Tamarindo is a popular beach town and holiday-makers’ destination on the Pacific Coast of Costa Rica.
Its kilometres 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 because 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.
Get your bucket list ready. In this guide, we’ll show you the best things to do in Tamarindo and how to experience them.
Need help planning your trip? Check out our tips for visiting Tamarindo — you’ll find the best restaurants, where to stay, how to get around and more!
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 aren’t really what you will find here anymore!
That being said, a lot of fun can be had in the little beach town. There are 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.
Top tours in and around 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 3.5 km 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 unspoiled 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 one is 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 2 km 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 13:00, 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, and 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 are 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.
Book your catamaran adventure here:
#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.
Book the ultimate 2-hour ATV Tour and get the adrenaline pumping for $77
#4 Go surfing on Tamarindo’s famous waves
Tamarindo is famous for its surf! People come from all over the world to surf its waves and live amongst the surfer community that inhabits the town.
Two of the best beaches to go surfing at are Playa Tamarindo and Playa Grande.
Whether you’re a pro or haven’t caught a wave before, there are perfect-sized waves for everyone.
If you’d like to learn how to surf, you can join a private or group lesson to take on the waves at Playa Tamarindo.
If you just want to hire a surfboard for the day, this will cost you between $15-20.
Start mastering Tamarindo’s waves in a private or Group Surfing Lesson from $50
#5 Go snorkelling 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 its 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.
New to Tamarindo? Check out this compact Tamarindo travel guide to find the best areas to stay, restaurants you don’t want to miss and many more tips for your visit to Tamarindo!
#6 Explore Rincon de la Vieja National Park
There are stunning waterfalls, volcanic vents, boiling mud pots and incredible views. Along the kilometres 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 5 km, a well-pathed trail that takes you around the main spots like the volcanic vents and mud points. There are also two main trails that lead to two 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.
This Rincon National Park tour includes transportation, a guide, lunch and drinks for $125 per person.
A closer location to Rincon National Park is Liberia – where the international airport is. However, we wouldn’t really recommend staying the night in Liberia as there isn’t much else to do.
Explore a lesser-known national park on this Rincon National Park Tour for $125
#7 Take a boat trip through Tamarindo estuary
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.
Nature and wildlife are 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.
Cruise through nature on this 2-hour Tamarindo Estuary Boat Tour for $38
#8 Go horse riding through the jungle
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 viewpoints 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.
Try something new on this 2-hour Horse Riding Tour for $60
#9 Enjoy Tamarindo’s lively nightlife
As well as being a surfer and beach-lovers paradise, Tamarindo has a pretty well-known party reputation.
After 20:00 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 around 17:30 to 18:00, 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 of 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!
Book here: Day Trip to Nicaragua including a live volcano, markets and a colonial town for $230
#12 Explore an underground world at Barra Honda Caves
There are lots of national parks in Costa Rica, but Barra Honda National Park is slightly different. Its main selling point is its 42 caves, of which only 19 have been explored by humans.
As you climb 35 metres down into the cave, you’ll feel like you’re entering a whole new world. All around you, you’ll be surrounded by towering stalagmites and huge stalactites!
You’ll be grateful for your torch once you’re down there, as that will be the only source of light. It’s definitely the place to face your fear of the dark!
How to visit Barra Honda Caves
You can enter the national park for $10 per person, but this won’t give you access to the caves.
The only way to enter the caves is with a guide, which costs $25. The tour lasts for around 3-4 hours and also includes a fair amount of hiking to get to the caves.
You’ll need to make a reservation in advance and the only way to do so is to ring the ranger station +506 2659 1551. Unfortunately, they don’t have a website.
Most popular way to get to Tamarindo
Rounding it up
Now you’ve picked the best things to do in Tamarindo, it’s time to start ticking off that bucket list. Not sure how to plan your trip? Our guide is here to help! You’ll find out how long to stay in Tamarindo, where to eat, how to get around and more. Happy planning!
Les Voiles Blanches - Treating Yourself
Tamarindo is full of luxury resorts, and Les Voiles Blanches is one of the top. Hence the hefty price tag. Throughout the paradise hotel, there are a number of beautiful pools, so you’ll be able to find your own private oasis away from the high energy of Tamarindo.
The hotel offers both normal hotel rooms and tent-style rooms. Don’t worry, there’s no slumming it, the rooms are more like luxurious wooden cabins. Every room has its own terrace, but there’s also stunning communal areas to relax in.
- Multiple swimming pools
- Unique style rooms
- Super attentive staff
- Home-made breakfast available
King rooms start from $90 per night
Ten North Tamarindo Beach Hotel - Treating Yourself
If Les Voiles Blanches is too far out of your price range, Ten North is another great option. It has a huge array of room options, ranging from double rooms to two bedroom apartments. The pool is a spectacular 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.
- Outdoor swimming pool
- Incredibly friendly staff
- Beautifully decorated rooms
- Range of room sizes to accommodate everyone
Double rooms start from $90 per night
Tee-K Lodge - Mid Range
If you want to be close to the action of Tamarindo, but not too close, then Tee-K Lodge is a great solution. There’s so much nature and tropical gardens surrounding the hotel that you forget about the outside world. Especially when chilling in their lovely swimming pool!
The owners of the lodge will make your stay unforgettable. Going above and beyond to make sure that you’re happy and have the best time in Tamarindo. It’s so good that it’s not uncommon for guests to keep on extending their stay here.
- Incredible hosts
- Exceptional breakfast included
- Outdoor swimming pool
- Beautiful and spacious rooms
Double rooms start from $50-90 per night
Hostel La Botella de Leche - Mid Range
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.
- Outdoor swimming pool
- Shared living room
- Sociable atmosphere
- Great location
Double rooms between $50-$90 per night
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