several times a day, and you can be here from San Jose in only an hour if you fly. Why you would prefer to book a separate flight on a puddle-jumper from the capitol to the beach instead of just flying into Liberia is a mystery to me, but I’m laying it out here for you because it IS an option. Do you love rollercoasters? Then this is the flight for you! These sturdy little planes are the right ones for the job, but hold on to your hats! The scenery is gorgeous on a clear day, so fight for that window seat.
- Public bus
The public bus from San Jose to Tamarindo does not necessarily deserve to be at the end of the list, but somebody has to be last. This public bus (Empresa Alfaro, or Tralapa) is MUCH BETTER than the Liberia/Tamarindo public bus. These buses are generally air-conditioned, run on a very predictable schedule, and are much more comfortable than our local public buses. Tickets cost about $10 and must be purchased at the terminal or can be purchased along the road if there is room on the bus for more passengers.
There are two factors, however, that make this my last recommendation for people vacationing in Costa Rica. One factor is that the bus makes only one bathroom stop on a 6-hour bus ride. If you have a huge bladder then who cares—but I don’t, and I care. The other factor is that I worry about the security of your luggage. Passengers are given tags for the bags that go into the luggage compartment and drivers are good about checking the tags, but… Still. It’s Central America and your luggage looks awfully tempting to active imaginations who picture it full of brand-name clothes and brand-new electronics. Yikes. Also, unless you keep small bags on your lap at all times, it is not safe to fall asleep on the bus. What I mean is that if you put your backpack on the luggage rack above your head and sack out for a nap, you may or may not find it there when you wake up. You won’t be mugged, but if you make it easy, be aware of what could happen.
So, there you go. You have options.
Still, have questions? Email us or call us. We’re a pack of Tamarindo locals who can give you better advice than anyone else because we live here and we know the inside story. Pura Vida!