Our comprehensive Tamarindo travel guide explores Costa Rica’s Gold Coast – an iconic travel wonderland of cerulean sea and golden sands, tropical dry forest and hidden waterfalls, beachfront restaurants and ocean-view nightlife. In other words, paradise.

From things to do and budget advice, to attraction information and places to stay, our travel guide to Tamarindo uncovers some of the world’s best surfing, most beautiful beaches, and most epic sunsets. Welcome!

Getting Around Tamarindo & Surrounding Areas

Tamarindo shuttle

Travel tip: Save the headache and grab a Tamarindo shuttle into/out of town

Have you ever found that there’s often a big difference between trip planning and tip execution? When you’re planning, everything seems important. OMG-this-is-serious-why-can’t-Google-find-the-answer?!?! serious. And then, you arrive and suddenly, you’re on vacation and nothing feels quite so important as it once seemed. Because, Costa Rica.

Getting around Tamarindo is one of those things: It feels really, really important – and, to some extent, it is important! – when you’re planning from back home, but then you arrive and you see our 1-mile long stretch of town for the first time, and all your transportation stress melts away. You could walk it, if you wanted to.

Key word: Wanted. Because, walking is a valid option. You’ll see that many tourists and residents do just that. But, if walking beneath a tropical sun isn’t quite your speed – and if you don’t want to rent a car (or, at least, not for the whole trip – then, you’ll be happy to know that we have a ton of other transportation options.

Starting with the most important and the one you should absolutely, positively plan in advance: how to get to Tamarindo. And then, beyond that, how are you going to get around town? Without a car. We have the answer. Six of them*, to be precise.

*All costs are sample prices and current as of mid-2019.

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What to Do in Tamarindo, Costa Rica: 23 of the Best Activities

manta ray underwater

Costa Rica’s Catalinas Islands are one of the world’s top sights to spot giant manta rays. No wonder it makes our short list of what to do in Tamarindo, Costa Rica!

So, you’re wondering what to do in Tamarindo, Costa Rica? You’ve picked a good place to ask yourself that question: Tamarindo is one of Costa Rica’s beach hubs, offering a blend of urban convenience – and by urban, we mean a single mile(ish) of sandy road that borders the Pacific and dozens of excellent restaurants, bars, and activities – and Costa Rican charm.

This is the best of all worlds. So, it’s no wonder that we have 23 answers to what to do in Tamarindo, Costa Rica .

  1. Go Surfing

Witchs rock surfing

Wondering what to do in Tamarindo, Costa Rica? Surfing certainly tops the list of options.

Tamarindo may be known for many things, but we’d argue that spectacular surf is probably our greatest claim to fame. It’s also a point of pride, as our massive waves , huge breaks , and pounding surf  have tested, bested, and inspired surfers for decades. Surfers make pilgrimages to Tamarindo and our surrounds. Yeah, we’re that  good. So, that’s #1 on our list of what to do in Tamarindo, Costa Rica.

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Our Favorite Tamarindo Tours on Land

Half Day ATV Tour

And now, you are here: On secluded Playa Fill-in-your-Favorite, inaccessible by road but accessible to your ATV. Thankfully! This is the perfect welcome to our favorite Tamarindo tours on land…

When you come to Costa Rica (and especially Tamarindo), you’re probably thinking about the beach, the ocean, and the sun. You’re probably not thinking about all the Tamarindo tours and things to do on land – away from the sand, the sea, and the sun.

But, here’s the thing: You should be. You should absolutely, positively be thinking about all the things that Costa Rica’s dry forests, savannah lands, mountains, and volcanoes have on offer. Because, we’re talking high-octane adventure and sunset horseback rides,wildlife explorations and breathtaking mountain biking. We’re talking Tamarindo tours that will stamp indelible memories onto your time in Costa Rica.

While we’re on the topic (and if you’re still in sand-sea-sun mode), check out our favorite Tamarindo water tours, volcano tours, and all our favorite things to do.

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5 Reasons You’d Hate to Vacation in Tamarindo

Playa Naranjo Witchs Rock

Don’t worry! We’re here to save you from the potential horrors of a vacation in Tamarindo.

