Tamarindo is small beach town located in the Nicoya Peninsula in the province of Guanacaste on the Pacific coast of Costa Rica. It’s a little slice of paradise that’s one of the best places to visit in Costa Rica thanks to its great surfing, beautiful beaches, tasty restaurants, and crazy nightlife.
There’s a little bit of everything for people visiting Tamarindo.
I made the guide below to help you plan your vacation. If you have any questions or comments, be sure to send me a message on the contact page.
How to get to Tamarindo
If you’re coming from the United States or Canada, the easiest way to get to Tamarindo is to fly into Liberia International Airport, located an hour’s drive from Tamarindo. Major carriers like United, American, Delta, Southwest, Air France, KLM, Sunwing, WestJet, JetBlue, Sun Country, and LACSA fly into Liberia. You can view arrival and departure times here.
Also, remember that when you fly out of Costa Rica you are responsible for paying the $29 exit tax. This must be paid before you check into your flight. They accept Visa, Mastercard, American Express and cash. Some airlines will already have the exit tax factored in to your ticket, while others will not so check with your airline. Here’s a video showing you where to pay the exit tax at the Liberia airport.
Tamarindo also has a small regional airport located 10 minutes outside the city center and is served by SANSA.
The other option is to fly into Costa Rica’s capitol, San Jose, which is about a 4 hour drive or 6 hour bus ride to Tamarindo.
You can take the public bus from San Jose to Tamarindo. The bus departs the Terminal Alfaro in San Jose at 11:30am and 3:30pm. The bus departs Tamarindo for San Jose at 3:30am and 5:30am. A one way ticket costs ₡5.640. You can contact the Alfaro Bus company at +506-2222-2666 or visit our Tamarindo Bus Schedule page for more information on Liberia to Tamarindo bus times.
Costa Rica’s economy is built around tourism. For U.S. citizens, no special visa is required for stays less than 90 days. Just make sure your passport is valid for the length of stay and that you have proof of a return flight home. For non-U.S. citizens, check with this page from the Costa Rica embassy for your visa requirements. Keep in mind as well that your passport must be valid at least 6 months from your last day in Costa Rica. So if you are leaving Costa Rica January 1, your passport can’t expire before July 1.
The local currency is Colones. Bills come in denominations of 1,000, 2,000, 5,000, 10,000, 20,000 and 40,000 notes. Coins range from 5 colones up to 500 colones. Currently $1 U.S buys 530 Costa Rican Colones. If something costs $6 U.S., that roughly equals 3,000 Costa Rican Colones.
A good way to remember the exchange rate is to take the price in Costa Rican Colones, double that amount, and divide by 1,000. For example, something that costs 5,000 colones, double it (10,000), divide by 1,000 (10,000 / 1,000) = $10 U.S.
Both U.S. dollars and Colones are used in Costa Rica. To make sure you get the most favorable exchange rate pay in the currency the goods or services are advertised in.
For the most up to date exchange rate click here: U.S. Dollar to Costa Rica Colones currency converter
Most tours and activities are quoted in U.S. dollars and most bars, restaurants and grocery stores have prices in colones.
Please be aware that if you do bring U.S. currency local merchants will not accept bills that have any type of small tear or rip.
Where to stay
From hostels to luxury accommodations, Tamarindo has it all. I’ve broken down where to stay based upon your budget and what type of lodging you’re looking for. I’ve either stayed at or know the ownership of all the recommendations below so you’ll be treated well.
Coral Reef Surf Hostel is my top recommendation for a hostel in Tamarindo. It’s convenient to the beach, the staff is great, plus you get a discount on any food purchased at Longboard’s BBQ next door.
If you’re strictly in town for surfing, Blue Trailz is a good choice. They have a huge selection of boards to choose from and it’s close to all the surf breaks in town.
If you want to stay in a hostel, but don’t want the party atmosphere, Tamarindo Hostel Resort is a great choice. They have a lot of private rooms for rent that are super clean.
Finally, for those that like music you have to spend a week at Pura Vida Hostel. Almost every night of the week they have some sort of live music event there.
