Tamarindo, Costa Rica
The Tamarindo Vibe
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.
This area holds a really special place in our hearts because we actually got married just south of town on Playa Langosta.
Map Of Tamarindo
Tamarindo 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.
Tamarindo at a Glance
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
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Getting to Tamarindo
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 being said, we will go through how to get here from each airport to clear things up a bit.
Transportation 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 Tamarindo. 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. 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.
If you are traveling with a group of people and don’t plan on renting a car, a private shuttle is the way to go. You can all sit back and enjoy the Pacific coast scenery while a competent driver ensures you get to your destination safely.
We work exclusively with Adobe Transfer for private shuttles. You can find out more and get a shuttle price quote here.
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!
There is a public bus the 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.
From San Jose Internation Airport
From San Jose it will take about five hours to drive to Tamarindo.
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.
A private shuttle is the most comfortable way to get to Tamarindo.
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.
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.
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.
Getting Around 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 Tamarindo 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 Transportation
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 Tamarindo 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.
Grab a free copy of our Costa Rica guide
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.
Costa Rica Vibes Exclusive Discount Top Choice
ONDA – Onda is located just north of Tamarindo in Playa Grande. This is our top choice for all of you looking for a relaxed place to stay with a pool, great restaurant and a wide variety of room options. Onda is perfect for surfers, remote workers, and people just looking for a cool vibe. Plus, it is a short walk from the beach.
Use code: CRVIBES10 when booking your stay for a 10% discount
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.
Tamarindo Homes & Villa Rentals
We always love renting a home or villa for our vacation. 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.
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.
Things to Do in Tamarindo
Walk Downtown Tamarindo
There are tons of nice shops lining the streets of the downtown area. If you are looking for fun souvenirs to bring home, this is the place to find them.
Go SurfingThere are a lot of surf shops in Tamarindo that offer surfing lessons for all levels as well as board rentals.
Note: If you are an advanced surfer the Witches Rock area here will be great for you.
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!
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.
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.
Take a Day Trip to Palo Verde National ParkPalo Verde is the perfect spot to take a wildlife river boat ride filled with unique birds that you can’t see anywhere else in the country.
Take an ATV TourThere are some nice jungle hills that abut Tamarindo. This is a great spot to take a thrilling ATV tour with epic Pacific Coast views.
Enjoy a Catamaran or Sail Boat TourWe love catamaran tours because there are so many different options to choose from. It is possible to take a sunset tour, an all-inclusive day trip, a trip with snorkeling, rent out the entire catamaran for your group, and more!
Go Scuba DivingIf you are an experienced diver or looking to get PADI certified this is all possible with one of the many Tamarindo diving tours.
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.
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.
If you visit here, definitely grab a meal or at least a cocktail at Coco Loco. They catered our wedding and we love their beachfront restaurant.
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.
Zip Line Over the Jungle
If you have ever wanted to zip line of lush jungle with stunning views of the Pacific coast in the distance, this is the place to do it!
Take a Rio Celeste Day TripRio Celeste is a bright blue river and waterfall located in Tenorio Volcano National Park. And yes, the water really is as blue as it looks in pictures.
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 a fun beer tour or enjoy a Sunday Funday beach and food crawl.
Go On a Combo TourA 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.
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.
Multi- Day Tours That Go to Tamarindo
Digital Nomads in Tamarindo
If you plan on working while in Tamarindo there are a few things you should know.
– In general the internet is usually decent, but it’s always a good idea to ask about the internet speed before booking a place.
– If you need a co-working space check out In the Shade co-working space in downtown Tamarindo.
Packing for Tamarindo
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 Travel Tips
– Be careful when swimming and surfing. There are crocodiles that have been known to enter the waters near 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.
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