From a small fishing village to a booming tourist town, Tamarindo, Costa Rica has become one of the most visited destinations in the country.
Well known for great waves, stunning sunsets and a fun vibe, it’s a popular beach town for travelers to experience all that Costa Rica has to offer. We’ve lived in Tamarindo, Costa Rica for over 5 years and we love it!
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 December 2020. Click the section to skip to it.
- Location and directions
- The beach
- The Town
- Things to do and day trips
- Surf camps
- Where to stay
- Where to eat
- Where to get a COVID test
Tamarindo, Costa Rica map.
This beach town is in the Guanacaste province on the Northwest coast.
Tamarindo, Costa Rica is 65 kilometers (40 miles) from Liberia International Airport, about a 1 hour drive. Tamarindo is 257 kilometers (160 miles) and about a 4.5 hour drive from San Jose.
How to Get to Tamarindo, Costa Rica
- By bus: The bus from Liberia to Tamarindo 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 1,760 colones (~$3 USD). There is a San Jose bus to Tamarindo 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 around 5000 colones (~$10 USD)
- By flying: Tamarindo has their domestic airport. From San Jose it costs around $70 USD one way and takes about 30 minutes. Check SkywayCR (get our 10% discount) for flights.
- By shuttle: Tamarindo Transfers & Tours has shared shuttles for $20 USD per person one way, minimum 2 people from Liberia International Airport. For a private transfer, it costs around $90 USD for 1-4 people. From San Jose, you can take a shared shuttle with Interbus or Easy Ride for about $57 USD per person. A private transfer from San Jose to Tamarindo is around $200 USD depending on number of passengers.
Driving Directions to Tamarindo from Liberia Airport
You can use Google Maps or Waze as your GPS from Liberia Airport. It’s an easy drive on a main road and takes about 1 hour. You do not need a 4×4 for Tamarindo. Some people ask if they can drive to Tamarindo from Liberia Airport at night and usually we say yes because this drive is on a well paved road with good signage. Just make sure to use a GPS.
Getting Around Tamarindo
The town is not very big so you can easily walk around. You can also rent motorcycles, bikes, ATVs or golf carts. Electric bikes are for rent by Hotel Portofino and there are electric golf carts to rent in the Auto Mercado plaza a bit outside of town. You can read more about getting to Tamarindo in this post.
What Tamarindo Beach Is Like
This beautiful tan sand beach stretches about 1.5 miles (2.5 kilometers) from end to end. The northern part of the beach turns into the estuary inside the Las Baulas National Park and you can walk all the way down to the south. The most popular part of the beach is near the north in front of Witch’s Rock Surf Camp where the main surf spot of Tamarindo beach break is.
The beach is sandy the whole way, with a couple sections with rocks but nothing major you need to be careful of. The shore is long and wide, making it perfect for surfing, swimming and sunbathing.
Another highlight of Tamarindo beach is the sunset. Sunsets in Tamarindo are known to be some of the most beautiful as you get a full view of the sun going down for the night. It is spectacular and around 530 PM, you will see everyone getting out their cameras to take photos of the gorgeous sky.
With amazing weather and sunny days majority of the year, Tamarindo is a great beach town in Costa Rica for a relaxing tropical escape. During holiday season and high season, it does get fairly crowded as it’s a popular destination.
How Crowded Does Tamarindo, Costa Rica Get?
During the New Year, Christmas and Easter holiday, the beach gets packed and there are live music performances and parties on the beach. But if you visit during September and October, it’s much more chill and empty. You can rent beach chairs and umbrellas on the beach, there are many locals who will offer you one. Last time we were offered $10 USD per chair in front of the Diria.
What the Town is Like
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 to park. You can give them some colones like 500 to 1000. Just make sure that you still do not leave any valuables in your car, roll up your windows and lock your doors. Although there are the “parking guards” they won’t be responsible for any theft or damage and they don’t have cameras.
As for parking lots, there are only a handful designated areas. There is one next to Witch’s Rock, the one at Pico Bistro, at Plaza Conchal I and II, one across from Iguana Surf and then by the roundabout near Nogui’s.
Tamarindo, Costa Rica Weather
One of the reasons why tourists love Tamarindo is because of the weather. Being in the Guanacaste province, Tamarindo is hot and dry and has a shorter rainy season than the rest of the country. Tamarindo does experience typical tropical seasons. Dry season is roughly December – end of April and May – November for rainy season.
