If you’re planning on driving to Arenal from Guanacaste, we’ll show you what it’s like in this post. You can watch our video below or read on to find out if what kind of car you need, see what the road is like and what to know for this drive.
PS. Don’t forget we also have a Costa Rica car rental discount which you can get in the link if you plan to rent a car.
Driving to Arenal (La Fortuna) from Guanacaste
Whether you are staying in Gulf of Papagayo (Playas del Coco, Hermosa, Ocotal, etc.), resorts like Riu Guanacaste, Four Seasons, Planet Hollywood or coming from Tamarindo/Flamingo/Westin Conchal, the driving route to La Fortuna is about the same.
You need to go to Liberia, get on the Interamericana highway 1, exit at Cañas, drive to Tilaran, go through Nuevo Arenal, drive around the lake and finally reach La Fortuna. The distance is about 130 kilometers or 80 miles.
From Liberia Airport to Arenal, the drive time takes around 3 hours. If you’re coming from Playas del Coco, Gulf of Papagayo, Conchal or Tamarindo, it is around 4 hours.
Arenal to Guanacaste Driving Time and Route
Do you need a 4×4 for La Fortuna from Guanacaste? No. These are all main paved roads. In fact, most of it goes on a highway. However, there are some big pot holes around Nuevo Arenal you must watch out for.
Additionally, once you start going around Lake Arenal, the road gets very curvy so you have to go slow. If you get carsick or have kids, I highly recommend taking anti-nausea medicine before driving to La Fortuna.
Here is the route from Liberia to La Fortuna. The route from Liberia to La Fortuna does not require a 4×4 using Route 1 and Route 142.
When you set your GPS for La Fortuna, enter your hotel as your final destination. To stay on the completely paved road, make sure your route stays on Route 1 and Route 142.
Driving to Arenal from Liberia
This is a beautiful drive as you go through the rainforests and around the Lake Arenal.
This route has a lot of signage but we still recommend to use a GPS.
Eventually after all the curves and turns, the volcano finally appears and you’ll start noticing signs for resorts like the Springs and Nayara. You will know when you are close to La Fortuna when you drive across a short bridge on the lake.
There is a view of Arenal Volcano right in front of you on the bridge to the left. From there, you are only about 20 minutes from La Fortuna downtown.
Keep going on this road, driving past the many luxury hotels and resorts in the area, passing the Arenal Volcano National Park entrance on your right and eventually ending up in La Fortuna, the main town and tourism hub.
Guanacaste to Arenal Driving Stops: Restaurants, Bathroom, Places to See, Etc.
A little bit before Liberia, there is a coffee shop called Sun Burst at the Do-It Center. Our favorite stop for coffee to go! They also have bathrooms and a small cafeteria for food. There is also a gas station right by the building.
Then, if you need to use the bathroom, in Liberia, the Plaza Santa Rosa has public bathrooms. This plaza also has a large supermarket, bank and ATM. As Liberia is the capital city of Guanacaste, there are a lot of food options, including fast food. Liberia also has a Walmart.
Then on the drive from Liberia to Cañas, you can stop by Catarata Llanos de Cortes for a quick photo. It’s technically in Bagaces, about a 15-20 minute drive from Liberia and right off the highway before Cañas so you won’t be taking a big detour. It a 5 minute walk down to the beautiful waterfall.
In Cañas, we like to get breakfast/lunch at Restaurante Mimi. This is where all the local farmers and workers eat in town. Great cheap local spot. There’s a statue of the pig right out front. They have a parking lot and a convenience store right next door. Right on the route so no detour required.
In Tilaran, there is a famous Costa Rican restaurant called Restaurante Aroma Tico. It’s a great stop in the middle of the drive to get lunch, use the bathroom and check out some souvenirs. You can also get gas as there is a gas station right in the center of town that you will pass.
There are several places around Lake Arenal to stop. You will see a ton of signs that say something like “tourist stop” “tourist coffee” “Great views and coffee” and things like that.
For us, we usually like to stop at Cafe y Macademia because it’s very convenient being right off the road. They have a bakery, restaurant, clean bathrooms, souvenir store and a nice view of Lake Arenal. However, Cafe y Macademia is where all the tour buses stop so there are always a lot of people there.
For places that are not quite touristic, check out Lake Arenal Brewery, Tinajas Arenal or Los Heroes. Tinajas is a lakefront restaurant with a beautiful view and is about a 10 minute detour from Nuevo Arenal.
