The surfers have always known about Tamarindo, Costa Rica, but for most travelers, it still flies under the radar.
Tamarindo, located on Costa Rica's northwestern coast and bordered by the Pacific Ocean, is a town of beauty and relaxation. It's the largest beach town in Costa Rica's Guanacaste Province. Surfers are well-aware of Tamarindo, but it's remained under-the-radar otherwise.
“Tamarindo is popular for its spectacular sunsets and the vibrant colors that follow,” said Hernán Imhoff, president of the Tamarindo Chamber of Commerce and Tourism, in an interview with Travel + Leisure. “It's a place where you can encounter a rich blend of cultures while enjoying the warmth of Costa Rican hospitality."
Tamarindo is home to beautiful sandy beaches, marshes and mangroves, forested trails, amazing boutique shops, cool art galleries, a national park, and more. Wildlife abounds, and you're likely to spot turtles, birds, and monkeys here.
The Occidental Tamarindo is the only all-inclusive hotel in the area.
The surfing can’t be beat in Tamarindo — Playa Tamarindo is the main surfing beach, while Playa Grande is perfect for beginners, and Playa Langosta is great for more experienced surfers.
Nearby, Marino las Baulas National Park is home to beaches and mangroves, with lots of wildlife.
Pangas Beach Club has some of the best views and best seafood in Tamarindo.
Monkey Park is a little bit of a drive, but this animal sanctuary is worth a visit.
Whether you’re looking to ride some waves, sunbathe, opt outside (think horseback riding, surfing, and hiking), or just enjoy the views, Tamarindo is a must-visit beach town in Costa Rica. It promises to set your soul afire with pura vida — a go-to motto which symbolizes Costa Rican's take on living a simple, easy, stress-free life.
Best Hotels and Resorts
Jardin Del Eden: This adults-only boutique hotel is nestled within spectacular gardens. Located in the heart of Playa Tamarindo, you won’t want for anything — breakfast and a three-course dinner are included in the room rate, and the views are breathtaking.
Occidental Tamarindo: The only all-inclusive in the area, Occidental Tamarindo features three restaurants and two bars with plenty of options to choose from. The hotel also offers fitness classes, activities like volleyball and tennis, and access to both a pool and the beach. The rooms have sea views or views of Marino las Baulas National Park.
The Coast: A super-cute boutique hotel with direct beach access, The Coast offers an intimate and cozy stay with superior service that’ll have you rebooking your next visit as soon as you leave. Read on the beachfront hammocks or lounge by the pool if you’re not feeling the beach. The rooms also offer kitchenettes, so you can stay in as you wish.
Five Star Luxury Collection Rentals: There are a great number of vacation home rentals available in this area, and you can also coordinate a stay through the Five Star Luxury Collection, which offers (you guessed it) luxury homes for short-term stays. Expect tropical garden villas, houses with infinity pools, and big mansions that’ll fit the whole family.
Best Things to Do
Surf: There’s no question that Tamarindo is known for its surfing. “It's an excellent destination for learning how to surf, catering to both beginners and professional surfers on its super sandy beaches,” Imhoff said. Playa Tamarindo is the main destination for tourists who want to hang by the beach, but surf can be found at Playa Grande, which is perfect for beginners and is known for turtle spotting, and Playa Langosta, a quieter stretch of beach with great waves for the more experienced set. Many hotels can coordinate surfing lessons as well.
Visit Marino las Baulas National Park: Located in Tamarindo Bay, in the Guanacaste Province, this national park is 1,100 acres of beach and coast, and 54,400 marine acres. The land portion is just about the size of Central Park in New York City.
Visit Estero de Tamarindo: Part of the Marino las Baulas National Park (along with Estero de San Francisco), you can explore these water channels with plenty of mangrove forests by kayak, canoe, or by booking a boat tour. You’re sure to see different types of birds, including pelicans and parrots, and hear the sounds of wildlife, like monkeys, hovering above.
Visit Monkey Park: Don’t let the name fool you, there’s more than just monkeys here. This animal sanctuary is about a 45-minute drive from the heart of Tamarindo, but you’ll get to see tons of different animals who have been rescued and are being rehabilitated. There’s also hiking trails, a night walk, bird watching, and more.
Go horseback riding: Horseback riding is a popular activity in Costa Rica, because of the beautiful trails — through the wilderness and along the beach. There are plenty of horseback riding tours — and most hotels can arrange them for you.
Pangas Beach Club: One of Imhoff’s go-tos and a great restaurant known for views, this beautiful restaurant is located in front of an estuary and offers something for everyone, though you’d be remiss not to order one of their seafood dishes. Whether you want to hang and grab a beer or enjoy a romantic meal as the sun sets, Pangas Tamarindo does the job.
Patagonia: An Argentine-inspired restaurant, Patagonia offers amazing cuts of meat cooked to perfection, alongside classic cocktails. (They also have a great selection of beer and wine.) “If you have a craving for exquisite meat dishes, Patagonia is the place to visit,” Imhoff insisted.
Dragon Fly Bar & Grill: This Tamarindo favorite has been open since 2005 and is a short walk from the city center. Their menu centers around local, fresh ingredients and dishes often feature an Asian-fusion spin. They're known for their meat, vegetarian selections, and sushi — so there’s something for everyone.
Derecho Sagrado Specialty Coffee: When you’re looking for a coffee fix, look no further than Derecho Sagrado, located near a skate park and a five-minute walk from Tamarindo Beach. These specialty coffees are tasty, and use only local and organic ingredients.
Best Time to Visit
December to April is the high season, as the temperatures tend to be in the low-to-mid 80s. “There are plenty of activities to enjoy [during this time], from music festivals for every taste to charming small markets featuring organic and handmade products,” Imhoff said.
While the Green Season (read: the rainy season) is from May to November, Imhoff also recommended coming in September and October, because Costa Rica’s Independence Day falls on Sept. 15, and there are a ton of cultural festivities and parades.
Tamarindo, it should be said, receives the least amount of rainfall in comparison to the rest of Costa Rica. March and April are the hottest months on record. If you’re going specifically for surf, the high season (December through April) usually has great winds, and the waves are smaller but still good for all levels. April to November tend to have bigger waves, great for more experienced surfers.
How to Get There
To get to Tamarindo, you’ll want to fly into Daniel Oduber Quirós International Airport (LIR). This airport is serviced by JetBlue, American Airlines, Alaska, United, and more — some with nonstops from New York City, Miami, Houston, and a few other major U.S. cities (along with connections from Europe, Latin America, and Canada). You can then rent a car, or get a private or shared shuttle from the airport to your hotel. Double check with your hotel to see if transportation is included in your hotel rate. If it's not, you can book through the airport’s website. There are public buses also available, but they’re actually not always the cheapest (or most efficient) option.
How to Get Around
The town of Tamarindo is largely walkable; walking from a stay at Occidental Tamarindo to the town center with bars and restaurants would take 30 minutes. Bikes are available at many properties, and there are several bike rental stores in town, where you can grab a bike or beach cruiser for your stay (or just for a couple hours) for a small rental fee. Ubers are available, but there’s not a lot of them, so expect a wait when requesting a ride. Taxis are also available from the center of town (or you can ask your hotel concierge to call one), but make sure to ask how much the ride will cost upfront. If you want to stray from Tamarindo to explore the national park and Guanacaste Province, it’s beneficial to rent a car (especially if you're coming from the airport). But if you plan on staying within the radius of your hotel, the beach, and downtown Tamarindo, a car is probably not necessary.
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