How to get from
San Jose to Tamarindo

Overview Compare Minivan Taxi Bus Flight To Stay

What to expect when visiting Tamarindo

Tamarindo is a popular surf town in Guanacaste Province on Costa Rica’s west coast. What we love about this town are the amazing water activities both on the surface and underwater. Apart from surfing, it also has a diverse marine life, making it perfect for diving and snorkelling.

Tamarindo is also a common gateway to Las Baulas National Marine Park – a 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 is the cheapest but also the slowest way to get from San Jose to Tamarindo (6-7 hours). Shared transportation from San Jose to Tamarindo costs $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 by popularity)

Transport ModeDurationCostsAvailability
Minivan4-5 hours$60 (35,000 CRC)Check Minivan Tickets
Private Transfer4-5 hours$223 (129,000 CRC)Check Private Transfers
Bus6-7 hours$9 (5,000 CRC)Check Bus Tickets
Flight1 hour 30 minutes$180 (104,000 CRC)Check Flights

Taking a minivan from San Jose to Tamarindo is without a 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 $54 (31,000 CRC).

When travelling in a group, taking a private shuttle to Tamarindo is a better option. No need to pick up other passengers, and if you travel in a group of 4 or more, the private minivan will be a cheaper option than a shared minivan.

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 often takes more than 6 hours. Also, keep in mind that it gets very hot on the bus because they don’t have air conditioning. If you travel on a budget and don’t mind the hot drive, you can get a bus ticket for $9 (5,000 CRC).

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.

TIP: If you decide to travel by plane, please consider including a carbon compensation fee to help reduce your impact on the environment.

As a last alternative, you could also decide to rent a car. Basic car rental can start for as little as $12 per day whilst SUVs start at $40 a day. However, road conditions aren’t always the best. Having a local driver that knows the roads is recommended.

New to Tamarindo? Our compact Tamarindo guide shows you the best areas to stay, restaurants you don’t want to miss and many more tips for your visit to Tamarindo!

Where to stay in Tamarindo?

Still looking for accommodation? Don’t forget to check out our favourite places to stay in Tamarindo at the bottom of this page.

Compare travel itineraries from San José to Tamarindo

San Jose to Tamarindo by Minivan

Duration: 4-5 hours
Cost: $60 (35,000 CRC)
Duration: 4-5 hours
Cost: $60 (35,000 CRC)

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 importantly, 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 well-rested at your new destination in Tamarindo. This option is a lot more comfortable journey than spending 6-7 hours on a bus that has to make continuous stops, not to mention the lack of air conditioning in the bus.

Free pick-up and drop-off

For this route from San Jose to Tamarindo, there are three 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-regarded van companies in Costa Rica, but only provide pick-up from your hotel in downtown San Jose.

We recommend booking your ticket online at least a few days prior to your trip for guaranteed seats.

Minivan schedule from San Jose to Tamarindo

Minivan OperatorScheduleCosts
Paradise Shuttle 07:30-11:30$60 (35,000 CRC)
Check Minivan Tickets
Paradise Shuttle
(from San Jose Airport)
07:00-11:00$60 (35,000 CRC)
Check Minivan Tickets
$54 (31,000 CRC)
Check Minivan Tickets
Interbus07:00-11:00$66 (38,000 CRC)
Check Minivan Tickets

Private Transfer to Tamarindo from San Jose

Duration: 4-5 hours
Cost: $223 (129,000 CRC)
Duration: 4-5 hours
Cost: $223 (129,000 CRC)

If you travel in a group, it’s often more convenient to book a private transfer.

You don’t need to share your van with other people. And if you are in a group of four people, a private transfer can already be cheaper than a shared minivan.

Fares start from $223 (129,000 CRC) for a 5-seater taxi van. For larger groups, you can also book a minivan that can fit 7 to 18 people.

Just like the shared minivans, private vans will also pick you up at your accommodation in San Jose or at the airport. After a 4 to 5-hour drive, you will be dropped off at your hotel in Tamarindo.

Check Private Transfers with BookAway

San Jose to Tamarindo by Bus

Duration: 6-7 hours
Cost: $9 (5,000 CRC)
Duration: 6-7 hours
Cost: $9 (5,000 CRC)

If you don’t mind a 6-7 hour long bus drive, you can travel from San Jose to Tamarindo cheaply.

