Tamarindo: Where Paradise Meets Convenience

Last Updated: April 16, 2024

Located in Costa Rica’s northwestern province of Guanacaste, Tamarindo is a bustling tourist town that lures surfers and sunbathers alike. The main draw here as you may have guessed is the golden sand beach. Sometimes such gems are remote, but not in Tamarindo. Here, hotels, bars, restaurants, shops, and tour companies are just a short saunter from your beach towel. Pair this with proximity to the international airport in Liberia, and you can see why Tamarindo draws a crowd. In this post, we’ll let you know what to expect in Tamarindo, including the best activities, restaurants, and hotels.

Tamarindo Destination Guide



Tamarindo is located in Costa Rica’s Guanacaste Province, a region known for its beautiful beaches. At about 1.25 hours from Liberia International Airport (LIR), it makes for an easy beach escape.

Town Layout

When planning our first visit to Tamarindo several years ago, guidebooks had us picturing skyscrapers, parking garages, and a Miami beach-like feel. Thankfully, that was not the case.

Although development has created a resort town with many amenities, it is far from a city. Even so, a handful of mid-rise hotels and condominiums do make a visual impact along the shoreline. Development has expanded in the last few years as well. Several multi-story commercial plazas have started popping up, with lots of shops, restaurants, and other businesses.

Main street Tamarindo
The busy main area of town

Getting Around

One main road, Route 152, brings you into town and along the beach. This is where many of the beachside restaurants, hotels, and surf shops can be found.

Main strip Tamarindo
Main street along the beach

From there, a dirt road forks off, leading to other side roads, residential developments, and businesses. Everything is within a short walk or bicycle ride.

Staying on the main paved road heading south, you’ll find Playa Langosta. This is a small community, a sort of suburb of Tamarindo, made up of mostly condos and hotels.

When to Visit Tamarindo and What to Bring

When to Go

Tamarindo is located in one of the driest regions of Costa Rica. You’ll even notice some cacti growing here, but don’t forget, it’s still the tropics. The driest months conveniently coincide with North America’s and Europe’s winters, so snowbirds are prevalent between December and April.

Just keep in mind that this is also the busiest time of year. The weeks around Christmas, New Years, and Easter are especially crowded.

Tamarindo Beach High Season
The beach in January (high season)

Something else to know is that Tamarindo gets very hot and arid towards the end of dry season (March/April). The landscape turns brown, which many people do not expect. Often, there are even forest or brush fires.

Visit from December through February, before things get too dry. Or during the rainy season (best months: May to September) to experience the tropical forest at its lushest.

Playa Tamarindo
Playa Tamarindo in September – nice and green and no crowds


Shorts, T-shirts, and flip-flops are the standard dress in laid back Tamarindo. A light rain jacket or long-sleeve doesn’t hurt to have around, especially in the rainy season.

If you’re planning some late nights out on the town, be sure to bring something a little dressier than your standard board shorts and tank top, but don’t go crazy.

During the rainy season, things are a lot greener as we mentioned, and you will definitely want to carry an umbrella.

For more information on what to pack for your trip, check out our post, Packing for Costa Rica: The Essentials.

Activities in Tamarindo


Tamarindo is a surfing town, so if you haven’t learned to surf yet, this is the place to start.

Competition keeps lesson prices affordable. An easy right-hand wave break occurring at around waist level provides the perfect conditions for learning.

Advanced surfers can use Tamarindo as a jumping-off point to get to more challenging beaches like Playa Grande to the north, or Playa Avellanas, Playa Langosta, and Playa Negra to the south.

Surf boards in Tamarindo

Other Things to Do in Tamarindo

If surfing isn’t your thing, don’t despair, there’s plenty more to do.

For the family, you can arrange a horseback, ATV, or zip line tour through one of the operators nearby. Shopping enthusiasts can make a day of exploring the many boutiques, shops, and kiosks. Those craving some pampering can enjoy a day at the spa.

Budget travelers can rent a bike for the day to cruise around, or spend the afternoon sharing backpacking stories over a good craft beer at Volcano Brewing Company. With several grocery stores, a picnic lunch on the less crowded beaches to the south is another possibility.

Below, we’ll highlight a few activities in Tamarindo that you won’t want to miss.

Catamaran Tour

Guanacaste isn’t coined the Gold Coast for no reason.

With stunning light-sand beaches running up and down the coast, this region is the perfect place to take a catamaran tour. Not only will you get to enjoy some amazing views, but you’ll also be taken to a calm cove for time to swim and snorkel.

Several operators in the area offer slightly different experiences. Some are on larger party boats, while others are more intimate and better for families. They all typically include a nice meal on board and free drinks.

Catamaran Tour Playa Tamarindo
Catamaran tour out of Tamarindo

Diving and Snorkeling

One of the best places in Costa Rica for diving is the Bat Islands and Catalina Islands located in the calm Gulf of Papagayo.

