Tambor, Costa Rica
The Tambor Vibe
Tambor is a small fishing village with white sand beaches. It doesn’t have a ton going on, but that is part of its charm.
It is also a nice place to stay because you can easily drive to the busier towns of Montezuma, Santa Teresa, and Pacquera.
This is our favorite little corner of the country and we are sure you will love it as well!
Map Of Tambor
Tambor is located on the Nicoya Peninsula, the big hook of Costa Rica.
This area is a bit more difficult to get to than other parts of the country, but I think that gives it its charms.
Tambor at a Glance
Nearest International Airport
Juan Santamaria International Airport in San Jose
Popular Things to Do
Playa Tortuga day tour, bioluminescent kayaking, hiking
Best Way to Get Around
Best Time of Year to Visit
Dry season is from late December until mid-April
Book Your Trip
Flights to Costa Rica
Tambor is great because it is easily accessible from the Liberia airport and the San Jose airport.
More and more airlines are starting service to Liberia so check out the rates. It may be worth it for you.
If you haven’t booked your flight yet, we suggest using Skyscanner. We consistently find the best rates through their website.
Find your flight on Skyscanner. Our go-to flight search website ↓
Transportation to Tambor
Rental Car from San Jose
If renting a car (which we recommend) from San Jose you have two options for getting here.
1. Drive the whole way
2. Take the ferry across from Puntarenas
Driving the Whole Way
Driving from the San Jose area will take you about six hours. The roads have all recently been redone and the drive is smooth and pleasant, but long.
So, let me explain the drive to you a bit. From the airport you will follow route 27 out towards the Pacific Coast.
Keep in mind that this is a toll road. The tolls are very randomly positioned and sometimes seem to come out of nowhere.
You can pay with US dollars or Costa Rican colones. If you only have dollars I suggest paying with a $10 bill. They will give you change in colones. The change will be enough to pay for the rest of the tolls.
Eventually you will turn on to Route 1. Things can get slow here because it is one lane in each direction and there are sometimes a lot of trucks. People do pass, but just be careful.
There aren’t a whole lot of places to stop for a quick meal along this route. So, we always stop at a plaza called Plaza Limonal.
You can add it as a stop on your GPS. At this plaza there is a gas station, Taco Bell, Subway, and an ATM. I know, you didn’t come to Costa Rica to eat Subway and Taco Bell, but hey, they are fast!
There is also a gas station across the street if you need. And the bathrooms at the gas station are located outside and are always unlocked.
From there, you will take a left on Route 18. Keep an eye out because the police often hang out along this road to catch people speeding.
At the end of Route 18 you will turn left on to the Nicoya Peninsula. You will drive through some small towns with lots of speed bumps. Some are not well marked (yeap…we’ve definitely gotten some air on a few of those).
The roads have all been recently done here and you should have smooth sailing to Tambor.
Your other option is to drive to Puntarenas and take the ferry from Puntarenas to Paquera. From Paquera it will take you about thirty minutes to drive to Tambor.
This is a great option because it means way less driving and is usually faster. It will take you about two hours from the airport to the ferry. It takes about 70 minutes on the ferry.
The problem with this route is that during high season the ferry fills up with cars fast.
However, you can pre-book your ferry ticket if you know exactly which ferry you want to take.
We have a guide to the Puntarenas Ferry here.
We suggest using Adobe for your car rental. They are the most trustworthy rental car company in this country (in our opinion) and we have a 10% discount for you. You can read more about renting a car here.
I made a map so you can see the driving route versus the ferry route. And if you opt to drive the whole way I marked the plaza we suggest stopping at for a quick meal/ bathroom break.
Driving from Liberia Airport
The drive from Liberia Airport is not too bad. The road is well maintained the whole way.
It just get a bit hectic in some parts because you will be driving through some town centers.
In total, the drive will take about three hours.
Adobe has an office next to the Liberia International Airport, so we suggest renting with them.
Another option from anywhere in the country is to take a private shuttle.
We love Adobe Transfers for this. They will take the van on the ferry so the trip will be faster and more comfortable.
You can find out more and get a quote here.
If you don’t feel comfortable driving to Tambor on your own, the cheapest option is to take the public bus.
The bus leaves from downtown San Jose every day at 6:00 am and 2:00 pm.
The ride takes about five hours (the bus goes on the ferry). It’s not the most comfortable ride, but it’s cheap (under $10 per person).
There is a domestic airport in Tambor. It is possible to fly from San Jose directly to Tambor with Sansa.
