Tamarindo Costa Rica: Popular Surfing and Family Destination
Tamarindo Costa Rica is a bustling surf town with plenty of things to do
The Tamarindo Costa Rica Vibes
Tamarindo Costa Rica is a cute (but big) beach town on the Pacific coast.
I have started calling this area the “kids pool of Costa Rica” because it is the perfect place to visit on your first trip to Costa Rica to get a feel for the country without being overwhelmed by a different culture.
The locals call it Tamagringo since it is filled with expats and tourists.
The downtown area has nice restaurants and shops that are perfect for people of all budgets.
It is also a world-class surfing destination.
Tamarindo is a great jumping-off point for tons of other adventures and its proximity to the Liberia International Airport makes it a great go-to tourist destination.
Background Info About Tamarindo Costa Rica
Nearest International Airport
Daniel Oduber Quirós International Airport in Liberia
Popular Things to Do
surfing, rent an ATV, snorkel or diving tours
Best Way to Get Around
Rental car, walking in the downtown area
Best Time of Year to Visit
Dry season is from late December until mid-April
The best grocery store is the Automercado. You will pass it on your left side on your way into town.
There is a Banco de Costa Rica (BCR) located in the Automercado.
The nearest gas station is on the main road (Route 152). The gas station is called JSM.
(keep in mind all gas stations here are full service. So stay in your car and an employee will fill your car up).
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Thomas (the German) and Sarah (the US-er).
We met in Virginia, moved to Germany, and have called sunny Costa Rica home since 2016.
We are on a mission to help you plan the perfect Costa Rican vacation.
Map Of Tamarindo
The town is located on Northern Pacific coast of Costa Rica in the Guanacaste Province.
The nearest big city is Liberia, which is about one and a half hours away.
Flights to Costa Rica
The easiest way of getting to Tamarindo is by flying in to the Liberia International Airport.
From Liberia, it is about a 1.5 hour drive to Tamarindo.
From San Jose, it is about a five hour drive.
That said, we will go through how to get here from each airport to clarify things.
If you haven’t booked your flight yet, we suggest using Skyscanner. We consistently find the best rates through their website.
Driving to Tamarindo
From Liberia International Airport
Renting a car and driving to Tamarindo on your own is a great option if you would like to have a car for fun day trips while in town.
The drive is on main roads the entire way and if you are a somewhat experienced driver you shouldn’t have any trouble.
We work exclusively with a local car rental company called Adobe for all our rental needs. They are the best company and we could rave about them all day.
- 10% discount for Costa Rica Vibes readers
- Free second driver
- 0% deductible on Liability Protection Insurance
- Excellent customer service
- New fleet of well-maintained vehicles
Plus, they have given us a 10% discount and other great perks to pass on to you.
You can find out more and book your car here.
From San Jose International Airport
The drive to Tamarindo is long, but doable. The first two hours of the drive are on a main toll highway. If you are a somewhat experienced driver you should have no trouble with this.
The tolls do not accept credit cards. They will take dollars or colones.
You will then drive on a main road that can feel like it take foreverrrr. A lot of big trucks drive this road and it is often hard to find a place to pass them.
Eventually, you will turn off on a smaller main road called Paso de Tampisque.
If you need to stop for a quick meal or bathroom, there is a small plaza with a Subway, Papa Johns, and Taco Bell located just before you make a left-hand turn on to Paso de Tampisque.
Other than that, there are not many quick food options along the way.
However, there are several gas stations if you need a bathroom break. Most of the gas station bathrooms are actually fairly decent.
From the turn on Paso de Tampisque, it is usually smooth sailing until you reach downtown Tamarindo.
Just not that police tend to hang out in the first few miles of your turn onto Paso de Tampisque controlling speeding.
We suggest downloading the free app Waze for directions in Costa Rica. It is the best and often other drivers are really great about inputting where the police are hanging out.
In other words, this drive is doable. We’ve done it many many times. However, after a long flight, driving for five hours might be the last thing you want to do.
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Taxi to Tamarindo
If you are traveling as a couple or small family, a taxi is usually a more economical option rather than a private shuttle.
There is a family of certified Costa Rican taxi drivers based out of Liberia who we think very highly of. They will take very good care of you!
If you are interested in taking a taxi, click here to contact them for a price quote.
Oh, and they will give all our readers a $10 discount off the official taxi price list!
Private Shuttle to Tamarindo
A private shuttle is the most comfortable way to get around the country.