In the turquoise waters, you can see some amazing marine life, like white-tip reef sharks, giant manta rays, turtles, dolphins, moray eels, puffer fish, and giant schools of jacks and grunts.

You can snorkel at these same islands, but conditions aren’t as reliable. Snorkel tours typically go out with the dive tours. The best conditions are from May to September.

Estuary Boat Tour

Tamarindo isn’t one of the best places in Costa Rica to see wildlife, but one tour that will let you see a lot is the Tamarindo Estuary boat tour.

This estuary system divides Playa Grande and Tamarindo. Boats wait on the Tamarindo side to take people along the river and through the lush mangroves to see birds and animals like howler monkeys, crocodiles, and herons. 

Tours only take a couple of hours. Read our post, Tamarindo Estuary Boat Tour, for more information.

Crocodile Tamarindo Estuary
A crocodile we saw in the Tamarindo Estuary

Beach Hopping 

Finally, something we always recommend for those with a rental car is beach hopping.

Playa Conchal, only 30 minutes north, is a gorgeous beach to visit for the day, with sand made of tiny crushed shells.

If you’re planning to rent a car, be sure to check out our Rental Car Discount to save 10% or more and get free extras. The rental company can even deliver the car to your hotel for free.

Playa Conchal from Above
Clear water and snorkeling at Playa Conchal

Playa Avellanas is another favorite. This small, locals’ beach is known mostly for surfing, but is a fun place to hang out. It’s super laid back and has a beach bar/restaurant where you can dine with your toes in the sand.

Help Booking Tours/Activities

For help deciding which tours to do and how to best spend your time in Tamarindo, feel free to contact us through our Tour Booking Service page. We’d love to help you figure out which catamaran experience would be best and set you up on a dive, snorkel, zip line, ATV, or wildlife tour.

Restaurants in Tamarindo

The crowd in Tamarindo is mixed, with everyone from hostel-seeking college students to all-inclusive honeymooners and resorting families from around the globe. For that reason, it’s fitting that the dining options are also diverse.

Everything from falafel to filet minion to typical Costa Rican food fills the curbside menu displays. It’s worth exploring a little though, as many of the best restaurants are hiding behind the main strip on dusty offshoots.

You will find your own hidden gems in Tamarindo, but here are some places we have enjoyed.

Note that restaurant prices in Tamarindo are on the high side for Costa Rica.

Santa Rita Café 

This hip café serves up yummy, healthy breakfast and lunch offerings. They have comfort food like gallo pinto and omelets, but also some unique breakfast bowls made with tropical ingredients. For lunch, there’s fresh tuna sandwiches, burgers, and bruschetta, which make a full meal. Everything comes on homemade bread. Their smoothies are also delicious! Has A/C, Wifi, and a small kids’ play area.

Lunch at Santa Rita Cafe Tamarindo
Prosciutto bruschetta at Santa Rita Cafe

NOI Bistro 

Another great breakfast or lunch spot is NOI Bistro. This place is right on the main strip in town. The owner is from France so you’ll find some French influence in the menu. Sandwiches, burgers, small plates, and salads are available. We loved our fresh tuna sandwich and the Green and Cheese, which has spinach, cheese, avocado, and pesto on homemade bread.

Dragonfly Bar & Grill 

This dinner option has been around for years. Every time we’re back in Tamarindo, we return for a visit.

Located just outside town on a small dirt road, Dragonfly Bar & Grill serves up refined seafood and meat dishes that come with delicious sauces. They also have some good vegetarian and vegan options. The open-air dining area has a great ambiance.

Dragon Bar and Grill Tamarindo
Inside Dragonfly Bar and Grill

Pangas Beach Club

Set right on the beach with tables on the sand is Pangas Beach Club. Pangas serves upscale cuisine, with seafood being their specialty. It’s one of the most popular spots in Tamarindo for sunset so be sure to reserve a table in advance.

Pangas restaurant
Beachfront dining at Pangas

L’Estanco El Jardin Escondido

For a wonderful dining experience with excellent food to match, we highly recommend L’Estanco El Jardin Escondido. The service here is the best we’ve experienced in Costa Rica. Servers come around with a chalkboard menu, explaining the intricacies of each handcrafted dish. The menu is Mediterranean-Peruvian fusion. We loved the tarragon mahi-mahi and also the homemade hummus. 

As the name implies, the Hidden Garden is right on the main road, but tucked away with thick plants and greenery.

L'Estanco El Jardin Escondido
Mahi-mahi at L’Estanco El Jardin Escondido

Cha Cafe Tamarindo

This casual cafe and breakfast/lunch spot has delicious coffee, bagels, sandwiches, salads, and toasts. With cool A/C and free Wifi, it’s a great spot to bring your laptop. Draws a younger crowd. Located in the plaza right at the curve going towards Playa Langosta. Cha Cafe is dog-friendly.