The hottest months are March and April with average temperatures around 85-95 F (30-35 C) and the rainiest times are generally September, October and November. The temperatures stay about the same during those months though it cools off a tad and it gets more humid with the rain.
A typical rainy season day in Tamarindo is sunny in the morning and rainy in the late afternoons and nights. It really doesn’t start raining hard until about September or so. May can be a pretty rainy month and then July usually gets dry.
Things to Do in Tamarindo, Costa Rica
Thanks to Tamarindo’s excellent location in Guanacaste, there are a ton of fun things to do in Tamarindo beach and lots of great day trips from the town.
We highly recommend taking a lesson in Tamarindo since this is a great beginner surfing beach. There are many surf shops in town that offers 2 hour classes for about $50 USD per person. They also offer boogie board, stand up paddle boards and surf board rentals. For lessons, we recommend Witch’s Rock or Seafari.
Tamarindo is close to some excellent scuba diving spots such as the Catalinas Islands. You don’t have to be certified either as companies offer a discovery dive for those not certified.
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 $95 USD per adult for a sunset tour. They have an open bar, snacks and lunch. Other excellent companies are Blue Dolphin, Dream Chaser and Antares (sailboat).
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! Check companies like Sea Breeze, Boo’s or Go Fish for charters.
Black Stallion Zipline, Horseback riding and BBQ
This small adventure park 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 from Tamarindo. Their zipline is great for families and first timers.
Watch our video below to see 5 beaches you have to visit from Tamarindo!
Estuary boat ride
Take a boat ride through the estuary to see monkeys, birds and crocodiles. Costs around $25 USD per person for a 2 hour boat ride. Walk down to the estuary (most northern part of the beach, from Witch’s Rock, walk right) and talk to the locals there to book your tour.
From dancing the night away at Crazy Monkey Bar or Pacifico to listening to live music on the beach, there is a fun party scene in Tamarindo. On Sundays, you can also join the Beach & Pool crawl for more beach, drinks and pool parties.
Night Market and Farmer’s Market
On Thursday nights, there is a night market in Plaza Palmas from 6-10 PM. On Saturdays, there is a local farmer’s market from 7 AM to 1 PM next to the Green Papaya restaurant. We recommend getting a VIDA bowl (acai and fruit smoothies).
Day Trips from Tamarindo Beach
You can perfectly stay in Tamarindo as your home base and do day trips.
Learn about Guanacaste culture and see wildlife on a boat cruise at Hacienda El Viejo. Go boating in Playas del Coco (1 hour drive) for excellent snorkeling and beach hopping and to see the Gulf of Papagayo coast.
If you want to see another country, you can also take the Nicaragua one day tour.
To see one of the most beautiful places in Costa Rica, hike Rio Celeste, the sky blue river (2.5 hour drive one way).
You can also take day trips to Arenal and Monteverde to see the volcano and rainforest or cloud forest and hanging bridges.
Love turtles? If you’re visiting May – December, head down to Ostional to see turtle nestings!
Tamarindo Surf Camps
You can find all sorts of beach front hotels, hostels, boutique B&B’s, condos and luxury hotels in Tamarindo. 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 to mid range 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. Mid range prices.
- Cabinas Marielos – Basic rooms literally right across the street from the beach. Excellent budget choice that’s close to the beach.
- Wyndham Tamarindo – This hilltop hotel has a fantastic view of the beach and an amazing infinity pool. More high end.
For hostels, Coral Reef Surf Hostel and the Selina Hostel is a top choice with a fun party atmosphere in town. For honeymooners or couples, Jardin del Eden is the top pick as it’s adult only with romantic rooms and in room Jacuzzis. Los Altos de Eros is another great hotel for couples looking for a romantic stay. It’s a bit outside Tamarindo, around a 30 minute drive in a beautiful forest setting.
