Costa Rica Family Vacation: Your [Almost] Complete Guide to Tamarindo with Kids
You’re enjoying a wonderful holiday season – by the way, happy holidays from the Stay in Tamarindo family! – and you’re loving your time together with your loved ones, whether you’re gathered with just your nearest and dearest or gathered with extended family and friends. And now, you’re thinking (and even talking) about that Costa Rican family vacation you have all always wanted to take.
Congratulations! Costa Rica is an excellent choice for your family vacation, and Tamarindo is the best choice of all. (Yes, we admit we’re a little biased.) But, consider this: spectacular beaches and even more beautiful sunsets, dense mangroves and sick surf, thrilling adventures and tranquil slices of beach – the perfect recipe to create one of Costa Rica’s most popular destinations.
You’ve already heard a lot about Costa Rica. You’ve definitely dreamed of your someday visit. And now, you’re really starting to plan. Go ahead – you can do a little dance! A family vacation in Costa Rica is something to get excited about.
With visions of mangoes dancing in your head, your initial excitement and anticipation passed, inevitably your thoughts will begin to wander to some of the more practical matters: When should you plan your visit?What will the weather be like? Where should you visit and where will you stay? And then, importantly, how much should you budget?
Costa Rica Family Vacation: The When, The Where, and The What of Tamarindo
Let’s start with the basics of Costa Rica family vacations, to orient you to the country and your trip:
When: For family vacations especially, the when of a Costa Rican vacation often revolves around many schedules (including the school schedule). So, to start, you should know that Tamarindo weather averages 75-95º F (23-35º C) and sees about 12-13 hours of sunlight, year-round: the sun rises around 5:30 a.m. and sets just around 6 p.m. (stay tuned for incredible sunsets!). All that said, there are two seasons in Tamarindo: the dry season (December-April) and green season (sometimes called wet season, from May-November). If you’d like to know more, check out our guide to Costa Rican weather.
Where: Tamarindo is obviously our choice for a Costa Rica family vacation – we’re just urban enough to offer something for everyone, with some of the nation’s best restaurants, and well located to much of the country’s highlights: Located on Costa Rica’s north-Pacific coast, just 75 minutes from Liberia International Airport(LIR). (If you’re of a GPS state of mind, we’re located at coordinates 10.2993° N, 85.8371° W.) That said, Tamarindo is a catch-all phrase from a larger area, usually to include Playa Langosta and Playa Grande, often encompassing Hacienda Pinilla, and sometimes extending all the way to Playa Flamingo.
What: Our favorite question! Tamarindo is a scenic crescent of cinnamon-white sands – about a mile of sun-splashed beach town, stretching from Playa Grande south of Playa Langosta. It’s the perfect blend of small-town charm and cosmopolitan cool, with a very generous side of spectacular nature: dry forest, mangroves, wet forest, and even a touch of desert-like savannah, to form a slice of dense Costa Rican biodiversity.
Let’s go a little deeper. (Because, why not? Costa Rica is a dream worthy of detail, right?) Once a sandy little fishing town, Tamarindo today is one of Costa Rica’s most robust beachside metropolises – a metropolis with a fair bit of chill, as evidenced by our de facto motto of “surf, eat, and have fun.”
We’re proud to commit to all three! Because our surf is epic– world renowned and a must on every surfer’s bucket list (see our list of surf spots, below!) – our foodies scene is one of the best in Costa Rica, and we have spent years mastering the art of having fun.
Exactly what kind of fun, you ask? Well, we’re happy to answer. And answer and answer and answer. Because Tamarindo is the north-Pacific hub for all things adventure, nature, and iconic Costa Rica. We’re talking amazing variety and spectacular choice: surfing, SUP, canopy zip-lining, yoga, catamaran sailing, turtle nesting, snorkeling & scuba diving, wildlife & nature tours, sports fishing, swimming, golf, and much more. (But we’ll get to all that, in a moment.)
EASY BUTTON!! Don’t want to mess around with logistics (or group bookings)? We’ll do it for you! From activities and transportation, to spa treatments and chef services, we’ll take care of everything before you arrive, so you don’t spend your vacation… well, planning your vacation. If you’d like any help, our in-house concierge, Cristina (send her an email), can recommend perfect activities for you and your friends and family – and book them on your behalf, absolutely free!
Where to Stay: The Best Vacation Rentals for your Costa Rica Family Vacation
If you’ve ever overlooked the where of your family vacation, then you know how important it can really be. And that’s why we recommend splashing out on a special vacation rental for your nearest and dearest.
Tamarindo’s vacation rental market is particularly healthy, offering a full fleet of everything from cozy two-bedrooms for your family of 3 and palatial 7-bedroom homes to accommodate all the parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins and everyone else you can loop into your dream vacation.
And for all that, we have you more than covered with our selection of luxury vacation rentals: ocean-view estates and comfortable golf townhomes, eco-friendly villas and poolside palaces. And, of course, all the upscale amenities your vacation deserves, from infinity pools and daily housekeeping, to sea views and other five-star extras that will tip your vacation from memorable into extraordinary territory.
Search all our Tamarindo vacation rentals, where you’ll find everything from ocean-view 2-bedrooms to sprawling properties that accommodate up to 64 guests!
(And remember, if you’d like any help with planning or booking tours, our in-house concierge, Cristina (send her an email) can recommend, arrange, and ensure all the details for you and your friends and family – and book them on your behalf, absolutely free!)
