Tamarindo: Where Paradise Meets Convenience

Last Updated: July 1, 2020

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 beach. Playa Tamarindo is a long golden arc that stretches along the Pacific with verdant green mountains in the background. 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

Orientation

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. Smaller one- or two-story shops and restaurants are sandwiched in between.

There’s one main road that brings you into town and along the beach, Route 152. This is where many of the beachside restaurants, hotels, and surf shops can be found. From there, one major 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 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.

Main strip Tamarindo
Main street in Tamarindo where many businesses are located

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.

One thing to keep in mind is that Tamarindo gets hot and arid towards the end of dry season. 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 (May to November) to experience the forest at its lushest.

Playa Tamarindo
Playa Tamarindo in September

Packing

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

Surfing

Tamarindo is a surfing town, so if you haven’t learned to surf yet, this is the place to start. Competition keeps lesson prices low. 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 Playas Avellanas, Langosta, and 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, check out the mini-golf course or arrange a horseback, ATV, zip line, or river boat 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 might rent a bike for the day to just cruise around, or spend the afternoon sharing backpacking stories over a good craft beer at Volcano Brewing Company. With a couple of different 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 seaside, 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.

You also can snorkel right off the shore in some places in Guanacaste, like Playa Conchal, Playa Ocotal, and Playa Penca (near Playa Hermosa).

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, horseback, or other fun 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 recommend.

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 also 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. 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 ambiance here in the open-air palapa is quiet and romantic.

Dragon Bar and Grill Tamarindo
Inside Dragonfly Bar and Grill

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

La Esquina Restaurant and Pizzeria

If you’re craving pizza, La Esquina is the place to go. This casual spot is open for dinner only and serves up tasty thin crust pies from their wood-fired oven. They also have calzones and a few other things for the non-pizza eaters like pasta, chicken, and burgers. Has an indoor play area for kids.

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 2-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, $270-$400/night. Villas starting at $700/night. Click here for rates and availability.

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 town to be private and quiet but still within walking distance to amenities. Rooms range from superior rooms to freestanding beachfront bungalows. $265-$600/night. Click here for rates and availability.

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. $275-$600/night. Click here for rates and availability.

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 6-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. $170-$350/night. Click here for rates and availability.

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. $110-200/night. Click here for rates and availability.

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-$55) or bed in a shared dorm ($15). Click here for rates and availability.

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), $30-50. Bed in a shared dorm, $12. Click here for rates and availability.

Tamarindo Backpackers hotel Tamarindo
Photo Credit: Tamarindo Backpackers

As much as Tamarindo is known for its beautiful beach, there is something else alluring here. Not so much a local Tico culture, but a strong sense of community between business owners, expats, and those surfers, who never seem to leave. The more time one spends here, the more likely they may be to stay too. Maybe you’ll be next.

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

Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. If you book a hotel using one of the links, we receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. Read our Privacy Policy for more information.

Last Updated: July 1, 2020

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.

Related Posts

Caribbean Coast Regional Snapshot
Costa Rica’s Caribbean Coast: Regional Snapshot
Central Pacific Coast Regional Info
Central Pacific Coast, Costa Rica: Regional Snapshot
Guanacaste Costa Rica Travel Guide
Guanacaste, Costa Rica: Regional Snapshot
Beaches for Families in Costa Rica
Best Beaches for Families in Costa Rica

79 Comments

  1. Congrats on your move to CR and best wishes for your book! Question–I’m contemplating a trip to CR either Tamarindo or Nosara vs. visiting the relatives in Oahu. (you know–couple solo time plus my need for adventure ). We went to San Juan del Sur 2 yrs ago and loved it. We’re sporty (I’m a beginner surfer) and are definitely into yoga (tons of folks we know hit nosara) but I’m just not sure about one over the other. We’re budget conscious but not looking for the hostel experience, more like mid-range pension. Hoping you might be able to give me some insight! Thanks! Elizabeth

    1. Hi Elizabeth, thanks for checking out our blog! If you’re into surfing and yoga, you should definitely check out Costa Rica. As for Tamarindo vs. Nosara, it depends on the type of experience you want. Tamarindo is more built up (lots of restaurants, hotels, shops, nightlife) and Nosara is more mellow and wild but still has a decent amount of tourist amenities. Both have great surfing. Nosara is more of a wellness retreat, lots of yoga, and it’s also fairly close to Santa Teresa & Mal Pais, which are awesome little surf towns to the south. You’ll be able to find some good mid-range accommodations at either so don’t decide based on that. Hope that helps! Feel free to shoot us an email using our Contact page if you have more questions.

