Planning to use Tamarindo as your homebase in Costa Rica? This beach town in Guanacaste has tons to offer for all travelers and despite it’s more touristic nature, Tamarindo’s convenient location, sweet surf breaks and laid back atmosphere is one not to miss.
For those who need a bit of help trip planning, here is a list of things to do in Tamarindo and Tamarindo day tours. You will also find a map, sample itineraries, day tours and our personal travel tips. Post updated February 2021.
Here is a map of tour operators, activities and other things to do in Tamarindo. I included things like surf shops, scuba diving shops, happy hour and adventures.
Tamarindo is one of the premiere surfing beaches in Costa Rica, particularly for beginners. The beach has consistent waves so you can catch a wave every day. If you’ve never popped up on a board before, no worries. There are many surf shops in town that teach lessons and offer surf camps and vacations.
We did a surf vacation with Iguana Surf and it was a ton of fun. I also gained more confidence and enjoyed learning to surf much more than my first lesson in Jaco! A group lesson costs around $50 USD per person for 2 hours. You can also book a private lesson.
For surf lessons, we highly recommend Seafari or Iguana.
If you don’t need a lesson, you can also rent boards. A board rental costs around $20 USD for 24 hours.
Since this beach is so great for beginners and there are waves nearly all year long, surfing is one of the must do things in Tamarindo!
If you’re an advanced surfer, you can also take a surf trip to Witch’s Rock. When there’s a swell, waves get up to 6 feet, overhead with fast hollow tubes! On a small day, it’s perfect for longboarding.
Estuary Boat Ride
Tamarindo is not just the beach, there is actually a large mangrove and estuary as part of the Marino Las Baulas National Park. Locals have set up boat tours and kayak rentals so that visitors can explore the estuary and see monkeys, birds, crocodiles and more wildlife.
Estuary boat rides start at around $25 USD per person and you can book the tours directly at the little park ranger office near the entrance of the estuary. You will see on the right hand side of the road driving into Tamarindo. It has a sign for “Marino Las Baulas National Park.” Or you can walk over from the beach like the photo above.
The estuary boat ride is one of the relatively cheaper things to do in Tamarindo and a great place to see wildlife in Tamarindo.
One of the best ziplining tours in Tamarindo is Black Stallion Estates. They have a fun zipline through the mountains right outside town. They also offer horseback riding and gourmet barbecue dinners, excellent for families and groups.
If you want to do a more exciting zipline, head to Diamante Eco Adventure Park, about 1 hour away. It has the longest ocean view superman zipline! Additionally, they have a wildlife sanctuary, botanical garden and cultural house for a full day of fun. (Get 10% off in the link). This is about a 1 hour drive from Tamarindo.
What better way to experience the Pacific coast of Costa Rica than by going for a sailing trip? Head out on a catamaran to do a morning (better snorkeling conditions) or sunset tour to enjoy the open ocean.
On the way, you can may see dolphins, turtles or even whales during the right time of the year. Blue Dolphin and Marlin del Rey are two of the most popular sunset catamaran cruises in Tamarindo and cost around $95 USD per person for a sunset cruise.
For something a little nicer, Antares has a sail boat and includes gourmet food. Dream Chaser is another catamaran sailing tour that offers a more personal experience (less of a party boat like Marlin del Rey).
A sunset sailing tour is one of the best things to do in Tamarindo for couples and families.
Just 30 minutes away from Tamarindo is the Flamingo marina, the launch point for scuba divers to go to the Las Catalinas islands.
You can get your scuba diving certification or if you don’t already have it, go on a discovery dive. They give you an hour of instruction before taking you for two tank dives and you have guides with you the whole time. At Las Catalinas islands, I saw whitetip reef sharks, manta rays, eels, dolphins and huge schools of fish. If you go in August or September, you may see humpback whales or turtles along the way!
You can check Pacific Coast Diving or Be Diving scuba diving shops (I went with Pacific Coast, read more about my scuba diving experience here).
Tamarindo fishing is great nearly all year round and you can catch your dinner! Head out to the deep sea to catch fish like mahi mahi, wahoo and more.
Some companies to check out are Go Fish, CR Fishing Charters, Sea Breeze, Bluefishing Tours, Tamarindo Sport Fishing and Coyote Sport Fishing.
Visiting different beaches
With so many great beaches around, it’d be a shame not to visit other beaches while in Tamarindo. You can take a boat ride across the estuary to Playa Grande, bike or walk to neighboring Playa Langosta. If you have a car, you can drive to Conchal and Avellanas.
Additionally, if you want to keep exploring beaches, head down further south to lesser known beaches such as Playa San Juanillo and Playa Junquillal. You can even go further down south to Nosara or up north to the Gulf of Papagayo beaches. No matter what, you’ll find a beautiful beach to lay a towel down on and relax and this is a cheap thing to do in Tamarindo.
ATV tours are very popular in Tamarindo and you can find tours right in downtown. There is an ATV tour desk across from Oveja Negra Hostel and the owner’s name is Kasey. They normally take you to back roads that lead to great viewpoints, through rivers and up the mountains.
For anyone looking for an exciting adventure, an ATV tour is a must do thing in Tamarindo!
Watch the Sunset on the Beach
Last but not least, the one must do thing in Tamarindo is to watch the sunset on the beach. First, it’s completely free!
Second, Tamarindo’s sunsets are one of a kind and once you see one, you’ll be blown away!