This town has convenience stores and restaurants. Moya’s Place is a great restaurant. The German Bakery is kind of expensive and I didn’t like their pastries but they had good coffee. Parking there is not very convenient as it’s only street parking on a steep-ish road.
Closer to La Fortuna
Selva Paraiso is another coffee shop with souvenirs and bathrooms right off the road. Then for a couple of local spots with great views, there is Rancho Mirador Los Peñas, near Mistico Arenal Hanging Bridges Park.
It’s a local family owned property with a stunning view of Arenal Volcano and Lake Arenal, offering traditional food. This one requires a longer stop, it’s about 30 minutes total to go there and back from the main road. 4wd highly recommended to visit this spot.
One of our favorite viewpoints on this route is in Tilaran, close to the turn of Lake Arenal Condos. It goes up the mountains toward the windmills and you get a beautiful view of Tilaran and the Guanacaste province below.
If you want to see this one, you can set the GPS destination as “Planta Tejona, ICE” and right around there are some beautiful views. You can also get very close to the windmills which is impressive!
This is a dirt road going up the mountain so a high car is recommended.
There is another more accessible viewpoint in Tilaran. On the map it is called “Mirador Tilaran” and you can just pull off to the side of the road for photos of the lake and hills.
If you rented a 4×4 and are a proficient off road driver, you can also stop by Lake Cote. This is the largest natural lake in Costa Rica and also the spot of the only “official” UFO sighting in the country.
As it is truly an off the beaten path place, a 4wd/4×4 is required. Read our post for more information because this detour will add at least 1 hour to your drive from Guanacaste to La Fortuna.
Mirador La Armonia
This is another nice place to stretch your legs. It’s a local family owned property with a beautiful view of Arenal Volcano and Lake Arenal. They don’t offer anything and the entrance fee is kind of expensive for just a lookout point at 3000 colones per person (~$5 USD). But if you bring food and drinks, you can enjoy a picnic since they have some benches around.
We brought our dogs and they loved running around the property since it is very flat with lots of space. They also offer camping but they don’t have showers.
Map of the Route and Points of Interest
Click here to go to our interactive map.
Once you get around the lake, you can stop by the dam for a nice view of the volcano and lake. You can watch our video of our road trip from Guanacaste to Arenal in the video below to see where we stopped.
If you want to follow our exact route that we took in this video, including the stops, please check the map here!
Tips for Driving to Arenal from Guanacaste
- Give yourself at least 4,4.5 hours for this drive to include bathroom, photo and food stops. Drive slow around the lake. It’s curvy with tight turns and no street lights.
- Whenever you stop, try to park your car where you can see it from the restaurant. Always roll up windows and lock your doors. Try to hide your luggage so it’s not visible in the car.
- If you get carsick, take anti-nausea medicine.
- It’s not advised to drive this route late at night, especially in rainy season. This is because of the very dark and curvy roads. Remember, the sun sets at 6 PM and it tends to start raining in late afternoon in rainy season.
- If your flight lands from 4-6 PM, we recommend to stay a night in Liberia and then leave early the next day instead. You can also stay somewhere halfway like in Tilaran or Nuevo Arenal.
- If you don’t rent a GPS, use Waze or Google Maps. You need phone internet data so get a Costa Rica pre paid sim card or sign up for an international date plan with your home provider.
- There are many gas stations along the way in Liberia, Cañas, Tilaran and La Fortuna.
Alternative Route (Via Bijagua and Rio Celeste)
There is an alternative route you can take from Guanacaste to La Fortuna, allowing you to see one of the most beautiful places in Costa Rica. You can drive from Liberia to Bijagua, hike Rio Celeste and then continue to La Fortuna.
The map is below. In Google Maps, you can set it as Liberia – Parqueo del Parque Nacional Tenorio – La Fortuna.
The drive from Liberia to Rio Celeste is 2 hours and Rio Celeste to La Fortuna is about 2 hours. High car is recommended.
Tips For This Alternative Route Stopping at Rio Celeste
If you plan to stop at Rio Celeste, we recommend to arrive at the Tenorio Volcano National Park early as the hike can take around 3-4 hours. That way, you can arrive in La Fortuna right at sunset and not have to drive much in the dark.
