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Top 4 Best Ways How To Get From Tamarindo to Arenal Volcano

How To Get From Tamarindo to Arenal

Hundreds of thousands of tourists travel from Tamarindo to Arenal every year. If you’re planning on going this route, and you’re not sure whether you should rent a car and drive, take a flight, take a shuttle, hire a private car service, or use the public transportation system, this article is for you.

I’ve helped hundreds of tourists find the best option from Tamarindo to Arenal. And in this article, I will discuss the four main ways to get from Tamarindo to Arenal, from public buses to private car services.

Let’s dive in and find out which option is best for you.

The Best Ways To Get From Tamarindo To Arenal

  1. Public Transportation
  2. Group Shuttles
  3. Private Car Service
  4. Driving (Car Rental)

Let’s dive right in:

There are four ways to get from Tamarindo to Arenal. You can use public transportation, go on a group shuttle, hire a private transportation service, or drive a rental car. Generally, the first two options are more affordable, and the latter is more convenient.

Public transportation is the cheapest option from Tamarindo to Arenal. However, hiring a private car service is the fastest and easiest option. And going on a group shuttle generally gives you the best balance of time and cost. 

Keep scrolling to find out how each option ranks against the other based on its pros and cons so that you can make the best of your trip from Tamarindo to Arenal. 

Let’s explore each option’s pros and cons to help determine the best way for you to get from Tamarindo to Arenal, starting by comparing prices.

Cheapest Ways to Get from Tamarindo to Arenal

Transportation Service Price Per Person (USD)
Public Transportation $10 – $15
Driving (Car Rental) $30 – $60
Group Shuttle $50 – $60
Private Transfer $120 – $130


  • The above rates do not include the 13% IVA tax.
  • These prices assume there is a minimum of two travelers.
  • Renting a car consists of the base rate, insurance, and fuel.
  • Prices can fluctuate throughout the year based on market conditions and demand.

Note: The above prices are estimations to give you an idea.

Keep reading more detailed information on each service and how they work.

Public Bus From Tamarindo to Arenal

The cheapest way to get from Tamarindo to Arenal is to use the public transportation system. However, the trip is not straightforward because no direct bus connects these destinations. You must take three buses from Tamarindo to La Fortuna and then take a taxi from La Fortuna to Arenal. And the entire trip will take between seven and eleven hours of travel time

I shared detailed instructions on how to get from Tamarindo to La Fortuna by bus in my article “How to Get From Tamarindo to La Fortuna.” If you’re on a tight budget and have no option but to use the public transportation system to get from Tamarindo to Arenal, then I recommend you review the steps in that article. Depending on the location where you’re heading in Arenal, you may be able to get off the third bus along the way, so you don’t have to go all the way to La Fortuna and then take a taxi to Arenal.

Check out that article’s bus instructions and return to this one if you feel that using public transportation from Tamarindo to Arenal is not worth it. From experience, having helped hundreds of tourists over the last decade, I’ve noticed that only a teeny tiny percentage of travelers going from Tamarindo to Arenal use public buses. Most travelers use the alternatives explained below, as they’ve determined that the cost savings achieved by using public buses are not worth it.

After covering the above aspects, let’s explore the other ways to get from Tamarindo to Arenal.

Driving From Tamarindo to Arenal

Now that we know how long it takes to get from Tamarindo to Arenal using public transportation let’s talk about how to make this trip much faster. 

Driving is the fastest way to get from Tamarindo to Arenal, which will take between 3 and 4 hours. A more precise estimate will depend on the traffic conditions and your experience driving around the country. On average, tourists take 4 hours to drive from Tamarindo to Arenal.

Compared to all the other ways to get from Tamarindo to Arenal, driving is the fastest way, as shown in the following comparison table. 

Fastest Ways to Get from Tamarindo to Arenal

Transportation Service How Long it Takes
Driving* 4 – 5 Hours
Private Transfer* 4 – 5 Hours
Group Shuttle 5 – 6 Hours
Public Bus 7 – 11 Hours

*Going on a Private Transfer will be faster than driving if you’re not used to driving in Costa Rica.

Aspects to Consider When Driving from Tamarindo to Arenal

Let’s discuss a few drawbacks of driving in Costa Rica, which you should consider before renting a car from Tamarindo to Arenal. 

Driving Time Can Be Much Longer Than GPS Apps Estimate From Tamarindo to Arenal

Generally, driving from Tamarindo to Arenal takes 4-5 hours. However, these averages are more realistic and applicable to local Costa Ricans used to driving in our country, and it’s not the case for foreigners. 

If you search on Google Maps for the route from Tamarindo to Arenal, Google usually estimates the driving time to be less than four hours. However, from my experience working with hundreds of tourists, I rarely see anyone get across that distance in that timeframe. 

The distance between Tamarindo and Arenal is 200 kilometers (124 miles), which is relatively significant but not excessive. However, the roads in Costa Rica are pretty narrow, and traffic can get out of control at any given moment should an accident block the streets. Consequently, Google estimations can be disproportional, and your driving time can escalate quickly. 

For example, I drove from San Jose to Monteverde the other day, and Google estimated my driving time would be 3 hours and 50 minutes. And then, there was a landslide on Highway 1 (one of the main roads you will need to use when driving from Tamarindo to Arenal), which turned my travel time upside down. What was supposed to be a four-hour drive ended up being a ten-hour endeavor, and I got home at 1 am.

Even though this was an extreme case, this type of thing happens in Costa Rica regularly. Our country’s topography, with huge mountain ranges, volcanoes, and vast nature, makes the roads vulnerable to these events. ThereforeI recommend adding 30 to 60 minutes to the estimated driving time the GPS device/app gives you.

