If you’re planning on driving to Arenal from Guanacaste, we’ll show you what it’s like in this post. We’ve driven this exact route quite a few times and it is one of our favorite drives in the country with beautiful views and fresh weather.
You can watch our video below or read on to find out if you need a 4X4, see what the road is like and why it’s such a beautiful drive!
Driving to Arenal from Guanacaste
Whether you are staying in Gulf of Papagayo (Playas del Coco, Hermosa, Ocotal, etc.), the Riu Guanacaste or coming from Tamarindo/Conchal/Flamingo, the route is about the same. You need to go to Liberia, get on the Interamericana highway 1, exit at Canas, drive to Tilaran, go around Nuevo Arenal and the lake and finally reach La Fortuna. The distance is about 130 kilometers or 80 miles.
Arenal to Guanacaste Driving Time and Route
Here is the route on Google Maps. The Coco and Liberia Airport to Arenal drive time takes around 3 hours. If you’re coming from Tamarindo, it is around 4 hours. The entire route is on well paved roads, however, once you start going around Nuevo Arenal and Tilaran, watch out for some very big pot holes.
Driving Directions to Arenal from Liberia
When you arrive in Liberia city with the Mcdonalds in front of you and gas station on your right, turn right onto the Interamericana highway 1. You will drive on the highway for about 47 kilometers, exit (you will see a sign for Canas) and at the roundabout, take the 3rd exit to enter the town.
Then you will continue on this road for 1.5 kilometers past the park and then turn left. Go for about 60 kilometers on this road and follow the signs to Tilaran, Nuevo Arenal and La Fortuna. Once past Tilaran, you will start going around the Arenal Lake which you will see on your right hand side.
Lake Arenal which is the largest lake in the country. There are many signs for Lake Arenal/Nuevo Arenal so watch out for those if you’re not using a GPS. Restaurants and hotels are scattered along the highway that offer lovely views of the lake and near the hydroelectric plant, people can take boat rides, kayak and canoe.
Eventually after all the curves and turns, the volcano finally appears and you’ll start noticing signs for resorts like the Springs and Nayara. If you’re lucky, you will see the impressive Arenal Volcano as you drive across the bridge on the lake.
Keep going on this road and you’re now in the Arenal area. You’ll drive past the many luxury hotels and resorts in the area, pass the Arenal Volcano National Park entrance on your right and eventually end up in La Fortuna, the main town and tourism hub.
Tips for Driving to Arenal from Guanacaste
- If you get carsick, bring anti-nausea medicine. The road gets quite curvy. Be very careful if it’s raining!
- It’s not advised to drive this route late at night, especially if you aren’t familiar, have a GPS or if it’s raining because of the curvy roads and lack of good signage.
- If you don’t rent a GPS, use Waze, a GPS app. Download it on your phone and you can use it if you get a pre-paid sim card or have data.
- The road is nicely paved so you won’t need a 4X4 (Read our driving in Costa Rica tips.)
- You’ll pass through several towns so don’t worry about getting hungry, you’ll see sodas and places to eat all along the road. We recommend going for a coffee at Cafe & Macademia at Lake Arenal. They have a beautiful view point and great coffee and pastries.
You can watch our video below of us driving from Liberia to Arenal. We included the major turns and towns.
Are you coming from San Jose instead of Liberia? Check out our post driving from San Jose to La Fortuna to see what it’s like.
Psst… if you are looking to rent a car in Costa Rica, we have a special discount for our readers!
Looking for some activities? Find out what are the top things to do in La Fortuna/Arenal!