After the hike, have lunch at the restaurant outside the national park entrance and then head on your way to La Fortuna. So try to get to the park before 9 AM to finish the hike by 12- 1 PM, have lunch, leave before 2-3 PM and you’ll arrive to La Fortuna before dark.
Keep in mind that if you visit during rainy season, particularly months like May, June, August – December, the Rio Celeste area does tend to rain a lot. The river may not be quite as blue or you may get really rained on.
You can also stop at the Rio Celeste Free Pool to swim in the river after the hike.
You can read more about getting to Rio Celeste in this post here.
San Jose to La Fortuna
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.
Looking for some activities? Find out what are the top things to do in La Fortuna/Arenal!
There are affiliate links in this post.
Karim Miche says
Hi! Yeison and Samantha! This is very helpful, thank you for your complete information.
My family and I are so excited about our trip this year, in July.
Do you could give me some ideas o recomendatios to do a horse riding.?
Do you know a god one? We are travelling Manuel Antonio, Tamarindo, Monteverde, Arenal….
You can actually do horseback riding in those places you’re going to.
Hello, we are flying into LIR on 2/12/2023 around 2pm and then planning to drive to La Fortuna. We plan on doing some hot springs and hikes and maybe hanging bridges while in La Fortuna. Then we are going to drive from La Fortuna to Tamarindo and stopping at Rio Celeste along the way. What type of rental car would you recommend? Do we need a 4WD?
You don’t necessarily need a 4wd, but check with your hosts and places you want to go to see if a high clearance car or 4wd is required, otherwise you can be fine in a sedan if your places/lodging is on main roads.
Thank you for your super helpful driving directions. I’ve lived in Costa Rica for 15 years and driving still stresses me out because even with Waze/Google Maps I still get lost or on really bad roads half the time. This is so comforting. Thank you!!!
We’re planning a 12 day trip in the first two weeks of August. We’re a family of 4 with two teenagers. With so much to see, we’re trying to maximize our trip, but lessen the amount of driving. We’re currently thinking of leaving from Liberia and ending our trip with a few days in Tamarindo. Would you recommend both Monteverde and Arenal? Come in from Liberia or San Jose? And would we get a jungle experience from these there places? Or should we add Manuel Antonio–we’re going in the raining season so hoping to not be with too many people.
Hi Jennifer, I recommend you to check out this particular blog post: 2 week Costa Rica itinerary
this is an itinerary very similar to what you’re thinking about, except substitute Santa Teresa/Playas del Coco for Tamarindo
You should fly in/out of Liberia AIrport.
We are heading to Arenal Thursday with our Golden Retriever. Did you find many activities you could do with your dogs?
Arenal 1968 is dog friendly. No dogs allowed at Fortuna waterfall or the national park. You can also go to the free hot spring river
We are set for a 12 day trip to beautiful Costa Rica for a family of 5 for the end of June/beginning of July. We booked our rental car through you….thank you! (3 days La Fortuna, 3 days MA, and 5 days Nosara)
We arrive at Liberia Airport at 3:30p. For the first night, I am debating on staying at Hacienda La Pacifica and then heading to Arenal in the morning and doing an afternoon activity like canyoning/repelling or driving a bit further from the airport to the Rio Celeste Hideway Hotel and hiking Rio Celeste in the morning and then heading to our hotel, The Lost Iguana in the afternoon. The further drive to Rio Celeste in the dark does not worry me but if the weather does not cooperate and the water is not blue, is it still a beautiful hike and worth the detour? I would love your advice!
Hi Shari, during rainy season it is very difficult to accurately predict the weather but if we are having a tropical storm or a tropical wave and it has been raining usually for like 12 to 24 hours nonstop, the river may not be blue. Usually the mornings are clear except if we do have a tropical wave through the country. You can still go since it is a nice hike and keep an eye on the weather
We are staying at the RIU in Guanacaste-is it to much to attempt this as a day trip? We are staying the full week there. Thank you for any tips!
You can do it on your own if you rented a car but definitely plan for where you want to visit beforehand so you know what to do for the day and you don’t waste time trying to figure out what to do/see in one day when you’re there because it is around a 3.5-4 hour drive one way. I would personally recommend booking a tour with transportation since it’ll include transportation and a guide so they’ll take you everywhere and you don’t have to worry about driving or trying to figure out where to go, in case you’re interested in a tour with transportation, we have a small discount for tours which includes roundtrip transportation from RIU: https://mytanfeet.com/special-deals/guanacaste-day-tours-discount/
Great info, thanks very much.
