- The Best of Costa Rica
- Costa Rica’s Top Spots for WIldlife
- Costa Rica’s Most Beautiful Beaches
- Costa Rica’s Best Beaches for Wildlife
- Best Surfing Beaches in Costa Rica
- Costa Rica’s Unique Retreats & Resorts
- Surf’s Up in Costa Rica
- Off-The-Beaten-Path Eco-Adventures
- Costa Rica Family-Friendly Adventures
- Adrenaline Rush
Playa Tamarindo, eight kilometers south of Huacas, is Nicoya’s most developed beach resort and is especially popular with backpacking surfers.
The gray-sand beach is about two kilometers wide, and very deep when the tide goes out—perfect for strolling and watching pelicans dive for fish. It has rocky outcrops, good for tidepooling. There’s a smaller beach south of the main beach, with tidepools and relatively fewer people.
Riptides are common, so ask locals in the know for the safest places to swim.
The Río Matapalo washes onto the beach at its northern end, giving direct access to the Tamarindo Wildlife Refuge via the Estero Palo Seco; a boatman will ferry you for $0.50. You can also wade across at low tide, although crocodiles are sometimes present, as they are in the mangroves at the eastern end of Playa Tamarindo.
To the south, separated by a headland from Playa Tamarindo, is more upscale Playa Langosta, a beautiful white-sand beach that stretches beyond the wide estuary of the Río Tamarindo for several kilometers.
Tamarindo has changed beyond recognition in the past decade, metamorphosing from a sleepy surfers’ hangout to a full-blown resort, with uncontrolled development. High-eise condominimums have arrived, as have shopping malls. But most roads remain unpaved—dusty as hell in dry season and deplorably potholed with vast pools of mud in wet season.
Fecal contamination of the ocean has reached dangerous levels. A serious crime wave is now part of the scene as well: There have been several unsolved tourist murders here in recent years, and prostitutes and drugs are now prevalent.
Getting to Tamarindo
SANSA and Nature Air operate scheduled daily service between Tamarindo and San José. The SANSA office is on the main street. A $3 departure tax is collected at the airport.
Alfaro buses (tel. 506/2222-2666) depart San José daily from Avenidas 5, Calles 14/16, at 11:30 A.M. and 3:30 P.M. ($5) via Liberia; and Tralapa buses (tel. 506/2221-7202) depart from Calle 20, Avenidas 3/5, at 4 P.M. Transporte La Pampa (tel. 506/2686-7245) buses depart Liberia for Tamarindo nine times daily 5:30 A.M.–6 P.M.; and from Santa Cruz at 5:30 A.M., 9 A.M., 10:30 A.M., 1:30 P.M., 3:30 P.M., and 7 P.M.
Return buses depart Tamarindo for San José daily at (Alfaro) 3:30 A.M. and 5:30 A.M., and (Tralapa) 7 A.M.; for Liberia nine times 3:30 A.M.–5:30 P.M.; and for Santa Cruz at 6 A.M., 8:30 A.M., and noon.
Tamarindo Shuttle (tel. 506/2653-2727, www.tamarindoshuttle.com) charges $20 for door-to-door service from Liberia airport. Grayline (tel. 506/2220-2126, www.graylinecostarica.com) and Interbus (tel. 506/2653-4314, www.interbusonline.com), in Plaza Conchal, also offer shuttles.
There’s no gas station, but the Ferretería, at the entrance to town, sells gas.
© Christopher P. Baker from Moon Costa Rica, 8th Edition