Your shuttle driver will be waiting for you when you exit the airport and will take care of everything.
You and your group can just enjoy looking out the window. Your driver will be happy to stop for pictures or food along the way.
Public Bus to Tamarindo Costa Rica
Public Bus from Liberia to Tamarindo
There is a public bus that runs from the Daniel Oduber Airport (the Liberia International Airport) to downtown Tamarindo multiple times a day. This trip will take about two hours.
As far as bus rides in Costa Rica go, this is an easy one. However, just not that if the bus is full you may need to stand for two hours.
Also, if you are coming with a lot of luggage, this is not going to be the best option for you.
You can find out more with this bus schedule.
Public Bus from San Jose to Tamarindo
The public bus from San Jose to Tamarindo will take about five and a half hours. Just note the bus leaves from downtown San Jose, not from the airport.
This is by far the most affordable way to get to Tamarindo, but definitely not the most comfortable.
Domestic Flights to Tamarindo
From San Jose it is possible to take a domestic flight to the Tamarindo airport.
This is definitely the fastest way of getting here, but it is usually a bit more expensive and we don’t suggest it for people who are scared of small planes.
Transportation In Tamarindo
The downtown area of Tamarindo is very walkable.
There are also several tour options which include transportation from your hotel.
However, Tamarindo is a great jumping-off point for tons of cool day trips that are often easier to organize on your own with a car.
If you opt to take a shuttle or taxi to your hotel, you can always rent a car for just a few days if you would like to do your own exploring.
Adobe is happy to deliver a rental car to you for free within 12 miles of their Tamarindo office.
Just make sure to select Tamarindo as your pick-up location in the reservation form.
In the comments section of the reservation form, specify that you need the car delivered to you at your hotel in Tamarindo.
Pro Tip: Rent a car with Adobe through our site and you will get a 10% discount! Score! You can find out more about it here.
Book Your Trip Through Our Favorite Partners
Tamarindo Costa Rica Weather
Every time we have been to Tamarindo it has been really hot and sunny. Make sure you bring plenty of strong sunscreen when here!
The most popular time to visit this area is between the end of December through early May. This is dry season in the Guanacaste region. You can expect extremely hot weather and no rain.
Keep in mind that the area is not as pretty come late February through mid-April. At this time of year there has been so little rain that everything starts to turn brown and dried out.
Sometimes you might even see small forest fires in the hills above Tamarindo.
We like to visit this area between May through mid-August. At that time of year, you will likely have a daily afternoon thunderstorm, but there are far fewer tourists, and everything is green and blooming.
From mid-August through mid-December you can expect the temperature to cool off a bit and more rain.
It is really difficult to predict the weather at this time of year. Sometimes you might experience rain all day.
Other times the weather may be completely fine.
For more info on Costa Rica seasons check out our guide to the weather by month.
Things to Do in Tamarindo Costa Rica
There are a lot of surf shops in Tamarindo that offer surfing lessons for all levels as well as board rentals.
This area is great because there are spots for people just learning to surf and areas for more experienced surfers as well.
Just ask at the surf shop and they can point you in the right direction of a beach that will be perfect for your skill level.
If you would like to take surf lessons, we suggest taking a class with Surf Lessons Tamarindo. Their instructor is so passionate about surfing and will teach you everything he can to up your skill level.
Enjoy a Sail Boat Tour
We love sailboat tours because there are so many different options to choose from.
We suggest exploring the Guanacaste Pacific Coast waters aboard the Blue Dolphin. This is a 40-foot catamaran that offers a fully stocked bar, paddle boards, and kayaks for your enjoyment.
Along the way, you might see dolphins, turtles, whales, and spectacular coastal views.
This tour includes a light lunch and drinks (including alcoholic beverages).
Depending on availability it is sometimes possible to take this as a daytime tour starting at 8:00. Or an afternoon tour that ends with the sunset starting at 1:00pm.
Take an ATV Tour
Get ready for adrenaline-pumping river crossings, jungle scenery, and coastal views!
We love ATV tour because it is something that almost everyone can enjoy.
Plus it is a great way to explore dirt roads and trails that you otherwise wouldn’t typically visit.
We suggest booking your tour with Pininos Adventures. They are located about 15 minutes north of Tamarindo, but they offer hotel pickup in Tamarindo if you need.
Go Scuba Diving
If you are an experienced diver or looking to get PADI certified this is all possible with one of the many Tamarindo diving tours.