When it hits around 5:30 PM, you’ll see everyone walk onto the beach with a camera in their hands. Rainy season sunsets are particularly intense as there are more clouds, turning the sky into rings of fire. Watching a sunset on the beach is one of the free things in Tamarindo!
Tamarindo Day Tours and Excursions
There are many great day tours from Tamarindo that we highly recommend. You can contact us if you want to do any of these tours in Tamarindo.
Hacienda El Viejo: This private reserve and farm right next to Palo Verde National Park is perfect for a full day of culture, wildlife and nature. They offer safari boat rides, a cultural experience and rum tour. (Get our El Viejo discount in this link). Perfect for older families and travelers.
Rio Celeste: Hiking and nature lovers must visit Rio Celeste, the sky blue river in Tenorio Volcano National Park. It’s a 7 kilometers total hike, 2.5 hour drive one way.
Turtle nesting: the months of May – December are the best times to see turtle nestings at the Ostional Wildlife Refuge, about 2 hours from Tamarindo.
Arenal one day: Want to see rainforest and volcano? This one day excursion is very long but worth it if you do not plan to return to Costa Rica and want to see the lush tropical rainforest. You’ll also get glimpses of the impressive Arenal Volcano and enjoy the famous hot springs.
Gulf of Papagayo boating trip: This private boating trip takes you to the hidden white sand beaches and snorkel spots of the Gulf of Papagayo. Leaves from Coco (1 hour from Tamarindo).
Happy Hour and Nightlife
Being a touristic surf town, Tamarindo has a lively nightlife. Pacifico Bar and Crazy Monkey Bar are two popular places to drink and dance. Sharky’s Sport Bar always plays all the games and has live music, ladies night, karaoke, etc. during the week. There is a casino at Tamarindo Diria.
For a good time, you can also check out the Beach & Pool Crawl to party and drink with other young backpackers and surfers on Sundays.
For happy hour, check out Nogui’s (2 for 1 beer at 4 – 5 PM) or The Roof. El Be usually has live music, Barefoot Lounge has a nice happy hour by the pool.
We personally like the Volcano Brewing Company for a chill night out. We’ll get a couple of craft beers there, play some ping pong and then head to Mercadito (open air food court) for dinner.
Check out Coco Beauty Spa (nice massage) or Revive Wellness Center in Langosta Beach Club. For a more luxury experience, check out Los Altos de Eros spa (15 minute drive from Tamarindo). This hotel offers spa day packages, perfect for couples!
Things to do in Tamarindo with Kids
Our recommended things to do in Tamarindo with kids is Bolas Locas the mini golf course in Tamarindo, an estuary boat ride, surf lesson, boogie boarding, Reina’s Chocolate tour and art classes at Paint Club.
Where to Stay in Tamarindo
Here are a few quick recommendations for places to stay in Tamarindo.
- Hotel Mar Rey: Mid range hotel right in downtown. Decent rooms, nice pool.
- Hotel Luna Llena: Mid range hotel in the back of Tamarindo town, about a 10 minute walk to the beach. Has rooms and loft style bungalows.
- Cabinas Marielos: Budget rooms right across the street from the beach. Clean and basic but super close to the beach.
- Wyndham Tamarindo: A nice hilltop hotel with a beautiful view and infinity pool.
- Jardin Del Eden: Adult only, boutique very close to the beach and right in town.
Some people stay in Tamarindo for their whole 1 week vacation, some just stay a few days. Thanks to Tamarindo’s excellent location, it would be perfectly fine to use it as your home base since it’s only 1 hour from Liberia International Airport and Tamarindo has its own local airport.
Below are some sample itineraries. You can book tours or if you rented a car, go on your own.
Day 1: Surf Lesson
For your first day, take a surf lesson. The time will depend on the tide but lessons are 2 hours long. You can go shopping, walk on the beach and watch the sunset for the rest of the day. For lunch, we recommend the local restaurant Soda Estero to try Costa Rican food.
For sunset happy hour, Witch’s Rock is a great spot and they have live music on some days. For dinner, you can eat at Witch’s Rock (Vaquero/Eat at Joe’s) or head to Mercadito, the open air food court.
If a surf lesson doesn’t peek your interest, check out an ATV tour.
Day 2: Ziplining All Day
Spend the full day on a fun all day adventure! You can either spend the whole day at Diamante Eco Adventure Park for ziplining, cultural tour, animal sanctuary and lunch or head to one of the adventure parks in Curubande de Liberia like Hacienda Guachipelin for ziplining, horseback riding, white water tubing, lunch, hot springs and mud baths.
Diamante is about a 1 hour drive one way, Guachipelin is 1.5 hours.
For something closer, spend the day at Black Stallion Estates and go ziplining, horseback riding and enjoy their gourmet barbecue dinner (10 minutes driving).
Day 3: Relax, Pool, Beach Hop/Sunset Sail
Sleep in today, lounge by the pool, chill. You can go back to Tamarindo beach to swim and relax at the beach or check out Langosta beach. Then in the afternoon, you’ll go on a sunset sailing trip to watch the sunset, snorkel a bit and enjoy the beautiful coastal views.
For dinner, head to Dragonfly, Pangas or Aguas Saladas for a nice dining experience. We also like Green Papaya for tacos or Surf Shack for cheaper burgers.
If you have more full days in Tamarindo, you can go hiking at Rincon de la Vieja National Park or Rio Celeste, hop in your car and check out other beaches, go scuba diving, book a full day fishing charter or go on a safari boat ride at Hacienda El Viejo.
Want to read about other things to do in Costa Rica? Check these posts out!
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