Playa Tamarindo, Costa Rica: Ultimate travel guide for visitors in 2024

Looking for the best things to do in Playa Tamarindo? I’ve got you.

On the west side of Costa Rica lies a beautiful little town called Tamarindo.

The main draw here is the beach, Playa Tamarindo, which stretches along Costa Rica’s Pacific coast with beautiful green mountains in the background.

Add to the fact that the town is close to Liberia Airport (about 1-hour drive), and you’ll get why it’s such a popular place.

In this post, I’ll introduce you to Playa Tamarindo with everything you need to know, including things to do in Tamarindo, where to stay, the best restaurants, and basic safety tips.

Read next: What to pack for Costa Rica – MUST-HAVE essentials

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Introduction to Playa Tamarindo (Map)

The little town in the Guanacaste Province is one of the most popular go-to places in Costa Rica.

Tamarindo is known for surfing, diving, and great sunsets, but the leatherback turtles are also a main draw.

They nest along the beaches from October to May, and it’s a unique thing to witness.

Playa Tamarindo
Tamarindo map

Tamarindo beach

Tamarindo Beach stretches about 2.5 km from one end to the other.

Most of the beach is great for swimming, surfing, and tanning, but the most popular part is the north in front of Witch’s Rock Surf Camp.

The beach in Tamarindo has a rather special vibe. You’ve got the regular backpacker or traveler, the surfers, and then there are the people who like to flex their muscles.

It might have changed since I was there, but I didn’t find it as chilled as, say Koh Tao in Thailand.

In general, I got the impression that people care a great deal about their looks and health in Costa Rica. And Tamarindo was a case in point.

Playa Tamarindo
Playa Tamarindo
Playa Tamarindo

Tamarindo surfing

Great weaves are the reason why surfers, and beginners, in particular, flock to Tamarindo.

There’s a large selection of surf camps and plenty of surf spots, where you can learn how to catch the perfect wave and have a fun time.

Playa Tamarindo

Vendors and mariachi

Like so many other beaches, the beach in Tamarindo is also overrun with vendors trying to sell you anything from ice cream to bags and tiny toy animals.

This is one of the annoying things about touristy beaches, but it is what it is.

A more upbeat thing you might encounter is Mariachi singers. I know, it’s a cliché. But during my entire time in Mexico, I didn’t see a single band, and then I came to Costa Rica and found them at the beach.

What a coincidence.

Playa Tamarindo

Tamarindo sunsets

You’ll find the most beautiful sunsets in Playa Tamarindo. I’ve seen many sunsets in my life.

So far the most fabulous ones have been in The Philippines, but the sunsets in Costa Rica certainly aren’t too shabby either.

The saying in this country is pura vida (pure life), and that’s exactly what watching these sunsets was like.

Tamarindo, Costa Rica
Tamarindo, Costa Rica
Playa Tamarindo

The Town

Tamarindo town is fairly small, and everything is within walking distance or a short bicycle ride away.

There’s one main road leading into town and along the beach. On that road, you’ll find lots of restaurants, hotels and surf schools & shops.

In the area, there are other side roads with residential buildings, but you’ll probably want to spend your time along the main road.

Playa Tamarindo

Is Tamarindo Costa Rica safe?

Is it safe to swim in Tamarindo?

For the most part, swimming is safe, but you have to be careful of currents.

Check the riptides before you go in the water (or ask the locals) and ask someone on the beach to look out for you. Some days there is hardly any undertow, other days it can be strong.

It’s safest to swim at the south end, from Langosta Beach Club south to Capitan Suizo Hotel because it’s sheltered by an island.

Recently, a lifeguard station has been established at the north end of the beach to assist swimmers and surfers.

Playa Tamarindo

Are there shark attacks in Costa Rica?

There are different species of sharks in Costa Rica, but the chances of being attacked by a shark are very low. You can always take some safety precautions, like:

  • Avoid swimming at dusk, dawn, or night
  • Avoid entering the ocean with a bleeding wound
  • Do not surf, dive, or swim alone

And if you’re worried about Great White sharks, don’t be. They tend to stay in cooler water than what we find in the tropical waters of Costa Rica’s Pacific and Caribbean coastlines.

So, you will not likely see the Great White Shark while visiting Costa Rica.

Are there crocodiles in Costa Rica? 

Once in a while, a crocodile does stray into public beach areas.

But while there have been a few encounters in recent years, you have to keep the risk in perspective. The biggest risk on Playa Tamarindo (or any surf beach) is still the currents.