Look, at Stay in Tamarindo, we’re nothing if not honest. And, in all our many years of travel planning, we’ve learned a lot about what makes travelers most unhappy about a vacation in Tamarindo.

We’re talking true horrors – vacation nightmares the likes of which you never knew existed, let alone ones you have previously experienced. We’re talking a tropical sun that doesn’t quit, a restaurant scene that ignores the fact that you purposely booked a vacation rental that had a dishwasher, and a Great Outdoors that rudely demands you explore tranquil mangroves, watch monkeys playing in the trees, and observe nesting sea turtles in their natural habitats.

It’s awful and you’re going to hate it. Please don’t say we didn’t warn you.

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Top Costa Rica Volcano Tours & Day Trips from Tamarindo

Rincon de la Vieja National Park trails

Rincón de la Vieja, our all-time favorite Costa Rica volcano, may be as close as you ever get to a real, live, honest-to-goodness active volcano. So close, you can smell the stank!

Did you know that Costa Rica lies at the crossroads of two tectonic plates? And, did you also know that the theory of plate tectonics states that volcanoes are birthed from shifting tectonic plates? It’s no wonder, then, that there are roughly 200+ Costa Rica volcano formations – some more than 65 million years old!

But, let’s back up for a hot second (get it?!). Specifically, let’s start with the basics: Costa Rica’s volcanoes are many, but they all belong to the nation’s three volcanic ranges: the Guanacaste Volcanic Range (home to the Rincón de la Vieja, Orosi, Miravalles, Tenorio, and Arenal Volcanoes, among others); the Central Volcanic Range (comprised of the Poás, Barva, Irazú, and Turrialba Volcanoes, among others); and the Talamanca Volcanic Range (home to El Viejo Volcano).

Geography lesson, complete. And now, a fun fact: Of the 200+ Costa Rican volcano formations, just seven volcanoes can be considered active: Rincón de la Vieja Volcano, Poás Volcano, Arenal Volcano, Irazú Volcano, Turrialba Volcano, and Tenorio Volcano, with an honorable mention for the not-so-active-but-don’t-count-it-out-yet Miravalles, which clawed its way onto the active volcano list when it emitted a single puff of steam… way back in 1946. Somebody was feeling a little neglected, clearly.

Okay, okay, by now you’re thinking, get on with it! You want to hear about our favorite Costa Rica volcano tours. We promise we’ll get there. But, before we do, we think you may want to know a bit more about Costa Rica’s volcanoes – and the ones you can easily visit from Tamarindo. No? No problem. You can skip straight to the tours!

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Tamarindo Day Trip: Beach Hopping

Playa Conchal near Tamarindo

Playa Conchal is famous for its pink sands, which come courtesy of crushed seashells. And check out that turquoise water! No wonder it’s one of the most famous Tamarindo beaches…

There’s something special about doing nothing – or, almost nothing – when you’re on vacation. For at least a day. Live a little! Because you deserve the relaxation. The sand between your toes. And the joy of a day at the beach. Ten of them, actually. Beaches, not days, that is. Because we’re beach-hopping on another Tamarindo day trip!

We’ve mapped our favorite Tamarindo beaches from north to south, starting a little more than an hour north of downtown. Along the way, if you see any stretch of sand that calls to you, stop! Make it eleven, or twelve, or twenty beaches. And, be sure to bring your camera!

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Our Favorite Tamarindo Tours on Water

Pacific Soul catamaran rental Costa Rica

Tamarindo tours on water offer some of the most beautiful scenery in the region, if not in Costa Rica (or, really, the world… I mean, just look at that!). Here are a few of our favorites, for every age, every pleasure, and every adventure quotient. Enjoy!

If there’s one thing we can state as absolute fact, it’s that greater Tamarindo is a haven for all things aquatic: Whether you’re a surfer seeking the ultimate barrel, an angler in search of the next big catch, or your little pirate has professed a desire to pursue underwater treasure, the best Tamarindo tours on water promise to fulfill your dreams (and probably stoke a few new ones). It’s just that kind of place.