We are arriving at the Liberia airport at about 1:30 and then driving to the Arenal Lodge and Observatory. I’m guessing that by the time we clear customs and get our car, we will be arriving in Arenal after dark. Will that be a problem for driving?
Thanks for any input,
You could do that drive, just make sure to use a GPS and do drive slowly and carefully around the Lake Arenal and Tilaran because it’s quite curvy and narrow with no street lights for a section
David R says
Thank you so much for the endless tips, this website is super helpful! My wife and I are planning a ~1-week trip to CR in early February 2021 — our tentative itinerary is here:
– Saturday: arrive in Liberia at noon. Rent a car and drive to La Fortuna.
– Sunday-Monday: 2 full days in La Fortuna
– Tuesday: leave super early to drive from La Fortuna to Monteverde. Try to fit-in a short hike in Monteverde
– Wednesday: full day in Monteverde
– Thursday: drive from Monteverde to Punta Islita
– Friday-Saturday: beach time in Punta Islita
– Sunday: drive to Liberia for flight home
We were wondering if you think this trip is doable or is a bit ambitious with all the driving? Also, would you recommend renting a 4×4? We are having trouble understanding whether 4×4 is needed to get to Punta Islita.
Thank you so much!
David & Marta
You can do this itinerary, just plan for the long drives.
A high clearance car is recommended for Monteverde and required for many attractions and hotels so I would make sure to check with the hotels you’re staying at and places you want to go in Monteverde. Punta Islita has a main road going to the resort that is paved
Hello! We are arriving in Liberia at 2 p.m. this Monday, which we know is the rainy season and renting a car to La Fortuna. Do we need to worry about flash floods on this route? Thank you for all of the tips!
Hi Veronica, there are no river crossings on this route.
LeAnne BC says
We are staying at Secrets Papagayo in August. Is it worth the drive to Arenal for a day? Or is there something closer that would give us a similar experience?
If you aren’t able to stay a night or two in Arenal, you could do it as a one day trip if you want to see a volcano but I don’t recommend to drive yourself, I would recommend it as a tour since it is such a long drive. If you’re not that keen on such a long day trip, you can check out another rainforest area like Bijagua, Costa Rica instead.
Julie Schulz says
Hi! This is an amazing blog. Can you tell me if our flight arrives at 3 pm, is it possible to get our car and drive halfway to Arenal area? If so where would you suggest staying? Nothing fancy but safe. Thank you for your time.
You can check out Nuevo Arenal, that’s about halfway
Chad B says
Awesome website!! I’ve been reading it for multiple days trying to plan my family vacation. We are planning to fly into Liberia then stay in Arenal for 4 nights and then drive to Tamarindo to stay for 4-5 nights. I’m traveling with my family and we want to break up the drive from Arenal to Tamarindo with an overnight stay somewhere. Do you have any recommendations on where to stay for a night on the way from Arenal to Tamarindo?
Thanks for all the info!!
You could check out Nuevo Arenal, there are some cute little boutique hotels in Nuevo Arenal, like Lucky Bug, Los Heroes and Lake Arenal Brewery and they have beautiful lake views.
Thank you so much for all your posts! We’ve been heavily relying on your great info for our trip! We are loving Tamarindo and look forward to our drive to Tabacon tomorrow. Now I know where to stop for lunch on the way!
Have a safe drive!
Hello! I am considering stopping through Rio Celeste on my way from Liberia to La Fortuna in a few weeks. At first I was going to hire a private driver but now I’m considering renting a car. I saw you mentioned you need a “high car” for this. Can you expand more on that? A 4×4? Do you have photos of the road? Thank you. 🙂
A car with high clearance and good traction so like a 4×4 or 4wd.
You can see the road in this post: Bijagua to Rio Celeste road conditions (the difference is that the road is now mostly concrete)
Great post and wonderful blog!
If I’m making the drive from Arenal to a rental in Hermosa, is it safe to stop at the Walmart or PriceSmart in Liberia to stock up while having luggage in the car? Do they have secure lots?
Or should I just shop locally after checking in?
Also, it appears the Adobe office in Fortuna is currently closed – otherwise I’d love to get their deal from you.
