Costa Rica is nothing short of a dream destination, attracting travelers from around the world to its stunning coastal landscapes. If you’re lucky enough to find yourself in this tropical haven, the city of Tamarindo is a must-see. An absolute standout out as a prime location for surf, sun, and the pura vida lifestyle, Tamarindo is Costa Rica’s greatest gem.

I will admit, however, that navigating the trip to Tamarindo can get tricky. When my family visited, I spent a ton of time researching the best way to get there with our twin toddlers. Don’t worry – I’ll share all that info with you below.

Keep in mind, though, our way isn’t the only option, and it might not be the best for you. So, in this post, I’m laying out all the different ways you can travel to Tamarindo. Plus, I’ll cover some tips for getting around and suggest a few apps to make your Costa Rica trip a breeze.

Let’s jump in!

Relaxing on a Tamarindo beach under a palapa

How to Get to Tamarindo

We began our family trip to Costa Rica by flying into San José, where we hired a driver to take us to Tamarindo. This turned out to be a fantastic choice for us. It was comfortable and scenic, not to mention we got to learn a lot about the area from our local driver.

Once we arrived in town we rented a car. This gave us the freedom to explore at our own pace and go where we wanted to go. For 5 adults traveling with 2 small boys, this was perfect.

Choosing the best way for you to travel to Tamarindo will depend on factors like whether you’re traveling with kids or with a group. You’ll also want to consider your budget and travel style. Do you just want to get there already? Or do you want to take your time and make stops along the way?

San José is the main starting point for a trip to Tamarindo, about 160 miles (257 km) away. You can choose between taking a shuttle, renting a car, hiring a driver, or riding the bus. 

Here’s an overview of these options, including descriptions, potential disadvantages, and tips on arranging each mode of transport from San José:

How to Get to Tamarindo from San José

1. Take a Domestic Flight

Flights from San José to Tamarindo’s small airport are a quick and comfortable way to go. The flight itself typically takes about 45 minutes to 1 hour, not factoring in the quick check-in and security at the airport.

  • Disadvantages: Flights tend to be pricier compared to other modes of transportation. Not to mention that weather conditions could potentially result in delays or cancellations. Additionally, baggage allowances may be restricted or costly due to the smaller size of the planes.
  • Booking: Book through local airlines like Costa Rica Green Airways or Sansa Airlines. Also, check  It’s best to book in advance, especially during peak travel seasons, roughly late December to April.
Taking a domestic flight is a quick and comfortable way if you are wondering how to get to Tamarindo from San Jose.

2. Hire a driver

A private transfer involves hiring a vehicle with a driver to take you directly to Tamarindo. This is a stress-free and super-convenient option, taking about 4-5 hours from San José.

  • Disadvantages: This is typically among the more expensive options, especially for solo travelers or couples. Obviously, groups can divide the cost among themselves, making this a more affordable choice.
  • Booking: Arrange a car and driver through travel agencies or your hotel. We hired Jeffery Cash Tours and had a great experience! 
The kids enjoying the ride to Tamarindo.

3. Rent a Car

Renting a car gives you the freedom and flexibility to do your own thing. The drive from San José to Tamarindo can take about 4-5 hours, depending of course on the route, traffic, and how many stops you make to explore along the way.

  • Disadvantages: Driving in Costa Rica can be challenging due to road conditions, unfamiliar road rules, and potential safety concerns. However, this can also be an expensive option, with the costs of rental, gas, and insurance adding up. Look into credit card rental benefits and your home auto insurance to help with that.
  • Arranging: Book online with international or local rental agencies. Renting in Costa Rica works the same as anywhere else, but keep in mind that the minimum age to rent varies from 18-23, depending on the company. 

👉 Check out Discover Cars for the best rental car rates 👈

4. Take a Shuttle

Shared shuttles offer a balance between cost and convenience, offering door-to-door service with other travelers. There are also private shuttles, which of course are more expensive. The journey takes around 4-6 hours.

  • Disadvantages: Shuttles may run on a fixed schedule. Shared shuttles stop to pick up other passengers, increasing travel time.
  • Booking: Book through shuttle service websites like Viator or travel agencies. It’s a good idea to reserve your spot early, especially during tourist season.

5. Hop on a Public Bus 

Public buses are the most economical choice, conveniently running from San José to Tamarindo daily. Unfortunately, this option takes longer than all the others, about 5 to 7 hours

  • Disadvantages: Buses can be crowded and may not have air conditioning. Travel times are longer due to stops and sometimes indirect routes.
  • Booking: Purchase tickets at the bus station or go to Guatego. Arrive early to get a good seat and to make sure there’s space for your luggage.

