Tamarindo is a popular beach surf town in Guanacaste Province on Costa Rica’s west coast. What we love about this town is that it boasts of amazing water activities both on the surface and underwater. Apart from surfing, it also has a diverse marine life – making it also perfect for diving and snorkelling.
Tamarindo is also a common jump-off point to Las Baulas National Marine Park, located 30 minutes north of Tamarindo. This is the largest nesting territory of the leatherback sea turtles.
How to travel from San José to Tamarindo?
The road distance between San Jose to Tamarindo is 258 km. The flight distance is 192 km. The bus from San Jose to Tamarindo takes around 7 hours and a shuttle van between 4 and 5 hours. Shared transportation costs range from $9 – $60.
Alternatively, you can take a 50-minute flight (excluding transfer) from San José Airport (SJO).
4 ways to get from San Jose to Tamarindo(Sorted on popularity)
Taking a minivan from San Jose to Tamarindo is without any doubt the most comfortable option. The air-conditioned van ride will only take about 4-5 hours and includes free hotel (or airport) pick-up and drop-off. Tickets start at 34,500 CRC ($54).
When travelling with a group, taking a private shuttle to Tamarindo is a better option. No need to pick up other passengers and if you share the van with 4 or more people, it’s even cheaper than the shared shuttle van.
If you travel on a budget, the bus is a cheap way to get to Tamarindo from San josé. However, buses make a lot of stops along the way and sometimes go through Liberia. This means the journey takes often more than 6 hours. Also keep in mind that it gets very hot on the bus as they don’t have air conditioning. If you travel on a budget and don’t mind the hot drive, you can already get a bus ticket for 5,775 CRC ($9).
Taking a flight from San Jose is the fastest way to get to Tamarindo, but also the most expensive option. If you include the journey to San Jose Airport and the waiting time at the airport you won’t save that much time compared to the minivan.
Another thing to consider when flying is to include a carbon compensation fee to help reduce your impact on the environment. Especially short-haul flights have a relatively high negative effect on the environment compared to land transfers.
Taking a minivan from San Jose to Tamarindo is by far the most convenient option. Most van companies will pick you up for free at your hotel in San Jose (or even from the Airport) and drop you off at your accommodation in Tamarindo.
But most important, you will get a comfy ride in an air-conditioned van with even sometimes Wifi onboard (just don’t take our word for it that it will always be working).
Wifi or not, at least you will arrive energized at your new destination in Tamarindo. A lot more comfortable journey than spending 6-7 hours on a bus that has to make continuous stops. Not having mentioned the absence of air conditioning in the bus.
Free pick-up and drop-off
For this route from San Jose to Tamarindo, there are 3 main van operators available: Paradise Shuttle, Caribe and Interbus.
Paradise Shuttle is the recommended company as they provide clean and spacious vans. You can choose to be either picked up at your hotel in San Jose or at San Jose Airport.
Interbus and Caribe are also well-reputaded van companies in Costa Rica, but only provide pick up from your hotel in downtown San Jose.
We recommend to book your ticket online at least a few days prior to your trip for guaranteed seats.
If you don’t mind a 6-7 hour long bus drive, you can travel from San Jose to Tamarindo very cheaply.
You can choose from 2 bus companies when travelling from to Tamarindo from San Jose: Empresa Tralapa and Empresa Alfaro. Take in mind that the buses don’t provide aircon though. That’s also why we recommend booking a minivan instead.
Both bus tickets can be bought at the respective bus stations. The Tralapa bus can also be booked online.
Advertised travel time is around 5 hours. But more often than not, it will take up to 7 hours because of the numerous stops. Some public buses also take the route via Liberia, which makes the journey take longer.
TIP: Be very mindful of your luggage especially when coming from San José. Don’t leave your bigger bags until they’re safely inside the compartment below the bus, and make sure to get your luggage ticket! As for small bags (with your valuables), they’re safer where you can see them than on the overhead bin.
Flights from San Jose to Tamarindo operate daily and just take about 50 minutes.
Keep in mind though, that you’ll need some time to get to and from the airports. Travel time from downtown San Jose to San Jose airport typically takes bout 30 minutes. The journey from Tamarindo airport to the hotel area is only about 10 minutes.
Step 1: San Jose City Centre to San Jose Airport by bus or taxi
Duration: 30 minutes Cost: 15,000 CRC ($25)
San Jose International Airport (SJO) is officially named Juan Santamaria International Airport and is the largest airport in Costa Rica, located 17km northwest of San Jose. To get there, you can either take a bus (40 minutes) or a taxi (30 minutes).
A taxi, on the other hand, costs around 15,000 CRC ($25). You can also take an Uber for around the same cost, just note that they are not yet 100% “legal” in Costa Rica.
On the other hand, buses are a cheaper and also reliable way to get to San Jose airport. There’s one available every 10 minutes at TUASA Terminal, from 04:00 to 23:30.
There are 2 bus companies operating on this route: Station Wagon (coloured yellow and orange) and TUASA (coloured red and white). You can get a ticket for 675 CRC ($1.10).
PRO-Tip: Although many tourists have had great experiences using Uber, there have been rare incidences of cars being stopped in the middle of the journey. We suggest confirming with your hotel if it’s safe to use them before booking a ride.
Step 2: Flight to Tamarindo
Duration: 50 minutes Cost: 96,000 CRC ($150)
Sansa Regional operates 2 daily flights from San Jose (Juan Santamaria International Airport) to Tamarindo. Departures are at 5:40 and 13:30 and arrive at Tamarindo Airport after a 50 minute flight.
Tamarindo is full of luxury resorts, and Les Voiles Blanches is one of the top. There are a number of beautiful pools scattered around the property, so you’ll be able to find your own private oasis.
The hotel offers both normal hotel rooms and tent-style rooms. Don’t worry, there’s no slumming it, they’re more like luxurious wooden cabins. Every room has its own terrace, but there’s also stunning communal areas to relax in.
Ten North has a huge array of room options, ranging from a double room, all the way to 2 bedroom apartments. The pool is a pretty good highlight of the hotel, but it’s the staff that steal the show. They are incredibly friendly and just love to help you with anything that they can.
The rooms boast a rustic and bright vibe that feels very homely. You won’t want to spend too much time in your room as there’s so many places around the hotel to chill and relax. All whilst being surrounded by nature.
In a touristy destination as Tamarindo it can be difficult to find a family-run and cosy accommodation. Hotel Mahayana, is a hidden gem amongst all the hustle and bustle. The hotel owner makes you feel at home straight away and the pool is also a great plus!
All of the rooms are bright and spacious with pops of colour, giving them some life. There’s also a shared kitchen if you want to cook your own food.
Offering both dorms and private rooms, you can pick the type of accommodation that suits your needs. As it’s classed as a hostel, you’ll find a fully-equipped shared kitchen, plus lots of places to hang out and meet people.
Hostel La Botella de Leche has its own swimming pool, outdoor lounge area, shared living room, library and plenty of hammocks. It’s also in a great location, only minutes from the beach.