You can choose from two bus companies when travelling to Tamarindo from San Jose: Empresa Tralapa and Empresa Alfaro. Bear in mind that the buses don’t have aircon, though. That’s also why we recommend booking a minivan instead.

You can buy your tickets 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.

Important: Be mindful of your luggage, in particular 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! We recommend keeping small bags with your valuables, with you in the bus or storing them in the overhead department.

Bus schedule from San Jose to Tamarindo

Bus OperatorScheduleCosts
Empresa Tralapa08:00-13:30
$9 (5,000 CRC)
Check Bus Tickets
Empresa Alfaro08:00-13:00
$10 (6,000 CRC)

Departure and arrival station

Buses depart from Tralapa Bus Station for Tralapa and Terminal 7-10 for Alfaro. Just note that there is no guarantee that tickets are still available if you buy them on the day of your trip.

All buses park in Tamarindo city centre. Empresa Alfaro has its own small bus stop, while Tralapa makes its final stop at Pacific Park.

Flight to Tamarindo from San Jose

Duration: 1hr 30m
Cost: $180 (104,000 CRC)
Duration: 1hr 30m
Cost: $180 (104,000 CRC)

Flights from San Jose to Tamarindo operate daily and 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 about 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: $25 (14,000 CRC)
Duration: 30 minutes
Cost: $25 (14,000 CRC)

San Jose International Airport (SJO) is officially named Juan Santamaria International Airport and is the largest airport in Costa Rica, located 17 km 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 $25 (14,000 CRC). 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 two bus companies operating on this route: Station Wagon (coloured yellow and orange) and TUASA (coloured red and white). You can get a ticket for $1.10 (1,000 CRC).

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: $150 (87,000 CRC)
Duration: 50 minutes
Cost: $150 (87,000 CRC)

Sansa Regional operates two 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.

Airfares start from $150 (87,000 CRC) one way.

Check Flights with Skyscanner

Step 3: Tamarindo Airport to Tamarindo City Centre by Taxi

Duration: 10 minutes
Cost: $5 (3,000 CRC)
Duration: 10 minutes
Cost: $5 (3,000 CRC)

From Tamarindo Airport, your only way to get to the city centre is by taxi. That’s a 5 km journey northeast and a 10-minute ride costs around $5 (3,000 CRC).


Our favourite places to stay in Tamarindo

Les Voiles Blanches - Treating yourself

Tamarindo is full of luxury resorts, and Les Voiles Blanches is one of the top. Hence the hefty price tag. Throughout the paradise hotel, there are a number of beautiful pools, so you’ll be able to find your own private oasis away from the high energy of Tamarindo.

The hotel offers both normal hotel rooms and tent-style rooms. Don’t worry, there’s no slumming it, the rooms are more like luxurious wooden cabins. Every room has its own terrace, but there’s also stunning communal areas to relax in.

  • Multiple swimming pools
  • Unique style rooms
  • Super attentive staff
  • Home-made breakfast available

Double rooms start from $80 per night

Read More


Ten North Tamarindo Beach Hotel - Treating yourself

If Les Voiles Blanches is too far out of your price range, Ten North is another great option. It has a huge array of room options, ranging from double rooms to two bedroom apartments. The pool is a spectacular 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.

  • Outdoor swimming pool
  • Incredibly friendly staff
  • Beautifully decorated rooms
  • Range of room sizes to accommodate everyone

Double rooms start from $80 per night

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Hostel La Botella de Leche - Budget Friendly

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.

  • Outdoor swimming pool
  • Shared living room
  • Sociable atmosphere
  • Great location

Double rooms between $15-$50 per night

Read More


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About the author(s)

Travel Planning Expert

Ela is a storyteller, content producer, solo traveller and a mermaid-in-training. When she’s not in front of her laptop, you will find her barefoot and living her best tan on some island in the Philippines… Or exploring the depths of its seas as a budding freediver. An island girl at heart, she’ll be happy anywhere there is sea, sand, sun and coffee.


Based in Bali, Maarten’s passion for travel is undeniable. In 2016, he decided to quit his job as a stock analyst and started doing what he always dreamed of: travelling through South East Asia and helping other people plan their trips. When he is not working on Gecko Routes, you’ll find him surfing in the ocean or exploring the best gems of Indonesia.

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