      1. Hi. We have been twice to Nosara and once to Tamarindo. The beaches are great in both places. The little beach part of Nosara, Playa Pelada, is a wonderful place to stay. You can get around easily by bicycle or walking to many delicious open air restaurants. Nosara is very eco minded and there are no places right on the beach. The only place in walking distance on the beach for food is La Luna just to the north. Nosara has dirt roads. Tamarindo has asphalt streets, sidewalks, and hotels and restaurants line the beach. You can have a meal in the sand there, while watching the waves. That said, we prefer Nosara. It is more remote, quaint, charming, lots of yoga, and a feeling of community. You are more likely to feel connected to the place there. In our opinion, though the beach is beautiful too, Tamarindo feels more like a tourist beach town, and less like a paradise sanctuary.

  2. Hi Jenn & Matt- just found your blog and I love it! My husband and I’ve been two Costa Rica twice now and are starting to think about making a long term move. Panama is on the list too so I’ll be looking out for your Posts on that country as well.
    Anyway, we love the vibe and the size of Tamarindo. What other places in Costa Rica are similiar in your opinion?

    1. Hi Cindy, if you like Tamarindo, you might also dig the Playa Hermosa area near Jaco. Playa Hermosa is a lot smaller but has the same chilled out surfer vibe, and nearby Jaco is busier, with a lot of restaurants and things to do. Another idea is Puerto Viejo which is a lot different because it’s on the Caribbean side but also has a really laid back vibe. The beaches are beautiful there and it has some really awesome restaurants. We have a blog about it if you want more info: https://www.twoweeksincostarica.com/1/post/2014/01/puerto-viejo-caribbean-cool-in-costa-rica.html.
      If you need some more ideas, just send us a message through our contact page. And be on the lookout for our next book because it’s about Panama. Thanks for reading!

  3. Thanks for reassuring me that Tamarindo hasn’t become the drug/prostitute capital of CR. I was beginning to wonder and worry.

    1. Jen, Tamarindo certainly has its problems but I wouldn’t say it’s the drug/prostitution capital of Costa Rica. As long as you’re not looking for trouble, you will be fine. When we traveled to Tama as tourists, we didn’t really notice anything. Of course, when you spend more time there, you start to see it. But there are a lot of great things about Tama too that definitely make it worth a visit.

  4. Ths is a great guide to Tamarindo! Another great place to check out for Breakfast or Lunch is La Bodega. They serve up local, fresh, organic fair. Sno Shack is quickly becoming one of my favorite places for a green smoothie; Cafe Tico is a great place to grab breakfast or a delicious coffee (their granola is amazing!). Also, Le Be makes a great ceviche!

  5. We are planning a trip to CR middle of June 2016. Our 6 children, mid 40s, and grandchildren, ages 13-23, will be traveling with us. Where should we look for rental property for one week that will have the least amount of rain during the wet season and will provide a diverse amount of activities, i.e., rainforest, volcano, beach, combination?

    1. Hi Carol, Guanacaste receives the least amount of rain so you could look into Tamarindo, Playa Grande, or Playa Hermosa. These areas are all along the Pacific Coast but are within driving distance to lots of activities like zip-lining, waterfalls, and a volcano. Rincon de la Vieja National Park is about 1.5-2 hrs. away and is a great spot for a day trip, with hiking trails through tropical dry forest, a seasonal waterfall, and some volcanic features like bubbling mud pots and steam vents. This area of the country is tropical dry forest. For rainforest, you’d have to go south to places like Nosara (read more here) or inland to places like La Fortuna/Arenal Volcano (more here). It’s more likely to rain here but probably still wouldn’t be that bad since June is still early in the rainy season. Hope that helps. Have a great trip!

  6. Hi, We loved the nature all around us when we stayed near Manuel Antonio. What is it like around Tamarindo? Are there monkeys going through the trees around the hotels?

