A not-so-sleepy beach town, Tamarindo is located in Guanacaste Province, Costa Rica. The 1994 documentary The Endless Summer II put this small town on the map for surfers, and now both tourists and wave-seekers alike flock to the now nicknamed “Tamagringo” for their own taste of Pura Vida.
I am no exception. It was easy to fall for the charm of Tamarindo immediately. Early mornings surfing followed by lazy, sticky afternoons in a hammock with a book, sunset surf, and a few drinks in the evening. That is a lifestyle anybody could quickly get used to.
Getting to Tamarindo was easy and fuss-free. I flew into Liberia Airport (LIR) and scheduled a shuttle with Tamarindo Transfers and Tours. It starts at $20 per person one way, but if you are the only person on the shuttle it can be as much as $60. The drive was roughly 1 hour and 20 minutes.
Where to Stay
I prefer to stay in hostels for several reasons – the first being that it is extremely cost-effective. Hostels can also be nice if you travel alone, as they often provide a more social atmosphere with like-minded people. I stayed in Blue Trailz Surf Hostel for only $10 a night. Blue Trailz was great, and renting boards from them was super easy. I could just sign one out before 7pm and just grab it off the rack first thing in the morning. Everything else in town was very close by and never more than a ten minute walk. Tamarindo itself is very small and easy to navigate so almost anywhere you stay would offer the benefit of location. Most importantly, the beach was right across the street.
If you don’t necessarily enjoy sharing space or want a bit more than the bare-bones that hostels usually have to offer, check out Hotel Pasatiempo! You’ll have typical hotel amenities and they still offer rooms for under $100 a night.
Food! Is it just me or are most travelers inherently foodies, too? I mean half the fun of experiencing new places is eating in them, in my humble opinion. Tamarindo is full of options. There are your typical beach-front tourist-centered restaurants (nothing wrong with that, by the way) with plenty to choose from on the main drag, as well as a few places off some dusty side roads worth exploring.
For breakfast you will find any number of smoothie shops serving up fresh fruit and usually a “pick-what-you-want” style menu. I really enjoyed Mandarina which was located right next to my hostel. But my number one recommendation is La Princesa Cafe. Everything is fresh, organic, and handmade. My favorite choice para el desayuno.
For lunch or dinner you should absolutely stop by The Green Papaya which serves an original taco menu, and you can eat them from swinging chairs that hang around the porch if you want to. I can eat tacos on swings? Say no more. Nogui’s restaurant is also an excellent option for a meal right on the beach.
What would a trip abroad be without a little street food? There is a woman (more commonly known as “the trunk lady”) that sells a plethora of food including fish, chicken stew, rice, and pico de gallo right out of pots in the trunk of her car. She is usually located across from the Diria Hotel in the early afternoons. You can buy a whole plate of food right there from her on the sidewalk.
What To Do
- Okay. Lets cut to the chase, here. Surfing. The numero uno activity in Tamarindo is surfing. Playa Tamarindo itself is great for beginners, and if you are just learning there are any number of surf shops lining the street offering lessons and board rentals. I primarily rented with Iguana Surf Shop, and if you take a lesson with them they will rent boards for $5 per hour. I also loved their staff. They were very friendly and one of them even went above and beyond by looking around the beach for my GoPro which a stranger dropped in the ocean hours prior (we won’t talk about it). Thanks, David!
- Beach hopping. Playa Tamarindo is great but it is not the only beach worth visiting. Hop on a shuttle in front of Neptuno surf shop and check out Playa Conchal (very pretty), Playa Avellanas, or Playa Grande.
- Mangrove tours. There are tours through the mangroves in Tamarindo where you can view wildlife (lots of crocs and monkeys!) Seriously though, keep an eye out for those crocs.
- Literally any amount of tours is available with several companies located along the beach. Just walk in and have a look. They have ziplining, atv’s, tours to Arenal, trips to Nicaragua, etc. A lot of these are very doable on your own, but if you want to set up something more organized as a day trip from Tamarindo – all of these are available!
Okay so maybe you’ve lazed around all day and maybe you broke it up with intermittent surf sessions but either way you’re ready to let loose with a drink or two. Tamarindo has a small but very much alive bar scene at night. There is Pacifico Bar located on the beach, and it is usually popular on Thursdays with its Reggae Night. It’s kind of clubby, so if that’s not your thing I’d avoid it. Monkey Bar is your Friday night spot, and Sharky’s sports bar is another option which has some kind of drink special going on pretty much every night of the week.
Best Time to Visit
Well if you ask me this question (which you kind of did, by browsing my blog) I’d tell you that you can find the greatness in a place during any time of the year. But I know what you really want to know. When is the rainy season? When are there more crowds, etc? The dry season for Costa Rica is from mid December to April. While it’s a great time to visit, this is also when crowds and prices are higher. Costa Rica can still be enjoyable in the rainy season if you plan accordingly. It rains every day but not necessarily all day, so if you want fewer crowds and lower prices then journey to Tamarindo in “the green season”. I visited in early December. There was very little (almost no) rain and very few crowds. Shoulder season (aka right between seasons) is always my favorite time to go anywhere.
So that sums up all the little tips and suggestions I gathered from just three days in Tamarindo, Costa Rica. For me, this trip wasn’t as much about knocking a destination off my “bucket list” as it was about having a few days of peace and clarity. It was one of those cliche “run away from your problems and unwind” trips, and hey it actually worked. Sometimes you need those solo moments where it’s just you, the ocean, and the sun peaking over the horizon. Tamarindo was everything I needed it to be and I hope that if you visit, for whatever reason of your own, you get as much out of it as I did!