Liberia, Costa Rica Complete Guide: Main City in Guanacaste

Liberia, Costa Rica is a busy city in the Guanacaste Province and home to an international airport

liberia costa rica from above at sunset
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Not to be confused with the West African nation of the same name, Liberia is the main city of the Guanacaste Province with a population of over 50,000 inhabitants.

This is not a place that you should really focus on spending a lot of time in during your vacation. It is an OK place, but more than anything it is a transit city that serves as a gateway to the surrounding area.

Within 30 minutes of the city, you can be at pristine beaches, at an active volcano, or at one of the most impressive waterfalls in the country.

The Liberia International Airport is located just south of the city and is a great place to fly into to explore the nearby area.

This is quickly becoming one of the most popular areas in the country to visit.

Liberia Background Info

Nearest International Airport

The Liberia International Airport (LIR)

visit the beautiful beaches, check out Rincon del la Vieja volcano, visit LLanos de Cortez Waterfall

Best Way to Get Around

Rental car, tours with transportation included

Best Time of Year to Visit

Dry season is from late December until mid-April, but this area tends to stay somewhat dry throughout the year

Grocery Stores

Near the airport, we suggest the Walmart or the Peri. Walmart has more international products. Peri is cheaper.


In the plaza with Peri (Santa Rosa Plaza), there is a BCR bank and a BAC ATM.

Gas Stations

There is a Citgo just north of the airport (closer to downtown Liberia) and a Delta El Coco just south of the airport (closer to the beach towns. Both are good options for filling up before returning your rental car.

(keep in mind all gas stations here are full-service. So stay in your car and an employee will fill your car up).

liberia costa rica map

Map Of Liberia

Liberia is located on the northwest coast of the country near the Nicaragua border.

This area of the country is called the Guanacaste Province.

Should You Visit Liberia?

The city of Liberia is not a place where most tourists spend much time. The city has its charms, but the main reason tourists come here is to use it as a jumping-off point for visiting the surrounding areas.

The Liberia International Airport is a great place to fly into. The airport is located on the outskirts of the city and from here it is very easy to get to several nice beach towns within about a 30-minute drive.

The closest beach towns are:

  • Papagayo Peninsula: A high-end area with only four resorts.
  • Playa Hermosa: A relaxed beach village with calm waters. This area is perfect for families. We love this area!
  • Playas del Coco: A bustling beach town with several restaurants and good grocery stores. Great for nightlife.

Liberia Weather

park in liberia costa rica

The Northern Pacific Coast of Costa Rica is known for having the most consistently dry weather in the country because it consists mostly of tropical dry forests.

During the dry season (December – April) you can expect no rain, sunny days, clear nights, and strong sun. Your biggest concern should be sun protection during this time of year.

During the start of the rainy season, rain is still somewhat uncommon. From May until July you might experience occasional afternoon rain showers that last for about an hour or two, but it usually clears quickly and the sunny/hot day will return.

From August through November, the rain becomes more consistent with some days having nonstop rain.

  • Sunrise: Between 5:20 am (June) and 5:50 am (December)
  • Sunset: Between 5:25 pm (December) and 6:05 pm (June)
  • Average Daytime Temperature: 82 to 95 degrees Fahrenheit (28 to 35 °C)
  • Average Nighttime Temperature: 75 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit (24 to 27 °C)

Check out our guide to Costa Rica Weather by Month for more info

Liberia Transportation

Here are all the transportation options in this area.

Flights to Liberia

Liberia, Costa Rica Complete Guide: Main City in Guanacaste

There are two international airports in Costa Rica. These are Juan Santamaria International Airport (SJO) in San Jose and the Liberia International Airport (LIR) in Liberia.

If you plan to visit this northern area of the country it is best to fly into the Liberia International Airport. This is also sometimes referred to as Guanacaste Airport or Daniel Oduber Quirós International Airport.

More and more airlines are starting to offer flights here.

We love the Liberia International Airport because the surrounding area is far less hectic than the area around the San Jose International Airport.

If you haven’t booked your flight yet, we suggest using Skyscanner. We consistently find the best rates through their website.

Check out our Liberia International Airport: Guide to Arrivals and Departures for more info

Rental Car in Liberia

hyundai tucsan adobe car rental

We suggest renting a car with our favorite Costa Rica rental car company, Adobe. 

We suggest them because they are upfront with their prices, have excellent customer service, and are just overall a great local company.

