How to Plan a Carefree Tamarindo Vacation (with very little effort)

Pacific Soul catamaran rental Costa Rica

Planning a Tamarindo vacation? Hoping for a carefree planning experience? That’s our wish for you, too. Here’s how to get from Point A (planning stress) to Point B (totally chill, toes in the sand, not a care in the world).

There is just something about vacation: No matter how relaxing, how soothing, how perfect it promises to be, the planning stages are anything but relaxing, soothing, or perfect. More like demanding, time-intensive, and detail-rich. Unfortunately, your Tamarindo vacation planning will probably be no different from the standard. Oh, except that it’s in Spanish. Goody.

Costa Rica is a small country but a big place: Smaller than the state of West Virginia but home to more than 5% of the world total biodiversity, Costa Rica is the kind of vacation that can be overwhelming to plan. How can you see it all, when you have only 5, 7, 10 or even 14 days in country?

Well, Cliff’s Notes on that one: you can’t. Costa Rica is definitely the kind of place that demands a repeat visit. Two, three, ten times… You’re going to want to come back. But, in the meantime, while you’re planning this visit – be it your first or your fifth – you want to keep your stress low and your anticipation high.

You want to plan a carefree, unicorns-and-rainbows, #BringOnTheBucketList kind of Tamarindo vacation. But, you don’t want to stress out while doing it. And, if that sounds like a catch-22, you’ll be happy to hear it’s not. You can have your Costa Rica cake and eat it, too. Here’s how:

Step 1: Contact a Travel Concierge

fire dancers on Tamarindo beach

Did you know that the sun goes down between 6:15 and 6:45 p.m., year round? Or that the best birdwatching happens in the 5:30-7 a.m. time slot? Cris does.

STOP! Before you skip over this step – “I don’t need a concierge! I have Frommer’s!” – you should know: At Stay in Tamarindo, our concierge services are absolutely and always free.

There is literally no reason not to say yes. Eliminate your stress. Perfect the details. Plan the exact vacation you would, if you were a Costa Rica expert, did this every day, spoke Spanish, and had time to compare, in person via first-hand experience, Zipline Tour 1 to Zipline Tour 2 to Zipline Tour 3. (Right, like you have that kind of time.)

In other words, a concierge delivers your Costa Rica dream, for no added cost. Yes, seriously. And no, there are no strings attached. Really.

We know it sounds too good to be true. (We’ll explain why it’s not, promise!) So, now that that’s out of the way, let’s move on to the actual information:

Contact a travel concierge, as early as possible in your Tamarindo vacation planning. Why? Because your travel concierge – in our case, Cristina (aka Cris) is our wonderful, knowledgeable, and friendly in-house concierge – knows Tamarindo (and surrounds) like the back of your hand. But her job goes way beyond that: her task is to get to know you that well, too.

Here’s the deal: Think of your travel concierge as your Costa Rica real-life guide book, best friend and confidante. Tell Cris everything and she’ll align your needs and wants with the Tamarindo reality. She will build your custom itinerary and suggest activities, tours, and attractions tailored to your specific interests, activity levels, and wish lists.

And, lest that sound expensive, we’ll clarify: Cris can work with your budget. Really.

It all starts with our welcome packet, which includes an intro to many of the most popular Tamarindo activities, tours, and attractions. Have a look. Get a taste of what Tamarindo has to offer. Start building your must-do and would-like-to-do lists. Then, talk with Cris. Buckle up, because this is where the magic happens.

Because, while you’re standard, run-of-the-mill travel agent can add Tour 1 and Tour 2 to an itinerary, Cris is more in the business of Tamarindo vacation alchemy: Add up one (or ten) wish lists, tack on a few once-in-a-lifetime experiences (sailing at sunset, anyone?), and list your accommodations must-haves, and Cris will rearrange the puzzle pieces until she creates a complete and lovely picture.

Here’s the real difference: Cris understands the on-the-ground logistics of it all: where your vacation home is located, when it gets dark outside (who thinks of these things? Cris!), the best hours for birdwatching, airport layouts (just where will your driver meet you, anyway?), and all the other details that affect your vacation. All the other details that you have no hope of knowing, but that are absolutely necessary for a carefree Tamarindo vacation.

Here’s an example: Your standard travel agent can book your transportation into Tamarindo. Cris, on the other hand, books you a highly vetted, very professional airport shuttle to Tamarindo; it has all the bells and whistles, your driver speaks English, you can make stops at photo ops, and you’ll get dropped off at your vacation home’s front door. And, if you’re renting a car for your Tamarindo vacation, it’ll be there – at you front door. In other words, Cris is all about a smooth experience, guaranteed, every time.

Wait, Did You Say Free?

tamarindo sunset cruise

No joke, you could be here. The question is, do you know which sunset cruise is the best sunset cruise? Because Cris does.

Sounds too good to be true, right? Well, it’s not. Here’s how it works:

The short of it is that, in Costa Rica, travel companies – we’re talking everything from tour operators and activities, to attractions and rentals – pay commissions on their bookings. With NO MARKUP. In other words, if the price for that sunset sail is $85 per person on the sailboat’s own website, then you’ll pay Cris $85 per person, too.