Playa Tamarindo

Things to do in Tamarindo, Costa Rica

Surfing

Surfing is big in Tamarindo, so if it’s something you’d like to learn, this is the perfect place. Competition keeps prices low, and the weaves are ideal for beginners.

Advanced surfers can find more challenging surf spots at Playa Grande (north) or Playas Avellanas or Langosta to the south. Some of the best surf clubs are Banana Surf Club and Witch’s Rock Surf Camp.

Fishing

If fishing is your thing, you’ve also come to the right place.

The nearby and highly active fishing grounds offer year-round action with Tuna, Marlin, Snapper, Roosterfish, and much more.

Leatherback turtle nesting

The season for leatherback turtle nesting runs from October 20 – February 15.

If you’re visiting during that time, you can arrange a night tour at Las Baulas National Marine Park for the rare opportunity to watch some of the turtles lay their eggs.

The total number of visitors is restricted to 30 persons per turtle, so you need to make a reservation in advance (8 days prior at the latest).

Sunset sailing

One way to enjoy the sunsets is from the shore with a beer in hand. Another is aboard a custom-built 66-foot catamaran.

On one of these tours, you’ll cruise along the coast, while enjoying an open bar with drinks, snacks, and a light meal.

You’ll also stop at a secluded beach to swim. Book through GetYourGuide here: Sunset Sailing and Snorkeling Tour

Beaches in Guanacaste

Guanacaste is home to a spectacular variety of beaches. There are almost 300 on the Pacific side alone!

You can spend days exploring the coast and finding secret beaches that you can have all to yourself! The best beaches in Guanacaste are:

  • Conchal Beach (shell beach, although many of them are gone now)
  • Flamingo Beach (beautiful sand beach)
  • Playa Avellanas (huge waves – great for surfing)
  • Playa Grande (great for surfing)
  • Playas del Coco (family friendly)
  • Samara (family friendly)
  • Playa Negra (black sand beach)

Going out

There’s something for everyone when it comes to nightlife in Tamarindo.

If you’re looking for a cozy night out with healthy, organic food and drinks in a nice ambiance, try El Mercadito.

For a more fun and active night, try Sharky’s (sports bar) or Pacifico Bar (Reggae Nights on Thursdays and Wild Nights on Saturdays are great).

Note: Going out in Tamarindo doesn’t really start until 10 p.m. or 11 p.m.

Playa Tamarindo

Tamarindo Costa Rica weather

Best time to visit: November – December

The rainy season runs from May to November, while the dry season is from December to April.

The hottest months are March and April with temperatures around 30-35 C, and the rainiest months are September, October, and November.

I recommend visiting in the shoulder season, from Nov-Dec, when everything is still lush and green. Plus, it won’t be overrun with tourists just yet.

Where to stay

You have lots of great options when it comes to places to stay in Tamarindo. Whether you prefer a hotel, hostel, or an apartment.

Capitan Suizo is a popular luxury hotel in the south end of Tamarindo. This beachfront hotel has an outdoor pool, spa facilities, and massage. It’s rustic and such a lovely place. Click here to find the latest prices: booking.com

Hotel In the Shade is a mid-range hotel, also close to the beach. You’ve got room service, two restaurants, and pool, and a grocery store just 3 minute’s walk away. It’s for adults only, so perfect for couples and solo travelers. Click here to find the latest prices: booking.com

♥ If you decide to stay in an apartment, you can easily cook your own food. There are several supermarkets in town, including the local Super Combo, which has decent prices.

Playa Tamarindo
This is the Chocolate Hotel where we also rented an apartment

Best restaurants in Tamarindo

These are the top-notch restaurants in Tamarindo, and there’s something for every taste bud and budget:

  • Surf Shack (burgers)
  • El Casado del Carro (Costa Rican)
  • Green Papaya (Mexican)
  • La Bodega (breakfast)
  • Seasons by Shlomy (Israeli)
  • Nordico Coffee House (A Danish/Guatemalan couple)
Tamarindo

How to get to Tamarindo

By bus 

Getting to Tamarindo by bus is easy and convenient. The bus from Liberia to Tamarindo leaves from the Mercado Municipal at 7, 8, 10, 11, 1 PM, 2 PM, 4 PM, 5 PM and 6 PM daily.

It takes 1.5 hours and costs $3. The San José bus to Tamarindo leaves twice a day from Calle 14, Ave. 5 at 11 and 3:30. The trip takes 5.5 hours and costs $10.