Unless you are planning on staying at a resort, we suggest renting a car and driving/ ferrying.
The reason we suggest this is because Tambor is great but if you are in the area you will probably want to explore other spots as well.
We always suggest Adobe for your car rental needs and they do not have an office on the Nicoya Peninsula so it is not possible to take the bus to Tambor and then rent a car with them once there.
Getting Around in Tambor
The downtown area of Tambor is not huge. You can easily walk around.
If you plan on just relaxing on the beach and relaxing at a resort, save yourself some money and skip the rental car.
If you would like to explore the other nearby towns of Montezuma, Santa Teresa, or Pacquera you will need a rental car.
Pro Tip: Rent a car with Adobe through our site and you will get a 10% discount! Score! You can find out more about it here.
Book Your Transportation
Like most of the country, the dry season here runs from mid-December until April or May.
From May until August you can expect some afternoon rainstorms. They tend to roll in like clockwork around 2pm.
From mid-August until December a lot of things close down because the weather can be really rainy and there just isn’t enough tourism.
Even during the green season, this area tends to be super hot and sunny during the day.
Learn more about Costa Rica weather here.
Grab a free copy of our Costa Rica guide
Tambor Tropical Beach Resort – A beautiful luxury beachfront hotel with a pool. Everything here is top-notch!
Fidelito Ranch & Lodge – A simple hotel on a beautiful property. The owners are extremely nice and will take good care of you.
Tango Mar Beachfront Hotel – It doesn’t get much better than this nice hotel with a pool directly on the beach. We highly recommend this place.
Lodge Margouillat – A nice hotel in the jungle. The rooms are simple but modern.
Barcelo Tambor – I struggled with adding this Tambor resort on here. It is one of the most popular places to stay in the area, as well as being one of the few all-inclusive resorts on the Nicoya Peninsula.
We personally have not stayed here (I’m adding it to my list to check out ASAP) and after reading a bit, the reviews online are very mixed.
However, it does have several nice pools, the only golf course in the area, and beach front access. If you visit, let us know how you liked it.
Things to Do in Tambor
Tambor is small, so most of these activity ideas are from nearby towns.
Relax on the Beach
Playa Tambor is on a nice little cove of Ballena Bay. The water is usually really calm.
Visit Isla Tortuga
Isla Tortuga is an undisturbed tropical island that you can visit on a day tour. It is perfect for snorkeling and relaxing on the beach.
Check out our full guide to Isla Tortuga for more info.
Hike at Curu Wildlife Reserve
The Curu Reserve is located just northeast of Tambor. Every time we have visited there have only been a few other people there. There are several trails for all skill levels, a nice beach, and plenty of tours that depart from here.
Check out our Curu Reserve guide for more info.
Go Bioluminescent Kayaking
Bioluminescent kayaking is possible year-round nearby Tambor. The best time to experience this unique phenomenon is during a new moon when there is very little light.
Walk the Beaches
From the pier at the end of Playa Tambor, you can walk along the beaches to El Chorro Waterfall. It is a long walk (about 2.5 miles one way) and needs to be done during low tide because you will have to walk across a river.
Take a Day Trip to Montezuma
The town of Montezuma is a short drive away. This is a great spot for visiting a butterfly farm, hiking to a waterfall, seeing sea turtles, and more! Check out our Montezuma guide for more info.
Mar y Sol – We are big fans of this place because they keep a small rotating menu of whatever is fresh and good on that particular day. It’s always delicious!
Restaurant and Cafe Cristina – The perfect little place for fresh seafood and fish. Everything is great and you feel like you are experiencing true Costa Rican home cooking.
Tambor Travel Tips
-Tambor is a nice spot to stay, but definitely take advantage of this great location on the gulf of Nicoya and explore other nearby towns.
-We suggest spending at least four nights here to really soak in all the good stuff.
– Fun fact: This area of the country is one of the few Blue Zones in the world where people regularly live to over 100 years old. You can learn all about it in our post about Costa Rica’s Blue Zone.
Packing for Tambor
In Tambor you will most likely spend most of your time relaxing by a pool or on the beach. We suggest focussing mostly on relaxed clothing that can dry quickly.
There is no need for nicer clothing unless you plan to visit some fancier restaurants.
For day trips to nearby parks we suggest sneakers or low hiking boots.
Check out our Tambor Packing List on Amazon for all the essentials.
Don't Forget Travel Insurance
The Puntarenas Ferry in Costa Rica
Did you know that there is a ferry that can be taken from Puntarenas, Costa Rica to either Paquera or Naranjo on the Nicoya Peninsula?