If you’re going to Costa Rica, chances are the Guanacaste region is at the top of your list for places to see. Located in northwestern Costa Rica and bordering the Pacific, Guanacaste is home to beautiful white sand beaches, crystal clear turquoise waters, world class surfing and the infamous tourist hub of Tamarindo.
The main airport most people fly into is Liberia Airport (LIR), which is located 12km west of the city of Liberia in the Guanacaste province. The formal name of the airport is Daniel Oduber Quiros International Airport. There are frequent buses from the airport to Tamarindo.
To get to the Guanacaste province and the town of Tamarindo from Liberia airport, you will first need to catch a bus or taxi to Liberia’s central bus station. Sometimes buses do go directly from the airport, so ask around, but they are inconsistent and don’t always stop. My advice is to just head to Liberia’s Terminal de buses Municipal. Once you get to Liberia’s bus station, you’ll need to take a bus to Tamarindo, Flamingo or Playas del Coco. The bus station in Liberia is busy, confusing, and there isn’t really a designated information section. So just be patient, and know that a bus will come and you pay the bus driver directly. Look for the name of the city on the screen on above the front window of the bus.
- Schedule to Tamarindo: 5.30am, 6.10am, 8am, 10am, 11.10am, 12.45pm, 2.15pm, 4pm, 6pm. Cost is 1400₡ (€2 / $2.40 USD) and journey time is around 2.5 hours depending on the time of day and whether you go via Playa Flamingo. Keep in mind that the 6.10am, 8.10am, 10am, 11.10am, 12.45pm, 4pm, and 6pm busses also stop in Playa Flamingo, so it is a longer route.
If you are traveling from San Jose to Tamarindo:
- Go to the Tralapa terminal and from there you can catch a bus to either Playa Flamingo or Tamarindo. The journey from San Jose to Tamarindo takes around 6 hours and costs 5500₡ (€8 / $10 USD).
- Schedule (to flamingo): 8am, 10.30am, 3pm
- Schedule (to Tamarindo): 5am, 4pm
Once in the Playa Flamingo / Tamarindo area, hitchhiking is a common, generally safe and a reliable method of transportation. Just put out your finger and someone will approach. I personally have never had a bad experience hitchhiking. My recommendations would be:
- To always know exactly where you are going
- Be at least generally familiar with the surrounding areas in which you are hitchhiking
- Make it known that someone is expecting you in your final destination (even if that’s a lie)
- Listen to your gut and remember, you can always turn down a ride or get out of a car at any moment if something doesn’t feel right!
Another common mode of transportation is the colectivo or shared taxi. These you can hail down by waiting at / near a bus station or just a larger intersection. They will pull over and you can ask, “colectivo?” Tell them where you need to go and it will usually be in between 500-2000₡ (€1-3 / $1-4 USD) per a person.
There are many beaches to choose from in the Guanacaste province. Playa Minas, Playa Penca and Playa Conchal are just three of the options. With their white sandy beaches, turquoise waters and complete tranquility, you will never want to leave. A 20 minute drive from Tamarindo is Playa Flamingo, known as one of the most beautiful beaches in the world. It is called 'Flamingo' because under certain weather conditions, the sand on the beach turns pink!
Photo credit to: @giulio_dng
Costa Rica Surf & Spanish is the dream of our friend Fran. Fran’s school offers both private lessons and longer surf trip packages and Spanish immersion trip packages, check them out on Instagram: @costaricasurfandspanish. These trips are absolutely incredible - LOADS of fun and you really learn lots livin’ alongside a local surfer. His packages are professional, safe, and fairly priced considering all they include. On top of that, I can guarantee Fran will show you a good time!
Be sure to mention GTT when booking! Or you can DM @gotravelandtalk on Instagram and we’ll set everything up for you ;)
SWEET Costa Rica is a local owned tour company, started by our adventure loving friend Sebastian and based out of Tamarindo. SWEET can take you to some of the most noteworthy places in Guanacaste, such as Rio Celeste and Rincón de la Vieja National Park, but what SWEET is really known for is taking you on some sick cliff jumping and waterfall adventures, check them out on Instagram: @sweet_costa_rica.
