From cloud forests to sprawling beaches and unique wildlife, the Central American tourist hotspot of Tamarindo, Costa Rica seemingly has it all. This quaint but lively Pacific beachside town in the Guanacaste region is world famous for its prime surf conditions and caramel colored beaches. Here, one can find world class beaches, local dining experiences, and endless outdoor and water excursions.
Planning a trip to Costa Rica soon? Read my Ultimate Guide to Tamarindo, Costa Rica below!
This post may contain affiliate links that I make a small commission from, at no additional cost to you. This post was produced in collaboration with Krain Concierges & Tours who hosted me at one of their properties in Tamarindo, Costa Rica.
How to Get to Tamarindo
Inbound travel through Costa Rica can seem a little daunting, but it’s much easier than it appears! From private shuttles, to bus routes, and affordable international flight routes, the land of “Pura Vida” is at your fingertips.
To book a flight or rental car and earn $100 in rental car credit for a future trip anywhere in the world, download the RoboAir App here and use my code “ECC23“
From San Jose International Airport:
Travel Time: 5.5 hours
It’s often easiest to find cheaper flight routes into San José verses any of Costa Rica’s smaller regional airports. If arriving from San José, the safest and fastest way to get to Tamarindo is to book a professional shuttle service. It’s also possible to rent a car, but this can be expensive and it’s not recommended for first time visitors to Costa Rica. The road conditions across the country can be unpredictable, especially during wet season due to flooding or landslides. Having a local guide that can navigate the roads efficiently and safely, as well as recommend local stops along the way, will provide peace of mind.
From personal experience, I highly recommend the company ILT Costa Rica. Drivers and vehicles are fully licensed, all vehicles include Wifi, and transfers can be scheduled to accommodate customer’s schedules. The hourly transfer rate also covers taxes, tolls, and fees so there are no hidden costs. Book a transfer with ILT Costa Rica here.
From Daniel Oduber Quirós International Airport (LIR):
Travel Time: 1.5 hours
For a shorter commute time to Tamarindo, flying into Liberia (LIR) International Airport is the best option. Flights are more expensive into this airport from most cities, but the convenience factor is key. Given the short travel time, taking an airport taxi or booking a shuttle is more affordable and there are plenty of companies available. It is best to book in advance especially during the height of the tourist season (December to April). There is also an option to rent a car at the airport if you’re up for an adventure (and are a great navigator). Hertz, Budget, Alamo, Avis, and Enterprise all find homes at Liberia.
If renting a car, keep in mind that it’s not necessary to have a car to get around Tamarindo itself unless you have plans to explore greater Guanacaste or other regions. You can rent a golf cart in Tamarindo for $30-60 per day depending on the season and get around just fine.
Where to Stay: Villa Cerca Del Mar (Villa Vida by the Sea)
Across from one of the towns most picturesque beaches, Playa Langosta, sits a tropical oasis: Villa Vida by the Sea — a popular rental property that is a mansion in its own right.
Lush canopies of trees filled with exotic birds and Black Howler Monkeys set the scene for a truly unique experience that only Costa Rica can provide.
This two-level villa features a master bedroom, two sizable bedrooms, and three-and-a-half baths, comfortably sleeping up to six.
To up the “wow factor” even more, the property also provides a full laundry room, generous downstairs living spaces, a fully equipped kitchen with dining area, and an enclosed in-ground pool in the back yard.
To ensure a relaxing and enjoyable stay, the property also boasts a 50-inch flat screen TV with Netflix, an outdoor BBQ grill, beach accessories and toys, and complimentary toiletries in each bathroom.
Through the property’s 24-hour concierge service, guests can also rent golf carts, book massages and wellness appointments, and even hire a private chef — talk about luxury! The concierge can also provide recommendations for nearby activities and restaurants, or schedule a maintenance visit in the unlikely event guests encounter any problems during their stay.
Rental cars can be parked in the lot in front of the villa, and entry to the property is done through a personalized digital key code for added security.
Book Your Stay
You can book the charming Villa Cerca Del Mar’s Villa Vida by the Sea via Airbnb or VRBO. You can also contact the property management company (Krain Concierges & Tours) directly and mention you learned of the property from East Coast Contessa blog! Follow Villa Vida by the Sea on Instagram to learn more about the property, special discounts, and new developments here: @villavida_by_the_sea.
Walk to the Supermarket Langosta (pulpería) on Galicia Street and stock up on fresh avocados, tomatoes, onion, and limes to make fresh guacamole. Enjoy it poolside with tortilla chips or soft tortilla rounds for a relaxing afternoon snack. The pulpería also offers numerous other food and beverage items including pasta, local pastries, juices, and meats to cook amazing meals at the villa.
In the mornings, wake up early and brew a cup of coffee. Head outside to the parking lot, and look up into the tree canopy above! During certain times of the year, you might see a growing family of Black Howler Monkeys swinging from the tree branches. Chances are, you may even hear them first!
