Tamarindo is a popular beach town and holiday-makers destination on the Pacific Coast of Costa Rica.
It’s kilometers of golden sand beaches, incredible surf and abundance of bars and restaurants encourage people to flock there every year. The nearby Liberia International Airport also makes it a super convenient place to get to – especially for American tourists.
Visiting Tamarindo is easy as it’s adapted to be the perfect tourist destination. Once a quaint little fishing village, Tamarindo now has everything someone on vacation could want – beaches, adventure, restaurants, bars and shops.
Is Tamarindo right for everyone?
This has earnt it a somewhat touristy reputation and the nickname ‘Tamagringo’ (gringo means foreigner). We’re going to be honest that Tamarindo isn’t for everyone, and there are much better places in Costa Rica to visit.
It really depends on what you’re looking for from your trip. Relaxation, ease and luxury are all over Tamarindo, but culture, authenticity and nature isn’t really what you will find here anymore!
That being said, a lot of fun can be had in the little beach town. There’s plenty of activities to get involved in such as an ATV tour along the beach and in the jungle, a sunset catamaran cruise or improving your surf skills.
New to Tamarindo? We’ve written this compact Tamarindo travel guide to show you the best areas to stay, restaurants you don’t want to miss and many more tips for your visit to Tamarindo!
#1 Spend your days relaxing at the beach
Tamarindo is a beach destination after all, so it makes perfect sense to spend a lot of your days just lounging on the beach. Reading a book whilst sunbathing or taking a refreshing swim.
If you want to go to the nearest beach, it won’t be a far walk. The town is set right behind Playa Tamarindo – a 3.5km stretch of golden beach.
This isn’t the only beach though. There are plenty more in the surrounding areas. Here’s a quick rundown of each of them so you can decide which ones you want to visit:
Which beaches in Tamarindo should you visit?
Playa Tamarindo – the most popular beach in Tamarindo as it’s set right in front of the town. The waters are refreshing and great to swim in, especially during high tide. It’s famous for its surf and a great place to learn to surf.
Playa Grande – just north of Tamarindo, across the estuary, this beach lies within Baulas National Marine Park, well-known for its turtle nesting. It’s also famous for its waves, attracting intermediate and advanced surfers from all across the world.
Playa Avellanas – is a pristine and unspoilt beach that also boasts some incredible waves. It’s still an idyllic place to visit if you’re just looking to catch some sun rays. It’s a little more hidden which makes this place extra special.
Playa Zapotillal – this ones a 40-minute drive from Tamarindo, but it’s worth the journey. This place is paradise. The sand is incredibly soft, the sea is absolutely perfect to swim in, and it’s likely there will be no one around. Your own private beach!
Playa Langosta – only 2km south of Playa Tamarindo, but with completely different vibes. It’s serene, tranquil and great for surfers. It’s an ideal beach to lounge on all day, but be aware the current can be quite strong.
If you’re staying in Tamarindo for a week, there are enough beaches to visit a new one every day!
#2 Enjoy the sunset on an all inclusive catamaran trip
This has become a really popular activity to do in Tamarindo. Every day at around 1pm you’ll see crowds gathering on the beach, getting ready to sail around the coast, snorkelling, drinking, eating and enjoying the sights.
At this point, you’ll probably have major fomo and want to join a catamaran trip too!
The catamaran trip takes place on a luxury yacht, something that most of us dream of being able to sail on, and lasts for around 5 hours.
During this time you’ll get to go snorkelling, kayaking, paddle boarding or you can simply relax on the deck and soak up the sun!
Choosing which catamaran tour is important
Which boat tour you decide to join is important – there’s both party boats and family-friendly ones.
Most of them are all inclusive, meaning both food and drink are included.
Any party-lover will enjoy hearing the words ‘open bar’.
If that’s you, then you should join the Dream Chaser Catamaran Tour. They have an onboard tiki bar fully stocked with soft drinks, beer, wine and most spirits you can think of.
It’s like the ultimate boat party!! They take you to a nearby beach where you’re able to swim, snorkel or paddle board. The 5-hour Dream Chaser tour costs $70 per person – including all drinks.
The Blue Dolphin Catamaran Tour has a more relaxed reputation. There’s still an open bar, but most people’s intentions are just to enjoy a drink in the sun whilst exploring Guanacaste’s coastline.
Similar to the party tour, you’ll get to go kayaking, paddle boarding and snorkelling. This 5-hour tour costs $75 per person.
#3 Explore Tamarindo’s jungle and beaches on an ATV tour
If you want to add a splash of adrenaline to your beach days, then we’d recommend joining an ATV tour.
Tamarindo’s location means that you get to explore a variety of terrains on your ATV – beaches, jungle and river crossings. It’s also a great way to cover more ground and spot more animals along the way.
Keep one eye out for monkeys and birds in the treetops as you’re zooming past, and the other eye on the road. We don’t want any crashes!
This 2-hour ATV tour takes you through a rugged circuit to Flamingo beach where you’ll be able to take a dip in the sea if you wish. The tour includes round transportation and costs $77.
#5 Go snorkeling and scuba diving at Catalina Island
Catalina Islands is made up of a chain of 20 islands, all of which are surrounded by crystal clear water. This, alongside it’s abundant wildlife, makes it one of the best places to go snorkelling and scuba diving in Costa Rica.
The islands are just a 30 minute boat ride from Flamingo Marina, but it feels like you’ve entered another world and you see what’s underwater.
