Guanacaste, Costa Rica. HU Community and Country information page.

Guanacaste, Costa Rica.

Article by Juergen "Jogi" Gerner

Tamarindo bay and Playa Grande

Guanacaste is a Province of Costa Rica located on the north western pacific coast and bordering with the south of Nicaragua. Guanacaste is the most northern of the 7 Provinces of Costa Rica and has lots of cattle and pasture, the climate is hot and dry with no rain from November to April. There is rain from May, the beginning of the rainy season and at the end in October, the end of it. Usually during this rainy season you experience afternoon showers, sometimes very heavy.
The sun rises around 6 am and sets around 6 pm the whole year around. Costa Rica is a great country with great people. It is worth to stay and see more. Pura Vida!

The major destinations are beaches on the west coast, the pacific side and on the east, the Caribbean side. In between there are Volcanoes like the active Arenal next to the Arenal lake and the Cloud forest Monteverde.

From the Nicaraguan border it is a paved road, currently (2006) in good conditions. For the Enduro fans of you, there is no alternative road like a gravel road while driving the first hour into Costa Rica, but there lots of them later on if you wish. The road is paved, pretty straight and flat with nice views to the mountains and volcanoes. There are two firm check points with police on the road, if you go to slow, the officers will probably ask you to stop, slow down but keep going and wave at them, they will wave too, so you can go on. Pura Vida !

Gasoline after the border

Right after the border is a new gas station on the left side of the road, another in La Cruz about 20km further and a third in Liberia, about 77km from the Nicaraguan border.

Food in Liberia

A nice typical and open Restaurant / Cabinas at the intersection on the left called El Bramadero, between Toyota Agency and the gas station, you can park right in front under the trees and watch your bike while eating/drinking.
On the right is a Burger King and Papa Jones Pizza if you like that or turn left at the intersection and drive east into the center of Liberia. Ask for Pizza Pronto, great Pizza from a stone oven, Percy the owner is a Enduro single trail rider.
Or turn right on the intersection and then 200 m on the right is a big tire shop (Super Servicio) with a big Bridgestone / Firestone sign just before Subway Sandwiches.


You will see that the Ticos and Ticas (Costa Ricans) are very friendly people and it feels save to be in Costa Rica.Unfortunatelly it is not 100% secure, so take precaution when parking, shopping, banking etc, do not leave your bike and luggage unattended.

Arriving in Liberia at the big intersection (cruze)

View from Rincon de la Vieja, Guanacaste

From the border of Nicaragua you drive a little more then one hour south on the Panamerican highway or Panamericana, and arrive into Libera, the so called "white city" - "ciudad blanca" or the province capital city of Guanacaste - Costa Rica. In Liberia at the big intersection (cruze) with the only traffic light you will find: Gas Stations on 3 corners and the Burger King on the 4th corner on the right. From this Intersection you have the choice to either continue straight south along the Pan-American highway towards the capital city San Jose ( about 200km or 3 hours ) and then towards Panama, or you can turn right to see some of the nice beaches on the Pacific coast like Tamarindo where I live and relax a little. It is 70km or 1 hour drive from Liberia to Tamarindo all on paved roads if they are not just repairing one section.

Playa Tamarindo- relax on the beach if you have an extra day or two

Tamarindo is a cosmopolitan beach town and could be fun to visit. Beside some locals (Ticos and Ticas as the Costa Ricans are called), several foreigners have settled and doing some business or simply enjoy life. Tamarindo has lots of great restaurants and good surfing. There are as well other popular sports as diving, snorkeling, horseback riding or golfing on 2 nearby 18 hole championship courses just in case you feel like.... Tamarindo is one of the most 5 famous tourist destinations in Costa Rica and has experienced a fast growth in Real Estate within the last view years. Some call it to much developed others call it a small undeveloped beach town. Camping is not so popular anymore here in Tamarindo, but there are plenty of Private Villas for rent, Hotels, Cabinas and B&B's as well as Hostels from US$20 - 250 or more for Villas per night. Tamarindo can provide a nice break on the beach, soak up some sun and relax to recharge the "batteries".

