The Drive From Liberia to La Fortuna and 5 Fun Things to Do Along the Way

The two major airports in Costa Rica are in San Jose and Liberia. Often people will choose one airport or another due to proximity of activities or cost. If your Costa Rica vacation is long enough, chances are good you’ll be making the drive from Liberia to La Fortuna (or La Fortuna to Liberia). Here is your guide of how to go from the Liberia airport to La Fortuna, and great things to do along the drive from Libera to La Fortuna.

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Note that Arenal Volcano is in the La Fortuna Area. So heading from Liberia to Arenal will take in the same drive!

Liberia to La Fortuna Pin image: large is lake overview, top ostrich, middle waterfall, and bottom crocodile

How Far is it from the Liberia Airport to La Fortuna?

The airport in Liberia, named the Daniel Oduber Quirós International Airport (code LIR) is not far from downtown Liberia.

To make it from the Liberia Airport to La Fortuna, it will take roughly 3 hours. I always give rough estimates as you never know what the roads will be like in Costa Rica.

From the city area to La Fortuna, it is about 2-1/2 hours (assuming no delays of any sort).

We found that the Google Maps estimates were usually close to accurate; however, there are so many factors into knowing how long it will take to get somewhere. You may hit traffic, constructions, or washed out roads.

I suggest not driving at night in Costa Rica, so if your flight arrives in the evening, grab a hotel and wait until morning.

Anxious about “wasting” a day in Liberia? There are actually a few really fun things to do in Liberia for families!

Need to stay the night in Liberia? Here’s the best place to stay:

Our Pick
blue pool with cement deck area, red roof building in back, trees behind

Las Espuelas

Simple rooms at a great value! This is where we stayed.

  • Great Pool Area and Playground
  • Delicious food at Restaurant on site
  • Free Breakfast
  • Great Service
  • Beautiful Grounds

Options on getting from Liberia to La Fortuna

1. Hoping to Drive from Liberia to La Fortuna? I highly suggest Adobe Rental cars. They are a locally owned car rental company that has newer cars. They also have locations all over Costa Rica. We had a great experience with them.

2. You can book a shuttle from Liberia to La Fortuna as well. Rates run around $300 for your party (not per person), which isn’t too bad considering you get to avoid driving in Costa Rica! However, I would make sure to rent a car once you get to La Fortuna so you are easily able to get to different attractions around the area.

3. Another way of getting from Liberia to La Fortuna is to hire a private driver. This is a more expensive option, but if you really aren’t comfortable driving in Costa Rica (and have the budget for it,) this can be a good option.

4. Costa Rica does have a public transportation system (AKA, busses), but you can’t book tickets online. The busses do run city-to-city, though if you are traveling with kids I would not recommend the bus as it can take longer and not be as comfortable.

There is no direct bus from Liberia to La Fortuna, so you’ll have to take the bus from Liberia to Cañas, walk less than a mile to the Tilaran bus station and take that bus to Tilaran. Then take the final bus from Tilaran to La Fortuna.

This obviously isn’t ideal if you have kids with you. Further, busses can be crowded, meaning you may have to stand for some of these 7 hours. They also do not have A/C, which can make it more uncomfortable for a family traveling.

In addition, it’s best to hop on a bus in the early morning as the pickups and routes become more limited as the day goes on.

How to make the Drive from Liberia to La Fortuna

The quickest way to get from Liberia to La Fortuna is to hop on Highway 1, one of the major highways in Costa Rica. You’ll take this all the way to Cañas. At this point, highway 1 turns south, but you’ll want to head north onto 142.

Highway 142 will take you all the way into La Fortuna. You’ll end up heading around Lake Arenal on the northern side. This part can get a bit windy, so if the kids get carsick (or you), make sure to grab some Dramamine. This will actually come in handy on many of the roads in Costa Rica.

Drive Time from Liberia to La Fortuna can vary, but takes on average around 2-1/2 to 3 hours.

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Road Conditions from Liberia to La Fortuna

The roads on the drive from Liberia to La Fortuna were paved and fairly smooth. You’ll spend a big chunk of the drive on the main highway, making this part pretty easy.

When you’re not on the highway, you’ll be winding around roads as you approach the lake. The roads are paved here as well and not too bad to drive on. The main issue here is that there isn’t much around once you get here.

