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.

  1. Or, Take a Surf Lesson

Oka, all that surfing big-talk, and you’re now worried: hard rights, pounding who, and challenging what now? Deep, steady breaths. It’s easy to get intimidated when you read about Tamarindo surfing, but the truth is that there’s plenty of room here for beginner surfers , too. Even if you’ve never stood up on your board before, Tamarindo’s waves will welcome you.

Our best advice, though, is to book some surf lessons, either private or group. Our instructors have years of experience, great attitudes, and a desire to teach. Just one two-hour lesson, and you could be up on your board, catching your very first wave . And, hey, if you’re an advanced surfer, we got you, too! Our incredible all-day surf trips  head out to Avellanas, Witch’s Rock, and Ollie’s Point  – famed spots, some of which were forever immortalized in the surf classic Endless Summer 2.

>> Reserve a Surf Lesson <<

  1. Observe Nesting Sea Turtles

We’ve said it [a hundred times] before and we’ll say it again: If there’s one can’t-miss, make-forever-memories, you’ll-probably-never-do-this-again experience in Costa Rica, it’s turtle nesting. And, as far as what to do in Tamarindo, Costa Rica goes, it tops our list of nature activities since we’re just a short drive to Ostional Wildlife Refuge and its famous nesting site. Throughout the year, every year,  tens of thousands of olive ridley turtles  – with some pinch hitting from leatherback turtles and Pacific green turtles – arrive in arribadas , aka mass nesting events that are even bigger during the green months (July through November).

>> Reserve a Turtle Nesting Tour <<

  1. Paddle the Ocean

Tamarindo Kayak Tour

Take to the Pacific and paddle out to Captain Island, for snorkeling, sun-bathing, and an exhilarating race against the setting sun.

If you like your adrenaline salty, we highly recommend an ocean kayaking tour. Take it easy by paddling around close to shore, or up your adventure quotient with an ocean kayak tour to Capitan Island : a 40-minute (one-way), challenging paddle from beach to island, topped off with scenery , snorkeling , and a half-day of fun and physical challenge.

>> Book Ocean Kayaking <<

  1. Paddle the Mangroves

Looking for a tranquil kayaking tour? Look no further than mangrove kayaking , which begins in the estuary near the river mouth, and takes you paddling into the wilds of Tamarindo Wildlife Refuge . You’ll have a good chance of spotting monkeys, iguanas, and a large variety of birds on this two-hour tour.

>> Book Mangrove Kayaking <<

  1. FLY!! (Okay, Go Zip-Lining)

We’re not being dramatic, we swear: canopy tours really do feel like flying. And, lest you think that canopy tours are old hat in Costa Rica, you should know that the country’s tours are constantly upping the ante (and the adrenaline rush). We have two favorite canopy tours in the area, one that’s kid-friendly and one that’s… well, we’ll just leave you with the words free fall and upside down .

>> Book a Canopy Tour <<

  1. Go Boogie Boarding

Even if you’re not in the mood to surf, you can still enjoy Tamarindo’s epic waves. Stick to the beach and enjoy a slightly tamer, yet still completely exciting ride – boogie boarding, courtesy of local board rentals ($10-$15 per day). Kids in tow ? No problem; there are plenty of calmer sites around town, including the tranquil waters in front of Hotel Capitán Suizo.

  1. Explore a Volcano

waterfall at Rincon de la Vieja volcano

An active volcano, hot springs, and waterfalls? Yep, sign us up! But, is this going on your short list of what to do in Tamarindo, Costa Rica?

If we had to choose just one volcano to visit, it would be Rincón de la Vieja Volcano , a 1-million-year-old andesitic complex volcano located about two hours from Tamarindo. There’s way too much you can see and do there to fit it all into one paragraph, but suffice it to say that you can swim in cool lagoons , traverse waterfalls , soak in mineral hot springs , coat yourself in volcanic mud , peek into a mini-volcano , and so much more.