Hi Raj, they both have large parking lots and with a security guard, just a note that Pricemart is a membership only market so you can’t go in without a membership (and your Costco membership will not work).
If you would like to rent your car from La Fortuna, you can select the office “Ciudad Quesada” and in the comments, please write you’d like the car delivered to your hotel in La Fortuna and they will arrange it free of charge.
Tom Griffiths says
Great info! I’d like to add that our favourite stops on that route are “La Pacifica” just before Canas on the highway (great lunch and grounds), and the “Lucky Bug” which is a restaurant, gallery and B&B on the main road near Nuevo Arenal. Lucky Bug has thousands of hummingbirds and great desserts. “Toad Hall” used to be fun until it became steeped in controversy.
I am planning my honeymoon in Guanacaste at the RIU resort. How far is the drive from there to Arenal?
It is about 4 hours driving one way!
Hi – We are driving from Liberia to Arenal for one of the hanging bridge hikes. How long does this take? Trying to figure out which time slot to choose based on travel time and perhaps grabbing food for the family along the way. Thanks for any help!
The drive is around 2.5 – 3 hours one way from Liberia to Mistico Hanging Bridges Park.
Liz Solomon says
Hi – we are headed out in a few days for 10 days in the northwest area (starting in Liberia). Our second day we plan to stop at Tenorio/Rio Celeste and overnight in Bijagua. Can you tell me if getting to La Fortuna the day after that is easy to do via Route 6 (instead of going around Lake Arenal?) I coudn’t find exact directions from Bijagua to La Fortuna – looks like Route 6 to Route 4 through Upala? Thank you – so excited for our first visit!
Hi Liz, you can check our How to get to Rio Celeste post for tips.
Great and super helpful blog! We are coming for a week over the new year time frame. We are staying in Tamarindo, with two nights in Arenal mid trip. I saw you post on the stop from Tamarindo (waterfall). On the return trip, is there any benefit to taking the long way back passing closer to Monteverde? Or take the most direct route? Do you have certain more local feeling restaurants you recommend? In Tamarindo we are doing surf lessons, dinner at Pangras and plan on some beach exploring. In Arenal we plan on zip lining, the swinging bridges and hot springs. Anything we are missing that is a must do? An active couple traveling with no kids (for once!). Thanks.
Hi Olivia, unless you want to go to Monteverde, there’s not really a reason to. You could stop by Rio Celeste on your way back from La Fortuna though to Tamarindo, we did this recently and it was really nice. It’s about 1.5 hours from La Fortuna to Rio Celeste, then 2.5 hours to Tamarindo. Great hike, gorgeous waterfall and river. Easy drive.
We are coming from British Columbia Canada and arriving in Liberia Dec. 1 2019. We are staying at an air bnb in playa de coco.
During our stay, we’d like to visit La Fortuna and go on the sky tram. We’ve rented a car for entire 10-day stay.
Can we drive to the Sky Tram and back to Play del Coco in one day?
You can but that’s a long drive since it’s around 3.5 hours each way but it is possible.
Hello, Thank you for all of the great tips. You mention motion sickness and curvy roads on the trip from Liberia to Arenal. Last year I experienced some new challenges in Atenas and surrounding areas with the mountain driving, steep hills with no guard rails and blind corners. Will the trip be similar from Liberia or is it just a curvy drive?
It’s not as steep as Atenas because it doesn’t go through mountains like that area thankfully, just a super duper windy curvy narrow road around the lake.
Hi I will be arriving in Liberia 3 pm solo and have a private driver to take me to Arenal Observatory lodge which I think I will.get there by 7 pm. Should I pick up.snacks etc in Liberia before I start my trip to the lodge? Thanks for the tip about the curvy roads to take gravol. Thanks.for all your blogging information .
Hi Lynda, if you booked a private driver, they should let you stop along the way to La Fortuna. There are also a couple of cafes and restaurants in Lake Arenal on the way you can ask them to stop at and there are supermarkets in Liberia.
Is it okay to drive from Arenal to SJO at 5PM in the evening after a day-trip in Arenal? I wanted to know about the timing and the drive conditions. If we pass the La Fortuna area before sunset, Are we okay for the rest of the drive to reach town Alajuela?
We are flying to LIR, staying in Guanacaste for 4 days and on the last day of our trip – we are driving to SJO with a stop in Arenal to see the Volcano and the La Fortuna waterfall (if time permits).
