Tamarindo is a beach town on the Pacific Coast of Costa Rica that has quickly become a vacation destination because of the sun, surf, and breathtaking nature. This town perfectly embodies the Pura Vida lifestyle of Costa Rican culture. The weather is almost always ideal for laying on the white sands and enjoying the blue ocean with rolling waves. With so many things to do in Tamarindo, this town is a must visit when in Costa Rica!
How to Get to Tamarindo
The easiest (although potentially not the cheapest) way to get to Tamarindo is by flying. Our direct flight from Newark (EWR) airport to Liberia Airport cost around $650. We then took a private van (there were five of us so it was economically smart to do it this way) the 70 minute drive to Tamarindo. The private van was about $100.
If you fly into Juan Santamarie International Airport (SJO) airport, you can fly a smaller plane to Tamarindo. The flight takes about 50 minutes and there are 2-3 flights per day. These flights range in price from $200-$300.
If you fly into San Jose, there are two buses (named Alfaro) that go to Tamarindo – one at 11:30am and one at 3:30 pm. The bus trip is about 5 and a half hours, but only costs about $10 per person.
If you fly into Liberia, there are 12 buses a day (named La Pampa) for under $3.
A private car from SJO to Liberia would cost between $250-$300 depending on the size of the vehicle.
Rental car is always an option and gives you much more freedom than a bus schedule. Rental insurance is typically required by the companies since not all of the roads in Costa Rica are smoothly paved. You can also check your credit card to see if rental car insurance is included for additional coverage. A rental car would cost around $60 per day including the insurance.
One more option is a shared shuttle which operates on a fixed schedule. Unlike the other options, the shuttle drops you in the middle of the town rather than directly where you’re staying. This may be a good option for solo travellers, but if you’re in a group then it may not be cheaper than a private van/car. From SJO airport the shuttle is between $40-$55 and from Liberia airport, it’s about $55.
Getting Around Tamarindo
Once you’re in Tamarindo, the best way to get around is by foot. Tamarindo is very walkable and if you’re staying near the water, it’s mostly flat. If your lodging isn’t near the beach, a taxi ride would only cost about $3-$5. There are also a number of bike rental places if walking is too slow for you. If you’re staying for a while and want to rent a car for a day trip, there are a few rental spots in Tamarindo.
Where to Stay in Tamarindo
Tamarindo is very much a beach town – with most of the restaurants and shops near the water. Also the closer you get to the beach, the smoother the roads.
We personally stayed in a rental condo associated with Hotel Diria. We had some hotel access – such as walking through to the beach, the pool, and the front desk. The hotel’s accessibility to the beach is unbeatable – you can see the beach from the pool! It’s also a well-known hotel, so any excursions would know where to pick you up and drop you off. Simply walking down the street from the Hotel Diria gets you into the main street for bars, food, and entertainment!
For those that want a bit more privacy and tropical escape feel, then the Cala Luna Boutique Hotel. This luxury hotel is surrounded by tropical vegetation, and offers a variety of activities for you to create your perfect vacation.
For budget travelers, Hotel Arco Iris provides a local feel (some rooms including your own hammock!) while not breaking the budget.
Where to Eat in Tamarindo
Breakfast: Waffle Monkey serves up delicious and sweet creations, right on the sand!
Lunch: Pangas Beach Club is one of the most well -known restaurants in Tamarindo and for good reason. It’s right on the beach – but don’t swim there – sometimes there are crocodiles in the water and it’s better to be safe than sorry. Pangas is known for the freshness of all of its food – from shrimp to lobster and steak!
Dinner: Palapa Restaurant was our favorite meal while in Tamarindo! We brought our freshly caught Mahi Mahi and they cooked it three different ways for us. The staff was incredibly friendly, the drinks were refreshing, and the food was incredible. Sitting on the beach watching the sunset didn’t hurt either.
All the time: El Mercadito de Tamarindo is easy to get to in the heart of the town. This outdoor food market brings together a variety of foods – from Costa Rican, to American, to Brazilian, that is great for any budget!
3-day Tamarindo Itinerary- What to do in Tamarindo
Arrive in Tamarindo and get settled. However you end up getting here dictates how long you have on day one. So get settled in your room first before exploring the town. Walking down Calle Central (Central Street) can give you a great introduction to the town – it’s the main road. Enjoy the sunset on the beach and almost anywhere you pick for dinner will have fresh seafood!
There’s something for everyone in Tamarindo. In the morning you can take surf lessons on the beach. While you technically could book this on the beach from someone, you can also book lessons through your hotel or at many of the surf shops along the beach. Lessons are about $40-60 for two hours. The waves in Tamarindo are great for learning how to surf as they’re not too rough and the waves are consistent throughout the day.
After lunch, it’s time to do an iconic Costa Rican activity – ziplining! The Guanacaste landscape is a great place to zip through the trees! A canopy tour can cost about $60 per person. Many places combine ziplining with a canopy tour or even horseback riding.
If zipping through the trees isn’t your speed, Tamarindo has amazing fishing such as mahi mahi and wahoo. Many restaurants will cook the fish for you in the evening! You can also go snorkeling or scuba diving at the Catalina islands, which is rich in diverse wildlife.
In the morning, you can spend time seeing wildlife in the large mangrove and estuary right next to Tamarindo. There are boat tours or you can rent a kayak to explore on your own. Wildlife includes monkeys, a variety of birds, and maybe even crocodiles. You can book tours or rentals directly at the house near the entrance of the estuary.
Relax on the beach or in the pool in the afternoon. Enjoy coconut water straight from the coconut!
End your trip with a sunset Catamaran cruise. Marlin del Ray had a beautiful boat, delicious snacks and drinks, with kayaks and paddle boards to use if snorkelling isn’t for you. The tour typically makes two stops for snorkelling/kayaking/paddleboarding before sunset and heading back to Tamarindo. The sunsets at Tamarindo are breathtaking no matter where you are. Being out on the water and seeing the sun reflect off the land adds a special touch. If you’re lucky, you may even get dolphins jumping with the boat like we did! It’s the perfect way to end your vacation.
What to Do in Tamarindo if it Rains
Unfortunately, we cannot control the weather on our travels. If you happen to be in Tamarindo when it’s raining, don’t fret! When venturing out, don’t wear flip flops. The roads can get muddy and you don’t want to lose one. You can go cafe-hopping (or bar hopping, depending on the time of day). There are so many quaint places to go for a warm drink and snack, and the locals are very friendly. In between stops, be sure to pop into some of the stores. You may think they all have the same things, but they don’t. And who would want to leave Costa Rica without a Pura Vida shirt? My pura vida shirt is from BamBamBoo which makes eco-friendly shirts that are super comfortable.
If it’s not thundering and lightning, then you’ll still see people in the ocean – and why not? Rain is just water! Have a different experience and take a swim in the rain.
There’s also a few spas in Tamarindo where you can treat yourself to a facial or massage letting the rain wash away any worries you may have.
Three days is not enough to see everything Tamarindo has to offer, but it’s enough to embrace the Pura Vida lifestyle – and to convince you to come back and visit for longer! So, now that we’ve persuaded you to visit Tamarindo, when are you going?
I fell in love with getting wonderfully lost all over the world and it’s brought me to 35 countries and 7 continents so far. The Directionally Challenged Traveler features the good and bad of travel – focusing on the beauty the world has to offer. Since the world is such an amazing place, there are no models or photo editing used, just real travel.
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