With the new terminal at Liberia and abundance of paved roads, getting to Playa Grande has never been easier. Whether you want to rent a car from the airport or have a shuttle take you door to door, there are a variety of options to get you here. Additionally the Tamarindo airstrip is just across the estuary, and really cuts down on travel.
Costa Rica has two international airports: Juan Santamaria (SJO) in Alajuela just outside of San Jose and Daniel Oduber (LIR) in Liberia. Though Liberia’s airport has been around for decades and recently renovated, San Jose has more flights, and is often cheaper to fly into. With San Jose at least four hours away, travelers often lose precious vacation time in transit, sometimes having to stay overnight in a hotel close by; therefore, visitors destined for Playa Grande who want to get as much surf and R&R as possible should fly into Liberia.
If San Jose is the only option, consider opting for a domestic flight from Sansa or Nature Air into Tamarindo or even Liberia. Fares typically fluctuate throughout the year between $90USD and $130USD each way. Travelers should note that the Sansa terminal is adjacent to the Juan Santamaria Airport. Nature Air flies out of Pavas, which requires travelers to take a taxi, and as of late 2013, Nature Air is adding flights out of SJO, making it more convenient.
Perhaps one of the most confusing factors to deal with is the rental car. Though Costa Rica has recognizable franchises such as Economy, Budget, Hertz, and more that allow you to book online all rental car drivers must purchase a mandatory insurance. This fee is typically not included in the quotes vacationers receive online, and many are shocked to find out the price of the car nearly doubles from the original quote. If renting a car in Costa Rica, we encourage travelers to check out other providers like Adobe, Hola, and Poas, or at the very least confirm mandatory insurance is included.
No matter which airport you fly into, your hotel or house concierge can assist you in booking a reputable, reliable shuttle from the airport. It’s advisable to allow your host to help book travel arrangements while in Costa Rica since some services are better than others. While some options may seem like a good deal, shuttles with multiple drop offs and pick-ups can be exhausting after a long day of travel. Private shuttles to and from Liberia typically run between $80-100 USD (total), while travelers flying in and out of San Jose can expect a flat fee of $225USD.
If traveling to and from Playa Grande to another destination, Costa Rica has an array of ground transportation options—everything from a Tico bus to roomy shuttles with Wi-Fi. The decision of which service to choose is often influenced by your budget, mastery of basic Spanish, and sense of adventure. Tico buses are inexpensive yet efficient, and depending on which bus you choose, there may or may not be air conditioning. The crowds depend on the year and time of day. You can get a bus ticket as far as San Jose for under $10USD.
Should you require something a little more “gringo” Interbus and Grayline provide exceptional service, with tickets starting at around $55 each way. While Grayline has select destinations for pick up and drop off, Interbus is a bit more flexible.