From a small fishing village to now a booming tourist center, Tamarindo has become one of the most visited surf towns in the country. Well known for great waves, stunning sunsets and some of the best eats in Costa Rica, it’s a destination popular for backpackers and families alike to experience all what Costa Rica has to offer.
Despite the huge increase of development the past few years, the town has still preserved the natural beauty and the surrounding wonders. However, one might argue that it deserves the nickname “Tama-Gringo.” Due to the exponential growth of the town, you’ll see many North Americans living either permanently or for a few months of the year.
Despite being extremely touristic, visitors from all over the world fall in love with Tamarindo and all that it offers.
In this guide you’ll read about the beach, where to stay, where to eat, what to do and more. This guide has been updated March 2018.
Click the section to skip to it.
Playa Tamarindo, Costa Rica on Google Maps.
Playa Tamarindo is located about an hour from Liberia International Airport inside the Tamarindo bay and between the estuary and Marino Las Baulas National Park.
How to Get to Tamarindo, Costa Rica
- By bus: There is a bus from Liberia that leaves from the Mercado Municipal with the Transportes La Pampa company. It departs daily at 7, 8, 10, 11, 1PM, 2PM, 4PM, 5PM and 6 PM, taking 1.5 hours and costing 1,275 colones ($2.50). From San Jose, there is one bus that leaves twice a day from Calle 14, Ave. 5 at 11 and 3:30. This takes around 5.5 to 6 hours and costs 5000 colones ($10)
- By flying: Tamarindo has their own airstrip for domestic flights. From San Jose it costs around $70 one way and takes about 30 minutes.
- By shuttle: Tamarindo Transfers & Tours has shared shuttles for $20 per person one way minimum 2 people from LIR Airport. For a private transfer, it costs around $90 for 1-4 people. If coming from San Jose or another destination, you can take private or shared shuttles.
Driving Directions to Tamarindo from Liberia Airport
Turn right out of the parking lot (only way to go) and you will come to the main road. Turn right onto the main road and you will continue on this road for about 28 kilometers and then turn right into a town called Belen, Route 155. You’ll pass a soccer field and school on your left and after about 5 kilometers, turn left at the small intersection. Continue on this road for another 20 kilometers and then turn left at a town called Huacas. Stay on his road about 15 minutes and turn right at the next main intersection. Keep going 4 kilometers and you will reach town.
The town is not very big so you can easily walk around. You an also rent motorcycles, bikes or golf carts. You can rent electric bikes by Hotel Portofino and there are electric golf carts to rent in the Auto Mercado plaza a bit outside of town.
Playa Tamarindo Beach
The beach stretches 3.5 kilometers with blue waters and tan sand. You will see people surfing every day.
Waves are perfect for beginners with classes going on all day. However, due to its popularity, sometimes there are so many surfers out there that it can get very crowded for swimmers.
It’s also one of the best beaches to catch the sunset as you’ll get a full view of the sun going down for the night. Rainy season months have particularly intense sunsets when there are more clouds.
With amazing weather and clear sunny days majority of the year, Tamarindo is one of the best beaches in Costa Rica for a relaxing tropical escape.
During holiday season and high season, it does get fairly crowded with visitors from all over the world. During the New Year, Christmas and Easter holiday, the beach gets packed and there are live music performances and parties on the beach.
Getting to Playa Grande Across the Estuary
There are crocodiles in the adjacent estuary so please do not cross the river mouth by foot. Hire a boat if you want to walk across to Playa Grande. There have been crocodile attacks at this area so please be careful!
What the Town is Like
The town is actually not that big and the back roads are not paved. The main strip ends at a roundabout and there are many back roads with houses, restaurants, hotels and apartments.
See what the town looks like in our video!
Roads are narrow and parking is tight so keep that in mind when driving. There are parking guards or “watchimen” who will try to charge you a lot of money to park. This is one of the annoying and unfortunate things about this beach town. We usually give them 500 colones or so each time to the parking guard.
Tamarindo is in the Guanacaste province, one of the hottest areas of Costa Rica. This area experiences the typical tropical dry and rainy season. Dry season is roughly December – end of April and May – November for rainy season. The hottest months are March and April and the rainiest are October and November.
A typical rainy day is sunny in the morning and rainy in the late afternoons and nights. It really doesn’t start raining hard until about August.
Things to Do in Tamarindo, Costa Rica
Here are some of our recommended activities.
We highly recommend taking a lesson since this is a great beginner surfing beach. There are many surf shops in town that offers classes and they cost about $50 for 2 hours.
Go on a sunset sailing cruise to get beautiful views of the coastline, snorkel and see the sunset from the water. Marlin del Rey is the most popular one and it costs $85 per adult for a sunset tour. They have an open bar, snacks and lunch. Other excellent companies are Blue Dolphin and Antares.
Go in or off shore fishing to catch snappers, jacks, tuna, mahi mahi wahoo and more. Tamarindo is a great place to go fishing in Costa Rica.
Black Stallion Zipline, Horseback riding and BBQ
This small adventure park is has a zipline, horseback riding and offers barbecue dinners. Their BBQ is the best we’ve ever had in Costa Rica and their property is beautiful. It’s only a 10 minute drive by car.