We suggest booking your tour to Catalinas island. This is one of the best diving spots on the Pacific Coast of Costa Rica.
Go On a Combo Tour
A combo tour is a great way to pack a bunch of activities in one fun-filled day. We love this because it usually saves you money from booking each activity yourself and it saves you the stress of organizing everything.
We really like taking a combo tour to Hacienda Guachipelin. This tour includes:
– Transportation from and back to your Tamarindo area hotel
– Zip lining
– Horseback Riding
– River tubing
– Relaxing in natural hot springs
– A volcanic mud bath
– A full buffet lunch
Take a Rio Celeste Day Trip
Rio Celeste is a bright blue river and waterfall located in Tenorio Volcano National Park. We only recommend this activity during the dry season when you can be assured that the water will actually be bright blue.
It is always possible to visit Rio Celeste on your own (check out our guide to Rio Celeste for more info). But, if you do not have a rental car you can book a visit here with transportation included.
We suggest this tour from the company Native’s Way. It includes a visit to Llanos de Cortez waterfall, hiking at Rio Celeste, and a stop at a sloth and frog sanctuary.
Go Sport Fishing
From Tamarindo, it is possible to take half or full-day fishing trips either inshore or deep sea.
You might catch sailfish, tuna, mahi mahi, and more!
This town has a serious nightlife scene. If you are into partying, just walk the downtown area and you will find plenty of cool bars and clubs.
You can also take enjoy a Sunday Funday party bus beach and pool crawl. This tour is a serious party.
Visit Playa Avellana
A little bit south of Tamarindo is this quiet beautiful beach. It’s best to have a car that can handle some dirt roads if you plan to visit. It’s the perfect spot to spend a relaxing afternoon.
If you’re looking for a good meal or cocktails definitely check out Lola’s restaurant on the beach.
We have a full guide to visiting Playa Avellanas.
Go Horseback Riding
There are always guys walking on Tamarindo beach with horses. Ask their rates, and if the price seems reasonable, a nice ride on the beach is always enjoyable. Especially at sunset.
Drive to Playa Flamingo
About 45 minutes north is Playa Flamingo. This beach is considered one of the top beaches in Costa Rica because of its fine white sand and turquoise waters.
Check out our Playa Flamingo visitors guide for more info.
Visit Marino Las Baulas National Park
This national park is located slightly north of Tamarindo. The white sand beach here (Playa Grande) is absolutely beautiful and far less busy than Playa Tamarindo.
This beach is also a leatherback turtle nesting site at certain times of the year (so if you are lucky you’ll see some little babies hatching or mommas laying their eggs).
This is also a great spot to go on a kayak or boat estuary tour. Your guide will point out tons of wildlife along the way.
Visit the Farmers Market
Every Saturday morning from 8:00 am until 1:00 pm there is a nice farmers market located next to Restaurant Pescador.
Definitely check this out if you are interested in trying unusual exotic fruits that you probably have never seen before.
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Honestly, pretty much every restaurant here is amazing. This town is a foodie paradise, but here are a few of our favorites.
El Pelicano– Delicious restaurant located in Diria hotel. The perfect spot for a nice date night.
Pangas Beach Club– Amazing restaurant located on the beach. This a great place for tasty fresh fish.
Dragonfly Bar & Grill– Consistently high-quality food and service. They try to locally source as much of the menu as possible.
Seasons by Shlomy – We go here every time we are in Tamarindo because I (Sarah) am obsessed with their sashimi. It is so ridiculously good.
NOI Bistro– Delicious cafe style place that is open from breakfast through dinner.
Waffle Monkey– Great place for breakfast or lunch on the beach.
Shrimp Hole– Their menu is small (they stick to what they do best, shrimp) and so delicious.
El Sapo RistoPizza– Tasty wood fire pizza place in Playa Langosta. So good!
Surf Shack Burgers – This doesn’t look like much from the outside, but the burgers are cheap and great. It’s perfect for when you need a break from Costa Rican food.
La Bodega– Go here for breakfast. I promise you’ll love it!
Falafel Bar– Delicious fresh falafel, pitas, and more!
Little Lucha – A really good taco place with incredibly fair prices.
Cafe Tico Tamarindo – A great spot for breakfast or lunch. All ingredients are fresh and delicious.
Tamarindo Costa Rica Hotels
Pacific Kalokairi– Modern Adult-only resort located a few kilometers from the beach. Great place for relaxing by the pool in the jungle with insanely good service and property.