Things to Do in Tamarindo
We’ve already hinted that Tamarindo is one of Costa Rica’s top destinations. (And that’s saying a lot, in a country as beautiful and biodiverse as this.)
So, what’s the Tamarindo secret sauce? Well, it starts with our famed surf and spectacular beaches (complete with beachfront sunsets) and extends to our iconic activities, almost all of which are easily accessible from our sandy town. There’s world-record sport fishing and adrenaline-fueled adventures, tranquil nature-watching and wildlife-viewing. It’s a smorgasbord of bucket-list thrills, chills, and memories.
To our mind, there’s no better family bonding than a few shared experiences on your Costa Rica family vacation. Here are a few of our top choices:
Surfing: One of our absolute top, can’t-miss, family bonding experiences is taking a surfing lesson together. Because, while Tamarindo’s surf may be world-class, it’s also appropriate for everyone from beginner to pro. We’re happy to do everything from point your family in the right direction, to delivering board rentals to your door, to reserving the best family surfing lessons in Tamarindo.
Catamaran Sailing: Provided any kids are old enough (around 5+) and are comfortable swimming, a catamaran cruise is possibly our top recommendation in Tamarindo. Available morning or afternoon, this popular activity pairs a fun cruise, a spread of food, scenic sightseeing, hidden coves, snorkeling and, if you’re on the afternoon cruise, an over-ocean sunset. It’s unforgettable!
Sport Fishing: Costa Rica’s north-Pacific coast is world-renowned for excellent sport fishing so, if a reel and a hook are your kind of family bonding, then we’re happy to hook you up with the best boats, the best crews, and the best fishing spots in the area. And, if you’re after the authentic Costa Rican experience, we can also book you a spot on a traditional Costa Rican panga fishing boat. It’s sure to be a once-in-a-lifetime experience!
Sea Turtle Nesting: If your family is of the outdoor variety, then we can think of no better, more moving, more unique activity than watching sea turtles nesting at Playa Grande’s Las Baulas National Park or nearby Ostional Wildlife Refuge (65 miles south of Tamarindo), home to leatherback sea turtles and green sea turtles, respectively.
Canopy Zipline Tours: If you’re after a little adrenaline for your Costa Rica family vacation, then there’s no thrill more iconic than that of a canopy tour: soaring treetop cables, incredible views, wildlife watching, and high-octane adventure, including the occasional Tarzan swing and heart-pounding rappel.
Snorkeling and/or Scuba Diving: While snorkeling and scuba diving are decent just off the coast, what you’re really after is a trip to the Catalina Islands: a 20-island archipelago and a haven for a spectacular variety of marine life, including giant manta rays with jaw-dropping wingspans of up to 20 feet.
Mangrove Tours: If your family loves to go wildlife watching, then you’ll love one of Tamarindo’s superb mangrove tours, which wind through interwoven canals and a host of local wildlife, including crocodiles, iguanas, monkeys, and dozens of bird species.
And this is just the tip of the sand dune. One of the major advantages of Tamarindo is that there’s so much to see and do, including whitewater tubing/rafting, horseback riding, ATV tours, ocean kayaking, luxury spas (this one is probably for the grownups), and quick day trips to Palo Verde National Park (wetlands and wildlife-watching) and Rincón de la Vieja National Park (hot springs, hiking, horseback riding and more!).
And, don’t miss our full list of 24 family-friendly things to do in Tamarindo – perfect, if you’re traveling with the younger set, too!
Getting to/from Tamarindo
We are firm believers in low stress and high enjoyment, starting with the moment you step foot in Costa Rica. We’ve learned from experience: After a day of air travel, the last thing you wan tis more complicated travel. And that brings us to how to get to Tamarindo (and back to the airport again):
Option 1: Private Airport Shuttle
We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: private airport transportation is our favorite way to/from the airport. It’s as easy as it gets, with no more work than finding your name on an airport sign, boarding your air-conditioned private transport, and then letting your driver handle all the details, including your luggage, driving, and finding your vacation rental.
Option 2: Drive
If you plan to rent a car for your Costa Rica vacation, then first consider having your rental car dropped off at your vacation rental. (We can arrange that for you.) This blends the ease of airport transportation with the freedom of a rental car – the best of both words, so to speak!
But, if you feel comfortable navigating an airport rental car pickup and Costa Rica’s roads, then here’s how to get from Liberia to Tamarindo: Download Waze, a free GPS app, before your trip, pick up a prepaid SIM card at the airport, and then use the app to navigate to Tamarindo. Otherwise, from the airport, take Route 21 south to Route 155 southwest, and then follow signs on Avenida las Palmas west to Tamarindo downtown.
Additionally, you have three more transportation options – but we don’t recommend them. Your first option is to fly into SJO (San José International Airport) and then take a puddle-jumper to Tamarindo. (More complication.) You could also take a shared shuttle from Liberia, but that’ll only work if your schedule perfectly matches the shuttle company’s. (Note: For big groups, private transport is usually more cost-effective than shared shuttles.) And the third option is to board the public bus, which is suited only to the most adventurous and well-traveled visitors.
And, there you have it: Our guide to Costa Rica family vacations. If there’s anything you’d like to know, please post in the comments or get in touch. We are always thrilled to help!