Ever since we quit our jobs and left our 9-5 lives in Australia, we have semi-based ourselves in Costa Rica, just 20 minutes south of the town of Tamarindo in Guanacaste province.
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For us, Tamarindo is a lifeline. It acts as a central hub for shops and activities, so we never run out of things to do in Tamarindo, Costa Rica. It’s precisely for that reason that we have a love/hate relationship with Tamarindo.
In the low season, we love taking a trip out to Tamarindo. We hang out on the beach, stock up on groceries, and treat ourselves to some tacos or sushi while we are there.
But in the busy season, when tourists flock to Tamarindo, our weekly trips become more of a hassle than a treat. For that exact reason, the locals have nicknamed the town “Tamagringo.”
Is Tamarindo Worth Visiting?
If you are planning a trip to Costa Rica, Tamarindo is likely a stop on your itinerary and for good reasons. While it can be busy and touristy, Tamarindo does offer a convenient way to experience the Guanacaste region and some of its top activities so you’ll never be wondering what to do in Tamarindo.
Tamarindo is known for its gorgeous white sand beaches that are a hotspot for surfers, families, and tourists from all over the globe. People also flock to Tamarindo Beach for the amazing water sports available in the area like kayaking, SUP and fishing. It’s definitely worth visiting if you’re looking to soak up the Costa Rican sunshine or try surfing for the first time.
But, is Tamarindo safe? Yes! Tamarindo is quite safe as long as you use good travel sense. After all, leaving your valuables unattended on the beach isn’t a good idea anywhere. Out of all of the travel destinations in Costa Rica, Tamarindo is one of the safest. Pickpocketing and other minor tourist area crimes still happen, but anything beyond that is unlikely.
Best Time to Visit Tamarindo
When it comes to Tamarindo weather, there are 2 seasons in Costa Rica. The dry season, and the green season.
The dry season runs from December until April. Contrary to popular belief, the dry season is not the best time to visit Tamarindo, because it coincides with an influx of tourists. It’s hot, really hot… and crowded, which, in our opinion, takes away all of Tamarindo’s appeal.
Temperatures hover just shy of 30 degrees Celsius and keep in mind, it is a dry heat. So drink plenty of water to stay hydrated.
However, in the dry season, Tamarindo is a great place to visit for those looking for a party spot. It’s busy and buzzing with activities.
The rainy season runs from May to November, and it is also known as the green season because the rain makes the countryside a deep, verdant green.
Don’t be afraid to visit Tamarindo in the rainy season. It’s quiet, lush, and really laid back. Most mornings are bright and clear, and the rain clouds don’t roll in until the afternoon.
It can be a little muggy at this time of year, but temperatures hover in the comfortable mid-twenties.
To get the feel for what Tamarindo looks like in the green season watch our vlog below.
We recommend visiting Tamarindo in the shoulder season. The months of November, as well as June/July/August, are much quieter and more pleasant if you want to enjoy the beach and the surroundings.
These months experience less rainfall than during the height of the green season. You will miss the crowds, and won’t have to pay premium high season prices.
How to Get to Tamarindo, Costa Rica
To fly into Tamarindo, you will arrive at Daniel Oduber International Airport in Liberia. This airport has many flights from major cities in North America like Toronto, New York, and Miami.
Tamarindo town is located just 1-hour drive from the Liberia airport. You can rent a car, take a taxi or shuttle bus, or take a 2-3 hour ride on the public bus for US$2.50.
To compare all transportation options and to book a minivan, car, bus or flight from and to Tamarindo, check out Bookaway.
Distance From Tamarindo to Popular Destinations Across Costa Rica
Tamarindo to San Jose, Costa Rica: Driving from San Jose to Tamarindo and vice versa takes 4-5 hours. They are 260 km (160 miles) apart and the well-paved road makes for a pretty easy drive.
Monteverde to Tamarindo: Expect a 3-4 hour drive from Tamarindo to Monteverde even though they are only 162 km (100 miles) apart.
Tamarindo to Santa Teresa: Heading from Santa Teresa to Tamarindo is a 200 km (124 miles) journey that takes about 5.5 hours each way.
Tamarindo to Manuel Antonio: Getting to Manuel Antonio National Park and the surrounding area takes about 5 hours from Tamarindo. They are just over 300 km (186 miles) apart.
Tamarindo to La Fortuna (Arenal to Tamarindo): It is a 4 hour drive from La Fortuna to Tamarindo (210 km/130 miles). The distance is similar if you’re leaving from Arenal.
Liberia to Tamarindo: The distance from Liberia, Costa Rica to Tamarindo is 80 km (50 miles). It takes 1.5 hours to drive from Liberia city centre and just over 1 hour to drive from the airport.
Nosara to Tamarindo: Getting from Tamarindo to Nosara is a 2 hour drive along Route 160. The two towns are 70 km (44 miles) apart.