That may be a big claim, but it’s one we’re pretty sure Tamarindo can fill. After all, where else can you kayak into quiet estuary, swim beside octopuses (fun fact: that’s the correct plural form – true story!), learn to surf on legendary waves, and then sail off into the sunset – all in one day, one week, or one vacation. You set the pace, be it fast or slow, wanton or lackadaisical. Because Tamarindo is the kind of destination happy to let you decide.

And so, we bring you a few of our favorite Tamarindo tours on water: from record-breaking sport fishing and 12-foot white-water rafting drops, to swimming with 20-foot rays and snubaing with starfish, these activities get you out onto the water, into the water, and under the water. Exactly the way you like it.

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Tamarindo Day Trip: Las Pumas Rescue Center

jaguar Panthera onca-min

Jaguars, Costa Rica’s biggest wildcats, are just one of the five big cat species you’ll find at Las Pumas Rescue Center

We like to say that in nature, there are no guarantees. What that means is that, while Costa Rica is an incredibly biodiverse country where more than 25% of all land is reserved for national parks, wildlife refuges, and reserves – habitats to some of the densest wild animal populations in the world – there’s no guarantee you’ll spot a specific animal. Especially if that animal is elusive. Enter Las Pumas Rescue Center, or El Centro de Rescate Las Pumas.

Las Pumas is a wildlife rescue center, taking in the injured, the orphaned, and the illegally captured. Their goal: To provide necessary medical care and rehabilitate these animals, hopefully for release back into their natural habitats. What this means for us: Guaranteed animal sightings and a feel-good, do-good kind of day, where you not only see some animals but put your tourism dollars toward a worthy nonprofit. 

Need to Know:

Location: About 2 hours east of Tamarindo and 4.5 miles outside of Cañas, on the Interamerican Highway en route to Liberia

Hours: 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., Monday-Sunday

Cost: $8 children & students / $12 adults

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Costa Rica Travel Tips: Packing for Rainy Season

Costa Rica travel tips for rainy season-min

Rainy season travel is some of our favorite. The landscapes are green, the water is clear, flowers are in bloom, and the wildlife is happy. But, yeah, there’s likely to be rain. These Costa Rica travel tips for rainy season will see you through.

So, you’re visiting during the rainy season? Then hoo boy, do we have some Costa Rica travel tips up our sleeve.

Are you envisioning torrential downpours and epic thunderstorms, gray skies and a vacation spent huddling indoors, hiding from another miserable day?

Yeah, Costa Rica’s rainy season isn’t like that.

So, how much does it rain?  Are we talking a few sprinkles or more like apocalyptic, monsoon-level downpours? Does everything shut down? Here’s the short of it: Unless you’re really, really unlucky – as in, once-in-several-years unlucky – it’s not going to rain morning, noon, and night. It probably won’t even rain noon and night. It may not even rain every day.

But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. Hold on to your umbrella, because we’re about to get real about Costa Rica’s rainy season.

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Day Tours from Tamarindo: Make the Most When Time is Short (Part 2)

whitewater rafting in Tamarindo

Ready to up your adventure quotient AND make the most of your time? One of our favorite day tours from Tamarindo could be just the ticket!

Think you don’t have enough time to do everything in Costa Rica? Does your bucket list have holes in it? Then, think of these day tours from Tamarindo as both putty to fill those holes and the magic fairy dust to give you more time. Or, at least, to squeeze more from your time. Welcome to the 25-hour vacation day.

Okay, okay. We’re exaggerating a little bit. But, not much. Because, while Costa Rica may be a small country, it is vast. There is so much to see and do, even in our beachy neck of the woods. And so, when time is short – when you’re here for just 7, 10 or even 14 days – well, you find yourself crossing items off your wish list. And with each item you eliminate, you wonder: Is there any way to fit it in? Because, you really don’t want to miss a minute, if you don’t have to.

Enter the second half of our favorite day tours from Tamarindo: one-day trips and jaunts to maximize your time, whether you’re in the mood for birdwatching or country-hopping. (See Tamarindo Day Tours, Part 1 for more inspiration.)

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