Capitan Suizo Boutique Hotel– Beachfront hotel with an outdoor pool, a spa, and an on-site restaurant. This place oozes luxury and charm.
Jardin del Eden Boutique Hotel – Umm this place is so so beautiful. We love the boutique feel here and the fact that it is right on the beach. Definitely check this spot out.
Les Voiles Blanches: This place is located a bit out of the downtown area, so don’t stay here if you want to be in the middle of the action. There is a pool on site.
Seis Playas Hotel– Located about a 10-minute drive from downtown Tamarindo and the beach. There is a beautiful pool and restaurant on-site.
Villas Macondo– Each room has air conditioning and a patio with a hammock that overlooks the shared pool. The property here is beautiful.
Hostel La Botella de Leche– Nice hostel in downtown Tamarindo with a pool and shared kitchen.
Vacation Rentals in Tamarindo
We always love renting a home or villa for our vacation in Costa Rica. This gives you more privacy and allows you the flexibility to cook your own meals.
Note: We try to only ever suggest places with good cancellation policies, but always double-check before booking.
Sunrise 34 – A 3 bedroom condo that sleeps 6 guests. There is a shared pool and the beach is located across the street.
Beautiful Condo – A two bedroom condo with a shared pool. This is a great budget friendly option in Tamarindo.
Sunrise 18 – Another 3 bedroom condo that sleeps 6 guests. You will have access to a shared pool and the beach is located across the street.
Casa Xanadu – Stunning home with an infinity pool that has views of the Pacific ocean. There are four bedrooms and this house can sleep up to ten people.
Modern Home Downtown – This nice house sleeps nine people and has a private pool. From here you can easily walk to the Tamarindo Beach or to nearby restaurants.
Ocho Artisan Bungalow – A one bedroom bungalow that can sleep up to 5 guests. We love the style of this place and the nice outdoor seating area.
Tamarindo Travel Tips
– Be careful when swimming and surfing. There are crocodiles that have been known to enter the waters near the Tamarindo River mouth. Just ask someone where you can swim before getting in the water.
– This area can get really crowded during peak travel time. It is always best to book your hotel early.
-The town of Tamarindo is named after the fruit tamarindo. If you can, try something with tamarindo in it while you are here. We usually go for a tamarindo cocktail or something with tamarindo sauce.
Packing for Tamarindo Costa Rica
If you are interested in surfing while in Tamarindo don’t forget your UV-protecting rash guard shirt. Also, keep in mind that the sun is powerful here.
There are several nice restaurants and a decent nightlife scene, so don’t forget some nice non-wrinkle clothes to go out in.
When the sun goes down the mosquitos can be ruthless.
Check out our Tamarindo Packing List on Amazon for all the essentials.
Tamarindo Costa Rica FAQ
Is Tamarindo Costa Rica safe?
Tamarindo, Costa Rica is generally considered a safe destination for tourists. Like any other travel destination, it’s always important to exercise caution and take common-sense precautions to ensure personal safety.
Is Tamarindo Costa Rica worth visiting?
Yes, Tamarindo, Costa Rica is definitely worth visiting! It offers a range of attractions and activities that make it a popular destination for travelers.
What airport is closest to Tamarindo Costa Rica?
The closest airport to Tamarindo, Costa Rica is the Daniel Oduber Quirós International Airport (LIR), also known as Liberia International Airport. It is located in Liberia, Guanacaste, which is approximately 66 kilometers (41 miles) northeast of Tamarindo.
Is Tamarindo Costa Rica a party town?
Yes, Tamarindo, Costa Rica is known for its vibrant nightlife and can be considered a party town. The town offers a variety of bars, clubs, and restaurants that cater to different tastes and preferences. However, it’s worth noting that Tamarindo also offers a balance between relaxation and entertainment, with beautiful beaches and opportunities for outdoor activities during the day.
Is Tamarindo Costa Rica named after the tamarind fruit?
Yes, Tamarindo, Costa Rica is named after the tamarind fruit. The town derives its name from the Spanish word for tamarind, “tamarindo.” The town of Tamarindo is situated in an area where tamarind trees were once abundant, leading to its naming after the fruit.
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You Might Also Like Visiting
Playa Avellanas: A relaxed surfing village down a dirt road
Playa Langosta: A beautiful beach village near Tamarindo with several luxury villas
Playas del Coco: A bustling beach town with nightlife and a good jumping off point for fun things to do
….if none of those appeal to you, check out our Guide to the Guanacaste Province for more ideas of places to visit in this area.