The Tamarindo Diria is a good choice for those needing a more comfortable stay. Make sure to book the rooms that are beach front since they also have rooms that are across the street. The Diria has an amazing breakfast buffet that’s included with most room bookings. They’re also located on the beach in the center of town.
The Villa Amarilla my other top choice for beachfront hotels. It’s a small boutique hotel run by an expat from the states named Cinde. Book early because it’s a small property but it has that bed & breakfast feel that makes it so great.
The Esplendor has great rooms with incredible ocean views. They also have a pool with a swim up bar and some of the best views of the ocean.
AirBnB and VRBO
Good deals can be found on AirBnB and VRBO. The best property to rent from on these sites is the Sunrise Condo unit. Great security, beautiful pool with waterfall, and large condos situated in the center of town.
Wedding and portrait photography services
If you’re looking to capture your vacation, wedding, or engagement we recommend getting in touch with Costa Rican based Pura Vida Moments. They offer several different photography packages or custom experiences.
Tipping is not expected in Costa Rica, but is welcome. Bars and restaurants usually add a 10% service charge to your bill. It’s customary to leave any change up to $1 as a tip. If you feel that the service was extraordinary, feel free to leave more.
The town of Tamarindo has 3 different banks that are all within walking distance from the city center. From what I’ve heard from both tourists and people who live here, withdrawing money can be the biggest headache here. Daily withdrawal limits, high ATM fees, etc… Do yourself a favor and sign up for a Charles Schwab High Yield Investor Checking Account. There’s no minimum, no fees, and the most important part, they will reimburse you for any ATM fees when you use their debit card. I’ve used this card here and have had zero problems with it here in Costa Rica.
Can I drink the water?
Yes! You can drink the tap water. I’ve spent over a year in Tamarindo and have never gotten sick from the water. If you prefer bottled water, plenty of grocery stores and shops sell it. The tap water is also fine to drink at the restaurants and bars.
What time of year should I come?
Right. now. No excuses. Book the flight!
November through April is dry season, it pretty much never rains and stays hot the entire time. Wet season is late May to November, but Tamarindo is in an extremely dry region of Costa Rica and has been experiencing a drought for the past few years so if it does rain it’s not much, plus it makes the sunsets prettier.
If you’re more concerned about avoiding the crowds, avoid trips during the Christmas and New Year’s holidays and during Easter Week (known as “Semana Santa” here).
If you want know when to come based on when the surfing is good check out this guide here.
How do I get to the Nicaraguan border from Tamarindo?
There are a couple of ways to get to the Nicaragua border (the border crossing is called “Penas Blancas”) Be aware that the border opens at 6 a.m. and closes at 11:00p.m. so plan your travel accordingly.
If you’re looking to save money, take the public bus from Tamarindo to Liberia. The bus leaves from the stop across from Sharky’s and takes about 2.5 hours and costs $2.50 The bus departs Tamarindo at 3:30 a.m.; 4:30 a.m.; 5:45 a.m.; 7:30 a.m.; 9 a.m.; 10:00 a.m.; 11:30 a.m.; 1 p.m.; 2:15 p.m.; 3 p.m.; 4:15 p.m.; 5 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. Make sure to leave in the morning so you give yourself plenty of time for crossing the border.
Once you reach the Liberia bus terminal, you’ll take another bus that departs to Penas Blancas (Nicaragua border) at 5:00am, 6:00am, 7:00am, 8:00am, 9:00am, 10:00am, 11:00am, 12:00pm, 1:00pm, 2:00pm, 3:00pm, 4:00pm, 5:00pm, 6:00pm, 7:00pm, 8:00pm, 9:00pm, 10:00pm. This ride costs about $4 and takes 2 hours.
If you are short on time and willing to spend a little more you can always get a private shuttle like Tamarindo Transfers and Tours directly from Tamarindo to the border.
What should I wear?
Tamarindo is hot. You’ll most likely be wearing a swimsuit the whole time you’re here. Leave the jeans and long shirts at home – and ladies, don’t bring high heels unless you want to be mistaken for a “working girl”
What about buying liquor?
