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Tamarindo is one of Costa Rica’s best-loved vacation destinations. A laid-back surf town that has expanded to welcome vacationers of every type, it is situated on the Nicoya Peninsula which borders the Pacific Ocean, in the province of Guanacaste. The best time to visit is during the dry season, from Mid-December to April. Dry season is also peak tourist season, so you’re unlikely to have a beach to yourself during this time. May to November can be wet, but if you’re willing to risk a few rain showers which can be heavy but brief, you’ll find the tourist areas are quieter. One word of advice - if you’re planning to head off the beaten track, avoid raining season as many more remote roads are not paved and can become impassable after heavy rain.
For Tamarindo, the most convenient airport to fly into is Liberia International, an hour’s drive away along paved roads. You can find direct flights from New York, Toronto, L.A. and Houston among others. The second option is San Jose, the country’s capital, four hour’s drive away.
The moment you arrive in Tamarindo you’ll feel the relaxed Pura Vida vibe of the town and its inhabitants (Pura Vida is the Costa Rican philosophy of living a good life and you’ll hear people use the phrase often in conversation). The first tourists to come here were surfers looking for a chilled out spot with great waves, and from there a few beach shacks have turned into a thriving tourist center. Surfing is still the key attraction for many visitors.
Tamarindo Beach is great for first-time surfers as the waves are usually gentle and consistent – just what you need to build up your confidence. Further up the beach at the river mouth, you’ll find a more advanced spot that can have strong riptide. If you’re comfortable on your board this break is fun and challenging. Nearby Langosta Beach has two great breaks, Racetrack and Rivermouth Peak that intermediates and advanced surfers will enjoy.
If you prefer to watch surfers in action rather than try the sport yourself, Tamarindo still has plenty to offer. The streets are lined with barefoot hippie boutiques selling clothes and local crafts, and there are a number of good restaurants. Classic Costa Rican food centers around rice, beans, pork, and plantains, with delicious fresh fruit juices or a cold Imperial beer on the side. Many local restaurants will serve a dish known as casado at lunchtime - a full plate consisting of meat or fish, rice and beans, plantains, and salad. It’s usually both tasty and very good value. You’ll also often see ceviche on menus at beachfront places – although it’s not traditionally Costa Rican (the dish originated in Peru), with all the fresh fish you find here it’s a great light meal option.
Some of our favorite spots include Santa Rita cafe – which offers great coffee, fresh fruit smoothies and healthy brunch options like avocado toast, and Shrimp Hole, a tiny restaurant that serves ocean-fresh shrimp in every guise possible – in curries, doused with garlic butter or with fresh mango salsa, plus ceviche, poke bowls and more.
Directly north of Tamarindo is Playa Grande, a wide stretch of golden sand that’s also home to a large population of endangered leatherback turtles. Every year, between October and March, the huge creatures (adult leatherbacks can weigh an amazing 700 kilos!) make their way to Playa Grande to lay their eggs. Each female can lay up to 200 eggs at one time! The beach is a protected area, part of Las Baulas National Park, so make sure to observe any signs or information if you’re in the area during nesting season. The beach is closed from 6pm–6am during this time. You can take part in an organized tour to see the impressive creatures up close, and you’ll learn about the locals’ conservation efforts at the same time. You Luxury Retreats concierge can arrange a tour for you.
Turtles are far from the only wildlife you’ll see in Tamarindo. Howler monkeys hang out in the trees around the town (and may wake you at dawn with their eerie calls), bright red parrots flit through the trees, and iguanas roam the pathways. The rivers and mangroves in the region are also home to crocodiles, so take care if you’re exploring or kayaking around the mangroves.
To get the most out of your vacation, consider renting a house where you can come and go with ease, split your time between the beach and the pool, and fire up the BBQ whenever the mood strikes you.
If you’re traveling with family, consider one of our homes in Tamarindo sleeping up to 10 people. Some villas have private beach access or are located just a short walk away from the beach, and all have access to a swimming pool. A number have private pools, ideal if you have teenagers in tow! The spacious bedrooms, well-equipped kitchens, and comfortable living areas mean that you can comfortably spend evenings at home without getting bored, and when you feel like venturing further afield, Tamarindo town is just a short drive away.
For a corporate retreat or extended family celebration, Luxury Retreats has several properties that can accommodate a group vacation in Tamarindo . Sleeping up to 22 people in a combination of double and four-person rooms, these villas are well equipped to deal with large groups. On-site concierges, daily housekeeping, and delicious buffet breakfasts are just a few of the amenities on offer. Chef services can be organized on request for a special celebration, such as a welcome night BBQ or gourmet lunch, and activities and excursions can be arranged with ease. Private pools, spacious shaded terraces, and indoor-outdoor living areas mean that everyone has space to spread out and relax while enjoying all the fun that Tamarindo has to offer.