This 7-day itinerary is perfect for travelers who want a comprehensive beach holiday. You'll arrive in Liberia, the hub of Costa Rica's Guanacaste Province. From the airport, head south to Playa Sámara, a coastal village on the Nicoya Peninsula. Then, make the drive back north to the popular surf town of Tamarindo, where you'll spend your days riding the waves and taking part in nature excursions—you might even get to see nesting sea turtles, a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Highlights

  • Road trip the Nicoya Peninsula to Playa Sámara
  • Kayak and snorkel above a coral reef filled with sea life
  • Learn to catch a wave from an expert in Tamarindo
  • Admire the sunset from a catamaran cruise on the Pacific

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Liberia - Drive to Playa Sámara Playa Sámara
Day 2 Explore Isla Chora Playa Sámara
Day 3 Sámara Beach Free Day Playa Sámara
Day 4 Playa Sámara to Playa Tamarindo Tamarindo
Day 5 Private Surf Lesson at Playa Tamarindo Tamarindo
Day 6 Sunset Catamaran Adventure Tamarindo
Day 7 Depart Costa Rica from Liberia  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Liberia - Drive to Playa Sámara

Playa Sámara
Playa Sámara

Welcome to Costa Rica! Liberia is the northern hub of Guanacaste Province. After touching down at Daniel Oduber Quirós International Airport you'll pick up your rental car and drive about two hours south to the coastal hamlet of Sámara, on the Nicoya Peninsula. Famous for its golden sand and gentle waves, Sámara's horseshoe-shaped beach is wide and inviting. The area has a thriving fishing and farming economy, and its laid-back feel makes it a favorite of travelers and locals alike.

But since this is a road trip, why not stop and enjoy that lovely Costa Rican scenery along the way? Even before heading south you can venture about 40 minutes north of Liberia and start your trip in Rincón de la Vieja National Park. This protected area is home to a 1,916-meter (6,266-foot) active volcano of the same name. At the park entrance, you'll also find the Oropendola Waterfall, an 82-foot waterfall with a crystalline lagoon perfect for swimming.

On the Nicoya Peninsula, there are many coastal villages and beaches you can stop at on your way south to Sámara. These include the tropical cove of Playa Hermosa, the crescent-shaped white sands of Playa Flamingo, and the popular surf village of Tamarindo. Note that the coastal roads are rougher than Costa Rica's main highways, so if you do travel this route it will take you longer to reach Sámara (about 1.5 hours from Tamarindo).

Once you arrive at Playa Sámara, the options for activities are many and varied. Laze on the beach, enjoy a snorkel through aquamarine waters, or sign up for a surfing lesson. You can also enjoy Sámara above the waves on a whale/dolphin-spotting boat tour. There’s plenty to do on land, too. Take a guided hike through a mango plantation (includes all the mangos you can eat) and into the Werner Sauter Biological Preserve to spot monkeys, birds, and butterflies. You can also explore the region on horseback, starting on the beach before heading into the hills.

While in Sámara, consider dining in one of these restaurants:

  • Bouticafé Bohemia, a colorful and charming option serving healthy breakfast and lunch options like smoothies and salads. It's also a perfect stop for your morning coffee.
  • Gusto Beach, an upscale beachside restaurant serving everything from pizza to ceviche.
  • Lo Que Hay, the convivial taqueria and pub serving six taco options. Its beachside setting makes it the perfect spot to watch the sunset with your feet in the sand and a cold drink in hand.
  • LuvBurger, which offers gluten-free, vegan fare (tacos, salads, burgers, and sandwiches) right on the sand. 

Day 2: Explore Isla Chora

Explore the coral reef on a snorkel trip
Explore the coral reef on a snorkel trip

Today join a kayak and snorkeling tour to investigate the nooks and crannies of this exceptionally unique coastal area. 

After breakfast, grab a paddleboard or kayak, and set out with your guide to the petite Isla Chora (Chora Island), a 25-45 minute paddle across the lagoon from Sámara.