Sebastian also teaches private surf lessons. The prices are fair and the tours are amazing. Sebastian goes out of his way to make sure he gives people an experience you can’t get with any other tour company, and always has a few secret spots up his sleeve that will not disappoint!
**To book a tour with SWEET, please send us an email and check out our Book a Tour Page for more information.
Tamarindo is a classic backpackers and vacationers spot, famous for its partying and surfing. Tamarindo is unique in that every night of the week is a designated ladies night at one of its many bars:
- Monday- Sharky's
- Tuesday- El Garito
- Wednesday- Pacífico
- Thursday- Lizard Lounge OR Reggae Night at Pacifico
- Friday- Crazy Monkey’s
- Saturday- Sharky's, Pacifico, or Lizard Lounge
If partying isn't your thing, head to the Thursday night market ~ a gathering of over 40 local artisans with live music. The night market takes place every Thursday from 6-9 in Plaza Palmas.
Guanacaste as a region is home to many little campesino towns, and if you happen to be in Guanacaste during festival season (February), checking out a festival is a great way to get a glimpse into this campesino culture. Each festival has its own bull fighting, rides, games, and amazing carnival food (beware you may find yourself with a newfound addiction to churros rellenos). Notable ones to check out are the Villarreal festival, Liberia festival, and Brasilito festival.
Selina's is a classic party hostel with locations all over Central America. They are generally really nice, clean, and filled with fun backpackers. Cost for a bed in a 9 bed mixed dormitory is $9.50 (€8) per night.
Pachamama is an eco-spiritual community that offers various workshops and retreats related to holistic and spiritual health and permaculture. Set up in 1999 and set in 500 acres of remote farmland, Pachamama really gives you the time and space to connect with yourself and other like-minded souls. It is a place of healing and togetherness. Basic rooms start at $20 (€17) per night or you can volunteer in exchange for your stay. Check out their website here.
Oveja negra: One of my favorite hostels in Tamarindo, chill vibes, nice rooms, good location, but a little less known than Selina’s - which can sometimes attract a touristy vibe. Cost for a bed in a 6 bed mixed dormitory is $10 (€9) per night.
Dream sea surf camp: A little bit further out but offers a really unique hostel experience. You can “volunteer” for a small price in exchange for room and board and free meals. They create a little surfer community for you to join whether your a beginner or a seasoned surfer. Friends who have stayed here have said it felt like a family. For one week in high season inclusive or yoga, surfing, accommodation, airport transfers and all food, cost is $935 (€806).
Local Food (Sodas):
- The best and cheapest way to experienced homemade typical Costa Rican food is to eat at one of the many little mom and pop restaurants called Sodas. Here you can order a “Casado” for around 3000₡ (€4 / $5 USD) which comes with your choice of meat or fish, rice, beans, a salad, and plátanos maduros.
- El Coco Loco: Right on the beach in Playa Flamingo and more reasonably priced than similar restaurants you’ll find in Tamarindo, El Coco Loco is a must! They serve a little bit everything but the seafood is amazing!
- Pinchos (kebabs), ceviche (go to any beach and someone will be trying to sell you delicious ceviche cups- get one!), pipas (pipa is what they call coconut water right from the coconut here.. again you’ll find this at any beach for 1000₡ (€1 / $2 USD).
Vegan / Vegetarian Food:
- El Mercadito: A little courtyard of restaurants and bars right in the center of Tamarindo with something for everyone! Vegan food, Argentinian BBQ, sushi, ice cream, and a fun bar right in the middle- it’s definitely worth a visit!
Abriendo Mentes is a nonprofit located in Brasilito and Potrero that focuses on education. They do amazing work providing English classes, homework help, and other educational resources to kids in an area where poverty is high and literacy and education rates are low. They look for volunteers who can give a two week commitment.
Cepia is a well known nonprofit located in Huacas, that offers after school psychological, educational, and professional development support. Cepia accepts a plethora of different types of volunteers and looks for people who are able to stay at least 6 weeks. They also can help you get college credit, scholarships, and grant funding. Check out their Costa Rica volunteering page here and please follow them on Instagram: @cepia_costa_rica.