I’ll never forget arriving in Tamarindo, Costa Rica. The warm air, glistening blue water, and the phenomenal sunset were the perfect anecdote to a cold Canadian winter.
You’ve probably heard of Tamarindo. It’s a popular beach town on the Nicoya Peninsula in the province of Guanacaste, Costa Rica. Tamarindo is known for surfing and parties. Rather like Puerto Viejo on the Caribbean coast, the party reputation exists but in either town you do not need to be a partier to thoroughly enjoy the experiences.
Tamarindo’s location makes it a great base to explore further afield. There are many tour operators in Tamarindo offering a wide variety of activities such as sailing, snorkeling, volcano hikes, and ziplining. You can tailor your vacation time in Tamarindo to suit exactly what you love to do.
- High season runs from December until May in Tamarindo. It is a very popular destination. That being said, I loved Tamarindo’s vibe. It is bustling but also embodies the “pure vida” lifestyle, the Costa Rican way of embracing the simple life.
- The locals or “Ticos” have nicknamed Tamarindo “Tamagringo,” proof positive that you’re headed to a busy tourist town where lots of expats live.
- All the beaches mentioned in this article have currents. When swimming, be very aware of the strength of the current and undertow. Watch how the waves affect swimmers and surfers. Pay attention and thoroughly enjoy the water!
Getting To Tamarindo, Costa Rica
Book your flight to LIR — the airport in Liberia, Costa Rica. It was also named the Daniel Oduber Quiros International Airport until July 2021 when it was renamed Guanacaste Airport.
Liberia Airport is only one-hour away from Tamarindo. The best choices to get from the airport to Tamarindo are to rent a car, take a taxi, a shuttle bus, or the public bus which will take much longer. If you are driving, the roads are paved.
Tamarindo is a small town with lots going on. Slow your pace and let the delights of the area wash over you. Intersperse your beach days with guided tours that offer activities. You will find lots of tour operators in Tamarindo.
1. Go For Long Beach Walks
The beach at Tamarindo has lovely soft, white sand perfect for walking. It’s a wide beach that stretches for about 1.5 miles. Head out for a refreshing morning walk, listening to the shore break and dipping your feet in the ocean.
Pro Tip: There are plenty of beach vendors in Tamarindo. Fruit. Ice cream. Handmade jewelry. Massages. I found that the vendors certainly approach you for a sale but were not aggressive or hyper persistent.
2. Enjoy Spectacular Sunsets At Tamarindo, Costa Rica
Plan a sunset sailing trip, pull up a chair at one of the beach bars, or sit on the sand and just watch the glowing ball of fiery orange drop lower in the sky until it disappears over the horizon. Stunning. Unforgettable.
Silhouettes of sailboats and surfers dashing across the sand make for some spectacular photo opportunities.
3. Learn To Surf In Tamarindo, Costa Rica
Tamarindo is one of the best beaches for surfing in Costa Rica. It is the perfect place to learn and also challenging enough for advanced surfers. If you are just starting out or need some fine tuning for your technique, there are plenty of surf schools on the beach.
Even if you aren’t a surfer, you might enjoy watching the activity. While away an hour observing the lessons, full of successes and crashes, and the more advanced surfers riding the waves.
4. Partake In Water Sports To Your Heart’s Content
Tamarindo beach is water sports heaven! Rent a kayak, go stand up paddle boarding or join a tour and go sport fishing. The sky’s the limit!
5. Spend Time At Langosta Beach (Playa Langosta)
The beaches along the Pacific coast of Costa Rica are spectacular. Just a short 1.5 miles south of Tamarindo is the gorgeous Playa Langosta. Bring a picnic and walk the beautiful beach, exploring tide pools, collecting shells, and watching the surfers.
- There are a lot of magnificent beaches in the Nicoya Peninsula. Other beaches worth visiting are Playa Avellanas, Playa Grande, Playa Flamingo, and Playa Conchal. This list, of course, only scratches the surface.
- It is important to mention once again the need to be watchful of strong currents and undertows.
6. Take A Tamarindo Estuary Boat Safari
Hop in the canopied boat with a seasoned guide and explore the mangrove forest in Las Baulas National Park. Keep your eyes open for howler monkeys (my favorite), crocodiles, and exotic birds. Float down the river and immerse yourself in nature.