Once there, snorkel around the island’s reefs keeping on the lookout for sea turtles, then savor some well-earned snacks and beverages on the beach. And be sure to check out the island’s iguanas as they sun themselves on the hillside. 

Tour duration: 2.5 hrs

Day 3: Sámara Beach Free Day

Palo Verde National Park offers fine birding
Palo Verde National Park offers fine birding

You’re on your own today. Perhaps you'll take a guided tour to Palo Verde National Park, a large protected area of tropical dry forest (and a prime spot for bird-watching). If you're in the mood for adventure, there’s spelunking at nearby Barra Honda, a conservation area home to a network of limestone caverns. Or, if you'd rather be on the water, head out for some sportfishing or a dolphin/whale-watching cruise (seasonal). You may just want to chill out, enjoy your hotel or head into Sámara, to check out its cafes, art galleries, and neighborly vibe.

Palo Verde guided hike duration: Four hours
Spelunking tour duration: Six hours
Dolphin/whale-watching tour: 3.5 hours

Day 4: Playa Sámara to Playa Tamarindo

Visit Las Baulas National Marine Park to see nesting leatherback turtles
Visit Las Baulas National Marine Park to see nesting leatherback turtles

Today you'll head north to Playa Tamarindo. Once you arrive, you can rest at your hotel or spend the afternoon exploring the bay on a sea kayak and snorkeling tour. As you row towards the white sands of Capitán Island, don't forget to look down at the underwater coral reef and catch glimpses of the sea life that surrounds it.

If you happen to visit between October and March, head to Las Baulas National Marine Park to see leatherback turtles come ashore. Every night during high tide in the nesting season, female leatherbacks make their way up the beach to lay eggs. Watch the turtles come and go before the hatchlings follow suit into the water, a once-in-a-lifetime sight. 

You'll find that the laid-back surf town of Playa Tamarindo has some excellent restaurants. A few options include:

  • La Bodega, a charming café that serves fantastic egg sandwiches (go for the Kristina, served with tomato, local goat cheese and smoked trout on toasted bread), homemade banana bread, and fresh juices.
  • Green Papaya, a popular taco bar serving some of the best tacos and burritos in town (vegetarian options available) in a casual atmosphere.
  • Surf Shack, where you can grab topnotch burgers, onion rings, and milkshakes in an aluminum-sided hut decorated with surfboards.
  • Nogi's, a spot known for its beachfront location—a perfect pick for sunset dining. They serve a varied menu of seafood and grilled meat; be sure to save room for a slice of their coconut cream pie.

Day 5: Private Surf Lesson at Playa Tamarindo

A surfer at sundown on Playa Tamarindo
A surfer at sundown on Playa Tamarindo

In the morning, enjoy a private surf lesson on Playa Tamarindo. Take the rest of the day to practice riding the waves on your own, or enjoy some well-deserved relaxation on the beach. 

A must-visit spot near Tamarindo for more experienced surfers is Playa Naranjo, which locals have nicknamed "Witch’s Rock." It's located in a national park and accessible only by boat and features big surf with both left and right-breaking waves. A few miles beyond, you'll reach Ollie’s Point, another great surfing locale.

You can also take a yoga class at one of Tamarindo's studios, stroll through town, or enjoy a meal at a local café.

Day 6: Sunset Catamaran Adventure

A sunset cruise on the Pacific
A sunset cruise on the Pacific

Spend the morning relaxing on the beaches of Tamarindo. In the afternoon, you'll embark on a sailing trip. The boat will stop in a tranquil bay, drop anchor, and you'll be free to swim and snorkel. It's not uncommon to see schools of tropical fish, sea turtles, and even dolphins frolicking in the surf. Admire the sunset from the water, with a tropical beverage in hand.

Day 7: Depart Costa Rica from Liberia

Liberia, Costa Rica
Liberia, Costa Rica

It's time to say adiós to Costa Rica! After breakfast, you'll begin the drive to the airport in Liberia for your return flight home.

Map

Map of Costa Rica Pacific Coast Road Trip - 7 Days
Map of Costa Rica Pacific Coast Road Trip - 7 Days