You’re going on vacation to go in Costa Rica. You want to go to a place with a fun, laid-back vibe with plenty of amenities and plenty more things to do. Where do you go?
Whenever I’m asked this question I always answer the same way: Tamarindo.
Tamarindo, Costa Rica is located at the start of the Nicoya Peninsula in the province of Guanacaste. It faces the Pacific and offers a long expanse of beach for sun worshipers and a consistent swell for surfers. The sand is golden and sprinkled with gorgeous little spiraling shells.
Directly to the north of Tamarindo beach is the Palo Seco river mouth and then Playa Grande, a long scimitar of beach that is also a protected park. This park, Parque Nacional Marino Las Baulas, is a breeding ground of the enormous and endangered leatherback turtle, which on average weighs 1000lbs (455kg) and measures over six feet in length (2m). Leatherbacks’ nesting season is from October to March and most eggs are laid at night. This miracle of nature can be seen nightly, but you’ll need to hire a guide in order to legally access the park past dusk. During the day the river-mouth between Playa Grande and Playa Tamarindo can be crossed at low tide, or you can hop on a small boat and be ferried across for a nominal fee.
Many Options for Lodging and Food
Being one of the most developed beach resort towns in Costa Rica, Tamarindo offers an array of accommodations from luxury resorts to simple cabins. There are also numerous dining options and international cuisine, including some familiar fast food chains in case you’re in need of comfort food. Despite the town’s growth it is still small and accessible, without of any of the overdeveloped feel of the Mayan Riviera and other parts of coastal Mexico. But don’t worry, there’s still plenty of partying and a vibrant, unpretentious nightlife.
Adventure activities abound here, with surfing and fishing being two of the main draws. Tamarindo’s consistent but reasonably sized surf has made it the mecca for surfers and would-be surfers alike. There are numerous surf shops offering lessons in the range of $25-30 for an hour to an hour and a half. Surfboard rentals range from $10 to $25 per day with longboards costing more.
Costa Rica fishing aficionados will be delighted by all the possibilities in Tamarindo. Species are varied and abundant, and the there are numerous sportfishing charter boats for hire. Planning your trip between the months of April and November is your best bet to avoid the seasonal high winds off the coast of Guanacaste. Despite this, the waters are teeming with billfish, dorado (mahi mahi/dolphinfish), and tuna year round. For marlin, the best months are June and July — same for tuna. Dorado is best from June to October.
Other activity options include jungle canopy tours on zip lines, atv tours, horseback riding, and mangrove tours in the Tamarindo Wildlife Refuge. A variety of companies in town can arrange tours, including your hotel in most cases.
Getting to Tamarindo, Costa Rica
Tamarindo’s proximity to an international airport makes it very appealing, especially since you don’t have to pass through Costa Rica’s congested capital, San Jose. Daniel Oduber Airport in Liberia (code: LIR), serviced by American Airlines, Delta, and US Airways et al, is about an hour to an hour-and-a-half drive from Tamarindo beach by rental car or taxi.
A Great Destination
In sum, Tamarindo is a great, fun destination for your Costa Rica vacation – the nightlife is great too. Perhaps it’s not as ‘authentic’ as some other towns, but the range of amenities and activities certainly create an appealing locale to relax, sip a cold cocktail, and watch a beautiful sunset while planning out your next adventure.