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.
There are 4 ways to travel the 260km distance from San Jose to Tamarindo: a 5.5-hour bus, a 5.5-hour minivan, a 5-hour private transfer, and a 1-hour-40-minute flight. Expect to pay between 5,777 CRC ($9) and 157,240 CRC ($257).
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 take in mind that it gets very hot in the bus as they don’t provide air conditioning. If you travel on a budget and don’t mind the hot drive, you can already get a bus ticket for 5,777 CRC ($9).
Taking a minivan from San Jose is faster and much more comfortable. Tickets start at 33,890 CRC ($55). The minivans provide air conditioning and include free hotel pick-up and drop-off.
When travelling with a group, consider taking a private shuttle to Tamarindo. You can choose from different types of vehicles depending on how many you are. Rates start from 157,240 CRC ($257) for a car that can fit 7 persons.
Taking a flight from San Jose is the fastest way to get to Tamarindo, but they are quite expensive. 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.
If you don’t mind a 6 hour long drive in a hot bus, 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 provde aircon though. That’s also why we recommend booking a minivan instead.
Both bus tickets can be bought at the respective bus stations and the Tralapa bus can also be booked onlne.
Buses depart from Tralapa Bus Station for Tralapa and Terminal 7-10 for Alfaro. Just note that there’s no guarantee tickets are still available if you buy them on the same day of your trip.
Advertised travel time is around 5 hours. But it often takes around 6.5 to 7 hours because of traffic and the many stops for pick-ups and drop-offs. Some public buses also take the route via Liberia, which makes the journey take longer.
5 hours 30 minutes
5,777 CRC ($9)
6,120 CRC ($10)
All buses park in Tamarindo city centre. Empresa Alfaro has its own small bus stop, while Tralapa makes its final stop at Pacific Park.
PRO-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.
San Jose to Tamarindo by Minivan/Shared shuttle
Duration: 4 hours Cost: 33,890 CRC ($55)
Taking a minivan from San Jose is much more convenient than a bus and comes with the advantage of free hotel pick-up and drop-off. Also, they make fewer stops compared to the bus, so you will arrive in Tamarindo faster.
But most important, you can expect a comfy ride in an air-conditioned van.
There are 4 companies available: Interbus, Gray Line, Desafio Adventure Company, and Tropical Tours Shuttle. You can get a ticket from 33,890 CRC ($55) when coming from San José city centre. If you want to travel to Tamarindo straight from the airport Tropical Tours Shuttle will be the best option as they offer a minivan ride departing from the San Jose airport.
Book your ticket online at least a few days prior to your trip for guaranteed seats. In the table below, we break down the schedules, rates, and booking links to the cheapest minivan fares we found on the web.
Don’t like to take a shared shuttle, but rather have a private one? If you’re travelling with a group, a taxi with a private driver can be even cheaper than a minivan from Jan Jose to Tamarindo when you split the cost.
Fares start from 157,240 CRC ($257) for a 7-seater car, one way. For bigger groups, there’s a bus that can accommodate up to 18 persons. This costs 190,890 CRC ($312).
As you’re not making a lot of stops except for bathroom breaks, you can complete the journey in around 5 hours.
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 so total travel time may take around 1 hour 40 minutes.
Step 1: San Jose City Centre to San Jose Airport by Taxi
Duration: 40 minutes Cost: 675 CRC ($1.10)
San Jose International Airport (SJO) is offically 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).
The bus is our preferred option as they’re cheap and reliable. There’s one available every 10 minutes at TUASA Terminal, from 04:00 to 23:30. There are 2 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).
A taxi, on the other hand, costs around 15,280 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.
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: 78,370 CRC ($128)
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.