How to Go from San Jose to Tamarindo

If you are flying into the Juan Santamaria International Airport in San Jose, and headed out to the popular surf town of Tamarindo, like thousands of tourists do each week, know that you have about a five hour car ride ahead of you.  In today’s travel tip, I’ll show you how to get to Tamarindo from San Jose and you can use the reverse instructions to get from Tamarindo back to San Jose.  There are many options for travelers of all budgets, so let’s get into how you make this voyage!

Where is Tamarindo Located?

Playa Tamarindo Witches Rock
Witches Rock can be found off the beach of Playa Tamarindo.

Tamarindo is located in the province of Guanacaste, along with many other beach towns on the west (Pacific) coast of Costa Rica.  The roads traveled to get here are about 161 miles from San Jose, but in Costa Rica they use the metric system so you’ll see it posted as 260 kilometers.  As the roads are winding around lush landscapes and even mountainous regions, you’ll find flying there gives you a shorter commute of only 124 miles as you can take a more direct approach.

Pro Tip:  A much easier way to get to Tamarindo is from the Liberia Airport, which is only an hour away.  Here’s how you can get from Tamarindo from Liberia.

Methods of Getting from San Jose to Tamarindo

I’ll cover all methods of getting from San Jose to Tamarindo, from easiest, to cheapest.

Renting a Car

There are many car rental agencies in the Juan Santamaria Airport, and this is by far the most popular approach.  Driving is very safe in Costa Rica, especially if you come from a crazy driving destination like we do, being the South Florida area.  You’ll have the random people trying to pass you on the shoulder, as they may be working transporting goods or documents across the country, but other than that, you’ll find drivers to be relatively calm and one the safer side of all Latin American countries.  I always feel safe driving in Costa Rica.

The sun does go down around 5:30 no matter what time of the year you visit, so keep that in mind if you don’t like driving in the dark.  As far as a car rental company of choice in Costa Rica, I have several to recommend.  However, for my money, I always use Discover Cars.  This is a global agency with national, global, and local connections that will provide you with a better rate than going direct.  The best part about this company is that they provide real reviews of the actual local agencies and vehicles rented!  Second, you can take care of your insurance with them versus being hassled for insurance which are clearly commission-based by local companies.  They take care of all of it and you just have to show up with your paperwork whether you choose a local company or global brand like say Enterprise which has offices in Costa Rica, and your off to start your adventure.  Use the widget below to get a quote and experience this company for yourself.

You won’t require a 4 x 4 for this trip, but I always get one, especially during the wet and rainy season because roads can become questionable.  Most of the drive is on very direct highways while a small portion is winding roads, but this is towards the end of the drive.  You will need a driver’s license from your home country to rent a car in Costa Rica.

Private Shuttle Transportation from San Jose to Tamarindo

Families and groups who aren’t into driving have many options when it comes to getting to Tamarindo from San Jose and that’s usually in the form of a private shuttle.  There are vans of all sizes, even up to 18 people, so you can rest assured even larger groups will be accommodated.  They will meet you right at the airport if you pre-book and will be there when your flight lands as they track each flight.  Tourism is very big for Costa Rica, so this is something that is very organized.  You can also have them get you at your hotel or wherever you stay if you choose to spend a night in San Jose.

I’ve used these a few times and recommended them to many people.  Here’s one I gave five stars to and have referred to many friends:

Taking the Public Bus from San Jose to Tamarindo

This is by far the cheapest way to go from San Jose to Tamarindo, however it will also take the most time, so keep that in mind.  You can purchase a bus ticket directly at the bus station, or if you want to think ahead and buy the tickets online you can do that as well.  Use this website to book.

The drive will take about six hours, depending on time of year and climate conditions.  The bus will leave from the airport terminal.  I haven’t rode in local buses since 2000 and don’t think I ever will again.  They are a bit chaotic and long for my liking but if that’s what you want to do, they are safe and most locals use them.

The bus also does go from Tamarindo back to San Jose.  You’ll have to check current schedules and hope your flight is on time, of course.

Flying from San Jose to Tamarindo

You can land in San Jose and fly to Tamarindo if you really want to get there quicker.  You’ll find flights lasting about 45-50 minutes and this will be very quick and a great way to see the country!

Sansa is a local airline that does this flight.  You can visit their site here.  Flights do vary depending on seasonality.  The Tamarindo airport code is TNO, if you want to search on sites like Expedia or other booking engines to see what else you may be able to find as well.

Once you touch down in Tamarindo, you will be about ten minutes outside the greater Tamarindo area and main drag.  Taxies are the best way to get there as it’s only a 3 mile journey.

Taxi to Tamarindo from San Jose

airport taxi costa rica
Airport taxis are everywhere at the SJO airport. Look for cars like the ones in this photo.

Speaking of taxis, you could go in a taxi from San Jose to Tamarindo, but unless you are alone and want it that way, a shared or private shuttle will be more cost effective.  Taxis are everywhere at the SJO airport, so you’ll have no problem getting one no matter what time you land.


You have many options when it comes to traveling to Tamarindo from San Jose’s airport or general vicinity.  Whatever option you choose, make sure you do your best to plan ahead and have all your documents printed with you to have a smooth experience.  Once you get there, I encourage you to take a sunset cruise.

Other Costa Rica Travel Tips:


What is the fastest way to get from San Jose to Tamarindo?

The fastest way to get from San Jose to Tamarindo will be flying.  However, account for flight times and check in when you book.

What is the easiest way to get to Tamarindo from San Jose?

The easiest way to have a stress free trip to Tamarindo from San Jose is by booking a private transfer.  You won’t have to deal with another check in at an airline, have possible flight delays or technical issues, and will get door to door service.

The cheapest way to go from San Jose to Tamarindo

The cheapest way to go to Tamarindo from San Jose is by public bus.


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Tim Schmidt is a 20+ year Entrepreneur and Digital Marketer. A Fort Lauderdale-based "Digital Nomad," he enjoys traveling as much as possible with family and friends. AllWorld is his escape to document all of his adventures, including being a hardcore "foodie." He has property in Costa Rica and visits several times each year and is happy to offer his expert advice for planning your trip.

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