This post was first published in 2018 but has been updated in 2019 with the most recent information what to do in Tamarindo, Costa Rica
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.
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.”
Here’s a video of us visiting Tamarindo!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.
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
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 Green Season
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.
Visit in the Shoulder Season
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.
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.
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).
READ NEXT: Best Beaches in Costa Rica
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. Another alternative is to stand up Paddleboard (SUP). No matter your preference, hitting the water is one of the best things to do in Tamarindo.
Snorkelling & Scuba Diving
Another way to explore the Pacific Ocean is through a 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.
Canopy Ziplining Tours
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
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 her eggs. Many agencies in town can also help organize Turtle Nesting Tours.
These take place at night and 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 season in the area runs from October to February.
This is what a turtle hatching looks like
ATV Tours/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.
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 is available for rent from a variety of stores.
Day Trips From Tamarindo, Costa Rica
Playa Avellanas is a surfer’s dream. You can find both beginner and advanced breaks here. But during a good swell people flock from all around for waves that have been described as some of the best in Pacific.
The beach itself is really quiet, with near-white sand and turquoise waters. There are no big chains like in Tamarindo. Just a small town and one small beach restaurant and bar. Lola’s is famous for its resident 400-pound pig which is the restaurant’s mascot and namesake.
Playa Avellanas is located about 25 minutes outside of Tamarindo, you will have to drive down a bumpy dirt road… But that only adds to the adventure of finding this hidden gem!
Wanting to escape the hustle and bustle of Tamarindo? Consider spending a night of two in Playa Avellanas. Stay at our beautiful Drift Away Eco Lodge, located just 1 km from the beach in Avellanas. Enjoy simple luxuries in comfortable rooms, great amenities, and a delicious local breakfast on site!
Rincon de la Vieja National Park
If you’re looking for things to do near Tamarindo, Costa Rica but don’t want to be surrounded by a lot of tourists, then spending a day at Rincon de la Vieja National Park may be the best option for you.
While there’s no shortage of breathtaking scenery and spectacular hiking trails, it’s one of the least visited national parks in Costa Rica.
With seven main hiking trails of various lengths and difficulties, you just need to decide where you want to start. If you’re looking for something a bit more structured, there’s a ziplining tour that finished at the Rincon de la Vieja hot springs.
Scuba Diving in Las Catalinas
Scuba diving is not a typical thing to do in Tamarindo. But avid scuba divers will be happy to know that the Catalina Islands, located just a short drive and boat ride from Tamarindo offer some great diving in the area.
Spend a day in Nosara
If you’re feeling like going a bit further outside of Tamarindo, then the expat community of Nosara could be of interest to you. Whether you’re interested in surfing at Playa Guiones or want to take a yoga class at the renowned Harmony Hotel or simply want to check out this unique town, Nosara is close enough to be reached on a day trip from Tamarindo.
You won’t find a usual assortment of over-priced souvenir shops here, instead be prepared to spend a day in a relaxed, laidback, hippie-ish atmosphere that’s unique to Nosara.
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.
To stock up on groceries (not the most exciting shopping in town), 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 of foods that you might be missing from home.
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.
Where to Stay In Tamarindo
There are a plethora of hotels to choose from while you’re visiting Tamarindo, Costa Rica, but we have compiled a list of the most sustainable, environmentally friendly options starting from just $55 USD/night.
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 the commitment to supporting the local community. Yoga classes are offered daily.
Tamarindo Bay Boutique Hotel – $110-$160 USD/night
This sustainable modern adult-only hotel is conveniently located within walking distance to the main street in town. The hotel features a UV-treated swimming pool and rancho-style outdoor living and dining area.
The air-conditioned rooms are spacious and overlook the pool or tropical gardens. A chef-prepared breakfast is included in every reservation.
Tamarindo Diria Beach Resort – $200-$350 USD/night
Tamarindo Diria 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, 4 swimming pools, 6 restaurants, 5 bars, and much more! Despite its size, Diria Resort is working towards being carbon-neutral through eco-friendly practices and support of ongoing reforestation efforts in Costa Rica.
Jardin del Eden – $200-$425 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 $200-$425 USD a night.
Hotel Capitan Suizo – $250-$500 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 $255 USD and going up to $950 USD for a four-person suite.
Where to Eat & Drink in Tamarindo
There is no shortage of restaurants in Tamarindo. In fact, the variety of cuisines and great food options available in Tamarindo is one of the reasons we just can’t stay away from this busy tourist hub. 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 (Christmas is happening no matter the day of the week) 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.
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).
Planning to travel around Costa Rica by car? We recommend renting your car from Hertz. CLICK HERE and use our promo code DTT-HERTZ to get 20% off your Hertz Car Rental!
BEFORE YOU GO: DON’T FORGET TRAVEL INSURANCE
We can’t stress enough the importance of travel insurance, especially in a country like Costa Rica. Whether you just plan to explore the cities, do a little bit of hiking, or go extreme (think surfing, scuba diving, or even skydiving), being protected on your travels is an irreplaceable peace of mind. We learned about the importance of travel insurance the hard way and now we never travel without coverage.
Have questions about visiting Tamarindo? Leave a comment below and we’ll be happy to share more advice!
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