Tamarindo, Costa Rica
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The Tamarindo Vibe
Tamarindo Costa Rica is a cute (but big) beach town on the Pacific coast in the Guanacaste region.
The downtown area feels like a mini Miami. The restaurants and shops are gorgeous and you really don’t feel like you are in Costa Rica. 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 while still having a lot of the comforts of home.
It is also a world-class surfing destination.
Tamarindo actually holds a really special place in our hearts because we actually got married just south of town on Playa Langosta. ♥
Every time we have been in Tamarindo it has been really hot. Make sure you wear 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.
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.
For more info on Costa Rica seasons check out our guide to the weather by month.
Getting to Tamarindo Costa Rica
The easiest way to get to Tamarindo is to fly into the Liberia International Airport instead of San Jose. If you have the possibility of flying into Liberia you will save yourself a lot of driving time.
It will take you about one hour to drive from the Liberia airport. It will take you four hours or more to drive from San Jose. More and more airlines are starting service to Liberia so check out the rates. It may be worth it for you.
We have a guide to finding the cheapest flights to help you out.
The best option to get to Tamarindo is to rent a car. If coming from San Jose or from Liberia you can rent a car from close to the airport (but free transportation to the rental car office is provided from the airport).
We suggest using Adobe. They are our favorite rental car company in this country. We have a 10% discount plus some other perks for you. You can read more about renting a car here.
The drive from San Jose is long, but the roads are well maintained throughout. You will not need a 4×4 to get to Tamarindo, but if you plan on exploring a lot of the little beaches and areas around Tamarindo a 4×4 will be helpful. There are many unpaved roads if you head to the beaches south of Tamarindo.
If you don’t feel comfortable driving that long-distance on your own, the cheapest option is to take the public bus. The bus leaves from downtown San Jose every day at 11:00am and 3:30pm. It will take you about five hours to get to Tamarindo. The public bus from Liberia to Tamarindo leaves almost every hour from 3:50am until 6:00pm.
It’s not the most comfortable ride, but it’s cheap (under $10 per person). Definitely get there early before the departure time because once all the seats are taken you may be left standing for a long ride.
Tip: If you don’t feel comfortable driving, a private shuttle is always a great option. Find out more here.
Getting Around in Tamarindo Costa Rica
We suggest depending on a car while in here unless you plan on only hanging out in downtown Tamarindo and hitting the beach there. The downtown area itself is very walkable.
Tamarindo is a great jumping-off point for tons of cool day trips (which we will get into below). You will want a car so that you are not depending on expensive pre-packaged tours to get around.
If you opt to take the bus up, you can rent a car from Adobe and input Tamarindo as your pick-up location.
In the comments section of the reservation form, specify that you need the car delivered to you at your hotel in Tamarindo. They will deliver it to you free of charge if you are within 12 miles of their location.
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.
Things to Do in Tamarindo
Walk the downtown: 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 surfing: There are a lot of surf shops in Tamarindo that offer surfing lessons and board rentals. Just walk the downtown area and you will find tons of choices. These shops can also guide you to the best surfing spot based on your skill level.
Note: If you are an advanced surfer the Witches Rock area here will be great for you.
Visit Playa Avellanas: 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.
Go partying: 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.
Rent a SUP board: If you’d like to do some stand-up paddleboarding, Kelly’s Surf Shop has boards for rent at $25 for two hours or $40 for a full day.
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).
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
Pacific Kalokairi– Modern Adult only resort located a few kilometers from the beach. Great place for relaxing by the pool in the jungle.
Capitan Suizo Boutique Hotel– Beachfront hotel with an outdoor pool, a spa, and an on-site restaurant.
Ocho Artisan Bungalows– This place has a luxurious rustic vibe. Each room has a kitchen. There is a pool and bar on the property for guests to use.
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.
Boutique Hotel Ana– Located about a 5-minute drive from Tamarindo and the beach. There is a pool and a shared kitchen on the property.
Seis Playas Hotel– Located about a 10-minute drive from downtown Tamarindo and the beach. There is a beautiful pool and restaurant on-site.
Hostel Pura Vida: The rooms all have unique paint jobs and there is a shared kitchen on site.
Villas Macondo– Each room has air conditioning and a patio with a hammock that overlooks the shared pool.
Hostel La Botella de Leche– Nice hostel in downtown Tamarindo with a pool and shared kitchen.
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 sushimi. 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!
Green Papaya Taco Bar: Super casual and laid back taco/ burrito bar which is crazy tasty!
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!
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.
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