Continue the trip through Costa Rica

Playa Tamarindo

From Tamarindo you don't have to drive back north east to Liberia as there is a shortcut south: go back west 4km to Villareal and then south-west passing the small town called 27. de Abril (about 15km on a gravel road the rest is all paved) to Sta Cruz - Nicoya, then cross the Bridge over the Golfo de Nicoya (Puente La Amistad or Tempisque Bridge) 30km or 30 minutes later turn right at the Shell Gas Station . (By the way, there is a good and typical rustic restaurant on this route called Mi Finca right across the Shell Gas station with two buildings: a restaurant on the left and a Cafeteria with souvenirs on the right) Now you are back on the Panamericana and keep going south towards Esparza - San Ramon - Grecia - San Jose the main capital city. Short before San Jose there is a pay station, a bike pays 50 Colones which is less then US$0.10. This is the only pay station so far and there are no more on the other routes. From Tamarindo to San Jose is a total of 240km or 3-4 hours if you don´t stop for food.

South along the Pacific Coast over Puerto Caldera to San Jose

This is the same distance as above to San Jose about 240km, but less trucks as there are sharper turns in the road and pretty steep sections within the mountains before San Jose, it´s all paved and wonderful with any motorcycle. You will drive along the Pacific for a short while, but on a paved road. It starts the same as above, but you have to leave the Panamericana by turning right on a bridge before Esparza towards Puntarenas about 50km or 50 minutes from the Shell Gas Station. Just pay attention when you see several big white tanks on the right on the top of a hill, the Refinary named RECOPE, because soon you have to make this right turn at the next possibility within a few km. Follow the signs towards Caldera - Orotina - San Mateo - Atenas - La Garita and turn right to get back to the Panamericana before you drive over a bridge at La Garita when you see the RECOPE again, just a few km before San Jose the main capital city.

South along the beaches on a scenic gravel road

Playa Avellanas along the costal road

If you have more time and the right bike you can enjoy the Nicoya Peninsula and it's pacific beaches and ride down a very scenic gravel - dirt road - along the beaches of Guanacaste, you will cross some rivers (without bridges) instead of traveling the paved Pan-American highway through San Jose the capital city. It´s a nice adventure and the roads are not too difficult, the people are very friendly and there is hardly any traffic, but lots of beautiful secluded beaches and several small local beach towns.

South along the beaches to Playa Samara

From Tamarindo you can drive south to Playa Samara, i t will be 90 km or 1.5 hours if you are in a rush and if you know the road. You can also go slow which can take up to 6 hours if you take the time and visit the beaches.

Playa Samara

A nice little town on the beach, a little more laid back and quiet. You have 5 choices:

1. Give up now
Drive back where ever you came from....

2. Sell your bike,
kick back and become a beach bum....

3. Coastal Adventure:

Guanacaste - Costa Rica

If you are still hungry for beach and more remote gravel roads, then drive down south along the beaches all the way to the tip of the Peninsula Nicoya, the so called Cabo Blanco, you can stay there at Montezuma or Mal Pais or in some of the smaller towns close by. Be careful by crossing rivers like Rio Ora south from Carillo as it could get pretty deep at high tide. A nasty one could be the Rio Bongo further south. You would not be the first who lost his vehicle and equipment in it, especially in the rainy season. Sometimes the river is calm and easy to cross and sometimes it just looks like calm.... More info upon request.

4. Samara - San Jose all on a paved road
Enought Gravel road adventure ? Then turn west and go inland from Playa Samara towards Nicoya, all paved, then south over the new bridge (called La Amistad which means friendship, it was donated by Taiwan) towards the Capital City of San Jose, see details and options above. Be careful when it rains as the road with its grey white surface between Samara and Nicoya is extremly slippery when wet, believe me.... almost like driving on ice.

5. Visit Arenal and Monteverde

Vulcano Arenal

We also recommend to visit the Arenal lake and Volcano, a great experience as well as Monteverde with it's cloud forest close by. If you decide for that, you will have to turn left at the Shell Gas Station on the Panamericana a little bit to the north before you turn right towards Sta.Elena - Monteverde on a gravel road going uphill. Lake Arenal and Vulcano Arenal are close by and worth the trip. More info upon request.


It does not rain from November till April in Guanacaste. Rainy season in Guanacaste means showers in the early afternoon, the mornings and late afternoons are usually sunny with the exceptions of the beginning in May and the end of the rainy seasons in October where the rain fall can be very strong and last the whole day, but don't worry it is never cold and you dry off fast if you get wet.

General tips and hints

Cloud forest

speed control with radar: Beside other Central American countries, Costa Rica might be the only one using radar guns for speed control. 80km/h is the max, sometimes 60km/h or as low as 40km/h and no flexibility or in other words cero tolerance.
You might see them (to late) on the road side about every 30minutes. Frequent locations are: coming from Nicaragua, just short before Liberia, also watch out between Sta Cruz and Nicoya and as well right before or many times after the Tempisque Bridge driving to San Jose, there are even 3 section with 40km/h ???? terrible.