Day Trip Itinerary: Check-out hotel in Guanacaste by 8am – Reach Arenal before noon – Spend 4-5 hours in Arenal – then drive to a closest hotel in SJO by that night. Flight leaves at noon the following day.
Does that sound reasonable?
If you’re not visiting during peak rainy season months like August, Sept, Oct, Nov, usually it is fine because it will rain pretty hard late afternoon and evenings and I don’t recommend to drive that route if it’s pouring out. I would also make sure you get a GPS as signage is not good on that route.
That is a ton of driving (around 8-9 hours)in one day and I personally wouldn’t recommend it. I don’t like to be in the car for that long during my vacation but that is just me and I get very tired from driving long distances.
This will be our first time to Costa Rica and your blog has been incredibly helpful. I was just curious, I see there are some shuttle services from Tamarindo to Arenal. Have you ever had experience with these shuttles? What are your thoughts on them?
Hi Amanda! Yes there are several shared shuttle companies like Interbus, Easy Ride, Caribe Shuttle and Ride CR. Very common route and those are well known shuttle companies.
Do you happen to know
approximately how much a trip by shuttle would be with one of
the companies you have listed? Thank you in advance!
You can check their website for prices!
So I know you’ve answered this question like 10 times, but we are arriving into LIB at 9pm and need to drive to the Tabacon Resort. We’re renting a car with WiFi in it so we can use Waze. We are very used to driving in the mountain areas in the US at night(windy roads, no railing, sometimes fog), but I’m still a little nervous. Will the WiFi work the whole drive? Is it safe, as in there’s not a lot of crime towards people driving? We know we’ll have to go slow and don’t plan on getting there till 1am-2am.
Hi Aubrey, if you are used to that type of driving and will have a navigation, you can drive that route. There are generally not that many people on the route and it is safe as it’s a very popular tourist route. My main concern would be just in case you get lost or something happens because there are some small towns along that route but for a good part of it, there’s not much so in case something happens and you don’t have a local phone, it would be very bad to be stranded there in the middle of the night. I would definitely not recommend it if you are visiting during rainy season because it tends to rain pretty hard at night, especially August-November.
Thank you so much for the quick reply. I can’t say enough amazing things about your site, it has been SO incredibly helpful. I will most likely be asking/commenting on other pages to get your wisdom!
Last question about the car, after making the reservation through your site, will I need to contact Adobe at the airport to make sure they will still be open at that time? We probably won’t clear customs until at least 9:30pm so I’m sure they will be closed. How do we get out car?
If you’re flying into San Jose Airport, they have an Adobe agent stationed there the whole day so there will be someone waiting for you when you exit the airport and you can still pick up the car when you land at night as the airport office will be open at that time. On the reservation sheet, just put in the time you are landing and your flight information.
We are debating whether to rent a car, hire a shuttle, or a personal driver from Tamarindo to Arenal for a day trip on a Saturday. Our plan was to then go to San Jose that night or the next morning since we have flights back to the US around 12pm Sunday. When would you recommend leaving for San Jose? Do you need a car to get around Arenal? Thanks! Love the site and recs!
Hi Ravi, I would personally rent a car because it gives you more flexibility and the cost will be less than hiring a private shuttle (it’s around $200 one way from Tamarindo to La fortuna and one way from La Fortuna to San Jose). A car is helpful in La Fortuna because many attractions are spread out so if you want to go to the national park, it’s about a 20 minute drive from La Fortuna town.
I would leave no later than 530 – 6 AM on Sunday to be at the airport by 10 AM, it’s about a 3 hour drive from La Fortuna to San Jose but there’s usually a lot of traffic in the city so you will want to make sure you give yourself extra time. Personally we recommend to stay in San Jose the night before instead of driving a long distance early in the morning to be on the safe side.
Has anyone recently driven from Liberia (LIR) to the arenal volcano area? I’d like to know if it requires a 4×4 or if a mid-size car rental will suffice. Also, we plan to visit the sites around La Fortuna – La Fortuna waterfall, hanging bridges, Arenal Volcano hike, etc so not sure if a 4×4 is required to get to those areas too. Thanks for your advice!
Hi Melissa, you don’t need a 4×4 to any of those places. All paved roads, except for the road to the national park but it is just unpaved, nothing bad so a sedan will be fine.
