Visiting Liberia, Costa Rica

Home to Costa Rica’s second largest international airport, and just a stone’s throw from the border with Nicaragua (and some of the country’s most spectacular beaches), Liberia has long been a transportation hub and “pit stop” for travelers in the region.

Aerial View of Liberia

Liberia: The ‘White City’ on Costa Rica’s Gold Coast

The capital of the northwestern province of Guanacaste, known as the ‘White City’ because its streets were once paved with cascajo (a powdery white gravel) and lined with whitewashed adobe houses, looks rather different today. Liberia not only boasts Guanacaste’s largest shopping strips, a number of banks and an actual mall that houses the province’s only movie theaters, it is also pierced by the newly widened and restored Inter-American Highway that connects all of Central America and Mexico.

Despite Liberia’s leap to modernization, this sunny city remains rooted in the cattle ranch culture that continues to fuel its economy. If you stay here for a few days, you’re bound to come across a sabanero (a Guanacaste cowboy) proudly strutting into town on horseback.

Whether you’ve decided to steer clear of Costa Rica’s capital, San José, by flying into Liberia, or plan to use this city as a base for day trips to the magnificent northern Pacific beaches of the country’s “Gold Coast” and its neighboring national parks such as Rincón de la Vieja or Santa Rosa, Liberia offers sights that capture the essence of Guanacaste life and accommodation for a range of budgets and tastes.

Rincon de la Vieja
La Cangreja Waterfall in Rincon de la Vieja National Park

What the Weather is Like in Liberia

Liberia weather is hot, hot, hot, year-round. The rainy season in Liberia runs from May to November, transforming Guanacaste’s drylands into bright green, lush jungles, but it is still hot and muggy.

Liberia is also known to be one of Costa Rica’s driest cities and compared to the rest of the country, it doesn’t get much rain. The temperature here is usually in the 90s (Fahrenheit) or 30s (Celsius).

Weatherwise, the best time to visit this city is at the beginning or end of the dry season, when the heat is still tame. Dress accordingly – the only people wearing jeans here are locals. We have much more advice on the weather in Costa Rica and when to visit in order to help you make the most of your travel plans.

Prepare for Landing (in Paradise)

Daniel Oduber Quiros International Airport (LIR) in Liberia welcomes more than 3,000 passengers every day, according to the newspaper Voz de Guanacaste. With direct flights from North America and Europe, visitors prefer landing here to avoid the 4 to 5-hour drive from San José to Guanacaste destinations.

The airport is located 13 km. west of Liberia and just a 30-60 min. drive from popular beach destinations such as Playas del Coco and Tamarindo. Most major North American airlines, such as Delta, American Airlines, United, and Air Canada, fly into LIR.

Samara Beach
Samara Beach in Guanacaste, Costa Rica

The airport’s current terminal was built in 2010 to handle the region’s soaring numbers of visitors, and renovations and expansions are still underway. For early or late arrivals/departures, there are accommodations near the airport. Transportation–taxis or car rentals–are readily available.

¡Güipipía! Sightseeing & Things to Do in Liberia

Located just a couple of hours’ drive from the border with Nicaragua, Liberia shares this country’s colonial charm. This should come as no surprise since this city, along with the entire province of Guanacaste, used to be part of Nicaragua until the province’s annexation in 1824. Without a doubt, Liberia is Costa Rica’s stronghold of colonial architecture, and it offers a few sights that will allow you to soak up the city’s history and culture.

La Agonía Church

The Ermita de la Agonía is Liberia’s oldest church, built in 1865. With whitewashed walls made of a mixture of adobe, clay and even horse dung, it’s Guanacaste’s embodiment of Spanish colonial architecture. The church, which stands in the city center on 25 de Julio Avenue, was restored in 2012 after years of looking slightly dilapidated.

The Guanacaste Museum

Museo de Guanacaste lies in Liberia’s former military headquarters or cuartel. The cartel used to include a prison and arms stockpile, but those days are long gone and the wonderfully renovated museum now offers permanent and temporary art exhibits and cultural presentations. One can include a tour of this museum, if interested.

Parque Central

Liberia’s Central Park is a few steps from the Guanacaste Museum. The park is quaint and dotted with trees and benches that offer shade and a break from the blistering Guanacaste sun. A gazebo and bandstand look out onto another whitewashed church, Iglesia Inmaculada Concepción de María.

Public Market

Liberia’s picture worthy public market is not only photogenic, but it also offers the chance to taste traditional foods surrounded by locals and to shop for fresh vegetables, cheap clothes, and trinkets.

Ad Astra Rocket Company

Yes, you read that correctly. If plasma rocket propulsion systems are your thing, or if you’re looking for an outing to entertain and educate the kids, take the family on a tour of Ad Astra Rocket Company, located just 13 km outside of Liberia. Directed by Costa Rica’s very own retired NASA astronaut, Franklin Chang Díaz, Ad Astra is located on the Liberia campus of EARTH University, a world-famous agricultural university. Tours of the rocket company are organized for a minimum of 10 people. Contact us for more info on this tour.

The German Bakery

Ok, there’s nothing Costa Rican about this bakery, but if you’re in Liberia, you have to stop here on your Costa Rica Escapes itinerary. German couple Betty and Johannes Berie use naturally-fermented dough, a traditional German wood oven and German recipes to create the most wonderful black and whole wheat bread, cakes and pastries. Stop for provisions or for a meal at Café Restaurant Europa. The bakery has a kids’ playground and trampoline and is located on Highway 21, a few minutes from the airport.

Note: Still wondering what güipipía is? It’s a folkloric Guanacaste cry traditionally exchanged by countrymen to denote extreme happiness. When in Guanacaste, don’t hold back, a few güipipías are bound to escape your mouth.

Suggested Itineraries

Visiting Liberia and the Pacific Northwest province of Guanacaste is typically dependant upon the airport that you use to fly in and out of Costa Rica. If you decide to use the Liberia Airport for your departure flight after your trip, a visit to the beaches of Guanacaste is normally arranged. The following itineraries are adaptable to the use of the Liberia Airport: Costa Rica Collection, Rainforest-to-Beach, Avid Explorer, and Tropical Honeymoon in Paradise.

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