The only difference? If you were to book on your own, or with a travel agent who’s not ultra-familiar with Tamarindo vacation details, then you won’t know whether XYZ Sunset Sail is better than ZYX Sunset Sail. You won’t be sure which is easier to reach from your vacation home. You won’t know which catamaran is more (or less) kid-friendly. Or which has the best free booze.

Cris knows.

The defense rests, Your Honor.

Step 2: Reserve the Perfect Tamarindo Vacation Rental (ASAP)

Flamingo Blu oceanfront vacation rentals in Tamarindo

It’s easy to see (literally) why views like this book up well in advance. Our advice: Book your Tamarindo vacation rental as early as possible!

Whether you’re working with Cris or going it alone, the first thing you should reserve is your Tamarindo vacation rental.

But first, when should you choose a vacation rental over a hotel?

Almost always, if you ask us. But first, a disclaimer: We’re admittedly (and unabashedly) biased. We believe that Costa Rica’s vacation rentals offer far greater value than hotels. But, we don’t expect you to believe that. At least, not yet. But, please hear us out and then make you own decision.

Vacation homes offer the best value in Costa Rican accommodations. Dollar for dollar, night for night, when it comes to the balance of price vs. amenities, Tamarindo vacation homes always win over hotels. (Want to dig into it? Check out our in-depth look at your Costa Rican accommodations budget.)

In short, a vacation home affords you the kind of footloose-and-fancy-free trip a hotel can’t: You’ll have space to spread out. You’ll have a kitchen – even if you only want to prepare early morning coffee and late-night drinks. Very possibly, you’ll have access to a washer and dryer. You may even have a private infinity pool, ocean views, and other amenities you can only share at a hotel.

For the sake of not writing a novel in a blog post, let’s assume you’re convinced and it’s the Tamarindo vacation rental life for you. Here’s the reality: The best – the most coveted, the most affordable, the largest, the most luxurious, the best views… the most superlative, in almost any way – rentals for your Tamarindo vacation book up early.Sometimes, 9-12+ months in advance.

That’s not to say you can’t find a great rental with just three months to spare. But, if you have the luxury of time, book your vacation home first thing. That way, you get just the one you’ve been dreaming of.

Step 3: Book Your Must-Do, Must-See Tours

Turtle Watching - Things to do in Tamarindo Costa Rica

Did you know that most turtle nesting sites in Costa Rica are within national park or preserve? And, in order to protect nesting mothers, their eggs, and hatchlings, turtle tours a limited to a set [small] number of guests per tour? Don’t miss out.

Another thing Cris is great at: Identifying the tours, experiences, and activities you have to have, and then making sure you have it.

Because, if you’re traveling in high season, if you have your heart set on a limited-guest tour (turtle-watching, we’re looking at you!), if your family won’t be satisfied unless you’ve caught a monster fish – well, that takes advance planning.

And by that, we mean that there are a few tours, attractions, and activities that you should lock in, well in advance, in order to secure your spot and reservations. But, beyond the few sell-out-fast tours, you’ll want to book other things in advance, too.

We’re talking things like a 7-passenger 4×4 (or just any 4×4, if you’re visiting in high season). Airport shuttles. Harder-to-find, six-person golf carts. All the little details that can add up to a big deal, especially if you don’t get them. Because Cris, well, she knows what needs to be booked in advance, and what can wait until a few weeks before arrival. And you need to know that, too.

Step 4: Add on Some (Indulgent) De-Stressors to your Tamarindo Vacation

Tamarindo vacation indulgence: in-villa massage

Say it with me now: ommmmm

We have a theory: If there’s any “right time” for indulgence, it’s on vacation. There really is something special about setting aside a bit of the budget and a bit of time, to treat yourself to something you’ll look forward to, from now to your Tamarindo vacation – and remember, from vacation into eternity. Luckily, there are many versions of “treating oneself” in Tamarindo: one to fit almost any mood and any style.

Book a massage: Swedish, relaxing, deep-tissue, hot stone – there are dozens of massage options available in Tamarindo and, if you really want to up the indulgence ante, you can even book your massage in-villa. That’s right: you massage therapist can come to you.

Reserve a private chef: If there’s anything more indulgent than a Tamarindo vacation, it’s a vacation in Tamarindo, upgraded with the luxury of your own private chef – a personal chef who visits your vacation home, understands your palate, and crafts fabulous meals from fresh, locally sourced ingredients.

Take a private sunset sail: There are many iterations of private tours in Tamarindo, but none quite so special as private sailing: Just you and your friends and family, the crew all to yourselves. Tour a secluded beach. Snorkel for hours. Dine on the boat at sunset. It’s a special memory.

Of course, there are many other possibilities. And that circles us back to Step #1: Cris. Whatever you hope, whatever you dream – she really can make it happen. So, get in touch. It’s the first step toward the vacation you’ve always wanted to take.

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