Ever since we quit our jobs and left our 9-5 lives in Australia, we have semi-based ourselves in Costa Rica, just 20 mins south of the town of Tamarindo.
For us, Tamarindo is a lifeline. It acts as a central hub for shops and activities. And it’s precisely for that reason that we have a love/hate relationship with Tamarindo. In the low season, we love taking a trip out to Tamarindo. We hang out on the beach, stock up on groceries, and treat ourselves to some tacos or sushi while we are there. But in the busy season, when tourists flock to Tamarindo, our weekly trips become more of a hassle than a treat. For that exact reason, the locals have nicknamed the town “Tamagringo”.
If you are planning a trip to Costa Rica, Tamarindo is likely a stop on your itinerary and for good reasons. While it can be busy and touristy, Tamarindo does offer a convenient way to experience the Guanacaste region and some of its top activities.
Best Time to Visit Tamarindo
When it comes to weather, there are 2 seasons in Costa Rica. The dry season, which runs from December until April and the rainy season – from May to November. Contrary to popular belief, the dry season is not the best time to visit Tamarindo, because it coincides with an influx of tourists. It’s hot, really hot… and crowded, which, in our opinion, takes away all of Tamarindo’s appeal. In the dry season, Tamarindo is a great place to visit for those looking for a party spot. It’s busy and buzzing with activities.
However, we recommend visiting Tamarindo in the shoulder season. The months of November as well as June/July/August are much quieter and more pleasant if you want to enjoy the beach and the surroundings.
Don’t be afraid to visit Tamarindo in the rainy season. It’s quiet, lush, and really laid back. To get the feel for what Tamarindo looks like in the rainy season (aka green season) watch our vlog below.
Top Things to Do in Tamarindo
Tamarindo is one of the few towns in Costa Rica that literally offers everything from snorkeling to horseback riding, and hiking.
Playa Tamarindo (Tamarindo Beach)
The main attraction in town is a nice long white sandy beach that stretches for 3.5 kms along the main road. The beach is great for swimming, especially in high tide, relaxing, sunbathing, and offers plenty of good waves for beginners looking to give surfing a try.
More experienced surfers will enjoy excellent surf breaks just outside of Tamarindo at Playa Negra and Avellanas (25 mins away by car), Playa Grande (25 mins away by car), or Witch’s Rock (1 hour by car then 30 min by boat).
Numerous sailing trips and boat tours depart Tamarindo daily taking visitors to nice bays and good snorkeling spots. Many run as full day tours, but there is also an option to do half-day tours or sunset tours.
Kayaking tours are also popular and offer a great way to explore the mangrove ecosystem of the Tamarindo Estuary. Stand up Paddleboarding (SUP) is another alternative.
Snorkeling & Scuba Diving
Another way to explore the Pacific Ocean is through a scuba diving or snorkeling tours, both of which can be arranged from Tamarindo. Snorkeling tours are often combined with sailing tours (see above), while scuba diving trips take you out to Catalinas Islands.
If you want a chance to experience the longest and coolest canopy tour in Costa Rica, you’ll have to visit Monteverde. But a number of companies also offer a chance to zip line through the jungle just outside of Tamarindo. It’s a fun activity with a chance to spot some monkeys, lizards, and maybe even an armadillo.
Turtle Nesting Tours
Las Baulas National Park, located just a short 25 min drive from Tamarindo in Playa Grande, is one of the few places in the world where the Giant Leatherback Turtles come to lay her eggs, so many agencies in town can also help organize Turtle Nesting Tours.
These take place at night and are highly regulated thanks to the conservation efforts by the Leatherback Trust in collaboration with Earthwatch. All tours are led by rangers who lead the conservation projects in the park and visitor interaction with the turtles is very limited (no cameras are allowed), but if you have never seen turtles nesting on the beach before, it’s a very cool and educational experience. Leatherback Turtle season in the area runs from October to February.
ATV Tours/Horseback Riding
These are a popular way to discover the back roads of Tamarindo and the surrounding areas for those that don’t have their own car. Tours can range from just a few hours to full day adventures.
If tours aren’t your thing, you can also rent some gear to explore the area at your own pace. Bicycles, surfboards, boogie boards, SUP board and other equipment is available for rent from a variety of stores.
While not the most cultural of activities, Tamarindo is one of the few places in Costa Rica that has shops worthy of exploring. Aside from the usual souvenir shops that sell $10 tank tops, flip flops, and sarongs, there are a number of unique boutique style shops in Tamarindo that are definitely worth a visit.
To stock up on groceries (not the most exciting shopping in town), head to the Auto Mercado on Calle Central. There is also another grocery store called Foodland Costa Rica a bit further out of town. The latter is a more local alternative, but the former is your best bet for any Western ingredients of foods that you might be missing from home.
Clothing stores are peppered along the main street in town, so it’s easy to pop into a few stores as you make your way around town. For bathing suits, we recommend Papaya con Leche, an amazing shop with incredibly unique handmade bathing suit designs. For artisan products and unique clothing check out Con Mucho Gusto, Lydia Beech Art, Diamante Boutique, and Buena Nena.
