Nestled in the rugged jungle of the southern Nicoya Peninsula, Tambor (also called Playa Tambor) is a quiet town with nature as its backdrop. Tambor isn’t a well-known destination, but it does have a couple of larger resorts and properties as well as some lovely hotels. Despite its remote location, it still has some interesting things to do. In this post, we’ll give you a sense of what Tambor is like, including accommodations and activities in the area.
Tambor is located on the eastern side of the southern Nicoya Peninsula. It’s between Paquera, which hosts the ferry landing, and Montezuma, farther down the peninsula.
The closest international airport to Tambor is Liberia (LIR), at about three hours.
San Jose Airport (SJO) is about five hours away. The fastest way to drive from San Jose to Tambor is to take the Puntarenas-Paquera Ferry. This large vessel cuts across the Gulf of Nicoya, saving about one hour of drive time.
The ferry ride is really nice. It offers scenic views, and you can even bring a car on. For more information, read our post, Taking the Puntarenas-Paquera Ferry.
Tambor also has an airstrip for small planes/domestic airlines. Some travelers opt to take these to shorten the trip from San Jose when traveling to Tambor, Montezuma, or Santa Teresa.
About the Town
Tambor is spread out along Route 160, a coastal road that runs through the southern Nicoya Peninsula. Along the stretch near Tambor, you’ll find clusters of modest residential neighborhoods with a few businesses mixed in.
Tambor does have a very small main area of town. Here, you’ll find a church, basic grocery store, combo souvenir shop/clothing store, pizza restaurant, some rustic cabinas (motel), and another nicer hotel. This is located on a short side road off Route 160 that leads to the beach.
Since Tambor doesn’t have much for amenities, you will want to stock up on the way. Paquera has a couple of larger grocery stores, an ATM, and gas station.
There are only a handful of restaurants in Tambor. Because of this, many hotels have restaurants onsite.
The main developments in Tambor are the Barcelo resort and Los Delfines Golf and Country Club. Because of these resorts, this area does have some tourism. A community of year-round or seasonal expatriates also live in Tambor.
Activities in Tambor
Tambor may be a small destination, but it does have some awesome things to do. Here are the options.
The main draw of Tambor is its beach. Playa Tambor is a wide cove with very calm water. This makes it a great beach for swimming. The sand is volcanic and a rich brown color.
Playa Tambor has a pristine feel, with a thick backing of palm and almond trees. Scarlet Macaw Parrots love beach almonds, and you will often see them in the trees or cruising around town.
The beach is almost never busy but does pick up on weekends with locals coming from San Jose.
If you’re up for some adventure, take a panga boat over to Playa Muertos. This beach is visible from the main bay but is separated from Playa Tambor by a river. Because of this, you have to ask a local to take you by boat for the five-minute ride from the town of Pochote.
Once you get to Playa Muertos, you’ll find a gorgeous remote beach. The sand is light, and the ocean waters are often calm and clear, making it a decent spot to snorkel.
For more information on visiting, read our post, Discovering Playa Muertos: A Hidden Beach with an Island Feel.
Curu National Wildlife Refuge
Since so much of this area of Costa Rica has remained pristine and undeveloped, there is a lot of wildlife hiding in the thick jungle. The best place to see this is Curu National Wildlife Refuge.
Curu is a short drive up the peninsula from Tambor, about 25 minutes away. Curu is not as popular as many of Costa Rica’s other parks and reserves but has just as much to offer.
The many ecosystems on the property host diverse birds and animals like monkeys, coati, deer, agouti, crocodile, and some unique birds like the Long-tailed Manakin.
Curu has several trails to choose from, making it a good option for all hiking abilities.
For more information, check out our post, Curu National Wildlife Refuge – Refugio Nacional De Vida Silvestre Curu.
Just a short boat tide away is Isla Tortuga (Turtle Island). This white-sand island is known for its clear turquoise water. It’s a popular spot, with tours coming from the southern Nicoya Peninsula, Puntarenas, and the Jaco area. Pickups are available right on the beach in Tambor.