They have kindly given us a 10% discount plus other great perks to pass on to you. 

⤷ Book Your Rental Car with Adobe

The roads are mostly well-maintained. You do not need a 4×4 to visit here. However, if you plan to visit very off-the-beaten-path places you may want a 4×4.

We suggest renting at least an SUV with decent clearance for the curvy and hilly roads.

If you plan on only spending time in the city of Liberia and not venturing to any of the beach towns, volcano, etc. you will be fine with a smaller rental car.

Note: Sometimes, accommodation options in the surrounding area are located on unpaved side roads. I suggest checking exactly where your hotel is located to help you decide the right car for you.

Our #1 Car Rental Choice

Adobe Rent-a-Car

  • 10% discount for Costa Rica Vibes readers
  • Free second driver
  • 0% deductible on Liability Protection Insurance
  • Excellent customer service
  • New fleet of well-maintained vehicles

You won’t need a car if….

  • You are staying at a resort and don’t plan to leave much.
  • You are staying right in the downtown area and plan on booking all activities with transportation included. There are plenty of restaurants in the downtown area that you can walk to. 

Check out our guide to Renting a Car from Liberia Airport for more info

Taxis in Liberia

Taxis are prevalent is Liberia and can be a great way to get around. However, always make sure to take registered taxis to ensure you get a fair price. You can recognize registered taxis by their red color with yellow triangles on the sides.

For taxis from the Liberia airport and surrounding area, we suggest our favorite local family of registered taxi drivers.

You can get a price quote and reserve your Liberia taxi here

Shared Shuttles in Liberia

If you are staying in the Liberia area and will not have a rental car you will need to depend on day trips with transportation included.

If you are flying into the Liberia Airport and are looking for onward transportation to another town, a shared shuttle is a great option.

This is typically more affordable than a private shuttle if you are a solo traveler or couple.

These shuttles will typically drop you off directly at your hotel for added convenience.

The downside is, you will need to find a shuttle that fits with your schedule.

Our favorite website for shared shuttle bookings in Costa Rica is BookAway. Here you can find shuttles all around the country.

A few routes you might be interested are:

Check All Shared Shuttles from Liberia Here

Private Shuttles in Liberia

If you are a family or large group, a private shuttle is a great option for getting to your next destination.

You can get a price quote for a private shuttle through Adobe Transfers below.

Get a Private Transfer Price Quote

Public Bus

Because this is a main city, there are also multiple bus routes that start and end from the downtown area.

For more info on bus routes, we suggest checking out the website The Bus Schedule.

Downtown Liberia

Liberia, Costa Rica Complete Guide: Main City in Guanacaste

Liberia is nicknamed La Ciudad Blanca (the white city). This is due to the whitewashed colonial homes and white gravel streets which made up a large part of the city in the past.

Now, all the streets are paved, but you can still find many white colonial homes.

People walk in the downtown area, but it is best to get around by car.

The city center features a modern church on the edge of a plaza with many benches where locals like to hang out. This is surrounded by shops and restaurants.

Things to Do in Liberia

In Downtown Liberia

Relax at Parque Mario Cañas Ruiz

This is the central city park which is filled with benches. It is a great place to sit and people watch.

Visit Immaculate Church of Concepcion de Maria

This is the impressive church located on the edge of the city park. When there isn’t a service going on you are typically welcome to go inside.

Check Out the Church of La Ermita La Agonia

A beautiful old chapel that you are also typically welcome to enter.

Outside of the City

Here are our favorite things to do within an hour of Liberia.

Visit the Nearby Beaches

playa hermosa beach

There are so many nice beaches nearby that you can visit on a day trip. A few of the closest beaches that we love are:

  • Papagayo Peninsula: The beaches on the Papagayo Peninsula are technically within the Four Seasons Resort property. However, in Costa Rica all beaches need to have public access by law. So, there is a parking lot that you can park in and a free shuttle bus to the beaches.
  • Playa Hermosa: This is the best beach in the area for those of you with young kids. The water is typically calm and there is a roped-off area for swimming. The one concern here is jet skiers who are sometimes erratic.
  • Playa Panama: This beach is also great for swimming or just relaxing in the sun.

Take a Catamaran Tour

A catamaran tour during the day or at sunset is one of the most popular activities in this area. Typically these tours include food, drinks, and snorkeling.

