When heading from Arenal/La Fortuna to the Gulf of Papagayo, the 108-mile (173 km) trip will take you almost directly west to the coast. These two locations are connected by some of the most direct routes in the country.
Guanacaste Province has several beaches on the Gulf of Papagayo, and their specific location will add or subtract from the length of your journey. This trip will take anywhere from two to four hours, depending on your mode of transportation.
If you're interested in exploring more of the west coast beaches, consider this five-day Guanacaste from Liberia itinerary.
Duration: 2 hours
There are direct, hour-long flights between La Fortuna and Liberia. This would eliminate part of the drive but still require the use of a taxi, shuttle, or rental car to and from the airport.
By Private Transfer
Duration: 3.5 hours
Even though the drive is an easy one, the rainy season and unpredictable weather may lead you to have someone else drive. The roads between Arenal and Liberia can be blocked by mudslides or riddled with potholes in the rainy season, and the last leg can be difficult to manage if you aren't comfortable with the rough terrain.
The route the private transport will take will either head west from La Fortuna to Liberia, or they may go east from La Fortuna, taking a small detour but avoiding some of the rougher roads and will give you a view of Tenorio Volcano.
By Rental Car
Duration: 3.5 hours
You may be surprised at how simple the drive from Arenal to the Gulf of Papagayo is. The whole thing takes just three hours and consists of a few turns. When leaving Arenal, you can get one last glimpse of the volcano and then continue west on Route 142 and then continue onto the Interamericana Highway, where you'll enjoy a smooth, paved ride for 27 miles (44 km).
There are a few places you may want to stop along the way between Arenal and Liberia. Both Tilaran and Cañas are great local towns with excellent food options. From Liberia to the gulf, it's a straight course on Route 21 and then a right onto Route 253 until you arrive on the peninsula.
By Shared Shuttle
Duration: 4-5 hours
There is a shared shuttle option from Arenal to the Gulf of Papagayo, which is a great option for a relaxing and reliable trip. The trip will take about 4.5 hours and is a safe and secure method of traveling between the two locations.
By Taxi and Bus
Duration: 3.5 to 6 hours
Taking a combination of bus and taxi is another option. This is the least convenient and one of the slowest options for travel to Papagayo. Start by taking a 90-minute taxi ride from La Fortuna or Arenal into Cañas, where the buses depart hourly for Liberia. From Liberia, you can take another taxi to Papagayo. There is also a bus that goes from Liberia to Playas del Coco, from which you can take a taxi the rest of the way.