With a coastline boasting pristine beaches and beautiful natural resources, it’s no secret that Costa Rica is quickly becoming one of the top vacation destinations in the world. The largest and most popular beach town in Costa Rica is Tamarindo.
While a little bit more “touristy” than some of its neighbors, Tamarindo offers a good balance of nightlife, daytime adventures, and relaxation. If you are used to travelling to popular tourist areas of Mexico, Tamarindo will seem sleepy in comparison.
Where to stay
Things to do
Tamarindo is famous for its surfing, attracting visitors from all over the world to “hang ten”. Feeling a little nervous about hitting the waves? Most areas of the beach are perfect for beginners. Check out Kelly’s Surf Shop, Iguana Surf, or any of the other surf shops in the area for a how-to lesson. Have to admit, I chickened out on this one!
For a change of scenery, take a quick trip to the sleepy town of Playa Grande next door. You can get there on foot, taking a water taxi across the estuary. At certain times you can get there by bike. Either way, you’ll want to check with one of the surf shops to find out the high and low-tide times that day. You can always swim across, but then it’s hard to take a beach bag with you.
Experience some local flavor at the Villareal fiesta, about ten minutes from Tamarindo by cab. Held each year in the spring, the fiesta features bull riding, dancing, and local food. Ask around town when you arrive to see if the fiesta is being held while you’re in town.
The sunsets in Tamarindo are spectacular. You’ll find everyone at the beach during this time – helloooo happy hour!
Nogui’s Sunset Café
As the name suggests, this place has killer sunset views. We loved their breakfasts, shrimp tacos, and their incredible homemade pies. Their coconut pie might be the best dessert I’ve ever had – a guy was literally cracking open coconuts with a machete out back.
Pizzeria la Baula
Owned by Italians, this place cranks out some seriously good wood-fired pizzas.
Dragon Fly Bar & Grill
This open-air restaurant serves up fresh, asian fusion food.
Rip Jack Inn
If you make the trek over to Playa Grande, make sure to stop at Rip Jack Inn for fish tacos and gallo pinto, Costa Rica’s traditional rice and beans dish.
Last but definitely not least, try to track down the local woman who serves a traditional Costa Rican meal out of the back of her truck on the main street. Ours had tender spiced chicken, rice, black beans, plantains, and a coleslaw type salad. She was out every day around lunch time when we were there, but check with some of the shops to see what time you can catch her.
No matter what you choose to do in Tamarindo, your trip is sure to be filled with fun, sun, and – as they say in Costa Rica – Pura Vida.