This seven-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.


  • 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, Pick Up Rental Car & Transfer to Sámara Sámara
Day 2 Paddle to & Snorkel Around Isla Chora Sámara
Day 3 Sámara Beach Free Day Sámara
Day 4 Drive to Tamarindo, Optional Sea Kayak & Snorkel Tour or Turtle Spotting Tamarindo
Day 5 Morning Surf Lesson at Playa Tamarindo Tamarindo
Day 6 Free Morning, Afternoon Snorkel & Sunset Catamaran Cruise Tamarindo
Day 7 Return to Liberia, Depart   

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Liberia, Pick Up Rental Car & Transfer to 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 6,266-foot (1,916 m) active volcano of the same name. At the park entrance, you'll also find the Oropendola Waterfall, an 82-foot (25 m) 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 or dolphin-spotting boat tour. There’s plenty to do on land, too. Take a guided hike through a mango plantation (which 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.

Day 2: Paddle to & Snorkel Around 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. 

Day 3: Free Day in Sámara

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

You’re on your own today. Perhaps 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 sport fishing or a dolphin or whale-watching cruise (seasonal). You may just want to chill out, enjoy your hotel or head into Sámara, to check out its cafés, art galleries, and neighborly vibe.

Palo Verde guided hike duration: 4 hours
Spelunking tour duration: 6 hours
Dolphin/whale-watching tour: 3.5 hours

Plan your trip to Costa Rica
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.

Day 4: Drive to Tamarindo, Optional Sea Kayak & Snorkel Tour or Turtle Spotting

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 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 paddle toward 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. You'll find that the laid-back surf town of Tamarindo has some excellent restaurants, like La Bodega, a charming café, or Nogi's, a spot known for its beachfront location—a perfect pick for sunset dining. 

Day 5: Morning Surf Lesson at Playa Tamarindo

A surfer on Playa Tamarindo
Learn to surf or hone your skills at 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: Free Morning, Afternoon Snorkel & Sunset Catamaran Cruise

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: Return to Liberia, Depart

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.

More Great Costa Rica Itineraries

Looking for more inspiration for your trip to Costa Rica? Check out these other Costa Rica itineraries, explore different ways to spend a week in Costa Rica, or discover the best time to visit Costa Rica.


Map of Costa Rica Pacific Coast Road Trip - 7 Days
Map of Costa Rica Pacific Coast Road Trip - 7 Days
Written by Emily Strauss, updated May 5, 2023