Tamarindo to Samara: Traveling between Tamarindo and Samara takes 2 hours on the main highway via Nicoya. For a scenic drive, you can travel along the coast for 2.5 hours but beware of potholes! The coastal route is only 4 km (2.5 miles) longer than the paved highway (94 km/58 miles) but takes much longer due to road conditions.
Top Things to Do in Tamarindo, Costa Rica
Tamarindo is one of the few towns in Costa Rica that literally offers everything from snorkelling to horseback riding and hiking.
Visit Best Beaches near Tamarindo
Playa Tamarindo (Tamarindo Beach)
The main attraction in town is a nice long, white, sandy beach that stretches for 3.5 km along the main road. Here the beach is great for swimming, especially at high tide, relaxing, sunbathing, and offers plenty of good waves for beginners looking to give surfing a try.
More experienced surfers will enjoy excellent surf breaks just outside of Tamarindo at Playa Negra and Avellanas (25 mins away by car), Playa Grande (25 mins away by car), or Witch’s Rock (1 hour by car and then 30 min by boat).
Playa Langosta, Costa Rica
Playa Langosta is a quieter alternative to the busy shores of Playa Tamarindo. Located just 2 km (1.2 miles) away Langosta has its own share of amazing surfing waves and a beautiful shoreline. Langosta is known as one of the more luxurious beaches and even has the only all-inclusive hotel in the area.
Playa Avellanas is a beautiful swimming and surfing beach located 30-minute drive from Tamarindo that offers a nice break from the hustle and bustle. We might be biased but Playa Avellanas is our favourite Guanacaste beach to relax, surf, and enjoy Costa Rica’s wildlife. There are also some great restaurants in the area, including the famous beachside restaurant called, Lola’s, home to 2 pigs that just love the beach!
Playa Grande is another beautiful stretch beach north of Tamarindo in Marino Las Baulas National Park. It’s one of the best surfing beaches in Costa Rica known for great waves among local Guanacaste surfers. But good surf isn’t its only attraction—the beach is also famous for being a nesting site for leatherback turtles. If you visit from October to May, you might see the nesting turtles during a night walk or tour.
READ NEXT: Best Beaches in Costa Rica
Take a Sunset Boat Cruise
Numerous sailing trips and boat tours depart Tamarindo daily taking visitors to nice bays and good snorkelling spots. Many run as full-day tours, but there is also an option to do half-day tours or sunset tours.
Kayaking tours are also popular and offer a great way to explore the mangrove ecosystem of the Tamarindo Estuary. From the water, you will see some of Costa Rica’s diverse wildlife from monkeys, caymans, and iguanas to tropical birds. Tours usually last 2-3 hours and are a great way to explore the natural landscape.
Experience SUP in Tamarindo Estuary
Another alternative is to stand up Paddleboard (SUP). The water in the estuary is very calm so even beginners can enjoy a peaceful paddle through the jungle. You’ll get a chance to see many of the animals and fish that call this area home.
Try Snorkelling or Scuba Diving
Another way to explore the Pacific Ocean is through scuba diving or snorkelling tours, both of which can be arranged from Tamarindo. Snorkelling tours are often combined with sailing tours (see above), while scuba diving trips take you out to the Catalinas Islands.
Go on a Ziplining Tour
If you want a chance to experience the longest and coolest canopy tour in Costa Rica, you’ll have to visit Monteverde. But a number of companies also offer a chance to zipline through the jungle just outside of Tamarindo.
It’s a fun activity with a chance to spot some monkeys, lizards, and maybe even an armadillo.
Turtle Nesting Tours
See Turtles Nesting on the Beach
Las Baulas National Park, located just a short 25 min drive from Tamarindo in Playa Grande, is one of the few places in the world where the Giant Leatherback Turtles come to lay their eggs.
It’s a unique tour that takes place in the evenings, just after dusk, and is well worth the trip to Playa Grande. The tours are highly regulated thanks to the conservation efforts by the Leatherback Trust in collaboration with Earthwatch. All tours are led by rangers who lead the conservation projects in the park.
Visitor interaction with the turtles is very limited (no cameras are allowed), but if you have never seen turtles nesting on the beach before, it’s a very cool and educational experience, and one of the best things to do in Tamarindo if you’re interested in conservation. Leatherback Turtle nesting season is from October to February. Your hotel or a number of agencies in town can help organize Turtle Nesting Tours.
Want to see turtle nesting during the day? Check out the monthly “arribada” events in Playa Ostional.
Go Horseback Riding
These are a popular way to discover the back roads of Tamarindo and the surrounding areas for those that don’t have their own car while visiting Tamarindo, Costa Rica. Tours can range from just a few hours to full-day adventures.