  7. My friend and I made our first trip to CR a few weeks ago and had a blast in Tamarindo. Dragonfly Bar & Grill was absolutely delicious and we made it out to Pacifico our first night there and met a bunch of really cool locals. The reggae music was paradise and a nice change from the music typically played in NY clubs!

  8. We owned a condo right in front of the skateboard bowl at Estrellas del Pacifico for almost 9 years. Sold it recently. Tamarindo just got full of too many loud bars, drugs and drunk kids along with the Tico crime. We prefer to to go down the coast more amongst the Ticos and less expats.

  9. Hi, thanks so much for your tips! I am going to Tamarindo, about 20 minutes south on Thursday. Do most restaurants/shops take US dollars and credit cards? Thanks

    1. Hi Jenna, US dollars are accepted pretty much everywhere in Costa Rica (just don’t bring bills over $20), but it’s better to use local currency so that you get the correct conversion rate. Grocery stores and bigger businesses usually do it correctly but smaller places often use a generic 500 colon per $1, which isn’t favorable to you. Credit cards are widely accepted in the Tamarindo area so you shouldn’t have problems there. Just have cash for small vendors/shops, which might be cash only. You should also check out our Money Matters post for tons more info, including where to change money, etc.

  10. Great site…thank you for your information! I am going to be in Tamarindo July 15-20…will I be completely rained out? That is the only time I can go.
    Also, is route 152 paved…will I experience problems driving from San Jose to Tamarindo in July. Will have a 4 wheel drive, but worried about washed out roads, etc.
    Thanks in advance for your response…I look forward to your input!
    Patti

    1. Hi Patti, You won’t be completely rained out in mid-July. Tamarindo is one of the driest areas of the country so it is a good place to visit during rainy season. Plus, rainfall typically goes down in Guanacaste in July (Look at the charts in our Weather post for average # of days with rain and rainfall totals- use Liberia for Guanacaste). You will likely have mostly sunny mornings with some rain in the afternoon and night.

      We haven’t driven Route 152 in a couple of years but last time we did, they were paving it and it was part paved, part dirt. Either way thought it’s a well travelled flat road so you won’t have any problems with wash outs. Have a great trip!

  11. What an informative blog!
    I am arriving solo in SJO November 16th at 2:19PM. My reservation in Mal Pais doesn’t begin until November 19th. Is there a feasible and safe option to get to Tamarindo for a couple of days and then down to Mal Pais on the 19th?
    I don’t really want to rent a car and drive as I rent a quad/atv once in Mal Pais.
    Thanks for any tips!

    1. Hi Jennifer, Since your flight arrives later in the afternoon on the 16th, it would be tough to get to Tamarindo that day since it is quite far from San Jose. Flying is an option but flights usually leave earlier in the day. Since you would have to leave next day and only have two free days, it would make more sense to check out a town closer to Mal Pais. Jaco is an option (larger, developed, fun beach town) or Montezuma not far from Mal Pais (smaller, very laid back beach town). Shuttles or the bus are available for both. There is even a speed boat shuttle connecting Jaco and Mal Pais.

  12. Great blog. So I’m looking to travel to CR in Feb2017 with a total of 3 families. Ideally would like to rent a nice beach house in a crime safe area with decent beaches for boogie boarding-swimming for kids and nearby surf for an adult. I’m trying to decide between Playa Langosta, Playa Negra, Manuel Antonio and Nosata – Playa Guiones. Ive found nice homes in all of those. What do you think? I’ve heard Tamarindo might be the best beach but looking for a real CR experience without really high crowds. We live in San Diego do have some pretty good beaches here but they are always pretty crowded. Day trips and excursions a must as well. Thanks for any help.

    1. Hi Dave, February is high season so avoid Tamarindo, Langosta, and Manuel Antonio because the beaches will be busy that time of year. Playa Negra is nice, very off the beaten path, but the beaches are better for surfing and it will be a drive to get to restaurants and things to do. Nosara might be your best bet. Playa Guiones is better for swimming, but you can boogie board and swim at Playa Pelada, which is right there. Nosara also has a lot of different activities that would appeal to a range of interests, since you’re traveling with a big group. (Here is a link to a blog post we wrote about Nosara). Nosara is safe but does have some opportunistic theft so just be careful at your vacation rental (close and lock windows when you leave, use the house security system if it has one, don’t leave the car unattended when you’re unloading it, etc.). Hope that helps you narrow your search. Also be sure to check out our rental car discount (more info here) – usually with big groups, getting a few cars is the cheapest and most convenient way to get around.

