Tamarindo, Costa Rica – Travel Guide
The largest beach on the North Pacific Coast rich in culture, nightlife, things to do, delicious food, and Costa Rica’s most stunning sunsets.
Tamarindo is the most popular beach destination in the Guanacaste Province. Although it is a tourist mecca, many fall in love with Tamarindo and come back year after year. Here is why…..
The town has a great mix of expats from all over the world as well as many locals, creating a large mix of cultures in small beach town with a comforting community vibe. It is a great place for any traveler – solo travelers, couples, friends, students, corporate groups, and pretty much any walk of life can be found in Tamarindo.
Tamarindo is the largest beach on the north Pacific Coast and is known for it’s great beginner to intermediate waves throughout the year. It is an ideal place to learn how to surf or improve your skills. Take a few surf lessons, join a surf camp, or create your own surf adventure itinerary. Just pick your dates, interests, accommodation and transport choices, and we will send you a quote! There are many beaches nearby to surf larger waves such as Langosta, Grande, and Avellanas.
The town of Tamarindo is small and most accommodations are within walking distance of everything, but it is nice to have a golf cart to get places quickly and carry beach gear, groceries, etc., especially if you are staying a bit further from town. Pura Vida Electric Cars is the golf cart company in town and is located on the road between Tamarindo and Langosta Beach. If you are staying very far up the hill, you can not take the golf carts there as they do not have enough power and it is better to rent a UTV buggy.
Many private companies run routes in the Guanacaste & San Jose area to Tamarindo From Liberia and San Jose, we find La Pampa to have to most efficient and frequent routes from Liberia and San Jose, although it will typically take much longer (about 6-7 hours) than a shuttle or driving a car.
In comfortable air conditioned minivans
- From Liberia: These shared shuttles leave frequently throughout the day. The cost is $25 per person and you will need to reserve your spot ahead of time.
- From San Jose/SJO Airport area: $55 per person leaving at 8 am and 2 pm. Exact pick up time will depend on where your pick up location is. From San Jose, there may be a stop on the way to change buses.
- From Tamarindo Airport: Tamarindo airport is less than 5km from the center and you can easily get there by taxi which will cost you about $8 and in just over 5 minutes you will be in the center of our favorite town, or we can arrange transport for you.
From Arenal Volcano/La Fortuna:
From Manuel Antonio:
Private shuttle are the most direct and fastest way to get to Tamarindo without renting a car. Prices are based on the number of people in your group and where in the country you want to get picked up from. Prices start at $80 one way Liberia-Tamarindo for 1-4 people, and $220 one way between San Jose to Tamarindo for a rule of thumb, but you can arrange them from anywhere.
You can rent a car in Liberia Airport, San Jose Airport, Tamarindo, or basically any major destination in Costa Rica. The car selection can be minimal in Tamarindo in busier seasons, so you will want to reserve well ahead of time or at least not wait until you get to Tamarindo to rent the car.
Best Tamarindo Restaurants
With such a diverse expat community, the food scene has flourished. With well over 100 restaurants in Tamarindo, you will find no shortage of great places to eat. Here are our favorites:
- La Princesa: Everything is made from scratch in house! Bagels, cinnamon rolls and
apple bread are to die for. The breakfast and lunch sandwiches are delicious.
- Waffle Monkey: Small place on the beach with a great variety of salty and sweet waffles, plus they will provide service out on the beach!
- La Bodega: Small place near the back end of town but lots of flavor! They use local ingredients such as goat cheese and arm raised chickens. They also have exquisite coffee and a fresh daily quiche.
- Santa Rita Cafe – A large, comfortable air conditioned cafe with good coffee and a large, creative menu. A good choice one block back from the beach for both breakfast and lunch.
- Green Papaya: Cool and casual restaurant with swigs for chairs. Cant seem to get enough of their Mahi mahi and tuna tacos.
- Wild Panda: Costa Rican typical food. Probably the best Casados (rice, beans,
sweet plantains, and a meat of your choice) in Tamarindo.
- Pico Bistro: Beach front restaurant in the center of the Tamarindo strip.
Very nice, clean, good food and a/c.
- Pasta Casera: If you want something quick, cheap and good. This is your
best option. They have all types of empanadas ready to go.
- La Esquina: Large variety of pizzas at a fair price with the perfect crust and quality ingredients. And they are cooked in a brick oven!