Police: there are two types, the Fuerza Publica (translated as Public Force) with the dark blue uniforms and the dark blue cars, they will not stop or check on you or on your bike. Then there is the traffic police (Trafico or Transito) blue cars as well, but with a yellow or white horizontal stripe and the MOPT sign. These ones are to watch out for. They have white shirts as uniform and they are the ones with the radar gun. They are also on bikes, yes big white Suzuky's or others. Some police men are corrupt and might try to get some money in cash from you. Do not pay him. They are not able to receive cash, never ever pay him cash as you should not support the corruption. He has to give you a ticket which has to be paid at the bank. Let him issue the ticket, sign it and keep going. Even if you don't pay it at any local bank like Banco Nacional you will have no trouble by leaving the country or coming back in. Tickets which are not payed after a few days are registered over the costa rican drivers license but not recorded at the borders.
In general they are friendly and you should not have any trouble. After checking your drivers license and your registration, they will say your first name and ask you where you come from and where you go; be friendly (not too much) don´t talk too much and have respect. They will do the same and wish you a nice trip. Pura Vida !

Surfing the pacific

Security: You will see that the Ticos and Ticas (Costa Ricans) are very friendly people and it feels save to be in Costa Rica. Unfortunatelly it is not 100% secure, so take precaution when parking, shopping, banking etc, do not leave your bike and luggage unattended.

Driving at night: Try to avoid it, it's not fun and its dangerous because of the traffic, the bycicles and others vehicles without a light and the animals especially domestic, like dogs, cows and horses are crossing the road. As well you might find sudden road obstacles like potholes, fallen trees or even a drunk person on the road, especially on weekends. This and most of the following counts for all of latin america.

Respect for Motorcycles on the road: There is very little, so be prepared, drive defensive. On the road, the following rule apply: the bigger the stronger.

Driving with lights on during daylight: Is definetely recommended. Some flash their lights, this could mean two things: 1.) Turn off your light as they are not used to bikes with lights on during the day or 2.) Watch out there is a radar speed control coming up.... I recommend to leave your lights on and watch out for traffic police.

Passing a vehicle: The Truck driver in front of you might give you a signal with it's blinker, mostly left ,sometimes right, to tell you that it is save now to pass him, most of them try to help you, but better be careful and make sure that it's true and ok.

Warning triangle: Almost nobody has one, so they use branches on the roads instead; watch out for green branches on the road, this is a warning, a vehicles got stuck or an accident etc has happend.

Maps: I found that the best and most accurate road maps for Central America in general and as well for each individual country like Costa Rica from ITMB. see below at helpful links.

Rio Celeste, sulfur waters

Signs and language

The signs are easy to understand and there are not many anyway. Here are a few important translations:
Alto - stop (stop sign)
Despacio - slow
Ceda el paso - give right of way mostly at narrow bridges
no adelantar - do not pass
Gas station: Super full (you might have to repeat that, as they ask you always again to make sure...)

Aug. 2006 with friends at Ometepe Island Nicaragua,

I hope I could help you with the information, my name is Jogi and I'm 44. I and my wife live here in Tamarindo since 1995, we are both originally from Stuttgart -Germany, our daughter was born here in Costa Rica and I love riding Motorcycle since I was 16 years old.

My History: 1978 Hercules 50ccm Sportbike * 1979 Hercules 50ccm Ultra * 1980 Yamaha 50ccm Enduro * 1981 Yamaha 175 Enduro * 1982-83 Suzuki GS550 * 1984 Suzuki 1100 Katana Speer * 2002-03 Yamaha TTR250 * 2004-05 Honda XR650L * 2005-2008 KTMLC4-640SM *

Currently I ride a Yamaha FZ1n 2006 in Germany and a Honda XR650L 2007 in Costa Rica.

I'm willing to help Travelers on the bike with advice and info as far as I can in order to make the trip a great and positive experience, especially crossing through Costa Rica. (You can contact me at: )

Pura Vida, have a nice trip.

Helpful Links:
>>> more info about Tamaindo >>> lots of info, well done page about the area, places to stay and restaurants, great for travelers. >>> moto tours and rentals from Paul, a good friend
>>> great overview about hotels, forums and reviews, search for Tamarindo or any other destination >>> good maps or go to
to purchase them easily.
>>> more images from Marco Corsetti who gave most of these pictures above (all pictures copyright)

written in November 2006, updated in May 2009, all rights reserved


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