  13. Hi Jenn & Matt. Thank you so much for these blog posts. I’ve enjoyed reading so many of them. We were in Costa Rica years ago and did monteverde, la fortuna, montezuma, and manuel antonio. This time we have a week sans kids so we are going to do two nights in monteverde and then want to head up to the guanacaste area. I see all the beaches and they all look amazing. We don’t want to be too remote, but I also don’t want to be up until 2am with bar noise. Any recommendations between Tamarindo, Coco, Flamingo, and Hermosa? We may or may not do surf lessons, snorkeling would be nice and we definitely want to do a catamaran sunset tour. So we are looking for a little beach town with some nice shopping and restaurants. It would be a bonus not to have to drive to a different beach to get the catamaran tour at night.

    Thanks!

    1. Hi Shelley, The feel of each of those beach towns will be different depending on what time of year you’re visiting. Tamarindo is great for restaurants and shopping but does get pretty crowded and can be loud during high season. Hermosa might be a good option for you because it has some really good restaurants and is quieter but still close to Playas del Coco, which has a lot going on. Maybe take a look at our Destinations Summary Guide to compare the different towns. We don’t have articles on all those towns yet but it will give you a good start.

      Those activities can easily be arranged from any of the places on your list, but if it makes a difference, Tamarindo is best for surfing, Hermosa is best for snorkeling, and I think the catamaran tours leave from Coco or Tamarindo but usually transportation is included. Once you have a destination picked, let us know if you want any help booking tours and we can help you figure out some good companies to go out with. Our email for tours is bookings(at)twoweeksincostarica(dot)com. Cheers!

  14. We are trying to decide whether to stay in Tamarindo or Playa Langosta in March. Any advice? We don’t want to stay in a tourist-trap but we also don’t want to be too remote? Would you suggest staying in Tamarindo and taking a day-trip to Playa Langosta or actually staying in Playa Langosta? Let me know! Thanks!

    1. Hi Lindsey, Playa Langosta is right next to Tamarindo. It’s a quick 5 min drive or you can even walk there if you wanted to so no need for a day trip. Langosta is quieter and has mostly condos and hotels. Tamarindo is busier and more touristy but there are places to stay outside the center of town that are quieter and nice. The whole area is quite touristy as in not a lot of locals, so if that is what you want to avoid, maybe look at another destination. Brasilito just north is more authentic and Playa Hermosa is a good option too.

  15. Going to Tamarindo next March and your blog has been great! We have 2 kids, 8 & 11. What are some y]tours that we can do that are close to tamarindo, not wanting to drive much, since we’ll be coming from Arenal and MA before that and would have driven quite a bit already. Thanks

    1. Hi Amy, There’s quite a bit to do right out of Tamarindo. Not sure what you are planning for Arenal and MA (some of the activities will be the same), but there’s zip lining, horseback riding, ATV, surf lessons, and catamaran tours with snorkeling, just to name a few. They might also like renting boogie boards. There are some beautiful beaches in the area worth checking out as well. We cover this in the Guanacaste Beaches chapter of our Itineraries book so take a look at that for more ideas. Hope your family has a great trip!

  16. Hi Jenn & Matt,
    I’m researching Tamarindo and found your blog. Great info! We are leaving this Saturday (4/1) for a week and my teens are stressing since the weather calls for thunder and lightening. Is that accurate? Will it thunder and lightening all day? I’m staying positive but wanted to hear from a local 🙂

    1. Hi Nikki, The weather forecast is usually not right for Costa Rica (you can learn why here). It is the very dry season now and Tamarindo is in the driest region of the country so you will likely have the opposite problem of things being very dry and hot. So no worries. Hope your family has a great trip!

  17. Really enjoying and learning a lot from your site. We are planning a 10-14 day trip to Costa Rica next January. Is it feasible to fit Guanacaste, Arenal and Manuel Antonio into one trip? If so, what order would you recommend? Would be flying into SJO I think. Thank you!!!