It’s common to see manta rays, turtles, whitetip reef sharks, octopus and lots more wildlife. If you’re really lucky, you may even see some dolphins.
If you’re a water baby, then we’d highly recommend doing a snorkelling or scuba diving trip here whilst in Tamarindo.
There will be tons of companies selling tours to the islands when you arrive who will be up for haggling on the price a little. The snorkelling tour should cost between $40-55, whilst scuba diving prices start at around $100.
#6 Explore Rincon de la Vieja National Park
Rincon de la Vieja National Park has so much to see. We can’t emphasise that enough, and that’s why it’s considered one of the best national parks in Costa Rica.
There’s stunning waterfalls, volcanic vents, boiling mud pots and incredible views. Along the kilometers of hiking trails, you might be able to spot a variety of animals including coatis, monkeys and toucans.
Rincon is accessible to all types of travellers. There’s a short 5km, well-pathed trail that takes you around the main spots like the volcanic vents and mud points. There’s also two main trails that lead to 2 hidden waterfalls, perfect for swimming in after your hot hike!
How to get there
The national park is nearly a 2 hour drive from Tamarindo, so unless you have a car, we’d recommend joining a tour. This way you don’t have to plan around public transport, everything is sorted for you.
Tamarindo estuary separates Playa Tamarindo and Playa Grande. It’s a vast network of mangrove forests that make up part of the Las Baulas National Park.
It’s a wonderful escape from the urban environment that makes up most of Tamarindo. You’ll float down the river with your guide, weaving through the intertwining branches that create tunnels made of trees.
The nature and wildlife is thriving within the mangroves, with monkeys swinging from the trees and tropical birds darting above your head. Make sure to keep an eye on the water though, as the mangroves are also home to some reasonably large crocodiles.
The boat tour lasts for around 2 hours and costs $38.
Exploring the jungle can be fun, but discovering it on the back of a horse is much more memorable.
Whether you’ve never been on a horse before, or you’re an avid rider, you can still join a horse riding tour.
The horse riding tour in Tamarindo takes you along trails in a private jungle ranch. Your guide will take you through pastures and forests en route to waterfalls, spectacular view points and natural springs.
All the while, nature will be thriving all around you, with the potential of spotting iguanas and monkeys. The horse riding lasts for 2 hours and costs $60.
As well as being a surfer and beach-lovers paradise, Tamarindo has a pretty well known party reputation.
After 8 in the evening, the streets start to come alive with people on their way to one of Tamarindo’s many bars. If you’re a big sports fan then head to Sharky’s, or if you fancy dancing until the sun starts to rise, then find your way to Pacifico.
Once all of the bars close, the parties often spill out onto the beach where the fun continues.
#10 Watch the sunset on Tamarindo beach
The sunsets in Tamarindo may be some of the best that you’ve ever seen! The sky takes on a brilliant pink, purple and orange combination that set against the background of the ocean is picturesque!
Every day at around 5:30-6pm, everyone starts streaming down to the beach, beer in hand, to watch the sunset.
Another bonus, it’s free!
#11 Visit a new country and take a tour to Nicaragua
If you don’t have enough time to visit Nicaragua properly (which you absolutely should as it’s an incredible country), then you can just visit Nicaragua for the day from Tamarindo.
The full day tour to Nicaragua sets off early from Tamarindo and takes you across the border where you’ll get to visit the active Masaya Volcano. You can look right into the crater and actually see the lava moving around below.
You’ll also stop at Masaya Artisan Market and Catarina Volcano before visiting the colourful colonial town that is Granada. The day ends with a 1-hour sunset cruise across Lake Nicaragua to Monkey Island where you’ll get to see monkeys swimming amongst the trees. The cheeky creatures also like to jump onto the boat!
Is the trip worth it?
It’s guaranteed to be one of the highlights of your trip and will undoubtedly make you want to go back to Nicaragua!
The tour organises everything and also provides a guide, plus both breakfast and lunch for $230. And you don’t need to worry about a visa!
Tamarindo is full of luxury resorts, and Les Voiles Blanches is one of the top. There are a number of beautiful pools scattered around the property, so you’ll be able to find your own private oasis.
The hotel offers both normal hotel rooms and tent-style rooms. Don’t worry, there’s no slumming it, they’re more like luxurious wooden cabins. Every room has its own terrace, but there’s also stunning communal areas to relax in.
Ten North has a huge array of room options, ranging from a double room, all the way to 2 bedroom apartments. The pool is a pretty good highlight of the hotel, but it’s the staff that steal the show. They are incredibly friendly and just love to help you with anything that they can.
The rooms boast a rustic and bright vibe that feels very homely. You won’t want to spend too much time in your room as there’s so many places around the hotel to chill and relax. All whilst being surrounded by nature.
In a touristy destination as Tamarindo it can be difficult to find a family-run and cosy accommodation. Hotel Mahayana, is a hidden gem amongst all the hustle and bustle. The hotel owner makes you feel at home straight away and the pool is also a great plus!
All of the rooms are bright and spacious with pops of colour, giving them some life. There’s also a shared kitchen if you want to cook your own food.
Offering both dorms and private rooms, you can pick the type of accommodation that suits your needs. As it’s classed as a hostel, you’ll find a fully-equipped shared kitchen, plus lots of places to hang out and meet people.
Hostel La Botella de Leche has its own swimming pool, outdoor lounge area, shared living room, library and plenty of hammocks. It’s also in a great location, only minutes from the beach.