Fish & Cheeses 

Fish & Cheeses is a super authentic Italian restaurant in Playa Langosta. They have a nice menu of traditional plates, including homemade ravioli, gnocchi, tortellini, and lasagna. There’s also a huge pizza menu. It’s a great place to grab take out items like fresh cheeses (made onsite), meats, fish, and Italian specialty items.

Dinner at Fish & Cheeses Playa Langosta
Homemade ricotta and spinach ravioli at Fish & Cheeses

Eat at Joe’s 

We’re mostly including this super casual bar/restaurant since it’s a fun place to hang out.

Eat at Joe’s is right on the beach and has lots of TVs so you’ll see many people here grabbing the game. Since it’s located at Witch’s Rock Surf Camp/Volcano Brewing Company, they also have some delicious craft brews to kick back with. Has a full menu, but we’ve always enjoyed their sushi. 

Hotels in Tamarindo

Like dining, lodging varies from five-star hotels set in the hills to quaint beachside B&Bs and casual surf camps. Here are some of our go-to recommendations for hotels in Tamarindo.

High End Hotels

Cala Luna Boutique Hotel

For a luxury escape, check out Cala Luna in Playa Langosta. This boutique hotel has modern bungalows that are stylish and comfortable as well as larger houses. The property is set in the thick jungle, so each unit feels private. Cala Luna is on the beach-side, about a two-minute walk to the sand, and also has a spacious pool area. The made-to-order breakfast has several different options, and is wonderful. Bungalows, $300-$400/night. Villas starting at $700/night. Check Rates and Availability Here.

Cala Luna Boutique Hotel Playa Langosta
Pool area at Cala Luna Boutique Hotel

Capitan Suizo Beachfront Boutique Hotel

Another great high-end option on the southern end of Tamarindo is Capitan Suizo. Hotel Capitan Suizo is a favorite among travelers because of its location—it’s right on the beach and just far enough outside the main area of town to be private and quiet but still walking distance to amenities. Rooms range from superior rooms to freestanding beachfront bungalows. $300-$1,000/night. Check Rates and Availability Here.

Jardin del Eden Boutique Hotel

This adults-only boutique hotel is in the heart of Tamarindo, but set far enough back to be quiet and private. The property at Jardin del Eden is tropical feeling, with many flowering trees and plants. Rooms have clean design and are very comfortable. The beach portion of the hotel is a short walk away. Rooms vary by view and amenities and are spread out along the property. $250-$600/night. Check Rates and Availability Here.

Jardin del Eden Hotel Tamarindo
Grand Vista room at Jardin del Eden Boutique Hotel

Mid-range and Budget Hotels

Sueño del Mar B&B 

Sueño del Mar is a charming six-room bed and breakfast on Playa Langosta. The stucco buildings have a lot of character, with Guatemalan textiles and unique Balinese-style outdoor showers. It fronts the beach and has chairs and hammocks set up to take in the rocky shore. $250-$350/night. Check Rates and Availability Here.

Hotel Arco Iris 

This small hotel has several standard rooms and a few villas. It’s located just outside town, within walking distance to restaurants and shops. Rooms at Hotel Arco Iris are simple, but very clean. Has a nice pool and good on-site restaurant. $125-200/night. Check Rates and Availability Here.

Hotel Arco Iris Tamarindo
Superior room at Hotel Arco Iris

La Botella de Leche Hostel 

This upscale hostel is a great option for those seeking some comfort on a budget. La Botella de Leche has amenities like a pool, kitchen, and even an aerial yoga studio. Rooms are bright and cheery. You can opt for a private one ($50-$70) or bed in a shared dorm ($25). Check Rates and Availability Here.

Tamarindo Backpackers 

Another well-liked hostel is Tamarindo Backpackers. This small hostel is run by friendly, welcoming staff. It’s a good place to relax and meet some new people. Located just a short walk to the center of town. Private room (some with A/C and a private bath), $100-110. Bed in a shared dorm, $20-22. Check Rates and Availability Here.

Tamarindo Backpackers hotel Tamarindo
Photo Credit: Tamarindo Backpackers


Over the years, Tamarindo has become one of Costa Rica’s most popular beach destinations. Even during low tourism months, it still manages to draw a crowd with its beautiful beach and many hotels and restaurants. If you’re looking for a beach town with a lot of amenities, it may be the perfect spot.

Have you been to Tamarindo? How was your trip? We’d love to hear about your favorite restaurants and activities. Leave a comment below.

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Last Updated: April 16, 2024

Looking for more information to plan your trip to Costa Rica? Check out these posts:

La Fortuna: What to ExpectA great destination to pair with Tamarindo is La Fortuna, only a few hours’ away. Here, you can experience the rainforest, see a volcano, and do many adventure activities.

Llanos de Cortez Waterfall – This is a gorgeous waterfall not far from Liberia. It’s a good one to visit on a day trip from Tamarindo.

Costa Rica Rental Car Discount – While you don’t need a car in Tamarindo, one can be nice to have for day trips. Check out our discount to save 10% or more and get a free second driver and free car seats.