    1. Hi Heidi, Yes, that is feasible in 10-15 days. If you do 10 days, just stick to only one destination in Guanacaste so you do roughly three nights in each destination. With 14 days, you could add another town or stick with three and have a more relaxed pace. For order, I think I would do La Fortuna then Guanacaste then Manuel Antonio but it all depends on what flight times you get. You may be able to avoid overnights near the airport if you plan it well (example: Manuel Antonio is about 2.5 hrs from SJO so you could potentially leave there the same day as your flight if you can find a flight that leaves in the afternoon).

      1. Thanks for the reply. We have opted to rearrange our route. We will go straight to Manuel Antonio after arriving from an early flight into SJO for 4 nights, Arenal for 3 nights, Rio Perdido 3 nights and the final night in Alajuela. Now I will be researching all there is to do in each of these areas. Thanks again for responding and sharing your tips and experiences on this blog.

  18. Hi Matt and Jen,

    I’m a female solo traveller visiting Costa Rica for the first time for the last week in June.

    I’m considering staying in Tamarindo for the week. Is that too long to be there if I also want to do a few tours etc? Or should I break the stay into a different regions?

    Also I really would love to see a sloth! What are your recommendations?

    1. Hi Linda, You can easily spend a week in Tamarindo and not get bored. There is a lot to do and the town is really happening. It’s a good landing spot if you’re traveling solo.

      Unfortunately, sloths don’t usually live in that region. They prefer tropical rainforest so you would have to do a day trip to see one. The Rio Celeste area is probably the closest.

  19. Hi Jenn and Matt i was reading your great article, just a suggestion if you can add Surf Culture Surf Shop (the one in the photo) and Costa Rica Surf Club they will help people in all matters and of course surfing! pura vida

  20. Hi, thanks for such an informative blog 🙂 Just wondering if parking is free in town? We were told it was $10 for the day down by the beach but then he let us stay for an hour at no charge. I’ve read that these guys aren’t actually official despite their high vis vests! Any advice? Thanks, Melika

    1. Hi Melika, Not sure where you parked, but in general parking is free. If it’s a private lot (private property), then they are free to charge. A lot times in Costa Rica there will be unofficial parking attendants wearing the vests who will watch your car parked in a public area for a tip. This is common in cities, at restaurants, at attractions like waterfalls, etc.

  21. Hello, you have a wonderful blog, thanks so much for all the info! My fiance and I are considering honeymooning in Tamarindo next April so I was wondering if you had any other suggestions for mid range hotels nearby? We’ll definitely be picking up your book for itinerary advice!

    1. Hi Michelle, You have a lot of great options. Here are some ideas:
      (1) Tamarindo Bay Boutique Hotel– Nice, modern rooms, beautiful pool, short walk to the beach. Plus it’s adults only so good for honeymooners.
      (2) La Ramona Charming Hotel– New hotel with stylish rooms, friendly owner, good breakfast, located in a quiet area but still not too far from town.
      (3) Hotel Flores– A little less expensive and a great value. Rooms are still very nice and the property has a very pretty courtyard/pool area.

      Hope that helps!

  22. I will be traveling to Tamarindo in a month, I was informed not to wear jewelry to keep attire very simple, because locals will know we are tourists.
    What is your suggestions on attire in Tamarindo . Is it noted for pick pockets or muggings.

    1. Hi Rae, Locals will know you’re either a tourist or an expat living in CR no matter what you wear, but it is always a good idea to not wear anything too flashy, regardless of where you are in the country. We don’t think Tamarindo is particularly bad for petty theft but it does happen everywhere so be smart and you should be fine. The biggest things are to not carry your valuables around with you and leave them locked up in the hotel (passport, extra money, camera if you’re going out for a long time or at night). You can read more tips in our post about staying safe in Costa Rica.

  23. Hi!

    Loved your blog.

    We are 3, 23 year old girls traveling to Tamarindo and Santa Teresa, since we are only in Costa Rica for 8 days…

    Which do you recommend doing first? From San Juan Airport, and how do you recommend us getting to Tamarindo and Santa Teresa?

    Thanks!!