For natural organic products made in various corners of Costa Rica, head to the Organic Products shop right next to the Coco Beauty Spa
Where to Stay in Tamarindo
There are a plethora of hotels to choose from in Tamarindo, but we have compiled a list of the most sustainable, environmentally friendly options ranging from about $150-$500/night.
Viva Verde – $50-80/night
Budget friendly accommodation is practically impossible to find in Tamarindo, but if you have a car and are willing to stay a bit further away, then Viva Verde is a great option. This small Eco-Friendly guest house is a perfect oasis located in Playa Avellanas. It’s a small place with just a few cabins, each one has a private bathroom and a small terrace overlooking the garden.
Sabanero Eco Lodge – $100-$150/night
Located about 20 mins outside of the town centre, the lodge consists of 15 air-conditioned chalets built from local teak trees, with a porch overlooking the Cañafistula valley. Their onsite restaurant uses locally grown produce for meals, and the place is run with the commitment to supporting the local community. Yoga classes are offered daily.
Tamarindo Bay Boutique Hotel – $110-$155/night
This sustainable modern adult-only hotel is conveniently located within walking distance to the main street in town. The hotel features a UV-treated swimming pool and rancho-style outdoor living and dining area. The air-conditioned rooms are spacious and overlook the pool or tropical gardens. A chef prepared breakfast is included in every reservation
Tamarindo Diria Beach Resort – $200-$350/night
Tamarindo Diria is the oldest and arguably the most iconic hotel in town. Diria has existed in Tamarindo since the town was nothing more than a fishing village and has continued to keep up its grounds to carry a 4-star certification. This is a kid-friendly spacious resort, with 240 rooms, ocean view accommodations, 4 swimming pools, 6 restaurants, 5 bars, and much more! Despite it’s size, Diria Resort is working towards being carbon-neutral through eco-friendly practices and support of ongoing reforestation efforts in Costa Rica.
Jardin del Eden – $200-$425/night
Located just a few steps away from the beach and surrounded by lush green setting, Jardin del Eden Boutique Hotel offers guests a relaxing eco-friendly atmosphere. The hotel has implemented a long-term sustainability management system committing to using local materials, solar heating, and eco friendly toiletries. This is another adult only hotel, with 46 rooms ranging from $200=$350 a night.
Hotel Capitan Suizo – $225-$500/night
Capitan Suizo hotel is the only hotel in the Tamarindo area with a 5 Leaf Certification for Sustainable Tourism in Costa Rica, the highest possible level of this certification. This is a reflection of the Capitan Suizo’s environmental, social, cultural and economic commitment throughout its operation and makes it the most eco-sustainably hotel in Tamarindo. Accommodations range from bungalows to ocean front units, and a four-bedroom-suite, with rates starting at $225 and going up to $500+.
Where to Eat & Drink in Tamarindo
There is no shortage of restaurants in Tamarindo. In fact, the variety of cuisines and great food options available in Tamarindo is one of the reasons we just can’t stay away from this busy tourist hub. Here is a list of a few of our favourite food joints.
- Bamboo Sushi Club – the best sushi spot in Tamarindo. Try their Tico Roll.
- Nougie’s Restaurant – delicious desserts and a really fresh Tuna Poke right on the beach!
- Latitude Blue – local flavours with a western flare. A good place to catch some night time entertainment as well.
- Green Papaya Taco Bar – delicious and healthy tacos, salads and more!
- Sprout – lunch & dinner made only from fresh, organic, & locally sustainable ingredients
- Saturday Farmers Market – Organic produce and products, plus a large selection of handmade goods, local arts and crafts. Small, but local and definitely unique.
Looking for Bars/Clubs in Tamarindo?
While we don’t party much in Tamarindo anymore, there are a couple of places we can suggest.
- Monkey Bar – Good bet for the start of any night. Ladies Night every Friday, live Latin music and DJ until 2AM.
- Sharky’s Bar – a happening sports bar and club and a great place for some drinks and dancing throughout the week. Particularly popular on Saturdays.
- Loose Moose Tamarindo – a spacious dive bar with great food and good vibe. Gets busy late.
Nighlighlife in Tamarindo is somewhat unpredictable, depending completely on the season (Christmas is happening no matter the day of the week) and on what else is happening in the area during that time. The best parties can pop up in the most unexpected places. So don’t be afraid to take a stroll along the main street and suss out a few places yourself. Follow the music and it’ll lead you to the crowds.
How Much Time Do You Need in Tamarindo
Plan to spend at least 2-3 days in Tamarindo to give yourself time to enjoy the beach and take advantage of some activities and tours in the area. With that said, though, if you don’t like touristy places, overpriced restaurants (because they are not cheap in Tamarindo), and night life isn’t high on your bucket list, consider skipping a visit to Tamarindo altogether.
There are quieter beaches to enjoy all along the Pacific Coast and towns that come with a lot more Costa Rican flare and cultural vibe than Tamarindo (which basically has zero).