- La Oveja Negra: Casual local hangout spot with Pool Table and Foosball. Some of their signature nights are Open Mic Night on Mondays, and and live music many other nights featuring Tamarindo’s best musicians. The best 2 for 1 margaritas, and we love the casual vibe. It is our favorite place to grab dinner and drinks for a more than fair price before heading out to the bars.
- Falafel Bar: Some of the best Mediterranean food I’ve tried. Great option for vegetarians and vegans.
- Bamboo Sushi: We fell in love with the outdoor secret jungle ambiance, right in the center of Tamarindo! It is
truly breathtaking, with an elegant mix of tropical plants, fountains, and bamboo walls and ceilings. Exquisite plates (not just sushi!) and quick service (a bit rare in Costa Rica).
- Patagonia: Steak Lover? It can be hard to find a good steak in Costa Rica but Patagonia is where you’ll find
the best mean in the Guanacaste Province. Great cuts, very generous portions, and delicious sides and sauces.
- Pangas: Beach front, simply mind blowing. It is a fine dining beachfront restaurant with
a touch of the local cuisine. Pricey, but worth it.
On any given night during busy seasons you will find a thriving night life in Tamarindo. After dinner and before the night club scene, many locals and travelers alike go to La Oveja Negra to relax, have a meal with 2 for 1 happy hour, play a game of pool or foosball, and listen to live music. The restaurant is very spread out, making it a great place to get together for drinks with friends before heading home or going out to party. After dinner and drinks, here are where the parties are
- Monday: La Oveja Negra – Open Mic Night – 8 PM
- Tuesday: Sharkys – Karaoke Night – 9/10 PM
- Wednesday: Pacifico – Ladies Night – 11 PM
- Thursday: La Oveja Negra – Max & Friends – 8 PM, Pacifico – Reggae Night 11 PM
- Friday: Crazy Monkey – Biggest Party of the Week – 10 PM
- Saturday: La Oveja Negra – Big Brutus 8 PM, Pacifico – Wild Nights 11 PM
- Sunday: Sharkys – Beer Pong – 10 PM
There are many boutique shops around Tamarindo, and you will find many places with great gifts for yourself and for loved ones. A couple of our favorites are Bagus, Guana T Shirts, & Double 6, all located on the main road towards the cul de sac.
Weather in Tamarindo
- Costa Rica has two seasons, the rainy season and the dry season.
- If you’re planning a trip down to Tamarindo during the rainy season, the 10 day forecast is probably going to show that it will rain every day and when you see forecasts like this you will automatically think that it is going to rain every day of you vacation. Close the weather.com page, and relax. The rains cool Tamarindo down and it is actually much more comfortable.
- The town of Tamarindo was originally a small fishing village. However, in recent years has undergone a great transformation to become one of the favorite tourist destinations, especially for American and Canadian tourists and expats. Its long white sand beach surrounded by tropical vegetation is more than enough to justify this success. Another good point is the road leading into town is in very good condition, something unusual in the peninsula.
- You won’t have any problem ordering at a restaurant or even asking for directions although locals will appreciate when you use words such as “gracias”, “Pura Vida” or “mucho gusto”.
- There are huge American, Canadian, French, Spanish, Italian and Argentinean communities, so many languages are spoken daily in Tamarindo.
- Tamarindo is a small town so it will be easy and comfortable to move on foot. Even to some of the nearby beaches, such as Langosta or Playa Grande you can get there by taking a short walk.
- The options to move around other beaches, towns or supermarkets near Tamarindo are: car rental, tours , hire private transport services agencies (shuttle buses), or taxis.
- There are not many ‘official’ red taxis around Tamarindo, so we wouldn’t recommend looking for one because you probably won’t find it, you will need to hail a ‘Pirate’ Taxi. They are unofficial but are trusted in town. They will most likely give you a great deal on rides to wherever you need to go.
- Getting around the Tamarindo/Langosta area should only cost you 1,000-3,000 Colones ($2-$6) To areas such as Conchal, Flamingo, or Avellanas, it should be $30 each way or so. To the airport they may charge around $50, but we wouldn’t recommend arranging these rides ahead of time, as they may not show up. It is better to go through an agency for this.
- If you’re a tourist coming from the United States or Canada to Costa Rica, you’re used to tipping .