7. Go Snorkelling In The Pacific Ocean
When the ocean beckons, I go! Getting on the Pacific Ocean and zipping across the sparkling water to just the perfect snorkeling spot is a very memorable experience. Perhaps it will be your lucky day and you will see dolphins while out on the ocean.
8. See Leatherback Turtles Nesting
Las Baulas National Marine Park is the largest nesting ground in the world for endangered leatherback turtles. Nesting season is from October — March with many turtles coming ashore. In recent years, the number of leatherback Tturtles returning has decreased. Look for guided tours from Tamarindo or Playa Grande.
9. See Olive Ridley Sea Turtles Lay Their Eggs
On the Pacific Coast of Costa Rica, the best place to see turtles lay their eggs is in Ostional Wildlife Refuge. About a 2-hour drive from Tamarindo, this wildlife refuge with its 9-miles of protected beach is a haven for Olive Ridley sea turtles. The best time to witness this spectacular event of mother nature at work is from September to December. As with Tortuguero National Park, the only way to visit and see the Olive Ridley sea turtles nesting is with a guide. Organized tours are available from Tamarindo.
Pro Tip: For any guided tours of turtles laying eggs it is important to wear dark clothing so as not to distract the mother. There are no cameras allowed.
10. Take A Combined Activity Tour
Sometimes when you are on vacation, you step outside your comfort zone. That’s one of the aspects of traveling that I adore.
I was with my daughter and her friend in Tamarindo when somehow I agreed to go ziplining and horseback riding to a volcano in Rincon de la Vieja National Park. It was a full-day adventure tour, leaving early from Tamarindo and returning after dark. I definitely stepped outside my comfort zone that day and still feel proud about it. What will you do on vacation in Tamarindo? There are many combined tours available including hiking, kayaking, rafting, and ATV tours.
Pro Tip: If you are not keen to do a full day trip including a long drive, there are ziplining and adventure parks closer to Tamarindo. Check out Black Stallion.
11. Peruse The Tamarindo Markets
The Mercadito de Tamarindo is a daily market with food stalls and clothing shops. Stop by for a bite to eat and enjoy the live music. It’s open from 11 a.m. – 11 p.m.
The Saturday Market in Tamarindo runs from 8 a.m. – 1 p.m. and has local produce and artisanal goods. I always love seeing what fruit and vegetables are in season!
Where To Stay In Tamarindo
Hotel Capitan Suizo is a 4-star boutique hotel right on Tamarindo Beach. It comes highly recommended with its beautiful beachfront suites, bungalows, and lush tropical garden. With its Certificate of Tourism Sustainability, an onsite restaurant, and spa, Capitan Suizo might be just the right place to rejuvenate in Tamarindo.
Tamarindo Diria is another beautiful hotel perched just back from Tamarindo Beach. Sit on the beautiful terrace, refresh in the pool (or the ocean), and return in the evening to hear the waves crashing from your room.
Where To Eat In Tamarindo
There are many restaurants in Tamarindo Costa Rica. Don’t forget to try a “Soda” (a local Costa Rican restaurant) that sells typical Costa Rican food like beans and rice with chicken or shrimp. Try Soda El Buen Comer or Soda Guanacaste for a real Costa Rican experience!
Nogui’s Beachfront Restaurant has been around since 1974 when Tamarindo was a mere little fishing village with no running water or electricity. Nowadays it serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner and is a Tamarindo tradition!
Green Papaya Taco Bar is another favorite in Tamarindo. Tacos, burritos, and quinoa bowls have you covered for the perfect casual meal after a beach day!
Pangas Beach Club covers all the options! Drop by for a beer in your bathing suit or breeze in for a candlelight dinner by the sea. Can you go wrong?
Sprout is going to satisfy those craving for healthy food! Serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner just a few steps from the beach this is also a great go-to for a quick bite!
- Tamarindo may be the perfect place for you to spend your entire time in Costa Rica. If you like quieter beaches, the Pacific Coast has plenty. Spend a few days in Tamarindo and then head south to towns that are less busy such as Montezuma (where capuchin monkeys joined us for breakfast), Dominical, and Santa Teresa.
- If you’ve got more time why not explore Drake Bay and the Osa Peninsula and plan a visit to Corcovado National Park.
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