>> Read About Volcano Day Trips <<

  1. Explore Another Volcano

Have a little more time for one of Costa Rica’s top natural adventures? On our list of what to do in Tamarindo, Costa Rica, our nearby volcanoes are high on the list. So, if we had to pick just one more, we’d pick Miravalles , just two hours from Tamarindo and an outdoor playground of five beautiful waterfalls , natural pools ,volcanic mud , fumaroles and craters , and so much more.

>> Reserve this Tour <<

  1. WhatSUP??

You think you have decent balance, but have you ever really tested yourself? Welcome to stand-up paddle-boarding, aka SUP : a part-surfing, part-balancing sport that Tamarindo loves. Over a two-hour lesson, we’ll take you to one of our favorite (and calmest) beaches, so you can get up, get steady, and then start to paddle your way around the Pacific. And hey, if you fall in, you can say it was on purpose. You are in paradise, after all!

>> Go Stand-Up Paddle Boarding <<

  1. Hit Our Beaches

We said that Tamarindo’s surf is our #1 claim to fame but, we think our beaches give the waves a good run for their money. Just envision the warm waters, lapping at the beach. The powder-soft sand between your toes. The warm sun on your skin. It’s paradise.

Our very own Playa Tamarindo unrolls over more than a mile of soft, sun-kissed sands  and famous surf . This is a do-whatever kind of place, so whether you want to bring a picnic to the beach or dine at an oceanfront restaurant, crack open a soda from the cooler or order up a beachfront cocktail, Tamarindo is happy to accommodate.

  1. Then, Hit Nearby Beaches

pink sands of Playa Conchal

Playa Conchal is famous for its pink sands, which come courtesy of crushed seashells. Check out that turquoise water!

When you’re here and wondering what to do in Tamarindo, Costa Rica, we’ll inevitably tell you to take a beach-combing day trip . From Sugar Beach (Playa Pan de Azúcar) down to Playa San Juanillo, our coastline delivers some of the most pristine, spectacular beaches and vistas , anywhere in Costa Rica.

>> Plan Your Beach-Hopping <<

  1. Go Birdwatching

Birdwatchers in the house! You’ll love a trip to Palo Verde National Park , a birding haven located on the banks of the Río Tempisque, one of the most important migratory bird sites of the Mesoamerican Pacific and one of the best birdwatching sites in Costa Rica , if not all of the Americas.

Keep your eyes peeled – don’t worry, you’ll have an expert naturalist guide, to help! – for everything from white-faced monkeys, peccaries, armadillos, coatis, and crocodiles, to more than 300 bird species , including the greatest concentration of shorebirds and waterfowl in Central America . In fact – and just imagine it! – up to 250,000 birds  can be found here.

>> Visit Palo Verde National Park <<

  1. Swim in a Waterfall Pool

We know – it’s a general suggestion but, when it comes to what to do in Tamarindo, Costa Rica, we don’t think it gets much better thantaking the day slowly , maybe going on a hike, and ending at a natural waterfall pool . You can go it alone – just ask, and we’re happy to point you in the right direction! – or book one of our combo tours, several of which end with a waterfall hike + swim .

>> Book a Nature + Waterfall Tour <<

  1. Take a [Horseback] Ride on the Beach

Have you ever had the fantasy of trotting down the beach at sunset? Then, enough said.

>> Go Beachfront Horseback Riding <<

  1. Catch the Next Record Fish

sportfishing Tamarindo for roosterfish

Rooster fish are hard-fighting (and make for a great photo op!)

There’s a reason that Costa Rica and, specifically, Tamarindo are so renowned for sport fishing: We’re one of the world’s top sport fishing locations . We’re talking oceans that practically teem with black, striped and blue marlin, yellowfin tuna, mahi-mahi, snapper, grouper, roosterfish, jacks, wahoo, sailfish, and other prize specimens.