Fear not! There are 3 small grocery stores within walking distance of most places in Tamarindo that all sell beer, liquor, and wine. If you’re looking to drink like the locals, try a bottle of Cacique. You can also buy liquor cheaply at the airport
Renting a car
Renting a car is pretty simple in Tamarindo. My personal recommendation is Economy . They are courteous, professional, and speak English. Make sure to put the rental on a credit card since they will put up to a $1,000 hold on your car. I’ve rented from Economy multiple times since moving to Tamarindo and have had no problems.
Keep in mind, gas is expensive down here. 1 gallon of regular gasoline costs about $3.84!
Also, keep in mind there’s a mandatory minimum coverage of $23 or $28 a day in addition to your daily rental car price. Read this for more details.
Anything special I should bring from the states that’s expensive/non-existent in Costa Rica?
Yes! Sunscreen is more expensive than gold here. Make sure to buy it in the states before coming down. If you have carry on bags just make sure it’s below 3.4oz.
Any kind of computers, smartphones, electronic equipment is also expensive down here. The same goes for clothing. Just because Tamarindo is on the beach, does not mean board shorts are cheap here. They can sometimes be double the price of what you would pay for in the states!
If you have a limited in Tamarindo, here are some sample itineraries to make sure you get the most out of your vacation.
With so many new direct flights coming into Costa Rica, you might be surprised to find out that it’s cheaper to take a weekend trip to Costa Rica than flying to your in-laws!
Friday night: You’ll most likely be exhausted from your travels, so what better way to start your vacation than watching the sunset at El Be Beach Club. They have some of the best food in town and offer beach front seating and a great happy hour with strong drinks.
Saturday: There’s no better way to see all the sites and sounds of Costa Rica, and experience some of its thrills than to sign up for an all day adventure tour. These tours will take you outside of Tamarindo to the Rincon de la Vieja National Park. Horseback riding, rapeling, zip-lining, tubing, and a buffet lunch are all included in this trip. Several tour operators in town offer this package for around $130 a person.
Sunday: The Beach & Pool Crawl is the best way to see the amazing beaches and resorts just north of town. This tour leaves every Sunday at 1:00pm from Sharky’s and is only $35 for a full afternoon of “resort hopping”. A free welcome drink at each stop is included in the price of the ticket.
Also, remember to check out the Events Calendar.
With a week in Tamarindo you have a bit more time to relax. In addition to the activities mentioned above, you can take a surf lesson at one of the local surf shops, take a private Spanish lesson at the Coastal Spanish Institute, and also enjoy Tamarindo’s famous night life.
Don’t forget to also take a fishing trip while you’re down here. The waters just off of Tamarindo are full of a variety of fish. It’s best to go in the morning. I’ve been with Pedro’s Fishing multiple times and always have a blast. Tell Jason that Pool Crawl Pete sent you and he’ll make sure you catch something!
If you’re into surfing, make sure to take a day to surf the famous Witch’s Rock and Ollies Point, two surf spots accessible by boat and located in the beautiful Santa Rosa National Park. Boos Adventures is the best company to go with since they launch out of Playa Flamingo as opposed to Coco Beach.
If you’re a golfer make sure to check out the course at Hacienda Pinilla, just a short 15 minute drive from Tamarindo. The course was designed by architect Mike Young and weaves through a tropical forest along the shores of the Pacific to provide an unparalleled blue water backdrop. It’s a par 72 course that plays up to 7,200 yards and features some ocean views and seaside greens. Mention the Weekly Crawler and save $75 off 18 holes of golf (cart included).
Two Weeks or More
Congratulations! You’re one of the lucky few with amazing vacation benefits (or you’re “fun-employed”). In addition to the above activities, take advantage of Tamarindo’s proximity to neighboring Nicaragua. The border to Nicaragua is only about 3 hours away from Tamarindo. You can visit the beach town of San Juan Del Sur or visit the island of Ometepe in Lake Nicaragua.
Another great trip outside of Tamarindo is to visit the town of La Fortuna which is home to the Arenal Volcano. Spend some time soaking in the amazing hot springs. La Fortuna is about 4 hours away from Tamarindo.