Best Places to Eat
It’s near impossible to find a bad place to eat in Tamarindo. It’s known as one of Costa Rica’s most sought after foodie havens and for good reason! While difficult to name only a few favorites, below are personal recommendations for breakfast, lunch, and dinner:
Close to Villa Cerca Del Mar:
Langosta Beach Club
This luxury beach club and resort is a 13 minute walk from the villa — and it’s so worth it! Not only is the walk itself beautiful and brimming with wildlife, but the beach views from the club are second to none. Club members get special access to the facilities, but the restaurant is open to the public for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
Enjoy sweeping views of Playa Langosta as you enjoy fresh seafood and cocktails. Personal recommendations are the “Langosta Smash” cocktail, the “Fried Fish Burger,” and the Catch of the Day with mashed rice pilaf and fresh veggies (it’s always a locally caught fish).
Price Range: $16 to $35 per person
Located next to the villa at the intersection is Bistro Langosta. This two-minute walk yields big rewards for little effort when it comes to what is on the menu.
Serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner, items such as Shakshuka, lemon poppy seed waffles, and Lebanese tapas are popular items. Order the Filet Mignon with Gorgonzola sauce and veggies, and the Coconut Milk Shrimp.
Price Range: $10 – $35 per person
Surf Club Bar & Grill
Just a four minute walk away on the next street over is Surf Club Bar & Grill. An unfussy joint, you can play games of ping pong, pool, or fuse-ball while you wait for your food! Order the “Seared Ahi Wrap” and the “Ceviche Rica” for a fresh and filling meal.
Price Range: $6-$20 per person
Best Restaurants for Breakfast:
It’s so small that it’s easy to overlook when walking down Tamarindo’s Main Street, but NOI Bistro is a must. Featuring handmade food and hand pressed juices, it’s a breakfast favorite.
Order a traditional Central American dish of “Gallo Pinto” (rice and beans) fresh “Huevos Rancheros,” and a large cup of fresh Papaya juice to start the day.
Price Range: $5-$18 per person
The concept at Waffle Monkey is simple: make good quality coffee and delicious Belgian style waffles. This Waffle House close to the beach specializes in — you guessed it — amazing waffles.
With gluten free and vegan options, it has something for everyone and is the perfect breakfast spot. Personal waffle recommendations include the “Churro Waffle,” the “Apple Pie Waffle” with apple pie filling, and the “Big Breakfast Waffle” with ham, Parmesan cheese, and fried egg.
Price Range: $2-$12 per person
In the center of Tamarindo is the vegan friendly Café Tico. This small but intimate cafe offers smoothies, local coffee and cuisine, and international favorites. Order the “Turkish Eggs,” a cappuccino, and a Banana and Peanut Butter smoothie to-go (they come in the cutest cups!)
Price Range: $3 – $20
Best Restaurants for Lunch/Dinner:
Jardín Tamarindo Food Truck Park
Featuring a rustic Costa Rican ambiance with distinctive wooden decor and lush tropical surroundings, Jardin Tamarindo is an open dining concept.
Food trucks with cuisine from around the world can be found here from Polish potato pancakes and Mexican churros, to Jamaican Jerk chicken, American style burgers, and much more. Personal food truck recommendations include La Churretica, The Eve (Polish Food Truck), Papagayo, and Caribbean Food.
Price Range: $5 – $35 per person
Eat at Joe’s
This famous beachfront diner has been a local favorite since 2001. Order the “Nachos as Big as Your Ass” and a “Tica Rita.” They also serve breakfast all day if you’re craving banana pancakes.
Arrive early for happy hour between 4-7PM and enjoy a pina colada while taking in a beautiful Costa Rican sunset.
Price Range: $5-$40 per person
If the fact that it’s a gastronomic jungle isn’t enough reason to visit, the food certainly is. Guests can enjoy a traditional Costa Rican tasting menu that boasts true latin flavor. Order two or three plates of the fried avocado, the Costa Rican tacos, and a Pineapple Chile Paloma to wash it down.
Price Range: $12 – $30 per person
Fun Things to Do
Take to the Waves
Tamarindo is most known for it’s surf-worthy waves, so it’s a must to try your hand at them! From beginner lessons to expert-level excursions and week-long surf camps, there is something for anyone who has an interest in catchin’ waves.
If surfing isn’t really your forte, boogie boarding is also a popular activity and can be easily enjoyed by most age groups. Some popular surf shops that offer classes and excursions are Iguana Surf Camp, Matos Surf Shop, and Witch’s Rock Surf Camp. Already a pro? There are endless surf shacks that offer board rentals by the hour or by the day. They can be found just by walking down Tamarindo’s main street.
Price: Prices vary depending on service. Contact vendor for rates.
Sail on a Sunset Catamaran Cruise
The sun comes up and comes down no matter where you are in the world, but sunsets in Tamarindo are truly a sight to see. In fact, watching the sunset is an important part of local beach life in Tamarindo. Due to Costa Rica’s close proximity to the equator, the sun sets at roughly the same time year round.
The best way to experience it (other than staking out a prime spot on the beach) is to take a sunset catamaran cruise. Sailing down the Guanacaste coastline, you’ll view sea life, stunning landscape, and have the opportunity to swim and snorkel in a private cove. Cruises last 4-5 hours and include unlimited cocktails and beverages, a handcrafted lunch, and snorkel gear.
