Tamarindo is a veritable paradise of wildlife watching and nature tours – a place where saltwater jungles stretch for acres and mangrove forest feeds into a sparkling Pacific. A place where sea turtles nest on protected beach, monkeys frolic in the trees, whales breach off golden sands, and heron stand sentry.

Spotlight on: A Tamarindo Mangrove Tour

Tamarindo mangrove tour

Come with us on an adventure of watery proportions! A Tamarindo mangrove tour promises a special morning or afternoon.

You came for the beaches but you’re now enthralled with the wildlife. After all, how often can your toes be in the warm sand, while a howler monkey hoots above or a prehistoric-looking ctenosaur scurries into its next sunny spot? This is Tamarindo, this is the glory of our natural wonderland, and this is the primary draw to a Tamarindo mangrove tour.

Yes, it’s high time we shared with you the secret of this floating boat ride, set amidst the Tamarindo National Wildife Refuge and Las Baulas National Park. Yes, it’s time we let you in on the adventure just minutes from town and a paddle away – in on the estuary, the mangroves, and the entirely different habitat (with its often hereto-unseen residents) that wait to welcome you.

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Tamarindo Overnight Trip: Explosive Arenal Volcano

Arenal Volcano in Costa Rica

Arenal Volcano is Costa Rica’s most famous volcano – and one of our favorite day trips (even better: overnight trips!) from Tamarindo.

On slopes where once flowed destructive red-hot lava, now grows an explosion of rainforest riches: soaring palms, dense foliage, and jewel-toned tropical blooms. And, lest you forget its origins, the occasional (yet tamer) belch from a mostly-sleeping-sometimes-rumbling active volcano.

Indeed, while a nightly lava show used to draw visitors to the region, today Arenal Volcano relies on much more than Mother Nature’s red-hot fireworks. This is a town dedicated to diversion, relaxation, and a full suite of adventure: soaring canopy ziplines, exhilarating waterfall rappelling, frothing white-water rafting, volcanic hot springs, shadowy cave spelunking, and so much more.

Oh, so very much more.

Because, this is Arenal Volcano. And this is one of our most popular overnight tours from Tamarindo. Trust us, it’s worth the drive.

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Costa Rica Turtle Watching: Ostional Wildlife Refuge

Costa Rica turtle watching at Ostional

Looking for the best Costa Rica turtle watching tour? There’s no better place than Ostional Wildlife Refuge.

When was the last time you visited one of the world’s most important anythings? Welcome to Ostional Wildlife Refuge which, according to the World Wildlife Fund, is “one of the two most important areas in the world for nesting of the olive ridley turtle.” Indeed, this is the place for nearly guaranteed Costa Rica turtle watching. The place in the world, specifically.

Every year, millions of sea turtles lumber onto the beaches of Ostional National Wildlife Refuge. Every year, millions of sea turtles are born on the beaches of Ostional Wildlife Refuge. And every year, thousands of lucky visitors come to these beaches to witness this spectacular event.

And it’s not just that. While olive ridley turtles (Lepidochelys olivacea) are most common at Ostional – up to 150,000 (yes, you read that right!) can come ashore during a single nesting event – leatherback sea turtles (Dermochelys coriacea) and Pacific green turtles (Chelonia mydas agassizii) are also known to nest here.

Alert, alert! As of this post (September 2018), it’s high turtle season and we’re experiencing one of the largest arribadas of the year.

So, who’s ready for some Costa Rica turtle watching?

Ostional Wildlife Refuge At-A-Glance: 

Location: 65 miles south of Tamarindo

Founded: 1982 (declared a protected area) and 1984 (refuge formed)

Maximum Altitude: Sea level

Area: 180 acres; the refuge is part of the greater Tempisque Conservation Area (= tens of thousands of protected acres)

Hours: 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Telephone: 2682-0470

Entrance Fee: $15 adults / $5 children

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Tamarindo Day Trip: Guide to Diria National Park

Howler Monkey

How about a howler monkey welcome to Diria National Park?

Guanacaste is home to eight national parks, each known for their vast habitats, natural beauty, and varied wildlife. You’ve probably heard of many of them: from leatherback turtle beaches at our own Las Baulas National Marine Park to the canals of Palo Verde National Park, Guanacaste is famous for its parks. Except one. One that flies decidedly under the radar.