Book a Catamaran Tour from Playa Hermosa

Visit Llanos de Cortez Waterfall

Liberia, Costa Rica Complete Guide: Main City in Guanacaste

This is an impressive nearby waterfall that you can swim under. It is the perfect family-friendly day trip.

If you have a car, this is something you can easily do on your own. It is located about 15 minutes east of Liberia.

Check out our Llanos de Cortez guide for more info.

Check out Rincon de la Vieja Volcano

rincon de la vieja

Rincon de la Vieja National Park is located north of Liberia and is a great place to spend a day hiking.

You can go with a guide, but you are also able to pay to enter the park and hike on your own.

Rincon de la Vieja is also a great place to enjoy a combo tour with tons of fun adventure activities such as zip lining and rafting. 

⤷ Arrange Your Fun-Filled Day Tour Here

Go Hiking at Santa Rosa National Park

Santa Rosa National Park is located along the coast to the north-west of Liberia. This national park has several hiking trails and typically isn’t too crowded with tourists.

Take a Day Trip up to Nicaragua

A visit to Nicaragua is not something I would typically suggest taking on as a day trip. The border crossing alone can be a stressful experience.

However, if you plan this trip as a day tour with an experienced guide, then it is definitely doable.

We suggest this tour because it includes a stop at Masaya Volcano, the colonial city of Granada, and Laguna de Apoyo.

⤷ Book Your Tour to Nicaragua with an Experienced Guide

Hike to La Leona Waterfall

La Leona is a waterfall located along a bright blue river. Getting here is an adventure that involves hiking and swimming.

This is an activity you need to do with a guide because it involves remote swimming and some interesting trails.

⤷ Book a Tour to La Leona Waterfall with Transportation

Liberia Hotels

Here are the best hotels in Liberia and close to the airport. If you plan to visit one of the nearby beach towns, check those pages for a better overview of hotels.

Liberia Vacation Packages

Take the planning, stress, and guesswork out of traveling by booking a multi-day tour with an experienced guide.

Here are two great tour options that start and end in Liberia.

For more tour ideas check out Tour Radar

Exotic Costa Rica

⭐️ RATING: 4.7/5 Stars on TourRadar | ⏳ TOUR LENGTH:  8 Days | ✅ Book it!

  • See wildlife such as sloths and monkeys in Manuel Antonio
  • Hike in the unique Monteverde Cloud Forest
  • Enjoy the grand volcanic views of Rincon de la Vieja

Note: You can also book this tour as a self-driving tour. Find out more here

Beaches and Nature with Santa Teresa

⭐️ RATING: 4.8/5 Stars on TourRadar | ⏳ TOUR LENGTH:  15 Days | ✅ Book it!

  • See the unique flora and fauna in the Monteverde Cloud Forest
  • Enjoy the Pacific Coast sunset views in Tamarindo
  • Search for sea turtles in Tortuguero

Note: You can also book this tour as a self-driving tour. Find out more here

Restaurants in Liberia

gaviotas bar villas sol

A lot of restaurants in Costa Rica do not have websites, so the best way to find places is through TripAdvisor.

  • Mariajuana Restaurante: They have a wide variety of dishes here. I suggest trying a ceviche. There are also many vegetarian options and a good selection of craft beers.
  • Restaurante Tierra Mar Liberia: If you like fish or seafood in a nice setting with great service, this is the place for you.
  • Monk And Capra Coffee Brewers: A good place for breakfast or lunch. They have a variety of coffees, smoothies, toasts, wraps, salads, and bowls.
  • Sabor Porteño Restaurante: Another great place for colorful and delicious seafood dishes.
  • El Patio: Relaxed place with outdoor seating in a cozy garden. I recommend getting a steak here.
  • Astorga Restaurante: An amazing gourmet restaurant with plenty of seafood and meat options.

Liberia Safety Tips

Liberia, Costa Rica Complete Guide: Main City in Guanacaste

Liberia is a city, so by default, it seems as though crime can be a bit more prevalent here. That being said, I’ve always felt safe in Liberia.

Your biggest safety concern should be petty theft. To combat that we suggest:

  • Keep your valuables secure and refrain from openly displaying expensive items. 
  • Don’t leave things in your rental car and always park in secure lots or at a spot with a guard.
  • Don’t walk alone at night.
  • A lot of restaurants are open-air. Don’t leave your cell phone out on the table or your purse just hanging on the back of your chair.
  • Dressing in a relaxed way will also help you blend in.

