From Tamarindo , you must backtrack to Villarreal in order to continue southward via Hernández (three kilometers south of Villarreal). The narrow dirt coast road becomes impassable in sections in the wet season, when you may have better luck approaching Playa Avellanas and Lagartillo  from the south via Paraíso, reached by paved road from Santa Cruz .
Between Tamarindo and Avellanas, most of the coastline backs onto Hacienda Pinilla, which covers 1,800 hectares. This former cattle ranch is one of the most upscale residential resort communities in the country, with a championship 18-hole golf course, a nature reserve, a stable for horse rides ($15–35), and a JW Marriott hotel, plus scores of rental villas and condos.
Beautiful coral-colored Playa Avellanas, 12 kilometers south of Tamarindo, is renowned for its barrel surf at low tide and Little Hawaii (an open-faced right break) at mid-tide. You can rent surfboards at Cabinas Las Olas (tel. 506/2658-9315, www.cabinaslasolas.co.cr ).
Avellanas Surf School (tel. 506/2652-9042, www.avellanassurfschool.com ) rents surfboards ($15 daily) and offers lessons ($35) and clinics.
Theft and car break-ins are major problems at the beaches. Never leave items in your car!
You can camp under thatch at Bar y Restaurante Gregorio’s (no tel., $2 pp), also serving hearty gallo pinto breakfasts and local fare. Nearby Lola’s on the Beach (tel. 506/2658-8097, Tues.–Sun.), a rustic beachfront restaurant run by a U.S. transplant, is famous for its Hawaiian raw-fish salad, to be enjoyed under palms at tables on the beach. It even has fish-and-chips. Laze around with a cold one on an Adirondack chair. Lola’s is named for the owner’s giant pig, which takes a daily dip in the ocean.
Opposite, the simple Casa Surf Hostel (tel. 506/2652-9075, www.casa-surf.com , $12 s or $20 d low season, $15 s or $24 d high season) is a really cool place that has clean, basically furnished rooms, plus its own surf shop and the Casa Surf Restaurant and bakery.
A relative newbie, Cabinas La Playa (tel. 506/2652-9162, www.cabinaslaplaya.com , $55 s or $60 d low season, $70 s or $75 d high season) has oodles of tropical charm, and makes good use of hardwoods and lively fabrics in its eight cabins. It’s on the main coast road well inland of the beach, but there’s a pool.
Swiss-run Cabinas Las Olas (tel. 506/2652-9315, www.cabinaslasolas.co.cr , $70 s or $80 d low season, $80 s or $90 d high season) is an “upscale” surfers’ place with 10 bungalows widely spaced amid the dry forest. Each has private bathroom, bidet, and hot water. A raised wooden walkway leads 300 meters across mangroves to the beach. The video-bar and restaurant have an appealing ambience. It has ping-pong and rents kayaks, boogie boards, snorkeling gear, mountain bikes, and surfboards.
If you like minimalist contemporary styling, you’ll like Las Avellanas Villas (tel. 506/2652-9212, www.lasavellanasvillas.com , $65 s/d year-round), 300 meters inland of the beach. The five self-contained cabins set amid spacious lawns have glazed concrete floors, slightly ascetic yet stylish furniture (including a double bed and bunk), small kitchens, and heaps of light through cross-ventilated french doors opening to wooden decks. Daily yoga classes are offered.
Next door, the six-room Hotel Mauna Loa Surf Resort (tel. 506/2652-9012, www.maunaloa.it , $70 s/d year-round) offers a similar and perfectly appealing alternative. The impressive Villas Kaiki (tel. 506/2652-9060, www.villaskaiki.com , $55–65 low season, $75–85 high season) is a virtual carbon copy of Las Avellanas Villas, 400 meters away. Perfect for folks who appreciate fine design.
The beachfront JW Marriott Guanacaste Resort & Spa (tel. 506/2681-2000, www.marriott.com , from $279 s/d) has 310 luxuriously appointed guest rooms, including 20 junior suites, all with WiFi and lavish bathrooms. The most sumptuous rooms have their own plunge pools. There’s a full-service spa, a huge infinity pool, and four restaurants. The inspiration is old-world colonial, reborn in contemporary vogue.
Seeking your own upscale villa? No problem. Check out De La Costa Properties (www.delacostaproperties.com ); Hotel Mediterraneo (tel. 506/2653-4169, www.mediterraneo-costarica.com ), with modern self-contained apartments; Hacienda Pinilla (tel. 506/2680-3000, www.haciendapinilla.com ), offering deluxe villa rentals; and super-deluxe La Posada Hotel (tel. 506/2681-4318, www.laposadapinilla.com , from $158 s/d), with gorgeous apartment-style rooms in five types, all with plantation-style furnishings.