Welcome to Guanacaste’s best-kept secret. Kick off your flip-flops and get out your hiking shoes. We’re going to Diria National Park!

Here, what was once a protected area is now a national park – an upgrade courtesy of Diria National Park’s varied ecosystems, strong conservation efforts, and entertainment value. That’s right, Diria is not only beautiful but also a fun place to visit: Filled with crystal-clear river waters, a majestic waterfall, interwoven trails, and an abundance of birds, mammals, and other animal species.

Diria National Park Overview: 

Location: 10 miles south of Santa Cruz

Founded: 1991 (became a national park in 2004)

Maximum Altitude: 5,905 feet (1,800 meters) above sea level

Area: 13,410 acres

Hours: 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Telephone: 2686-4968 / 2686-4970

Entrance Fee: $6 adults / $5 children

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Guide to Santa Rosa National Park

Witch's Rock at Santa Rosa National Park

Witch’s Rock, a famed surf site, is located within Santa Rosa National Park

Where isolated beach meets rare dry forest, where rushing rivers flow into lush mangrove forests, where epic waves crash onto rocky islands – this is Santa Rosa National Park, Costa Rica’s first national park and an untouched beauty still far off the nation’s beaten path.

Rough and wild, Santa Rosa is a place where white-tailed deer still frequent drinking holes and the jaguars still meander along parched landscapes. Where one of the world’s last tropical dry forests meet endangered sea turtle nesting sites, where howler monkeys hoot in the tees and bats flutter through the air.

Here, amidst waist-high scrub grass and the veil of Guanacaste trees, Santa Rosa National Park protects critical habitats and prized Costa Rican history. Here, Santa Rosa National Park cradles ocean-view hiking trails and two of the world’s most beloved surf sites. Here, Santa Rosa National Park calls you to outdoor adventures and inner reflections, to heart-pounding thrills and tranquil afternoons.

Santa Rosa National Park Overview: 

Location: 22 miles north of Liberia; about 2 hours north of Tamarindo

Founded: 1971

Area: 91,926 acres and 192,660 maritime acres

Hours: Monday through Sunday, 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.; extended hours: 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. during high season

Telephone: 2666-5051 / 2668-1045 / 2668-1150

Entrance Fee: $15 adults / $5 children

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Tamarindo Day Trip: Snorkeling & Scuba Diving the Catalina Islands

manta ray underwater

Costa Rica’s Catalinas Islands are one of the world’s top sights to spot giant manta rays

Every year, divers from around the world make their pilgrimage to Costa Rica’s Catalinas Islands – a haven for a spectacular variety of marine life, including giant manta rays with jaw-dropping wingspans up to 20 feet.

Indeed, the Catalina Islands are a special place. A sprinkling of 20 rocking islands, this scuba paradise invites divers and snorkelers to mask up, jump in, and break through the sparkling surface of an indigo Pacific. To dive into these warm and clear-watered depths, in search of devil manta rays, humpback whales, white-tipped reef sharks, angel fish, orcas, spinner dolphins, sea turtles, and so much more.

To discover “the Cats” and their incredible secrets. To explore one of Costa Rica’s most sought-after dive sites. To experience just a hint of what lies beneath the surface of this eco-paradise. And, what lies above.

The Catalinas Islands: At a Glance

Location: 2 to 15 miles offshore (west) of Flamingo

Altitude: Sea Level

In addition to its neighbor, the Bat Islands (Las Islas Murciélagos), the Cats are considered one of the top scuba-diving spots in Costa Rica. We’re talking warm waters that teem with life – life that easy to see, thanks to clear visibility up to 75 feet. And, since this scattering of 20 “islands” – some are more like rocks – are located directly off the shores of Tamarindo, we’re perfectly located to all your underwater diving dreams.

Indeed, whether you’re a casual snorkelers or die-hard diver, if you’re in Costa Rica, you cannot miss the Catalina Islands. But, you’ve already found your way to this article, so we’re guessing you already know that.

And with that, off we go. Here’s everything you need to know about the Catalinas Islands.