Bioluminescent Kayak Tour
The southern Nicoya Peninsula is known for a natural phenomenon called bioluminescence. Bioluminescence is the term used when living things give off natural light. In the Tambor-Paquera area, it’s algae on the surface of the ocean waters that creates this effect.
On a nighttime kayak tour, you can observe this amazing phenomenon. The Paquera area is one of the best places in Costa Rica to see this. It is possible to see bioluminescence here year-round.
To learn more about bioluminescent tours, read about our experience in our post, A Bioluminescent Kayak Tour on the Nicoya Peninsula.
Day Trip to Montezuma
If you’d like to check out a town with a little more going on, there’s Montezuma.
Montezuma is about 30 minutes from Tambor, heading down the peninsula. It is still a small town but has a nice main area along the beach with restaurants and cafes. The town is super laid back and eclectic.
The beach in Montezuma is different than Tambor. It’s very pretty and has bigger waves and rocky outcroppings.
To learn more about Montezuma, read our post, Montezuma: A Bohemian Beach Town.
Accommodations in Tambor
For a small town, Tambor has a good selection of accommodations.
It’s worth noting that since this area is lesser known, prices for hotels and condos are significantly lower than in Costa Rica’s more popular destinations.
Here are some good options for accommodations in and around Playa Tambor.
The best-known hotel in the area is the Barcelo Tambor. This all-inclusive resort has all the comforts you would expect from the Barcelo chain. It has bright, comfortable rooms, a large pool, kids’ pool area, and a handful of restaurants. If you’re just looking to sit on the beach with a cold beverage, this is a great option. $200-400/night double occupancy, with all meals included. Check Rates and Availability Here.
Los Delfines Golf and Country Club
Los Delfines is a large, gated community with houses and condos. It is divided into a few different areas, with many homes designed in the same style. Some units are owned by year-round residents, while many others are rented out on websites like Airbnb and VRBO.
We have stayed in Los Delfines and enjoyed it. The condos are affordable and most have a private pool. The development is walking distance to Playa Tambor. It used to have a restaurant, but it has not reopened since Covid.
A main draw of Los Delfines is its golf course.
There is also a small, but well stocked, mini-market right at Los Delfines.
For a smaller, more intimate property, there’s Lodge Margouillat. This hotel set in the hill has private villas with kitchenettes, Balinese-style gazebos, and deluxe bungalows. The property is in the thick tropical forest so it’s very tranquil and quiet. There are two pools onsite. $70-100/night. Check Rates and Availability Here.
Tambor Tropical Beach Resort
Another nice beachfront option that is smaller is Tambor Tropical Beach Resort. This is right near the main area of town but set off along the beach on its own. The hotel consists of a few buildings made of beautiful local wood. A spacious pool fronts the rooms with the ocean providing a backdrop. Adults only. Around $200/night. Check Rates and Availability Here.
Tango Mar Beachfront Boutique Hotel and Villas
A little past Tambor on Quizales Beach is the popular Tango Mar Beachfront Boutique Hotel and Villas. This upscale hotel has different suites, some farther up the property and others close to the sand. It also has a few Tiki-style villas, perfect if you’re looking for a romantic escape. All have nice outdoor terraces to take advantage of the views. $200-400/night. Check Rates and Availability Here.
Tambor may not be well known but it still has a lot to offer. It’s a great escape if you’re looking to relax and unwind in a peaceful, tropical setting. And with a decent amount of activities, there’s enough to do to stay busy—if you want to.
Have a question about visiting Playa Tambor or have you been? Leave a comment below.
Looking for more information to plan your trip to Costa Rica? Check out these posts:
Costa Rica Rental Car Discount – Unless you’re staying at an all-inclusive resort, you’ll want a rental car to get around the Tambor area. Check out our discount through one of the country’s most reputable companies.
Santa Teresa: Costa Rica’s Trending Beach Town – On the other side of the Nicoya Peninsula is Santa Teresa. This surfer town has been growing in popularity, with many boutique hotels, international restaurants, and trendy shops.
La Fortuna: What to Expect – If you’re looking to do some adventure activities before hitting the beach, La Fortuna/Arenal is a great destination to pair with Tambor. Read our detailed destination guide for more information.