From a small fishing village to a booming tourist town, Tamarindo beach has become one of the most visited destinations in Costa Rica. 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.
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 January 3, 2020 ready for this year’s travel season!
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
Tamarindo beach, Costa Rica map. This beach town is in the Guanacaste province on the Northwest coast.
Tamarindo beach 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 Sansa or 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
Turn right out of the airport back to the main road. Turn right onto the main road and you will continue on this road for about 28 kilometers (17 miles) 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 (3 miles), turn left at the small intersection. Continue on this road for another 20 kilometers (12 miles) and then turn left at a town called Huacas. Stay on this road about 10-15 minutes and turn right at the next main intersection. Keep going straight on this road and you will reach town.
The drive from Liberia Airport to Tamarindo is very easy. All roads are paved and has good signage so you do not need a 4×4 for Tamarindo. We recommend to use a GPS or a GPS app like Google Maps or Waze to help you.
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 and is about 1 hour. Just make sure to use a GPS. We don’t really recommend driving it super late at night like past 9 PM or so, especially if you’re coming from a long flight or it’s raining.
Getting Around Tamarindo
The town is not very big so you can easily walk around. You an 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.
Roads are paved in Tamarindo until you get to the intersection to go to Langosta and towards the back of town where the night market is.
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.
Tamarindo’s excellent surfing waves have put it on the map as one of the best beaches for beginners. Thanks to its sandy shores, handful of surf spots and plethora of surf camps, it’s an excellent place for visitors to learn to catch waves and have a fun time in Costa Rica.
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. 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 beach chairs and umbrellas from Diria ($10 a chair) or free if you buy drinks from ElBe or Walter’s (just chair, no umbrella).
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. This is one of the annoying things about touristic areas but it’s how it is. We usually give them 500 colones or so each time to the parking guard.
As for parking lots, there are only a handful designated areas. There is one next to Witch’s Rock, at Plaza Conchal I and II, one across from Iguana Surf and then by the roundabout near Nogui’s.
Tamarindo Beach 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. They also offer boogie board, stand up paddle boards and surf board rentals. For lessons, we recommend Iguana Surf, Banana Surf Club, Witch’s Rock and Walters.
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 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 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 listening to live music on the beach during the holidays, 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.
Day Trips from Tamarindo Beach
You can perfectly stay in Tamarindo as your home base and do day trips.
Visit national parks like Rincon de la Vieja National Park or Barra Honda National Park for good hiking. For adventure, the Guachipelin combo tour and Diamante Eco Adventure Park is really fun. 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. For great fishing and snorkeling, book a priuvate snorkel tour in Flamingo (only 25 minute drive) for the family. 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.
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!
Love turtles? If you’re visiting May – December, head down to Ostional to see turtle nestings!
Tamarindo Surf Camps
If you really want to learn and immerse yourself in surfing, we recommend joining a surf camp in Tamarindo. We did a surf vacation with Iguana Surf which was a lot of fun. Witch’s Rock and Tidal Tribe Lifestyle also offer 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.
- Esplendor – This hilltop hotel has a fantastic view of the beach and an amazing infinity pool. More high end.
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.
Our Recommended Tamarindo Restaurants
- Noguis: They have happy hour from 430 PM – 530 PM where you can get 2 beers for 1500 colones (~$3). Food is not the best but their pie is good.
- Jolly Rogers: Best place for wings with 24 flavors.
- Longboards BBQ: Delicious barbecue sandwiches.
- 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: Food court with burgers, vegan food, arepas, poke bowls, waffles, crepes, Argentinian grill, Pops ice cream, a bar and sushi.
- Venezia Gelati: Yummy gelato.
- Falafel bar: Great vegetarian/vegan option with hummus, pita wraps and shawarma.
- Dragonfly: Delicious curry and other dishes.
- La Pachanga: Excellent pizza and pasta place.
- Curry on: Good Indian place with meat and vegetarian options.
- Shrimp Hole: Shrimp truck with tacos, ceviche and other yummy shrimp dishes.
- Barefoot Restaurant Lounge: Nice place with sushi, cocktails, fish and vegetarian dishes. Open at night.
- Osteria 152: This small Italian restaurant is in Villarreal, about a 10 minute drive from town with delicious home made Italian pastas and dishes.
- Soda Las Palmas: Small soda in Villarreal for traditional food. Buffet style.
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.
However, something to note about Tamarindo is it’s expensive for tourists and locals. Rent is high if you want to live in town and food and groceries are expensive. 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.
Want to read about more beach towns in Costa Rica? Here you go!
There are affiliate links in this post