    1. Hi Lexi, We would recommend doing this loop: SJO–>Tamarindo–>Santa Teresa–>SJO. To get there, you could rent a car and drive (see our rental car discount if you decide to do this) or take a shared or private shuttle. Shared shuttles are cheaper (around $50 pp) and take longer because they make stops. They also run on a set schedule. Private shuttles are more expensive, faster, and allow you to leave whenever you want. If you need help booking either, we work with several reputable companies and do bookings like this for no extra charge. Just contact us at bookings(at)twoweeksincostarica(dot)com with your travel dates and hotels, and we can help.

  24. HI there! Wonderful blog. My fiancee and I are planning on honeymooning in late May following getting married in Cancun. We are planning for 7-8 days, flying into LIR and staying in Arenal & Tamarindo. However, what I think we might be missing on this trip is a more ‘local’ experience; initially, we had booked in Nosara but after some reading discovered it would be very quiet this time of year.
    Might it be worth it to spend some time in Samara? Or perhaps remove Tamarindo altogether an do Arenal and Samara?
    To give you an idea, we like to be pedestrian, visiting restaurants and bars, being close to the beach; we vacation every year in SoCal for this reason. Whats your recommendation? Thank you so much!

    1. Hi Alexandra, Tamarindo is quite touristy so it is more difficult to have a local experience. Heading south to somewhere like Samara would help. Samara sounds like it would be a good pick for you because it has a main area near the beach with many restaurants, bars, and shops. Nosara would work too and it should still be fairly lively in May since it is a popular destination and that is only the beginning of the rainy season.

  25. hi..my family will be staying in a rented house in Feb in rancho playa negra. One of our family members is disabled and in a wheelchair some of the time. She can walk short distances however. Wondering about beach access and parking for disabled. Which beach, if any, would be easiest for us to get her to? What other thoughts do you have to make our travel to Tamarindo and other areas nearby easier for a disabled person? We have traveled with her throughout the US/Hawaii and Rivera Maya/ Cozumel without a problem but don’t know about our trip to Costa Rica. Any thoughts would be appreciated!

    1. Hi Lisa, We haven’t been to Playa Negra in a while, but we’re fairly sure that it actually has a boardwalk leading from the parking area to the beach so that is a very good option. Playa Avellanas would be good too. Its parking area is right on the beach and there is a beach bar adjacent to that. Tamarindo is another good option. It has a main strip along the beach so it would be only a short walk from the road or a restaurant to the sand.

      In general, handicap accessibility in Costa Rica has a long way to go but you will be able to find a way to make it work. A good option for an activity is Santa Rosa National Park (it has a small museum and short handicapped-accessible trail). Double check but we think Rincon de la Vieja National Park has a handicap-accessible trail now too- they recently did a renovation. Also check out this thread on our forum for more ideas.

  26. Just became a subscriber and love the blog. Planning a trip as we speak for my wife and I. Couple of questions for you. I want to surprise my wife with airfare to Costa Rica in April and let her pick where we stay. Is April and decent month to go? I’m thinking LIR because Tamarindo interests me. We dont mind touristy as long as we can easily get away from it with a short drive. A bar night life and things to do is important to us. I want to give her a lot of choices so will LIR work? Thanks for the help.

    1. Hi Gary, Yes, April is a good time to go. One thing to know is that it will be the end of dry season so Tamarindo will be very dry and brown so won’t feel like the rainforest. You can read more about when to visit with our post Best Time to Visit Costa Rica. LIR is the best access point for Guanacaste so places like Tamarindo, Playa Hermosa Guanacaste, Nosara, Samara, etc. SJO is closer to the Caribbean coast and Central Pacific Coast and opens up more options, including Jaco and Manuel Antonio (you might like Jaco if you’re interested in Tamarindo). Overall, SJO is more centrally located so that will give her the most choices, but if you are set on Guanacaste, LIR is the better option.

      1. Thanks for the great information. I’m still amazed every time I read you blog on how much information is within it. I’m so glad I found this site before I booked anything. I have decided to get airfare for SJO due to the fact its more centrally located. I am also going to go in May so things will be a little greener and don’t mind the occasional rain fall. Thanks again for all the great information!