Hello, we arrive at SJO ar 2:30 pm on January 2. Do we have time to drive to Monteverde before dark. If not, do you have any recommendation for a place to stay along the way. Regards, Paula
Hi Paula, you will be able to still have light because you’ll probably go through immigration and pick up your car by around 330 PM or so. Hopefully traffic in San Jose is not too bad but sometimes it can take around 30 minutes to an hour in rush hour to get out of the city. It gets dark by 6 PM everyday and it is about a 3 hour drive to Monteverde and not recommended to drive in the dark because that route is quite narrow and steep. You could stay a night in San Jose, or you can drive to Puntarenas and stay the night there. (Here is a map so you can see: https://goo.gl/maps/5aR8dXySVWq)
Hi, We will be arriving in Liberia just after 1 (over this coming Spring Break). We are staying at one of the resorts between Tabacon and La Fortuna for a few days and then back to Playa Flamingo for a few more days. I think I would like to rent a car, at least until we get back to Playa Flamingo. Do you think we can make it to the resort near La Fortuna before it gets dark? If not, how much should we expect to pay a private driver? Also, can we rent a car in La Fortuna and drop it off in Playa Flamingo? Love the site. Thanks.
Hi Ben, you can definitely drive between La Fortuna and Flamingo, it’s a very easy and common route for tourists as you can see in the post. It will take about 4 hours from Flamingo to La Fortuna.
And you can rent a car in la Fortuna and drop it off in Flamingo, but there will be an extra fee for different pick up and drop off locations for most car rental companies.
The company we work with for private transfers charges $220 for La Fortuna – Flamingo.
Let me know if you have other questions!
Isaac Garcia says
Hi, we are staying bahia Potrero for 4 days at the end of October. What Tours do you recommend in this area ? Are there any local River Boat Tours ? How far is potrero from rincon de la vieja?
Hi Isaac, there is a Palo Verde National Park river tour that is nice, you can read more about it here: Palo Verde National Park
Rincon de la Vieja is about 1.5 hours from Potrero, it has very nice hiking there. You can read more about it here: Rincon de la Vieja National Park
Do you recommend driving from Tamarindo to Arenal in one day? We would spend two days in Arenal. We are traveling 12/22-12/31/18.
We will be renting a car. Debra
Hello Debra, we drive all the time to Arenal from Tamarindo in one day, we usually leave around 7 AM in order to be there around 11 AM. Please let us know if you have further questions and thank you for reading Mytanfeet.
Hi Debra, yes definitely. It’s about a 3.5 – 4 hour drive so totally doable in one day and is worth staying overnight in Arenal.
This is very helpful, thank you. We’re traveling with children who get motion sick in the car very easily. Do you know about how far it is into the drive from Liberia where the road becomes curvy and windy? And about how long does the curvy road last before arriving at the Springs Resort & Spa in Arenal?
Hi Erica, it is right after you leave Canas and head towards Tilaran and start going around Lake Arenal. It gets quite curvy when you go around the lake and it continues until you get into La Fortuna.
My family and I arrive in Liberia at 330 headed to La Fortuna. In order to avoid driving in the dark, wanted to stay within a place thats fun and within a reasonable time before nightfall. Can you recommend someplace good?
Hi Lil, the Gulf of Papagayo beaches are only about a 20 minute drive from the airport so you can stay there that night. The beaches to stay in that area are Playas del Coco, Hermosa, Ocotal and Panama. Coco is the most accessible one since that is the main town so you can find restaurants, markets, banks, etc. and there is a nice park, basketball court, small boardwalk, children’s playground and skatepark at the beach. I wrote a guide to Coco you can read here: Playas del Coco
Does Waze work in CR? We were thinking about off line maps.me. What would you recommend as a map system? Thanks!
Jim and Debbie Heal
Hi Jim, yes Waze works great in CR. You can also download maps on Google Maps to use them offline.
Ade Fidler says
I’ll be arriving Liberia Airport at 3pm and I’ll like to drive to Nuevo Arenal after picking up the hire car as I don’t want to spend the night in Liberia and so its easy for me to get to Fortuna the following day and continue my travels. I’m a single female in my 30s, do you think this is advisable or safe? Will it also be dark by the time I get to Nuevo Arenal?