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Tamarindo Day Trip: Guide to Palo Verde National Park

roseate spoonbills inhabit Palo Verde National Park

Palo Verde National Park is famous for its birdwatching (pictured: a roseate spoonbill)

One of Costa Rica’s seemingly greatest contrasts, spectacular Palo Verde National Park is home to a resounding dichotomy: rich and vibrant wetlands that simultaneously house one of the world’s foremost examples of tropical dry forest.

A contradiction, indeed, and one that works beautifully.

Palo Verde’s unique setting is owed to the Río Tempisque, which ebbs and flows over this otherwise arid region. The result is somewhat other-worldly, with sun-drenched dry forest unfolding over parched limestone, which then cozies up to rushing river and muddy habitats.

It’s a major watershed, a protected wildlife sanctuary, and an important dry forest, all rolled into one. And it’s absolutely fascinating.

Palo Verde National Park Overview: 

Location: 16 miles south of Bagaces

Founded: 1978

Maximum Altitude: 879 feet (267 meters) above sea level

Area: 45,492 acres (divided into two sectors: Las Pailas and Santa Maria)

Hours: 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Telephone: 2200-0125 or 2661-4717

Entrance Fee: $12 adults / $5 children

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Wildly Fun: Tamarindo Wildlife Refuge

Mangrove Kayaks

Take a kayak tour into the wilds of Tamarindo Wildlife Refuge

Saltwater jungles. Lumbering leatherback sea turtles. Otherworldly mangrove estuaries. Winding canals. Lizards, running on water. Behind-the-scenes boat tours. Yes, Tamarindo Wildlife Refuge is fascinating and often, a bit magical.

We admit it freely: We love our wildlife refuge! Even more so because it encompasses our entire coastline. Indeed, almost anywhere you walk on Tamarindo’s beaches, you’re walking through the Tamarindo Wildlife Refuge.

But it’s about a lot more than just the beach. Indeed, while – in wildlife refuge terms, at least! – the beaches serve as important sea turtle nesting sites, there’s more to see here. More, to the tune of incredible mangrove forests, connected through winding saltwater and brackish canals. It’s wildlife central and it’s right in our backyard, if only you know where to look.

Overview:

Location: Tamarindo

Size: 953 acres (385 hectares)

Altitude: Sea Level

Contact (Tempisque Conservation Area): 2686-4967 / 2686-4968

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9 Ways to Upgrade Your Tamarindo Vacation

Tamarindo vacation upgrade private sailing tour

This moment can be yours. All yours. Welcome to our favorite upgrades to your Tamarindo vacation!

So, you’ve done it. You’ve finally booked your trip to Costa Rica. You bought the airfare. You reserved your Tamarindo vacation rental. And you’re thisclose to your dream Tamarindo vacation.

You have just a few details to iron out. Well, maybe more than a few.

Because you have no idea what you want to do while you’re here. Or rather, you know exactly what you’d like to do. Unfortunately, there’s just not enough time to do it all. Well, not unless you’re here for six months.

So, what’s a traveler to do? Prioritize, that’s what. Because, as difficult as it may be to narrow down your Tamarindo vacation preferences, it’s an unfortunate necessity. Your trip (and your sanity) deserve it. (And don’t worry, whatever you can’t fit in now will be perfect for your next visit!)

Luckily, we’re here to help. We’re here, on the ground. We’re here, doing it all so you don’t have to. We work with delighted travelers every day. And so, we know – we know the best upgrades, must-book tours, and other activities you can’t miss on your Tamarindo vacation.

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Big Five: More Costa Rican Animals You Can’t Wait to Spot

Costa Rican animals: the keel-billed toucan

The keel-billed toucan is one of our favorite Costa Rican animals!

A promise is a promise! In our first overview of Costa Rica’s Big Five, we came clean and admitted we couldn’t narrow it down to just five Costa Rican animals.

After all, Costa Rica is home to a whopping 6% of the world’s total biodiversity, in space as small as just 0.3% of the Earth’s surface. That’s packing it pretty tight, in ratio terms. Pretty tight under any terms, really. Because, did you know? Costa Rica is home to an estimated 500,000 species (including 1,251 species of butterflies alone!).

Admittedly, that would be a lot to see while you’re here. In fact, it may be a tad over-optimistic to hope you’ll see them all. So, in our continuing mission to help you narrow it down, may we present our next round of our Big Five: 5 more Costa Rican animals to put on your must-see list:

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