- In Costa Rica, tipping etiquette is a bit different. In Tamarindo usually the tip/gratuity is included in the bill at the restaurant. By law restaurants in Costa Rica are required to add 10% tip to the bill and 13% tax. Even though this is the law, some establishments will only include of these additional charges in the menu items, none at all, or both.
- There’s no need to tip in addition to the already included 10% tip (service charge). If you have exceptional service you can leave the change, but usually nothing more than 5-10% of the bill.
- One of the great things about Tamarindo are the local tour guides. They will make your vacation. They are some of the hardest working people in the industry, and appreciate your tips. For an all day excursion a good tip is anywhere between $10 and $15 per person. Obviously if your experience with the guide is mediocre or poor no tip is necessary.
- There’s no need to tip taxi drivers unless you have a lot of luggage that they help you with. $1 a bag will be appreciated.
Dollars or Colones?
- You can use U.S. dollars in Tamarindo, but watch out! many shops, restaurants and business will not accept torn bills. Even bills that have the slightest tear will not be accepted. So when you’re bringing U.S. dollars down with you, make sure they are new, crisp, and complete notes.
- Also, many of the stores here in Tamarindo do not carry a lot of change, so bring plenty of $1’s, $5’s, and $10’s. Handing a $100 bill for a $10 sixpack won’t usually work!
- Having a mix of both U.S. dollars and colones is the best way to travel the country and if something is advertised in U.S. dollars, pay in U.S. dollars and if something is advertised in colones, pay in colones. But always be aware of the exchange rate the business is using! Do not carry around too much cash at once, as theft is very common.
- For the most part, Tamarindo is an extremely safe place to live and travel to. But never leave valuables unattended in your vehicle or at the beach.
- Use common sense and keep doors and windows in your room closed and valuables in a safe.
- In a restaurant or bar keep in touch with your bag. In crowds and on buses, carry your backpack on your chest, not your back.
- On buses, most thefts occur inside. Never put your luggage in the compartments on your seat, better in front.
- Couples and women in particular should not walk alone on the beach at night.
- We are lucky enough to have the beautiful La Baulas National Park right next to Tamarindo. The park is a true point of reference of the beauty of Costa Rica. There are a few crocodriles in this area, so don’t walk or swim too close to the estuary.
Number 1 advice: never feed wild crocodiles or any wild animal, for that matter.
Best Places to Watch the Sunset
- There are all kinds of charming bars and restaurants on the beach ideal to watch the sunset, another trait that has made this town so famous. Most of these bars and restaurants offer Happy Hour for this special event that happens every day around 5:30 or 6:00 pm. The options range from 2 cocktails for the price of one or beers for 1000 Colones.
But what not many tourist know is about “la colina” (the hill) or “el mirador” (viewpoint) .
- La Colina: You can walk there or ask a taxi to take you there (3000 colones). It is a 20/25 minute walk from downtown (aka Sharkys). Ask for Tamarindo Fitness Gym, once you are there take the road that goes uphill to the left. Keep walking uphill until you reach the highest point. The ocean view and the sunset look gorgeous from there.
- El Mirador: Taxi will take you there for 3000 colones as well. This hike is a little bit longer but totally worth it. 45 minutes walk from downtown. You will be able to see the whole shore :Playa Tamarindo, Grande, Ventanas, Langosta and even Avellanas and the most amazing sunset and colors you could only dream of.
- Try Lizano sauce. This sauce was developed back in 1920 by the Lizano Company. The ingredients include water, sugar, salt, onions, carrots, cauliflower, cucumbers, spices, pepper, mustard and tumeric . You can find it at every restaurant, house, bar, and home in Tamarindo. Ask for it.
- Yes, you can drink in the streets and on the beach.
When to Visit Tamarindo
High Season: End of December to End of April – Prices will be the highest but there will be no rain at all, also known as the dry season.
Low Season: May to Mid December – Prices are lower and it rains at least a few times a week, usually in the afternoons or at night.
- In September and October it rains nearly everyday and the town is very slow. Many shops and restaurants close down during this time and there isn’t much nightlife, but you can find some excellent deals on hotels, tours, and surf camps.
- “Shoulder” Season: This is a few weeks at the end of July through August where the weather is dryer than the rest of ‘rainy’ season. The town is quite lively for a few weeks, similar to high season. It is a nice time to visit because the land is very lush and green from the recent rains and there are typically clouds to keep the temperature a bit cooler than the hot/dry high season, but the prices are typically close to low season rates.