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Tamarindo Costa Rica: Fun, Sun, and Surf

Stunning sunsets, consistent waves, and a fun nightlife make Tamarindo Costa Rica the most popular and developed beach town on the Nicoya Peninsula. There is no shortage of things to do, from riding ATVs to surf lessons, to horseback riding or watching nesting turtles.

Hotel and accommodation options are abundant, as are restaurants, and things are constantly developing. The town has a great, laid-back, surfer style feel to it making it popular among young and old, backpackers and luxury seekers alike. In fact, its popularity among foreigners has given it the nickname "Tamagringo."


I used to head down to Tamarindo every month from Playas del Coco to do some surfing and partake in the energetic nightlife. Tired from surfing all day, I always rewarded myself with a cold beer while watching the amber gold sunset. It was spectacular.palm tree in tamarindo

It's no surprise that Tamarindo real estate is super hot right now. Condos and new construction are constant, with people trying to secure their own piece of paradise. The amenities of this town are what really set it apart. There are international fast food chains, high-end eateries, a French bakery, a supermarket, scooter rentals, multiple bars, and plenty of sports activities to add to your adventure vacation.

The beach is the main draw of Tamarindo though. It's gray-gold sands stretch for about two kilometers from the mouth of the Matapalo River in the north to some rocky headlands in the south, where you can find some nice tide pooling. At low tide the beach becomes huge and is perfect for walking during sunrise or sunset, with Pelicans wheeling overhead. Tamarind trees, for which the town and beach are named, line the beach.

During low tide you can cross the river mouth to the north and walk along the virtually deserted Playa Grande, which offers tremendous surfing and is a nesting ground for the giant leatherback sea turtle. This nesting area prompted the creation of the Las Baulas National Park in which encompasses Playa Grande. Past the rocky headlands to the south lies the beautiful white sand beach of Playa Langosta, another great surf spot.

All in all, it's no wonder so many people choose this spot for their Costa Rica vacations.

Tamarindo Fishing

The fishing here is as good here as anywhere on the Pacific Coast of Costa Rica. The following are the main quarry: sailfish, Marlin (Blue, Black and Striped), Dorado (aka Mahi mahi or Dolphinfish), Wahoo (aka Ono), Roosterfish, Snapper, and Grouper. All of the species can be caught year round, but check out my Costa Rica fishing guide for more in depth information on seasons.

Tamarindo Surfing

The surf in Tamarindo is consistent, and most of the year it's great for beginners. There are numerous surf shops in town, with lots of boards for rent and lessons are available. Roughly, lessons cost $30 for an hour and a half to two-hour session, and usually you can have the board for a few more hours of practice afterward. For more advanced surfers, you should check out the generally bigger and less crowded beaches just to the north and south of Tamarindo beach. To the north, you must cross the estero, or river-mouth, of the Matapalo River (you can walk during low tide, or paddle across at high tide). To the south are Playas Langosta, Avellana, Negra, and Junquillal. The rainy season offers the best surfing.

Other Activities in Tamarindo Costa Rica

Sailing: Both full-day and sunset tours are available from a few different charters. I worked on a Catamaran just to the north of this town, and I have to say that there's nothing quite so enjoyable as witnessing a gorgeous sunset from the deck of a sailboat.

Horseback riding: There are many local horse owners who offer horseback riding on the beach. You can usually find them just south of Witches Rock Surf Camp. Like anywhere, there are good and bad guides. Be aware of the condition of the horses. Many are overworked, forced to run up and down the beaches all day under the beating sun with little rest. Pass if the horse looks worn out. Also, Central American horses are generally much smaller and don't do well with riders over 90kg/200lbs, so even if your local guide assures you its okay, think of the wellbeing of the horse. I weigh 95kg/215lbs and wasn't able to ride ;-).

Scuba diving & snorkeling: There are a couple dive shops in town. Most offer two-tank dives, and tours to the awesome Catalina Islands where I saw my first manta ray! They can also arrange for snorkeling tours.

Golf: Just south of Tamarindo you'll find the Hacienda Pinilla, which features one of Central America's best golf courses. The 7,300 yard course was designed by renowned architect Mike Young, who has designed some of the best courses in the southern U.S. The course is located inside a beach resort and residential community, with a hotel and real estate for sale in a 4,500 acre spread.

Other Tours: Boat tours, mangrove tours, ATV tours, snorkeling trips, scooter rentals and canopy tours on zip lines can all be arranged by one of the numerous tour operators in town.

Getting to Tamarindo, Costa Rica

If you plan on spending most of your time in Tamarindo, the Nicoya Peninsula, and Guanacaste, then you should consider flying into Daniel Oduber International airport in Liberia. It's around a 1 hour to 1 hour and 15 min taxi ride away and has several direct flights from the U.S. and Canda.

Otherwise you can fly into San Jose and take a connecting domestic flight directly to Tamarindo. Alternatively you can take a bus or shuttle. I recommend a shuttle from Grayline, as it's both faster and more comfortable than the public buses. It costs around $35/person.

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