      2. One more question, we are avid mountain bikers and I see that Costa Rica has beautiful trails. Do you know anything about bringing our bikes with us like the fees associated? And do you know of any mountain bike trails near the Jaco area. It will have to be pretty close due to the amount of time we have there (6) days. I don’t want to spend a day getting to the trail. Thanks again for the help.

        1. We have never tried it, but someone in our family is a flight attendant and she has told us that it isn’t too difficult to bring a bike on an airplane. I think you have to disassemble it, but at least her airline (American) has bike boxes so it can be done.

          Jaco is actually really popular for mountain biking. Here’s one link to a site with some trails but if you do some Googling you will find more information.

  27. Hello Jenn Matt,
    our family will be visiting Costa Rica March 29 – April 07, 2018. we have a 11 year old son. we chose Tamarindo because we visited it back in 2000 and wanted to see how it has changed and wanted our son to have the experience and many options. We are staying in a Airbnb condo so have full kitchen. we will have a rental car. Not opposed to doing tours but figured since we have a vehicle we can explore ourselves. can you recommend some things to do? already on the list is snorkeling at Playa Conchal. not opposed to driving up to two hours for a day trip. lastly, you always hear about safety and car break-in’s….what can we actually expect. is it safe to walk around with our son after dark? thank you

    Joe

    1. HI Joe, Some ideas for activities your son might like are Llanos de Cortez Waterfall and Las Pumas Rescue Center (do same day since they’re in the same area). If he likes hiking/walking, he might think it’s cool to see an active volcano. For that you could check out Rincon de la Vieja or the Miravalles area (smaller and less touristy). Zip lining would be a fun tour or horseback riding- they have tours that take you to hidden beaches for snorkeling.

      Car break ins are one of the most common crimes here but as long as you don’t leave anything in the car and lock it up, you should be fine. We have never had any problems with this ourselves but we are careful. Walking around town with your son at night would be fine. Just avoid remote areas and the beach after dark. Also be sure to lock everything up as best as you can at the AirBnb and use the security system if they have one. You can read more safety tips here. Hope you gave a great return visit to Tamarindo and that your son has a good time discovering it!

  28. This has been most informative. Potentially planning a trip early July. Looks like rain won’t ruin our trip, but we have been told staying in playa grande is better than Tamarindo (to avoid the tourism). This is coming from a friend who lives in playa grande 3 months a year strictly for surfing. So I wanted a second opinion. Are the beaches safe to swim for non surfers? Is it truly walking distance to the Tamarindo boat taxi? Is playa grande a walkable area with restaurants? We will book a couple excursions, but prefer mostly to enjoy the beach, walk to restaurants, experience culture, and maybe even get local groceries to cook ourselves. So what to you think? Playa grande or would Tamarindo suit those needs better? Thank you! 🙂 Pura Vida!

    1. Hi Margaret, Tamarindo sounds more like what you’re looking for. It has a better swimming beach and lots of amenities within walking distance. We spent about a month in Playa Grande a couple of years ago. We liked it—it’s nice because it’s quieter—but the beach has big waves and it isn’t as close to Tamarindo as it seems. The Panga ride is fast but a lot of places to stay are a good walk from there. We lived in Palm Beach Estates and usually drove to Tamarindo. It has some restaurants but a lot fewer and they’re more spread out. So we’d go with Tamarindo. If you stay outside the main area of town, closer to Playa Langosta, it’s a lot quieter.

      1. Hi, we will be traveling to CR in and out of LIR and are heading to Arenal for 3 nights. Looking for options for out last 6 nights. Was initially thinking MA for 3 nights and then Tamarindo for 3 nights, but not sure if MA will have too much rain end of June and maybe too far? So now thinking after our 3 nights in Arenal to head to Samara for 3 nights and then end in Tamarindo for 3 nights. We have 3 kids ages 9-14. We love the beach, moderate hiking, walkable areas, and we like to have a combo of some quieter days and some with a busier atmosphere so thinking Samara and Tamarindo would be a good mix for us? Advice?

        1. Hi Ileana, Samara and Tamarindo should give you exactly the experience you’re looking for. Samara is quieter but still has a decent amount going on and is very walkable (more so than Manuel Antonio). Tamarindo is busier, walkable, and has plenty to keep your kids entertained. They are very different beach towns so it’s fine to do both. Get your hiking in while in La Fortuna because those beach areas don’t have a ton of options close by.

