- Landscape: City, Tropical Dry Forest
All roads that don’t lead to San Jose likely lead to Liberia. Founded in 1769, this sleepy colonial town serves as a convenient hub connecting Guanacaste to the rest of the country: San Jose to the southeast, the beaches of the Nicoya Peninsula to the west, and Nicaragua to the north. Liberia's Daniel Oduber International Airport was completely renovated in 2012, and serves as Guanacaste’s portal to regional airports throughout Costa Rica.read more close
Home to around 48,000 residents, Liberia is quite small by North American standards; for Costa Rica it is a moderately large and active city, well known for modern conveniences such as fast food restaurants and a mall with a movie theater. The city’s geographic center is Central Park and the Church of the Immaculate Conception (Iglesia Immaculada Concepcion de Maria). This Catholic church is a landmark in town, and there is never a spare seat on Sunday mornings.
From May through November, it rains like clockwork in the afternoons, but during the drier months of December through April, Liberia may be the dustiest city in Costa Rica. The dust is not the only reason Liberia is affectionately known as la Ciudad Blanca, or the White City: Liberia’s trademark whitewashed houses can be blinding on a sunny day. Liberia is also known for its cattle ranches, and it is not uncommon to spot a lasso-toting local on horseback, trotting down Liberia’s arid streets in a cloud of white dust.
The ancient La Agonia church should not be missed. It is the oldest religious center in Liberia, and an archetypal example of a whitewashed Liberian structure. Mingle with locals at the neighborhood farmers' market, which takes place every Thursday and Friday near the stadium. It is impossible to walk away without bags full of the freshest, cheapest fruits and vegetables around.
Rincon de la Vieja National Park, located just 10 miles northeast of Liberia, makes for a stunning, although vigorous day trip. Travelers can hike various trails to a number of waterfalls, boiling mud pots, steaming fumaroles, and volcanic hot springs. An an eight-hour trek to the summit of the volcano exists for more energetic adventurers.
To the northwest, Santa Rosa National Park is well known for its isolated surfing beaches. Here resides the famed Witches’ Rock, considered by some as the world's best surf spot. West of Liberia are the beautiful beaches of Papagayo, Playa del Coco and Playa Hermosa. From Liberia’s center, the party town of Playa del Coco is only 35 minutes by car, or ten minutes more to the adjacent black sand beach of Ocotal.
While Liberia is easily explored on foot, taxis are extremely cheap in town. All metered taxi rides within the city cost around $3, and a ride from Liberia's western to eastern limits costs less than $6. Taxis line up on the north side of the central park on Avenida Central. Tel. 2666-3330.
Liberia is so small that intercity buses are non-existent. To catch a bus to another city, head to the municipal bus station, located just around the corner from the Pulmitan bus station on Avenida 7, between Calles 12 and 14. Buses leave for San Jose hourly from 3 a.m. to 8:00 a.m. and every two hours from 10:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. The direct bus is slightly faster, and leaves at noon and 4 p.m.