Why Tamarindo is One of Costa Rica’s Most Underrated Towns

Move over Arenal and Monteverde. Tamarindo has you beat as Costa Rica’s best tourist destination. 

Located on the Pacific Coast in Guanacaste Province, this surfer’s paradise is the perfect place to base yourself if you are up for adrenaline-pumping adventures, if you want to interact with a wide variety of flora and fauna, or you are looking for your chance to relax on some of Costa Rica’s most beautiful beaches. 

Best things to do in Tamarindo

Sea turtles nesting sign next to beach

There is no doubt about it; people flock to Tamarindo for the phenomenal access to the Pacific Ocean. There are several great beaches to enjoy, and the surfing is excellent, no matter your skill level. 

As a bonus, Tamarindo nightlife is fantastic for a little beach town. And Tamarindo’s location in Guanacaste makes it the perfect place to base yourself if you want to take a few day trips to enjoy all of the adventurous activities around the province. 

Surfing in Tamarindo

surfer walking on Tamarindo beach at sunset

If you are just learning to surf, Playa Tamarindo is the best place. The waves here are very mellow and consistent, and it is easy to organize a quality surf lesson. Group lessons typically cost around $50 for a two-hour session.

Already know what you’re doing? Fantastic! There are some great spots for more experienced surfers. You can rent a board for about $20 for 24 hours. 

Playa Negra and Avellan’s are known for their right-hand barrel rolling waves and laid-back Pura Vida vibes. Located about 20 km (~12.5 miles) south of Tamarindo, these beaches are great if you want to escape the hustle and bustle of Guanacaste’s most popular tourist destination.

If you’re looking for bigger swells, head to Witch’s Rock. Located in Santa Rosa National Park, this is some of the best surfing in Costa Rica and only an hour and a half from Tamarindo. 

Tamarindo Beach

Aerial view of Tamarindo beach Guanacaste

After your surf lessons, take some time to chill out on Playa Tamarindo (Tamarindo Beach). This 3.5 km (2.1 miles) stretch of tan, sandy beach is the perfect spot to swim and sunbathe if you don’t want to leave town.

If you can’t get enough of the adrenaline-pumping activities, there are also loads of other watersports. You can rent kayaks, SUP boards, and other equipment from local vendors.

Plan on spending the day here because this turns into a great spot once the sun goes down!

Check out Playa Langosta

This is the best beach if you want some peace and quiet! It is only 2 km from Tamarindo, and there is some decent surfing here.

Explore Monkey Park Wildlife Sanctuary

Monkey hiding in tree in Costa Rica

Not your typical zoo, this wildlife sanctuary is truly special. You can tour Monkey Park and see a wide variety of animals being rehabilitated so they can be returned to their natural habitats. 

Pro Tip—This sanctuary is run on a limited budget. Pay for a guided tour, and they’ll explain Monkey Park’s history and goals. It is well worth it!

See the leatherback turtle nests

Located 25 minutes away in Playa Grande, Las Baulas National Park is one of the best places in the world to watch leatherback turtles hatch and make their way into the ocean.

The best time to visit is at night between October and February. Seeing these nests and watching the baby turtles make their way into the sea is absolutely amazing!

Check out the Tamarindo Estuary

The estuary offers SUP and kayaking tours to see a variety of birds, iguanas, monkeys, and cayman alligators. It’s an adventurous way to explore a different ecosystem.

As you can see, there is plenty to keep you busy in and around Tamarindo and Guanacaste Province. You’ll be glad you added this little slice of paradise to your Costa Rican itinerary! 

Tamarindo Nightlife

Girl walking on beach at sunset

If sitting on the beach, sipping cocktails, and watching the sunset isn’t for you, not to worry! There is plenty to keep you entertained into the wee hours of the morning.

Tamarindo has several beach bars that serve up daily specials and live music. One of the best is Monkey Bar, which has a ladies’ night on Fridays and live Latin music. Once the band is done, a DJ will keep the tunes pumping until 2 am.

Other bars range from sports bars to clubs playing house music, all of which stay open until about 2:30 am.

Is Tamarindo safe?

Witch's Rock Tamarindo, Costa Rica

Given Central America’s reputation, you may wonder, “Is Tamarindo, Costa Rica safe”? 

Luckily the answer is yes! 

Tamarindo is one of the safest travel destinations in the entire country. Of course, it is always a great idea to be alert, especially as pickpocketing and petty theft can (and, unfortunately, happen). But this is true of most popular tourist destinations around the world. 

The best way to keep yourself safe is to stay vigilant and keep your belongings with you. Bring smart, travel-safe bags to the beach or ask friends to watch your stuff while you surf or swim. Also, travel and go out in groups when you can. If you can stick to these basics, you’ll set yourself up for a great time in Tamarindo!

Getting to Tamarindo

footprints on a tan beach

Because Tamarindo is located on the Pacific coast on the top of the Nicoya peninsula, it can be a little tricky to get to easily. However, there are several popular routes with options to fit most budgets. 

Of course, you can also rent a car and drive from spot to spot. Driving in Costa Rica is relatively simple, and the roads are fairly well maintained. All you need is your driver’s license (with Roman script—sorry, friends with fancy alphabets!) and your passport, and you’re good to go.

Here are some details for the most popular routes to help you decide how to get to Tamarindo!

San José to Tamarindo

There are a few options to get from San José to Tamarindo

Your first choice is to take a bus. It will take about five and a half hours and cost approximately $8. 

Another option is a minivan, which will take 4.5 hours. A bonus for choosing this mode of transport is that it will pick you up at your accommodation in San José and drop you directly at your hotel in Tamarindo. 

The downside is the cost. 

A ticket in a shared minivan can set you back as much as $57 per person.

There are direct flights from San José to Tamarindo. The flight takes about two and a half hours and costs around $130.

If you opt to drive, it will take about four and a half hours.  

Liberia to Tamarindo

If you’re traveling from Liberia to Tamarindo, you’re in luck, as this surfer’s paradise is only an hour and a half away! 

The cheapest way to arrive from Liberia is to take bus 550. There are several departures each day and the trip costs about $2.

It is also possible to take a shuttle from Liberia to Tamarindo if you don’t want to splurge on an $85 taxi ride, but want more comfort than the bus. A shared ride starts at $20 per person and will take an hour and thirty minutes.

La Fortuna to Tamarindo

Getting from La Fortuna to Tamarindo is fairly straightforward, but it isn’t the cheapest route. There is a minivan option, which is great because it will provide you with a direct drop-off at your accommodation in Tamarindo. They will pick you up in most hotels in La Fortuna. A seat in a shared minivan will cost about $57 each way and take around three to four hours. 

FAQ

When is the best time to visit Tamarindo?

November through August has the best weather. The best waves are usually from June through October. 

Do we need to rent a car in Tamarindo?

Nope. It’s a very walkable town, and there are taxis and Ubers as well.

Is tap water safe to drink in Tamarindo?

Nope. It’s better to drink bottled water. Or better yet, buy a personal travel water filter, so you don’t have to buy plastic bottles.

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