Visiting beaches is a must since you’re close to some of the nicest beaches in Costa Rica like Langosta, Conchal, Flamingo, Danta, Mina and Brasilito. If you don’t have a car, there is a shuttle called Avellanas Express that goes to Avellanas and Conchal. It costs $6 one way and surf boards are free.
Estuary boat ride
Take a boat ride through the estuary to see monkeys, birds and crocodiles.
You can perfectly stay in Tamarindo as your home base in Costa Rica and do day trips from there.
You can visit national parks like Rincon de la Vieja National Park or Barra Honda National Park. For adventure, you can do the Guachipelin combo tour (ziplining, white water tubing, horseback riding, mud baths and hot springs) or head to the Diamante Eco Adventure Park for an ocean view zipline and animal sanctuary.
To see one of the most beautiful places in Costa Rica, hike Rio Celeste, the sky blue river. You can also take day trips to Arenal and Monteverde.
Or if you’re looking for a splurge, take a scenic Costa Rica helicopter tour. Get 10% off the helicopter tour in the link and get views of Costa Rica that nobody else does!
Tamarindo Surf Camps
If you really want to learn and immerse yourself in surfing, we recommend joining a surf camp. We did one a surf vacation with Iguana Surf which was a lot of fun. Witch’s Rock also offers surf camps. They will put together a package for you with lodging, lessons, transportation and activities. Tamarindo Surf Experience is another great one.
Surf camps are usually one week long but you can see if you can customize it or stay longer.
You can find all sorts of hotels in town for every budget.
For long term stays, there are apartments and condos and some hotels will rent out for long term for a week to months at a time. Airbnb (get $40 credit) is a good option if you prefer an apartment.
Recommended Hotels in Tamarindo
- Hotel Mar Rey is a nice budget hotel right in the middle of town. They have spacious simple rooms with basic amenities like AC and fridge and a nice pool.
- Hotel Luna Llena – located further back in town, Luna Llena has spacious bungalows, a big pool and serves up a free hearty breakfast each morning.
- Hotel Inn the Shade – only a 5 minute walk to downtown and the beach. It’s in a quieter part of town so you won’t be bothered by the parties but it’s close enough to join the fun.
- Cabinas Marielos – Basic rooms literally right across the street from the beach. Excellent budget choice that’s close to the beach.
- Esplendor – This hilltop hotel has a fantastic view of the beach and an amazing infinity pool. However, the rooms are a bit small since the concept is to have a “city hotel” at the beach with city prices.
For luxury stays, there is the Diria Beach Resort. It’s beach front with 3 pools, an on-site restaurant and casino. For honeymooners or couples, Jardin del Eden is the top pick as it’s adult only with romantic rooms and in room Jacuzzis.
Restaurants in Tamarindo
This town has some of the widest variety of food in the country. With over 90 restaurants, you’ll be sure to find something good to eat. From Italian to sushi to Argentinian barbecue, your cravings will be plenty satisfied with the delicious eats around town.
Our Recommended Restaurants:
- Noguis: They have happy hour from 430 PM – 530 PM where you can get 2 beers for 1500 colones (~$3). Food not great, but happy hour beer is!
- Longboards BBQ: Delicious barbecue sandwiches and you have to try the tama slaw.
- Seasons: Fine dining, good steak and seafood.
- Pangas: Fine dining, delicious seafood. Nice place for a romantic dinner.
- Green Papaya: Awesome taco bar with handmade tortilla and chips. The mahi mahi tacos are amazing.
- NOI Bistro: Great place for lunch and dinner. Favorites are the veggie burger and both chicken dishes.
- Sharky’s: Sports bar with good bar food like burgers, wings, etc.
- Surf shack: Great burgers and they have a veggie burger option.
- Mercadito: This new food court has burgers, vegan food, arepas, poke bowls, Argentinian grill, Pops ice cream, a bar and sushi.
- Venezia Gelati: My favorite place for gelato and cakes.
- Falafel bar: Great vegetarian/vegan option with hummus, pita wraps and shawarma.
- Dragonfly: Has the best curry I’ve eaten in Costa Rica. They also have seafood and steak.
- La Pachanga: Excellent pizza and pasta place, they make their own pasta.
Living in Tamarindo, Costa Rica
Foreigners choose Tamarindo as their new home due to several factors: diversity, more business and job opportunities, weather and a tightly knit expat community. It is very popular for families as there are some private and international schools nearby.
There aren’t as many retirees compared to other expat beach towns like Coco and Nosara either. Most of the foreigners are young entrepreneurs, digital nomads, families or surfers. And it’s not only US citizens who live here, there are plenty of Canadians, Italians and a strong South American community.
There is always something to do or something going on so it’s never boring. You’re close to plenty of natural attractions and it’s easy to meet people. For the travelers who don’t mind other tourists and a developed beach scene, Tamarindo is a top choice.
We have lived in the area for over 2 years and we love it. We’re close to some gorgeous beaches, we surf almost every day and the local community is wonderful.
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