San Jose and Tamarindo couldn’t be more different. The former is the cosmopolitan capital city; the latter the most popular beach town in the country. But if you’re split between the two, here’s why you might choose Tamarindo over San Jose.
Tempted to visit both San Jose and Tamarindo? You can do so with Culture Trip by joining our specially curated nine-day Costa Rica adventure.
Tamarindo is well known for having excellent surf and a beautiful beach. There are several breaks along Playa Tamarindo and many others within driving distance, including several beginner-friendly spots. Pitch up at one of the many nearby surf shops and schools to get your equipment or hire an instructor. Your day will probably end with a spectacular sunset.
Tamarindo offers the chance to go on a variety of tours, such as zip lining, horseback riding, waterfall hiking, riding ATVs or paddleboarding. You can also take rainforest excursions, view volcanoes, and go on estuary and mangrove boat tours and catamaran trips. Book your adventure from one of the many tour offices around town.
You can also get to Arenal, Monteverde and Rincon de la Vieja easily from Tamarindo. It’s only around an hour’s drive to Daniel Oduber Quiros International Airport, or you can take Nature Air and Sansa flights from Tamarindo Airport.
There are more than 100 restaurants in Tamarindo – some among the best in Costa Rica. For quick bites there are plenty of cute cafes and sandwich shops. Our top recommendations are Pangas, Seasons, Bamboo Sushi Club, Wok and Roll, Matty’s Cafe and La Esquina.
Tamarindo has a happening nightlife. There is always something going on, whether it’s live music, karaoke, a DJ or a full moon party. Almost every beach bar has a happy hour to start off your evening, then decide what type of fiesta you’re after. Bars such as Aqua, Sharky’s and Pacifico stay open until at least 2am on busy nights. Don’t forget to have a shot of guaro, the national liquor.
If partying isn’t your thing, Tamarindo has plenty of yoga and wellness facilities. Head to Coco Spa or Revive Wellness Center for massages, facials, manicures and pedicures. Or, if you really want to treat yourself, head just outside of town to Los Altos de Eros, where you can soak in an Indonesian tub or enjoy a treatment in one of their open-air rooms – all while admiring views over the Pacific Ocean and Costa Rican jungle.
Tamarindo is home to a sizeable expat community, with lots of events taking place throughout the year. Look out for theatre productions, fundraisers, food and beer festivals, marathons, beach clean-ups and live music performances. Events are advertised through flyers and posters and in the Swell Dealer, a local newspaper you can find at supermarkets around town. You can also find out what’s happening by asking your hotel concierge.
For such a small town, there are a lot of shops here. You can find great souvenir shops, surf shops, bikini shops, boutique stores, jewellery shores and speciality markets just by wondering around the main street. You are bound to find special gifts, the perfect bikini, your next surfboard, a new holiday outfit, or a locally made piece of jewellery that will remind you of your incredible stay here.
You can walk everywhere here. All the restaurants, bars and shops are within an easy stroll of each other and the beach. Plus parking is difficult, particularly during the day. Walking not your thing? Hire a golf cart or bike, or book a private shuttle or taxi.