We were on the road around the lake when lunchtime hit. We were so hungry, but there was nothing around. We suddenly saw a soda on the side of the road and pulled over to eat.

It’s not completely isolated on this road. But you’ll have moments where there are a few businesses along the road, and then go for stretches of time when there is nothing.

Not a big deal, just know that you are still on track.

safari Ponderosa Adventure park, Liberia to La Fortuna

Fun Things to do from Liberia to La Fortuna

Here is the fun part: Things to do on the way from Liberia to La Fortuna (which obviously also works if you are driving La Fortuna to Liberia).

Ponderosa Adventure Park – Liberia

I was hesitant to go here as I wasn’t sure it would be worth using up our short amount of time in Liberia. But we decided to go since it was such a fun, kid-friendly activity in Liberia.

And we were glad we did! From getting to swim in the awesome waterfall to taking a safari through the animals (and getting to feed giraffes and zebras), both adults and kids had a blast here. Make sure to read about all the fun attractions at Ponderosa Adventure Park.

Book Your Safari Ahead of Time

Llanos de Cortez Waterfall– Bagaces

You absolutely must make a stop to see Llanos de Cortez. It is amazing and a quick, easy pull off from the highway. Make sure you get to the official entrance of Llanos de Cortez (not the signs leading you astray). Find it on Google Maps as Catarata Llanos de Cortés.

Las Pumas Rescue Center and Sanctuary – Cañas

This is a great, educational stop for kids to learn about wildlife in Costa Rica. The Pumas Rescue center rescues and rehabilitates animals, with the goal of training them to survive in the wild again someday.

The other goal is to educate people with their Environmental Education Program. This teaches about the animals, the dangers they face, and the human impact that puts them in danger.

The Rescue Center has helped over 58 species of animals over the past few years.

Witness the Ceiba Tree – Lake Arenal

When you are roughly halfway through the Lake Arenal drive, you may need a moment to get out of the car.

The Ceiba Tree is the perfect opportunity to make a quick stop, yet see another cool attraction from Liberia to La Fortuna.

The Ceiba Tree is over 500 years old, and it is massive at over 190 feet tall. And it’s common to see Poison Dart Frogs around the tree.

Arenal National Park Lake Arenal View

Lake Arenal

Really, Lake Arenal is a stop all by itself. For a beautiful day on the lake, try SUP from CoteSUP, just east of the Ceiba Tree.

Further along the lake, when you are almost at the end, you can stop and take a boat ride on Lake Arenal for spectacular views of Arenal Volcano.

Arenal Volcano National Park – La Fortuna

You will pass this gorgeous national park on your way from Liberia to La Fortuna almost right before you pull into La Fortuna.

The Arenal Volcano National Park is the perfect place to bring kids for a hike and for some great views.

There are a few trails you can hike, but I recommend doing the Lava Trail, or Sendero Colada, with kids. This will take you through thick, lush flora before you ascend (a small ascencion) up to a great lookout point of both Arenal Volcano and Lake Arenal.

Arriving in La Fortuna

There is so much to do in La Fortuna that that is a whole other post. But before you arrive, make sure you have some great lodging.

We stayed at Los Lagos and loved it. Waterslides, hot springs, great food… it was the perfect family hotel.

If you have a larger budget, you’ll love the incredible Springs Resort or the famous Tabacón Resort.

Our Pick
Los Lagos Hotel La Fortuna pool and slide

Los Lagos Resort

We had a BLAST here! You’ll get to enjoy:

  • Free, Delicious Breakfast
  • Hot Springs on site
  • Awesome Nature Trail on property
  • Waterslides
  • Large rooms (we fit all 6 of us comfortably)

Liberia to La Fortuna

The Drive from Liberia to La Fortuna can be done in about 3 hours and in one trip. Though if you’d like to break it up and make some stops along the way, hopefully you’ve found some fun ideas of things to do from Liberia to La Fortuna.

We especially loved Llanos de Cortez and the gorgeous views of Lake Arenal along the way.

At this point, you have pretty much made it from Liberia to La Fortuna! Check out more adventures in La Fortuna for families (and there are a LOT!) for once you arrive.

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