Our Recommended Tamarindo Restaurants
- Noguis: Happy hour from 430 PM – 530 PM with 2 beers for 1500 colones (~$3 USD). Yummy pie. $$
- Longboards BBQ: Delicious barbecue sandwiches. $$
- Seasons: Fine dining, good steak and seafood. $$$
- Pangas: Fine dining, delicious seafood. Nice place for a romantic dinner, beachfront. $$
- Green Papaya: Awesome taco bar with handmade tortilla and chips. The mahi mahi tacos are amazing. $$
- NOI Bistro: Great place for lunch and dinner. Favorites are the veggie burger. We love their hot sauce. $$
- Surf shack: Great burgers and they have a veggie burger option. $$
- Mercadito: Food court with burgers, vegan food, arepas, poke bowls, waffles, crepes, Argentinian grill, Pops ice cream, a bar and sushi. Average prices around $12-14 USD. $-$$
- Venezia Gelati: Yummy gelato. $
- Falafel bar: Great hummus, pita wraps and shawarma. $$
- Dragonfly: Delicious curry and other dishes. $$
- Agua Salada: Nice place for more fine dining. Very cute decor and atmosphere. $$$
- La Pachanga: Excellent pizza and pasta place. $$
- Shrimp Hole: Shrimp truck with tacos, ceviche and other yummy shrimp dishes. $
- Soda El Estero: Another good local restaurant near the entrance of town. $
- Mordo’s Fish and Chips: The best fish and chips! In Tamarindo Jardin Food Truck Park. $
- La Bodega: Great place for breakfast. $
- Soda La Marimba: Good local restaurant a little bit outside Tamarindo (by the AutoMercado). Cheap and right off the road.
If you’re looking for some new beach wear, Tamarindo has everything. There are many surf shops in town selling bikinis, board shorts, rash guards, hats, sunglasses, beach towels and totes. Here are my favorite places to shop in downtown.
- The Sunday Swun: Ethnically made pieces in Nicaragua. They have cute clothes, swimwear, shirts, soap, shoes and more.
- Suspiro Esmerelda Bikinis: She designs her own bikinis and is great for anyone who likes prints and fun styles. By the roundabout across from Noguis.
- 2 Aves: Right next to Suspiro and they have cute beach towels and accessories.
- De’lohana Bikinis: Second floor of Tamarindo Inn a little outside town. Super cute bikinis with many pieces great for surfing. Super soft, made with biodegradable materials.
- Morena Beachwear: Has a wide collection of bikinis and one pieces, many for surf. In Centro Commercial El Punto in town.
- Bambamboo: Clothing store with everything made from organic cotton, bamboo, banana or hemp. Not a lot of designs but super comfortable.
- Tamarindo night market: The weekly Thursday night market is a great place to shop for trinkets like jewelry.
- Buena Nena: Cute clothing stores with jewelry, bags, hats and other cute things.
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.
As for the demographic, there aren’t as many retirees compared to other expat beach towns like Coco and Nosara. 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, Spaniards, Brits, Italians and Argentinians. You’ll find a little of everything here.
However, something to note about Tamarindo is it’s expensive and you won’t see many local Guanacastecos living in Tamarindo proper due to displacement. Rent is very high, catering more towards foreigners and international tourists. The Guanacastecos live outside in neighboring towns like Villarreal, Huacas, 27 de Abril or Santa Cruz.
For tourists, it is not a cheap destination in Costa Rica. You can travel on a budget in Tamarindo but do note that it will still be more than other destinations in Costa Rica.
Other than that, Tamarindo is fun. There is always something to do or something going on! You’re close to plenty of natural attractions, the surfing is awesome 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.
Where to get a COVID test in Tamarindo
In Tamarindo, there are many options to get a COVID test in town or in Huacas (about 20 minutes outside town). Some places do offer house calls and some hotels offer in room testing.
- Tamarindo Diria offers COVID testing for their hotel guests. Sample taken in room, results in less than 72 hours. Costs $150 USD. Must schedule appointment with front desk 24 hours in advance.
- Beachside Clinic in Huacas. Results within 36 hours. Costs $150 USD. Email firstname.lastname@example.org to make your appointment or call 2653 9911 or 2653 5056. Offers PCR and antigen tests.
- Lab Medical Huacas: Next to the dental clinic in the Gollo Centro Comercial in Villarreal. Phone 506 2653 3131
- Next to Farmacia Pacifico, Dr Polito by Witch’s Rock Surf Camp. $120 USD.
- Diria Medical. Costs $200 USD. Offers 24/7 testing with results in about 30 hours.
- Hospital Metropolitano Turnaround time is 36 – 48 hours. Phone 506 4000 3822 Whatsapp: 506 8465-7484. Can make appointment 4-5 days in advance via Whatsapp or email email@example.com. Test costs 70,720 CRC in cash, 68,000 CRC with credit card. Need to fill out the form on mipruebacovid.com first to get a reference number. Offers PCR and antigen.
- Laboratorio Clinica Huacas: In Huacas, phone 2653 6866.
- ReNu Vitamin IV Therapy will go to your hotel or house to take your sample. Cost is $125 USD plus tax, turnaround time is 48 hours via email. Phone 8327-4188
Want to read about more beach towns in Costa Rica? Here you go!
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