How to Get to Tamarindo from Liberia Airport

Liberia, aka ‘the White City’, is a small borough, however extremely popular with visitors in the area. Its airport is the ninth busiest in Central America.

The options for getting to Tamarindo from Liberia’s Daniel Oduber Quirós International Airport (LIR) are pretty similar to those available from San José.

Although there are a few differences, mainly due to the closer proximity of Liberia to Tamarindo. The trip is only 48 miles (77.4 km), making the journey quicker and generally more straightforward. 

Here are the main ways to travel from Liberia Airport to Tamarindo:

1. Shuttle Service

Shuttle services, both shared and private, are available directly from Liberia Airport to Tamarindo. This is a popular option due to the convenience and relatively short travel time of about 1 to 1.5 hours.

Booking: It’s best to reserve in advance, especially during the busy season. A lot of hotels in Tamarindo offer shuttle arrangements. If not, I recommend booking with 506 Transfers & Tours. Not only is this service affordable and well-rated, but you’ll also be treated to complimentary beer and water throughout your journey!

2. Rental Car

Renting a car from Liberia Airport allows the flexibility to explore at your leisure. The drive to Tamarindo is an easy one, taking about 1 to 1.5 hours on well-maintained roads.

  • Booking: Several international and local car rental agencies operate at Liberia Airport. Book in advance for a wider selection of vehicles.

👉 Check out Discover Cars for the best rental car rates

3. Taxi

Taxis are available from Liberia Airport to Tamarindo. This is a direct and convenient, although expensive, way to reach your destination. Unfortunately, Lyft & Uber aren’t options here.

Booking: Taxi services are easily available outside the airport terminal. If you prefer to plan ahead, simply arrange a taxi through your hotel or pre-book a licensed taxi service.

4. Public Bus – 2.5 to 3 hours

For my readers on a tight budget, taking a public bus is a great option. Just a heads up if you decide to go this route: you may need to catch a bus from the airport to Liberia city center, then transfer onto another bus heading to Tamarindo. 

  • Disadvantages: This is the least convenient option, especially with luggage, as you’ll need to change buses. It also takes longer, and if the bus is full, you could end up standing for the entire trip – which would be a real bummer.
  • Booking: No direct booking is needed, but you’ll have to schedule your time and navigate the bus stations. Check Bookaway to see if their Standard Bus has seats available on the day you’re traveling.
Enjoy the pool at our vacation rental in Tamarindo, Guanacaste
My toddler running on the beach in Tamarindo

Tips for Arranging Transport to Tamarindo

  • Book in Advance: Especially during peak season, it’s a good idea to arrange your transportation ahead of time if you can. This will ease a lot of stress on your travel day.
  • Consider Travel Insurance: It can give you peace of mind, covering delays, cancellations, and other unexpected events. 👉SafetyWing Travel Insurance is what we use 👈
  • Pack Smart: Some transportation options have luggage limitations. Consider the size and weight of your luggage, and try not to overpack. 
Enjoying the views of Tamarindo with my twin boys.

Getting Around Tamarindo

Navigating Tamarindo is a breeze, thanks to its small scale and variety of transport options. Whether you’re looking to explore the town’s vibrant streets or head to the beach for a day of sun and surf, you won’t have to stress too much about getting there. Here are some of the best ways to navigate this lively beach town:


If you weren’t already sold on Tamarindo, perhaps its convenient walkability will seal the deal. The beach, hotels, restaurants, shops, you name it – all within easy walking distance of each other. Walking is not only free but also lets you explore the town up close. So pack up your sneakers and take it slow to enjoy the journey. You may be surprised by the hidden gems you find along the way.


Renting a bicycle is a fun budget and eco-friendly way to get around Tamarindo. It’s perfect for short to medium distances and lets you enjoy Costa Rica’s fabulous weather. Many rental shops around town offer bicycles. Also, some hotels provide them for free or a small fee, so check with yours first.

Golf Carts

Golf carts are a popular way to get around Tamarindo, especially for families or groups. They’re perfect for short trips around town or to nearby beaches. Golf carts can be rented by the day or week from several rental agencies in town. Ask your hotel for locations or more details on specific companies.

Scooters and Motorcycles

For a quicker way to reach your destination, renting a scooter or motorcycle can be a fantastic option. They offer convenient flexibility and can be an exhilarating way to explore Tamarindo and its surroundings. Just make sure you have the appropriate license and always wear a helmet for safety.


Taxis are readily available in Tamarindo for quick and convenient trips. They are particularly safe for evening travel and ideal if you’re carrying beach gear. It’s advisable to agree on the fare before starting your journey, as not all taxis use meters. Uber may also be an option, which can sometimes be a safer and more cost-effective choice.