The best sailing experience is the half-day Blue Dolphin Sunset Cruise with Native’s Way. Simply bring your bathing suit, towel, sunscreen, and cash to tip your captains! Book a sail here.
Price: $85 per person
Sample Local Brews at Volcano Brewing Company
Most people aren’t aware that Costa Rica has a flourishing craft brew scene, but it’s true.
A popular watering hole in downtown Tamarindo is Volcano Brewing Company — the town’s pioneer craft brewery since 2011.
From beachside brews to weekly live entertainment, VBC also serves local cuisine and upscale bar food. Try the shrimp ceviche paired with the Witch’s Rock Pale Ale. If you’re more into dark brews, the Gato Malo southern brown ale might do the trick. View the full menu here.
Take a Horseback Ride on the Beach
You know the movie scenes where a beautiful couple romantically gallops a stallion down an exotic beach? With perfectly coiffed wind blown hair, they ride off into the sunset? Pretty sure we all have. While these scenes are usually shown in slow motion for dramatic effect, you can experience the same thrill of beach horseback riding in real life right in Tamarindo!
Some companies even provide all day packages that include a guided ride and canopy zip line course, as well as a private authentic Guanacaste Gourmet BBQ. The experience can be enjoyed by most athletic levels, however, it’s best to inquire with the tour company to ensure there are no age, weight, height, or health requirements. The best company to book this experience with is Black Stallion Ranch in Santa Cruz. Check out their rates and full list of activities here.
Price: $140 per person
Relax in the Tidal Pools on Playa Langosta
Across the street from Villa Cerca Del Mar, a tiny trail leads though the jungle. While it may not look like much, especially after rainfall, it actually leads to one of the most beautiful beaches in the area: Playa Langosta. During high tide, tidal pools form among the rock formations.
In these pools, you can relax as the waves wash over you. You will even witness small sea life including hermit crabs, starfish, and small fish. Playa Langosta is also a less frequented beach that is perfect for surfing, beach combing, or watching sunset in peace and quiet. During certain times of the day, you may even have it all to yourself (and that’s something special).
Pro Tip: Don’t forget to also support the town’s small businesses by shopping at the many boutique stores along both the main street and up the hill in Langosta. Many of these stores sell items handmade right in Costa Rica including silk scarves, jewelry, teas, furniture, baked goods, and more! My favorite shops were Azul Profundo Boutique and Papaya Con Leche.
Guide to Tamarindo: FAQ’s
When is the best time to visit Tamarindo Costa Rica?
Costa Rica is beautiful any time of year, but there are certain months that are more dry than others. The green season (or “winter”) begins in May and ends in November. The rainiest months are September and October. The dry season (“summer” months) begins in December and ends in April. However, Tamarindo — and Guanacaste as a whole — receives far less rain than the rest of the country. Therefore, there is also less humidity and far fewer storms meaning you can visit in the wet season with peace of mind.
Is Tamarindo worth visiting in Costa Rica?
Absolutely! It’s on the Pacific side of Costa Rica, meaning the weather is less severe than the country’s central portion or Caribbean side. The beaches in and around Tamarindo are completely stunning and provide a different landscape and ecosystem. There is also so much to do in Tamarindo! From top restaurants to water activities, breweries, and animal sanctuaries, it’s truly a magical place! The international airport nearby also makes it easy to access and explore.
Can you swim in Tamarindo Beach?
You sure can. In fact, it would be a crime if you didn’t! Tamarindo Beach is one of Costa Rica’s most popular beaches, and for good reason. You can catch a wave, take a surf lesson, swim, people watch, or grab a beer or cocktail at one of the many nearby bars and restaurants. It’s the largest beach in town and easily accessible as Tamardino is very walkable.
As with any destination, it is smart to check the weather conditions prior to traveling to Tamarindo. This is especially important depending on which airport you fly into. If arriving into San Jose during the wet season, check with your local transportation guide or hotel contact to make sure there is are no threats of landslides in the central region (where rainfall is heaviest).
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8 thoughts on “The Ultimate Guide to Tamarindo Costa Rica”
Gah! This is making me want to go back to Costa Rica! I haven’t been to Tamarindo but would love to go. Saving for a future trip 🙂
Doooo ittttt! I would go back in a heart beat. It’s such a beautiful country! So much to see and do 🙂
Tortilla chips with Guacamole by the poolside is such a nice idea.
Right? I could actually go for some more right now haha
This post was so helpful! I’ve only been to Arenal area in Costa Rica and can’t wait to go back to explore other parts of the country. I was originally thinking Papagayo but now I’ll have to add Tamarindo!
Ah that’s so exciting! Definitely add Tamarindo! It’s such a cute little surf town. I loved the airbnb that I stayed in as well!
This looks lovely. We did not go here when we were in CR…but will add it to the list for next time. Love that cute swimming pool and of course I’m all about the food.
Thank you, Laureen! Guanacaste is definitely amazing! I just love the Pacific side of CR. This airbnb is a great place to stay in Tamarindo!