Pamper Yourself at a Spa
Coco Spa Tamarindo is our favourite place to relax and unwind after a day on the waves. They offer many services to make your vacation unforgettable from massages to pedicures. They use natural local ingredients wherever possible and have wonderful service. We go there often and would highly recommend a stop here on a visit on any Tamarindo trip.
Rent Your Own Gear
If tours aren’t your thing and you’re wondering what to do in Tamarindo, Costa Rica you can also rent some gear to explore the area at your own pace. Bicycles, surfboards, boogie boards, SUP board and other equipment are available for rent from a variety of stores.
While not the most cultural of Tamarindo activities, Tamarindo is one of the few places in Costa Rica that has shops worthy of exploring. Aside from the usual souvenir shops that sell $10 tank tops, flip-flops, and sarongs, there are a number of unique boutique-style shops in Tamarindo that are definitely worth a stop while you’re visiting Tamarindo, Costa Rica.
Clothing stores are peppered along the main street in Tamarindo, so it’s easy to pop into a few stores as you make your way around town.
For bathing suits, we recommend Papaya con Leche, an amazing shop with incredibly unique handmade bathing suit designs. For artisan products and unique clothing check out Con Mucho Gusto, Lydia Beech Art, Diamante Boutique, and Buena Nena.
For natural organic products made in various corners of Costa Rica, head to the Organic Products shop right next to the Coco Beauty Spa.
Another great spot for organic goodies is Almacén Orgánico, a bulk shop down the street from the spa. They have a great selection of natural foods, bulk goods, specialty items and a lust-worthy list of organically grown teas. Make a stop here for ingredients you won’t find in Costa Rican supermarkets. The shop also hosts yoga classes in their on site studio.
To stock up on groceries (not the most exciting shopping in town, but very necessary), head to the Auto Mercado on Calle Central. There is also another grocery store called Mega Super a bit further out of town. The latter is a more local alternative, but the former is your best bet for any Western ingredients or foods that you might be missing from home.
Best Hotels in Tamarindo, Costa Rica
There are a plethora of hotels to choose from while visiting Tamarindo, Costa Rica, but here are some of our top recommended most sustainable, environmentally friendly options.
Selina Tamarindo Hostel – $25-$130 USD/night
If you’re visiting Tamarindo on a budget, a stay at the Selina Tamarindo Hostel is the way to go. Popular for digital nomads and backpackers, Selina Hostel is located in the heart of the beach town just steps away from bars, restaurants, and the beach.
Selina Hostels are scattered across Latin America and focus on promoting local culture through activities and community engagement. Those happy to share a room with up to 10 people can snag a bed for just $25 a night or opt for a private suite with a bathroom for $100+. But you won’t spend much time in your room anyway with the yoga classes, surf lessons, and coworking spaces available.
Drift Away Eco-Lodge – $90-$180 USD/night
Drift Away Eco-Lodge is located about 30 mins outside of Tamarindo, but for many, that’s precisely the appeal. Staying in Tamarindo can be hectic and loud and many travelers prefer a quieter accommodation option to connect with nature and enjoy a relaxing vacation. Drift Away Eco Lodge offers exactly that type of escape!
Drift Away Eco Lodge is our little project, and that’s exactly why we hope that you’ll consider staying here during your visit.
The eco-lodge is located in Playa Avellanas, just 200m (656 ft) from a small private beach called Playa Lagartillo and 3km (1.85 miles) away from another amazing surfing beach, Playa Negra. The grounds are beautiful offering lots of open-air spaces, a large chemical-free pool and a juice bar on-site serving up delicious healthy smoothies and snacks throughout the day.
You have the option to choose from a variety of individual rooms, or a two-bedroom villa, suited well for a family or a group traveling together. All rooms have AC, on-demand hot water, safety boxes, and memory foam mattresses! We guarantee it’s a place where you’ll get a good night’s sleep!
Sustainability is important to us, so Drift Away Eco Lodge puts a lot of emphasis on being single-use plastic-free, chemical-free and on sourcing many of the fixtures and supplies locally.
Sabanero Eco Lodge – $130-$150/night
Located about 20 mins outside of the town centre, the lodge consists of 15 air-conditioned chalets built from local teak trees, with a porch overlooking the Cañafistula valley.
Their onsite restaurant uses locally grown produce for meals, and the place is run with a commitment to supporting the local community. Yoga classes are offered daily.
Tamarindo Diria Beach Resort – $150-$350 USD/night
Diria Tamarindo is the oldest and arguably the most iconic hotel in town. Diria has existed in Tamarindo since the town was nothing more than a fishing village and has continued to keep up its grounds to carry a 4-star certification.
This is a kid-friendly spacious resort, with 240 rooms, ocean view accommodations, 3 swimming pools, 5 restaurants, 4 bars, and much more! Despite its size, Diria Resort is working towards being carbon-neutral through eco-friendly practices and the support of ongoing reforestation efforts in Costa Rica.