Driving is Not the Easiest Way to Get From Tamarindo to Arenal

Driving from Tamarindo to Arenal seems like a simple thing to do. After all, you might be an avid driver, and a four-to-five-hour ride might not be a big deal. However, driving in Costa Rica can be very different from how you’re used to driving at home. 

In Costa Rica, crazy local drivers, unpredictable and harsh weather conditions, and narrow roads make driving here a challenge and an overwhelming task for some

For example, on highway 1, one of the main routes from Tamarindo to Arenal, it’s common to see local drivers going at full speed, passing multiple vehicles on a relatively narrow road. Witnessing a car pass like that on these roads can make some drivers feel uncomfortable and anxious. 

We, Costa Ricans, have witnessed this scenario many times before, and it still feels a bit uncomfortable for me. Getting past at full speed in such narrow streets means the car passing by comes very close to you, and it’s not cool. And it’s one of the main complaints I’ve heard from foreigners visiting Costa Rica for the first time. 

On the other hand, the weather conditions in Costa Rica are pretty unpredictable. Costa Rica has more than 300 microclimates (a local set of atmospheric conditions that differ from those in the surrounding a. And that means you can experience a handful of different atmospheric conditions over a four-hour drive. 

You might leave Tamarindo with a clear sky when suddenly a cloud forms thirty minutes later, pouring rain all over the place. Driving under changing weather conditions is not a big deal from December through April (Costa Rican summertime) as there are few rain showers, and they’re not too hard.

However, rain is more prominent from May through November (Costa Rican rainy season). During this time of the year, it rains more often and much harder, especially during September and October, when heavy thunderstorms are a daily norm. Generally speaking, driving during those months is significantly challenging, even for locals, especially during the afternoons when the rain is more likely to come. 

And lastly, a final aspect that makes driving in Costa Rica challenging for foreigners is the poor condition of the roads. There are many potholes, so you must be extra careful and 100% focused when driving in our country. You will want to dodge those bad boys as they can be so sharp that they can flat your vehicle’s tire.

Flat tires do not usually cause many accidents in Costa Rica, but they can still be a hassle. Since most roads are narrow, you will need to find a safe parking stop so you can change the tire. Changing tires is not super fun, and it can be incredibly discouraging if it begins to rain in the middle of the process, as it’s happened to me a few times. 

Costa Rica Rental Car Comparison Tool

After considering the above drawbacks, if you decide that renting a car is still a good option, it may be time to find a reasonable Rental Car. And I recommend using the . You can find the best car rental deals in one place. All you need to do is choose the city or airport where you plan to pick up a car, and the Costa Rica Rental Car Comparison Tool will instantly display the best deals across the major rental car companies in Costa Rica. Give it a try. 

Private Car Service From Tamarindo to Arenal

We have already explored how complicated it is to get from Tamarindo to Arenal using public transportation. We also covered how driving can be problematic, so what’s the easiest way to make this trip? 

Booking a private car service is arguably the easiest way to get from Tamarindo to Arenal.

Hiring a Private Transportation Service, or a “Private Shuttle,” as locals call it, is the easiest way to get from Tamarindo to Arenal. You can arrange a specific time and place with a private shuttle, and a transportation company will pick you up and take you to your lodge in Arenal. 

Here at Arenal Tours, we offer a private door-to-door service, so you can relax and enjoy the ride while we take care of the heavy lifting and drive for you. 

That way, you don’t need to worry about carrying your personal belongings around using public transportation. Neither will you need to worry about driving in a foreign country with roads that might differ significantly from the streets you’re used to riding back home. 

Instead, you arrange the pickup time and place. Then, one of our local professional drivers will pick you up with a modern vehicle to take you from your departure place in Tamarindo to your destination in Arenal.

The only disadvantage of hiring this type of transportation service is the price. Going on a private transfer is the most comfortable, convenient, and straightforward option but also pricey. 

Depending on the pickup and dropoff places, a private transfer from Tamarindo to Arenal will usually cost $284 for 1 to 6 passengers. And your pickup time can also influence your pricing. For example, if you want to depart Tamarindo before 7 am or after 5 pm, there is a $20 additional fee for this service. Additionally, private transfer prices will increase as demand rises, especially during the busiest days, so I recommend booking ahead of time. 

Group Shuttles From Tamarindo to Arenal

Getting a group shuttle from Tamarindo to Arenal is an excellent choice for solo travelers and couples. A group shuttle is a daily shared transportation service from Tamarindo to Arenal. A modern Van with air conditioning and WiFi will pick you up at your lodge in Tamarindo and take you to Arenal.

Generally, taking a group shuttle, or a “shared shuttle,” as the locals call it, is the most recommended door-to-door way to get from Tamarindo to Arenal for most travelers. Group shuttles are convenient and provide the best balance, saving time and money for travelers in most cases.

Here at Arenal Tours, we offer group shuttles, where you share the shuttle service with fellow travelers and the cost, making it an excellent option for solo travelers and couples. Using our group shuttle to get to Arenal will be far more convenient than riding the public bus and significantly less expensive than hiring a private transfer. 

Using our group shuttle is also more manageable and less stressful than renting a car and driving. The price can change depending on the seasonality and demand, but it’s usually around $47 per person per way. 

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About the Author

Daniel Lalinde

I am the founder of send us a message, and we will happily assist you! 


Use our Rental Car Comparison Tool to Find the Lowest Prices (Guaranteed) On Car Rentals To Visit Costa Rica. Choose the city or airport where you plan to pick it up, and our tool will show you the top deals in real-time.