  29. Hi Jenn and Matt! My boyfriend and I are travelling to CR in April for 10 days and although it will be busy are thinking about splitting our trip up in 3 stops: 3/4 days somewhere in Guanacaste (love surfer village vibes with some local bars and restaurants within walking distance) 2 days in Arenal and then maybe 2 days in Manuel Antonio (mostly to see some wildlife!). Nothing is booked yet so we still have some flexibility.. we are thinking about flying into LIR and out of SJO and renting a car. Do you think this is doable? Are you able to rent a car in one location and drop off in another? And where would you recommend in Guanacaste – I keep getting drawn to Tamarindo but am wondering if Nosara or Samara would be better for a local feel and beach?

    1. Hi Shaina, Yes, that’s doable in 10 days with some careful planning, which it sounds like you’re doing because your plan makes sense. Flying into LIR and out of SJ make the most sense for that itinerary. Tamarindo is a busier surf town but shouldn’t be too bad in April and does have the feel you’re looking for as far as bars and restaurants in walking distance. Nosara does have a more off-the-beaten path chill feel but still has a lot of upscale amenities, making it sort of a chic surfing town, if that makes sense. Hope that gives you some direction!

      Most rental car companies will let you have different pick up snd drop off locations but may require s minimum rental period and charge s fee. The company that we recommend (see our rental car discount page) has a 3 day minimum and the fees vary based on exact locations.

  30. We are heading to Tamarindo for a couple days soon. I am wanting to spend a little bit of time at Playa Negra. We will be heading from Rio Celeste early in the morning and I am wondering if you are aware if the parking lot in Playa Negra has a “guard” keeping watch so we could go there before unpacking in Tamarindo (or even on the way out from Tamarindo). Just not sure how much time we would have to go down there after having to check-in in Tamarindo in the afternoon.

  31. Hi Planning a 10 day trip this coming February for our first trip to Costa Rica. We will be flying into Liberia and home from San Jose. For the middle of our trip we would like to stay near Tamarindo. We are not interested in an all inclusive and would enjoy staying at a place we could cook some of our own meals. Would you have any recommendations?

  32. Hi Jenn and Matt,

    Thank you for having such an informative blog, it is really helpful! We will be eloping to CR in December this year and staying at a rental in Playa Langosta. We have not arranged transportation from LIR yet, should we do this in advance? We are not wanting to rent a car and really not sure about public transport – we have traveled a little overseas but not extensively. Our flight arrives late afternoon. The airbnb host offered to arrange transport, but again not sure the about the best way to go about this, from safety standpoint and also being the obvious tourist. Thank you!!

    1. Hi Amanda, Yes, we highly recommend arranging transport in advance. Public transport from LIR Airport isn’t easy and if you take a taxi last minute, it will cost more. Shared shuttles are an option but they leave the airport area around 1:30 pm so not sure that would work with your flight. A private shuttle is probably your best bet. These are nice because the driver will be waiting for you when you arrive holding a sign with your name on it so it’s very easy. We work with a company that does the trip from the airport to Langosta for $119 total for the 2 of you. Contact us through our shuttle booking page if you’d like help with the arrangements.

      1. Hi Jen and Matt, I have been scrolling through your blogs researching a 6 month trip for me and my two little girls. I will be on my own with them and looking for a single base to explore the country with enough infrastructure, public school and doctors etc and a local community so we can make friends. I was thinking Tamarindo as a bigger town but after reading this and your Samara article, I am thinking Samara might be better as bot as touristy and beach better for the children. I would appreciate tour advice? Very scary as not been to CR before so this is all a big adventure. Thank you, Sara

  33. We were in Tamarindo in January 2019 & found it to be a mixed bag. We never had any problems with the locals although I was offered cocaine in the middle of the day in front of a restaurant as we walked by. (Not my thing, I wasn’t looking for it.) We found prices on everything really over inflated & I guess that’s expected in a tourist town so we bought at the grocery store & did our own cooking at home. One thing that you can take advantage of & save yourself a lot of money over Canadian prices is dental work. There are several very well equipped dentists in town & my ceramic crown cost me less than half what I had been quoted in Canada.

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