Liberia is the capital city of the Guanacaste province and is the most important economic center of the area. Known locally as the Ciudad Blanca (White city) due to the white gravel of the surrounding soil, it’s a city that tourists may not stay in but need to know about.
This is because the Liberia International Airport is only a 15 minute drive from downtown Liberia. Additionally, many major routes to and from Guanacaste pass through Liberia. For this reason, it is a common reference point. It’s also very close to popular tourist destinations, national parks and beaches such as Rincon de la Vieja National Park, Tenorio Volcano National Park, Gulf of Papagayo, Playas del Coco, Tamarindo, Samara, Conchal, La Cruz and Nosara.
Read more about Liberia below. (Also, Liberia is pronounced Lee-bear-ee-ah in Spanish).
Map and Location
Liberia, Costa Rica Map
Liberia is in the Guanacaste province, 12.4 km (7.7 miles) from the Daniel Oduber Quirós International Airport (Liberia International Airport or LIR) and 198 km (123 miles) from Juan Santamaria International Airport (SJO or San Jose International Airport).
It is 211 kilometers (131 miles) from San Jose downtown. Liberia is just a 40 minute drive to the closest beach town of Playas del Coco.
How to get to Liberia, Costa Rica
From Liberia International Airport, exit the airport and turn right. Then at the next intersection, turn left onto Route 21 and drive about 15 minutes to Liberia downtown.
From San Jose International Airport, the best route is via Route 27 and Route 1. This drive takes a little over 3 hours.
As the capital city, there are many buses to and from Liberia everyday.
Buses from Liberia Downtown to LIR Airport: The first bus leaves at 05:30 am, then there is bus every hour from 07:20 AM to 06:20 PM.
LIR Airport to Liberia Downtown: The first bus leaves at 06:00 AM am, then there is bus every hour from 08:00 AM to 08:00 PM
Liberia Downtown to San Jose Downtown: With Pulmitan Bus Company, from Monday to Friday, there are buses at 03:00 AM 04:00 AM, 05:00 AM, 06:00 AM, 07:00 AM, 08:00 AM, 10:00 AM, 12:00 AM, 02:00 PM, 04:00 PM, 06:00 PM and 08:00 PM.
Buses from San Jose Downtown to Liberia Downtown: With Pulmitan Bus Company, there is one bus every hour starting at 06:00 AM and the last at 08:00 PM
You can take private or shared shuttles from other destinations to Liberia.
For shared shuttles, check companies like Easy Ride, Ride CR and Interbus. They offer shared services to Liberia from destinations such as La Fortuna, San Jose and Monteverde for around $59 USD per adult.
A private shuttle from San Jose to Liberia is around $220 USD for 1- 4 passengers.
Visiting Liberia, Costa Rica
Liberia is not exactly a top tourist destination in Costa Rica as it is a quite small city with not that much. Because of this, most tourists stay in or near Liberia to be close to the airport on the night they fly in or the night before they fly out. Tourists don’t normally use Liberia as a homebase either but as it is close to many attractions, you can stay a couple nights before you fly out to take advantage of its location and do a day trip. I’ll write some examples below.
Most popular option: Stay in Liberia two nights before your flight. Use the full day you have in Liberia to do a day trip that you couldn’t fit in the rest of the itinerary. Many people like to do the Nicaragua 1 day tour from Liberia ($140 USD per person with a 6 AM pick up time). Another popular day tour they can do is Hacienda Guachipelin 1 day tour (30 minutes driving) or Buena Vista Combo Adventure tour (45 minutes driving). Some other day trips are Cerro Pelado, Rincon de la Vieja National Park and Rio Celeste.
Option 2: Use the full day you have to visit attractions in or close to Liberia. Some of these are Llanos de Cortes waterfall, the Guanacaste museum, Centro de la Rescate Las Pumas near Cañas, a beer tour at Maderos or Numu, Catarata La Leona in Curubande, Hidden Art Gallery and Costa Rica Wild Art.
Many people who land at Liberia International Airport and are staying at a vacation rental will go to the supermarkets in Liberia for groceries as it’s a bit cheaper than supermarkets in areas like Tamarindo, Samara and Conchal. Additionally, not all beach towns have big supermarkets. A lot of people will go to Walmart or big supermarket in Plaza Santa Rosa right in downtown Liberia.
Festivals and Holidays
As the capital city, Liberia is a good place to experience Costa Rica culture. July 25 is the national holiday Anexión del Partido de Nicoya and Liberia always has festivals going on those days. This holiday celebrates the annexation of the Guanacaste province from Nicaragua to Costa Rica.
On September 15, Costa Rica’s Independence Day, there are always parades in the morning through downtown Liberia.
In February (the date changes every year), Liberia has the local festivals, horse parades and bull runs (called fiestas civicas). If you happen to be in the area those dates, it’s a lot of fun to visit Liberia to watch the parades and go to the parties on the holidays.
Liberia, Costa Rica Hotels
You can find a small amount of hotels in Liberia with reasonable prices.
Best Western El Sitio Hotel & Casino: right in downtown with 2 pools, casino and bar-restaurant. Starts at around $100 USD.
Boyeros Hotel & Conference Center: One of the older hotels right in downtown with swimming pool, conference room, jacuzi and typical restaurant. A double room starts at $70 USD.
Hotel Del Rio: Small but modern hotel in a gated community so it is safer. Has balconies and restaurant. Double room starts at $45 and $55 USD.
Hotel Santa Ana: Good budget option and only 5 minutes from Liberia Airport. Includes breakfast, no airport shuttle included. Double room starts around $50 USD.
Hilton Garden Inn Liberia Airport: Right in front of Liberia Airport and is a typical airport Hilton Garden Inn with a pool, meeting rooms, restaurant, complimentary airport shuttle to/from, business center and gym. Has a really good breakfast included. Starts around $100 USD.
Villa Hermosa: Very nice and cute family run hotel with shared kitchen and private rooms. Starts around $70 USD.
Liberia, Costa Rica Restaurants
Liberia Social: Steakhouse with international and local menu. More of an upscale place, good for a nice night out.
Cafe Liberia: Small coffee shop in an old restored building with Bohemian decor.
Kai Sushi Bar: Sports bar and sushi.
Masala Indian Restaurant: Nice place for Indian food, one of the best in Guanacaste.
Marisqueria Sabor Porteno: A local favorite for seafood and steak. Nice spacious restaurant.
Restaurante Tierra Mar: Another local favorite for seafood.
Mariajuana Restaurante: Casual bar restaurant with yummy cocktails and beer. Also has a local and international menu.
Toro Negro Steak House: Pretty good steak house. People like their ribeye.
Bagatzi Restaurante: Local bar restaurant, nice place for a more “local” experience.
Taqueria Mazatlan: Good and cheap Mexican food.
Other Things to Know about Liberia, Costa Rica
Being the capital city of Guanacaste, Liberia has everything of a city. Pharmacies, banks, full service supermarkets, a hospital, clinics, dental clinics, mechanics, fast food, money wiring services, clothing stores and more. It has the typical Costa Rican town set up with a park and church.
For those of us who live at the beach in Guanacaste, we have to go to Liberia anytime we need something major such as lab tests, specific car parts, etc. I used to drive to Liberia every month from Tamarindo to see my orthodontist who came once a month from San Jose. When we lived in Playas del Coco, we would have to drive to Liberia to go to the movie theater.
For tourists, it’s not really common to stay in Liberia but if you have to for a night or two due to flight itineraries, it’s not that bad of a city to get a taste of the Guanacaste culture and do a day trip.
Plan Your Trip
Here are some itineraries we’ve written that land in Liberia Airport for you to peruse!