Not only will we take you to the best sport fishing waters in the area, but we’ll hook you up with the BEST boat and the BEST crew  in Tamarindo. They are incredibly skilled, wonderfully experienced, and delightfully friendly. Choose your favorite flavor: half-day3/4 day , and full day tours , sweeping from near-shore to deep-sea fishing and clocking in at 5, 7, or 8 hours.

>> Hook a Big One <<

  1. See Big Cats, Up Close & Personal

If wildcats – pumas, jaguars, and jaguarundis – are high on your list of things to see in Costa Rica, then Las Pumas Rescue Center should be high on your list of what to do in Tamarindo, Costa Rica.This wildlife rescue center, which nurtures the sick, the injured, and the orphaned, offers a front-row seat to animal rehabilitation – and quite a few jaw-dropping animal sightings, to boot!

>> Visit Las Pumas Rescue Center <<

  1. Cruise at Sunset

If there were one experience we’d recommend – you know, a thing that you feel, rather than see or do – then sunset catamaran cruising would definitely be somewhere at the top of our list. Because, if you’ve never spread out on a catamaran hammock  under the warm sun, if you’ve never snorkeled a secluded cove , if you’ve never had a close-up view of the world’s best sunset , then you’ve never truly experience life in paradise. Now’s your moment.

>> Take a Pacific Cruise <<

  1. Go Dolphin & Whale-Watching

humpback-whale-costa-rican-wildlife

Can you imagine seeing this?

Tamarindo’s Pacific waters are home to a host of incredible marine life, but none is quite so awe-inspiring (or photogenic) as our whales and dolphins. Board a boat, grab your camera, and prepare to spot humpback whales, several dolphin species, and – if you’re lucky – the occasional mating sea turtles.

  1. Pedal Our Mountains

This isn’t an activity you see often mentioned, but no list of what to do in Tamarindo, Costa Rica would be complete without mentioning mountain biking: Over 13 kilometers of dry forest and open pastures , wooden bridges and scenic lookout points , you’ll pedal your way to the best hidden spots, lovely scenery, and Pacific views that few tourists ever see. Mountain biking tours and mountain bike rentals are both available.

  1. Tackle the Terrain via ATV

Discover your wild side on an ATV tour, your invitation to Tamarindo’s backcountry – to the sites and sights where no car can go. Trust us when we say, there’s nothing quite like the thrill of the rugged road beneath your tires, the landscape at your side, and a sudden Pacific view unexpectedly emerging from around the bend.

>> Explore via ATV <<

  1. Scuba with Massive Mantas

The famed Catalina Islands are a special Tamarindo experience, if you’re scuba diver who’s been there, done that (a few times). This sprinkling of rocky out-islands is a scuba paradise, not for its warm and clear waters, but for its giant manta rays with jaw-dropping wingspans up to 20 feet . Book one of our Catalina Islands scuba excursions, and you can get there with no scuba certification required !

>> Scuba the Catalina Islands <<

  1. Or, Snuba for your First Taste of Under-the-Sea

Found a starfish snubaing

Even the littlest travelers (as young as 5) can explore the underwater debts, when you book a snuba tour

If the thought of scuba diving doesn’t set your heart aflutter, then we’d like to introduce you to the joys of snuba: part scuba, part snorkeling . Gear up with a small, floating raft full of oxygen, attach to your air hose, and then dive into the depths. For 30-50 minutes, you’ll explore the Pacific’s depths in search of sea creatures, secret reefs, and entire underwater worlds .

As far as what to do in Tamarindo, Costa Rica, this is a definite favorite: no dive license or certification is required  to snuba, and the minimum age is just 5 , so it’s a fun and safe way to experience underwater adventure, without having to don all that equipment.

>> Dive into Snuba <<

And, there you have it – 23 answers to what to do in Tamarindo, Costa Rica. But, they’re just the beginning. Our region is so diverse, so lovely, so incredibly varied that we definitely can’t fit everything into just 23 things-to-do. So, stay tuned for Part 2!

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