By air

Tamarindo has a domestic airport, and you can fly in from both San José and Liberia.

The most popular route though is to fly into Liberia and arrange transport from there. Tamarindo is only an hour’s drive from Liberia International Airport.

By Shuttle

From Liberia airport, you can take a one-way shuttle for $30 (minimum two people). From San José, a shared shuttle bus will cost you around $60 per person.

Playa Tamarindo

FAQ – Tamarindo Beach, Costa Rica

Can you swim in Tamarindo Beach?

Yes, you can swim at Tamarindo Beach. The waters are generally safe and inviting. However, always be cautious of currents and waves, as conditions can change.

It’s a great spot for both beginners and experienced swimmers. Remember to follow local guidelines and safety signs.

What to do in Tamarindo Costa Rica?

In Tamarindo, Costa Rica, you can:

  • Relax on stunning beaches.
  • Surf, or take surf lessons.
  • Visit Las Baulas National Marine Park for wildlife.
  • Enjoy local cuisine and shopping at markets.
  • Experience sunset sailing tours.
  • Go zip-lining for an adventure.
  • Explore the area on an ATV tour.

How far is Tamarindo from the airport?  

Tamarindo is about an hour’s drive from Daniel Oduber Quirós International Airport (LIR) in Liberia. The distance is approximately 65 kilometers or 40 miles.    

Closest volcano to Tamarindo Costa Rica?

The closest volcano to Tamarindo, Costa Rica, is the Rincon de la Vieja Volcano. It’s about a two-hour drive from Tamarindo.

Can you snorkel in Tamarindo Costa Rica?

Yes, you can go snorkeling in places like Conchal Beach and Capitan Island near Tamarindo. The water is clear and there’s loads of cool fish and stuff to see.

How far is Arenal from Tamarindo?

Arenal Volcano is about a 3 to 4-hour drive from Tamarindo. The distance is roughly 200 kilometers or 124 miles.

It’s a bit of a journey, but the scenic drive through Costa Rica’s countryside is worth it. You can travel by car, shuttle, or bus.

Is Tamarindo Costa Rica worth visiting?

Yes, Tamarindo, Costa Rica is definitely worth visiting. It’s great for its beautiful beaches, surfing, and vibrant nightlife.

The town also offers a variety of restaurants and shops. It’s a perfect spot for both relaxation and adventure. Plus, the wildlife and natural scenery around Tamarindo are truly stunning.

What is Tamarindo well known for?

Tamarindo is mostly known for its fantastic surfing and beautiful beaches. It’s a hotspot for both newbies and pro surfers.

The town’s got a really lively nightlife and a bunch of great places to eat and shop. It’s not just about the beach life though – it’s close to some amazing national parks and wildlife, which is a huge bonus.

Is Tamarindo a party town?

Yes, Tamarindo is definitely a party town. There are lots of bars and clubs that stay open late. But, it’s also cool for a more laid-back vibe if that’s more your thing.

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7 Comments

  1. Hej Miriam!
    Vi er et dansk ægtepar, som skal en tur til Costa Rica i vinter. Det er første gang, at vi skal besøge landet.
    Vi skal bo 11 dage i Tamarindo og vil gerne høre, om du fandt strande , hvor man kan bade trygt og uden understrømme.
    Bedste hilsner fra Lotte og Steen

    1. Hej Lotte og Steen,

      Velkommen til min blog 🙂

      Det lyder spændende med Costa Rica! De bedste strande på Guanacaste-halvøen er Playa Conchal og Playa Flamingo. Og så er Tamarindo strand også god til flotte solnedgange. Mht. sikkerhed så vil jeg anbefale jer at snakke med de lokale (hotellet og surfere), når I kommer derned. De ved mest om det og kan bedst vejlede.

      Ha’ en dejlig rejse.

  2. Hello Miriam,
    We will be staying in Tamarindo from 4 – 11 December, 2021. I’ve been reading about ocean water quality issues due to lack of adequate sewage treatment. I also read a two-year old story about plans to have this fixed by now. Can you shed any light on this matter? Thanks so much.
    Best regards,
    Doug

  3. I love Tamarindo because it is still a beach town but it has a little more life to it than many others that I visit in Costa Rica. I felt it was perfectly balanced. Of course that I would recommend a different location if you happen to be seeking quiet and isolation :/ but to me it was perfect! And the SUNSETS, and the perfect ocean to learn how to surf. #saynomore

  4. Tamarindo has it all! That small surf town vibe with a little extra (night) life and movement of people. I ended spending most of my time there 🙂

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