If something happens, the emergency number in Costa Rica is 9-1-1. You should be able to get a police officer who speaks English if you need.

Also, always purchase travel insurance. It doesn’t just cover injury but also helps if things get stolen. Our go-to travel insurance company for Costa Rica is a company called Heymondo. They are great!

Their comprehensive plans offer 24/7 assistance, trip cancellation and interruption coverage, lost baggage coverage, assistance in case of medical issues, as well as the option to add-on adventure activity coverage. 

↳ Get Your Travel Insurance Quote

Packing for Liberia

In this area, you will likely want items for a bit of everything. You may be doing some hiking, walking in the city, and relaxing on nearby beaches.

I’m going to focus this list on what you will want in the city of Liberia rather than in the nearby areas.

Check out our Costa Rica Essential Packing List for more must-bring items

Our Opinion on Liberia

We love the area around Liberia and visit here often. There is just so much to do nearby!

However, we typically don’t spend much time in downtown Liberia.

For us, it is just a place we pass through on our way to different destinations.

Liberia Travel Tips

Liberia, Costa Rica Complete Guide: Main City in Guanacaste
  • It is a good idea to book your hotel here as early as possible. This especially applies to the dry season when tourism is at its peak.
  • The main language in Costa Rica is Spanish. Most people in Liberia are used to tourists and speak at least some Spanish.
  • Some places here may not accept credit cards. It’s a good idea to carry cash in US dollars or Costa Rican colones.
  • We have noticed that sometimes tourists get frustrated in Liberia because tours don’t begin on time and things aren’t always organized as you might be used to. Keep in mind that Costa Rica is the land of Pura Vida. People take everything in stride and relaxed. You might need to adopt a bit of that attitude while here. 

History of the City

in the 1700’s, Liberia served as a peaceful spot for travelers to rest while traveling. It’s location was optimal because roads from Rivas, Bagaces, and Nicoya met here. Over time, it earned the nickname Guanacaste Village due to the towering Guanacaste trees that shaded the town.

After independence from Spain in 1821, it became part of the Federal Republic of Central America.

In 1824, following a tussle, Liberia joined Costa Rica.

The village flourished, eventually surpassing Nicoya in importance. By 1836, it was dubbed the City of Guanacaste, later renamed Liberia in 1854.

Liberia’s growth as an agricultural and livestock hub was further boosted by the Pan-American Highway which runs through the city on its way into Liberia. This turned it into a pivotal stop for travelers heading to Guanacaste’s Pacific Coast beaches.

Every year on July 25th there are celebrations in the city in remembrance of its annexation to Costa Rica in 1824.

Articles About Liberia

You Might Also Like Visiting

Tamarindo: A bustling surfing town that has something for everyone

Papagayo Peninsula: A beautiful beach area with luxury resorts.

Playa Hermosa: A family-friendly beach town near the Liberia Airport

….if none of those appeal to you, check out our Guide to the Guanacaste Province for more ideas of places to visit in this area.

Costa Rica Travel Details: What You Need to Know

🚗 Should I rent a car in Costa Rica?

Having a rental car will give you the most flexibility when traveling in Costa Rica. This will allow you to visit more off-the-beaten-path destinations and will allow you to take fun day trips on your own.

Save 10% Plus Other Perks with Our Adobe Rental Car Discount

☀️ Should I buy travel insurance for Costa Rica?

Yes, travel insurance is always a good idea. It is not just for illness or injury, but also lost luggage, delayed trips, and more!

We like Heymondo for Costa Rica travel insurance.

✈️ What is the best way to book a flight?

Usually, we have the best luck finding great prices with Skyscanner. Check for flights to both San Jose Airport (SJO) and Liberia Airport (LIR).

🛏️ What is the best way to book my Costa Rica hotels?

We highly suggest for hotel bookings and typically use VRBO for Costa Rica vacation rentals.

🗣️What is the main language in Costa Rica?

The main language in Costa Rica is Spanish. Most people working in tourism speak at least some English.

💰 What is the currency in Costa Rica?

The currency used in Costa Rica is the Costa Rican colón (CRC). However, the US dollar is widely accepted in most tourist areas

🌴 Is Costa Rica safe?

Generally, Costa Rica is considered safe for tourists. However, like any travel destination, it’s best to use caution and be aware of your surroundings.

🛂 Do you need a passport to go to Costa Rica?

Yes, Costa Rica is its own country. You will need a passport to visit.