For longer distances or day trips outside of Tamarindo, shuttle services can be a comfortable and stress-free option. Shuttles can take you to other popular destinations in Costa Rica, such as national parks or nearby towns. Many hotels and tour operators can arrange shuttle services.

Car Rental

Renting a car gives you unmatched freedom to explore Tamarindo and beyond, all on your own schedule. It’s a good option if you plan to visit more remote beaches, national parks, or other attractions in the Guanacaste region. Keep in mind that parking in Tamarindo can be limited during peak season.

👉 Check out Discover Cars for the best rental car rates👈

Finally, for the best advice on getting around, ask local residents or your accommodation hosts. They can give you the latest information on transport options and tips for navigating the area.

👉 Check out the best places to stay in Tamarindo👈

Best Apps to Download for Getting Around Costa Rica

I recommend downloading these free apps before you leave home. Just be sure to launch them before you leave, allowing everything inside the app to download so they’re ready to go on your arrival.

These apps will help you with things like navigating the roads and public transport system, finding the best hiking trails, and connecting with locals and businesses.

Yo Viajo

This app helps you navigate Costa Rica’s public transportation system, providing detailed information on bus routes, schedules, and fare prices. It’s a great resource for exploring the country efficiently and affordably. If you like this, check out Passer, too.


A local favorite alternative to Google Maps, Waze offers up-to-date traffic information, road conditions, and route suggestions. It can also guide you when road signs are scarce. Note that you need a mobile internet connection to use it. If you don’t have one, download Costa Rica from Google Maps or Map.ME before you go.


Specifically designed for Costa Rica, CRMaps is a fun app with cartoony maps that suggest places to see and things to do.


This messaging app is widely used in Costa Rica for communication. It’s commonly used by businesses, tour operators, and accommodations for making reservations and inquiries.


An outdoor navigation app for discovering hiking and biking trails in the area. You can even save your own trails. There’s a free version and a paid one that includes GPS tracking.

Relaxing in the pool at my accommodation in Tamarindo. If you're wondering how to get to Tamarindo—just know it's absolutely worth it once you do.

How to Get to Tamarindo: FAQs

What airport is closest to Tamarindo?

The closest airport to Tamarindo is the Tamarindo Airport (IATA code: TNO).
It’s a small domestic airport about 3 miles (4.3 km) from the center of town. It mainly serves short-haul domestic flights from within Costa Rica.

Is there Uber in Costa Rica and in Tamarindo?

While technically not fully legal in Costa Rica, Uber is prevalent in San José and its surrounding areas. It can also be found in smaller places like Tamarindo and Liberia, albeit to a lesser extent. However, it’s important not to rely solely on Uber for transportation in Tamarindo. The number of Uber vehicles is limited, and they do not operate around the clock.

Is Tamarindo Costa Rica safe?

Tamarindo is generally considered a safe destination for visitors. However, like any popular destination, it’s important to take common safety precautions to ensure your safety.

Keep an eye on your belongings and stay in well-lit areas after dark. Use reputable transportation, such as marked taxis, and drink bottled water. Consider travel insurance for added security and peace of mind.

Is it cheaper to fly into San José or Liberia?

Whether it’s cheaper to fly into San José or Liberia in Costa Rica depends on a few factors. These include your departure city, the time of year, airline promotions, and how far in advance you book your flight. 

In general, flights to San José (Juan Santamaría International Airport – SJO) will be less expensive and have more flight options. But the inland city is farther from beach destinations like Tamarindo, so you’ll have additional travel time and expenses.

On the other hand, flights to Liberia (Daniel Oduber Quirós International Airport – LIR) tend to be more expensive. However, you will be closer to the coast and the beaches, so will spend less getting there from the Liberia Airport.

A selfie I took—thrilled to have figured out how to get to Tamarindo and enjoying my family vacation in Costa Rica.

Conclusion: How to Get to Tamarindo

Now that you know all the different ways to get to Tamarindo, whether you’re after convenience, savvy savings, or a comfortable ride – all that’s left is to pick the best option for you!

You may choose a quick flight or a laid-back bus ride; each path to Tamarindo offers its own unique set of experiences and local flavors. Remember to consider things like your budget, travel time, and the kind of experience you’d like to have along the way. 

Whichever mode of transport you choose, your journey to Tamarindo is just the beginning of what will be an unforgettable adventure in one of Costa Rica’s most loved beach destinations. Shed all your worries on the way, and let the pura vida spirit guide you in this beach lover’s paradise.

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