Hi Ade, it’s about a 3 hour drive from Liberia to Nuevo Arenal. Just be very careful and go slow because the road gets super windy and curvy past Tilaran and there are some bigggg pot holes where people got flat tires so just be very careful. You should make it around 630-7 and it gets dark by 6 PM here every day depending on how long it takes for you to get the car. I recommend using Waze, the GPS app because signage is not great around Canas and Tilaran.
I’m arriving at Liberia Airport around 2:15pm, would I be able to make it to Nuevo Arenal before dark?
You will probably get there right when it’s dark, it’s about a 3 hour drive and add another hour to pick up your car and get some food and you’ll probably get there around 6-630 PM.
Hi- we will be landing at the Liberia airport around 3pm and will be renting a car and diving to Nuevo Arenal ( Villa Decary). What tips can you provide us to drive in dark, place to stop to get some dinner and if it rains, should we stop somewhere until it stops or keep driving?
Hi, right now we are transitioning to dry season so rainy season is pretty much over and ending very soon so if you are visiting from now until end of April, you won’t run into any rain. When you get to Tilaran and start driving around the lake, the road gets VERY curvy and there are some BIG potholes so go slow and be very careful. We know some people who got flat tires from accidentally driving over the potholes, they are that big. There are restaurants in Tilaran or another nice stop along the lake is the Lake ARenal Brewery or Cafe y Macademia.
You can do a day trip but it will be very tiring for the driving so you should get a 2nd driver so you can switch (we offer a free 2nd driver with our car rental discount Costa Rica car rental discount) . It’s worth staying a night in Arenal since it’s such a vast and beautiful area but if you are only in Costa Rica for a week, a day trip is more practical for time. Definitely leave around 5 AM so you can get there by 9-930 AM. Yyou can hike the national park in a couple hours, visit La Fortuna waterfall for a couple hours and spend another couple hours at a hot spring. There are a lot of hot springs in Arenal, Tabacon is the most popular and famous but most expensive. Baldi is a fun one with waterslides, or Ecotermales/Paradise are also very nice ones. On your way back to Tamarindo, it will probably get dark so just go very slow around the lake as it’s a super curvy route.
Melissa Denning says
My husband and I and my two brothers and their wives are coming to Costa Rica on February 11. We fly into Liberia and are renting a car and driving to Tamarindo where we Will be staying for the week. My big question is do you recommend driving from Tamarindo to La Fortuna/Arenal for a day trip? How long of a drive would you say it is? We were thinking of leaving at 5 AM. While in that area my top picks are To see The volcano, the waterfall in La Fortuna ( in your opinion what is the best waterfall in Costa Rica to see ?) and the hot springs ( where is the best place to swim in the springs?)
Sorry those are some loaded questions. Thanks for any help you can give!
There’s not too many places, but there is this very nice waterfall near Bagaces, about 20 minutes from Liberia on the Highway 1 that is definitely worth a stop! You can read about it here: Catarata Llanos de Cortes
Then from there it’s just small local towns. You can maybe eat lunch or dinner around Tilaran, there’s a few good restaurants there and then once you get to Lake Arenal, you can stop at some of the souvenir stores or cafes along the road for some great views until you get to Fortuna.
Mark Purnell says
any interesting places in between that would be worthwhile to visit? We will have the full day to drive from Fortuna to Liberia and are looking for any pit stops of interest…
We are arriving in Liberia at 2pm. Do you think it would be okay to drive to the Tabacon Resort in Arenal the same day? I’ve been reading about how it is a more difficult drive later in the day. I’m pretty comfortable driving in other countries. Thanks!
Hi Anu, it’s about a 4 hour drive to Arenal so you would definitely get there past dark since you’ll probably leave Liberia around 3 after customs, immigration and getting your car. You can definitely drive it, but get a GPS and be very very careful because there’s a lot of construction going on at the InterAmericana highway and the turn into Tilaran off the highway is pretty hard to see when it’s dark since all the construction going on there and the sign is not very well placed. Then the road starting from Nuevo Arenal is super windy without any street lights so be super careful if you decide to drive.
Aaaahhhhh! This video makes me homesick for that place! Thank you! 🙂
Glad you enjoyed it! 🙂
Diane Byrd says
This blog is so informative. Loved it. My family and I are so excited about our trip in April. Your blog gave me some good ideas for sightseeing. It was also helpful about traveling around in CR.
Hi Diane, I’m glad to hear that! We hope you have a great time here and thank you for reading our blog!