Jardin del Eden – $180-$450 USD/night
Located just a few steps away from the beach and surrounded by a lush green setting. Jardin del Eden Boutique Hotel offers guests a relaxing eco-friendly atmosphere.
The hotel has implemented a long-term sustainability management system committing to using local materials, solar heating, and eco-friendly toiletries. This is another adult-only hotel, with 46 rooms ranging from $180-$450 USD a night.
Hotel Capitan Suizo – $200-$720 USD/night
Capitan Suizo Hotel is the only hotel in the Tamarindo area with a 5 Leaf Certification for Sustainable Tourism in Costa Rica. The highest possible level of this certification.
This is a reflection of the Capitan Suizo’s environmental, social, cultural and economic commitment throughout its operation and makes it the most eco-sustainable hotel in Tamarindo.
Accommodations range from bungalows to oceanfront units, and a four-bedroom-suite, with rates starting at $200 USD and going up to $720 USD for a four-person suite.
Best Restaurants in Tamarindo
When it comes to the best places to eat in Tamarindo, there is no shortage of restaurants. Tamarindo offers something for everyone with a large selection of cuisines and great restaurant options. Here is a list of a few of our favourite food joints.
- Bamboo Sushi Club is located in the center of town. They are by far the best sushi spot in Tamarindo. Try their Tico Roll. They are open Monday- Saturday from 11:30 a.m to 3:00 p.m, and 5:30 p.m – 10:00 p.m. They are closed on Sundays.
- Nougie’s Restaurant has been serving Tamarindo since 1974. They offer delicious desserts and a really fresh Tuna Poke right on the main beach! Nougie’s is open every day from 6 a.m to 10 p.m.
- Latitude Blue is open from 11 to 11 daily. They offer local flavours with a western flare. A good place to catch some night time entertainment in a lush setting as well.
- Green Papaya Taco Bar has delicious and healthy tacos, salads and more! They even offer vegan-friendly options. They are closed Mondays but otherwise operate from 11 a.m to 9 p.m daily.
- Falafel Bar has the best hummus in Tamarindo! They offer a tasty Mediterranean menu in a laid-back restaurant setting. They are closed Tuesdays but are otherwise open from 7 a.m-10 p.m.
- Sprout: Has lunch & dinner made only from fresh, organic, & locally sustainable ingredients Open from Monday-Saturday from 11 a.m-10 p.m. Oh, and it’s delicious!
- Saturday Farmers Market: has organic produce and products galore. Plus a large selection of handmade goods, local arts, and crafts. Small, but local and definitely unique. They only operate from 8 a.m to 1 p.m on Saturdays.
- Mercadito De Tamarindo: (Tamarindo Market) Is a big hit in Tamarindo. The open-concept market opened in February 2018. It houses trendy food stalls and clothing shops which all face a center stage. Live musicians and acts perform regularly. The Tamarindo Market is open every day from 11 a.m to 11 p.m and located just 25m East of Patagonia Argentinian Grill.
READ NEXT: 10 Best Restaurants in Tamarindo, Costa Rica
Looking for Bars/Clubs in Tamarindo?
While we don’t party much in Tamarindo anymore, there are a couple of places we can suggest.
- Monkey Bar is a good bet for the start of any night. Ladies Night every Friday, live Latin music, and DJ until 2 am.
- Sharky’s Bar is a happening sports bar and club and a great place for some drinks and dancing throughout the week. Particularly popular on Saturdays but open every day from 11 am to 2:30 am.
- El Garito is a popular late night spot known for their underground house music. Expect lots of dancing and great drinks. They are open from 7 pm to 2:30 pm except on Wednesdays and Sundays.
- Pacifico Bar is an open air bar right on the beach. They have popular reggae and Latin music nights. Open Monday to Saturday from 7 pm to 2:30 pm.
The nightlife in Tamarindo is somewhat unpredictable. Depending completely on the season and on what else is happening in the area during that time.
The best parties can pop up in the most unexpected places. So don’t be afraid to take a stroll along the main street and suss out a few places yourself. Follow the music and it’ll lead you to the crowds (if that’s what you are after!).
How Much Time do You Need in Tamarindo?
Plan to spend at least 2-3 days in Tamarindo to give yourself time to enjoy the beach and take advantage of some activities and tours in the area.
With that said, though, if you don’t like touristy places, overpriced restaurants (because they are not cheap in Tamarindo), and nightlife isn’t high on your bucket list, consider skipping a visit to Tamarindo altogether.
There are quieter beaches to enjoy all along the Pacific Coast and towns that come with a lot more Costa Rican flare and cultural vibe than Tamarindo (which basically has zero).
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Have questions about visiting Tamarindo? Leave a comment below and we’ll be happy to share more advice!
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