Do you want to create lasting memories with your family and friends? See pristine and turquoise beaches that stretch out for miles? Tamarindo and the beaches close to it is the perfect spot for you!
Costa Rica’s Pacific Coast is ideal for families who want to get away from the hustle and bustle of the big cities, for friends who want to explore and hike amazing beaches, see breathtaking landscapes, and of course for surfers to catch great waves.
Our journey from La Fortuna to Tamarindo took 4 hours. It consisted of winding roads with steep inclines at the side of the mountain. The ride only became smooth upon reaching Liberia where Liberia International Airport (LIR) is located. This is the closest major airport to Tamarindo at about 1.5-hour drive.
From Juan Santamaria International Airport (SJO) (at Costa Rica’s capital) the drive is about 4.5 hours. There are tours that offers travel packages, but you can also explore the province on your own by renting a car.
About the Town
Tamarindo is a laid-back town, filled with restaurants, hotels, souvenir stores, and surf shops. It is the largest developed beach town in Guanacaste Costa Rica, well known for its vibrant nightlife. This town is safe to walk around into most times of the day. It is in the process of development so there are still dirt and muddy roads at some parts of the town.
There are buses and taxis that stop within the city that could take you to other beaches and tourist spots nearby. Basic grocery and supermarket items are cheaper compared to U.S. prices, but not by a whole lot. However, tourist related activities and dining out tend to be like the prices in the U.S. Credit cards and the U.S. dollar is widely accepted as a form of payment.
The off or rainy season is from May to October and the peak or dry season is from November to March so plan your visit accordingly.
Airbnbs within Tamarindo Beach ranges from $30 to $80 a night for 2 people, included is a small kitchen and some basic supplies. High end hotels and condo could cost up to $300 a night with spa and pool. We stayed about 5-minute walk from the city center. The place we rented ($40 a night) does not have fancy amenities, just a small bedroom and bathroom combo, a tiny kitchen, living room and a patio that faces trees where howler monkeys…well howl.
El Mercadito Tamarindo is an open market that features diverse culinary options ranging from typical Costa Rican dishes, Asian / Filipino Food, Latin cuisine, fast food, desserts and a bar. The market is open from 11 am to 11 pm.
No two stores are competing against each other, because they offer different kinds. The place has a relaxed design that features teak wood, tropical plants, and Edison lights scattered all over the seating areas.
For those who want to save by cooking their own meals, there are a couple of supermarket chains in town (Super Compro and Vindi) There are also fruits and vegetables vendors that setup in the main streets where you can get produce for cheap and on Saturdays, the Tamarindo Farmers Market opens from 7 am to 1 pm.
Things to Do
There are lots of activities that you can do while in town, this includes but is not limited to surfing, horseback riding and beach yoga. Surfing lessons are offered all over town. There are instructors right on the beach as well.
We tried to learn how to surf ($50 couple’s lesson for 2 hours). We had no prior experience, but they promised that we don’t have to pay if they couldn’t get us to stand on top of the board. After a ton of failed attempts and some bruises we were able to at least stand up and ride up to the shore a few of times.
Free activities include beach hopping, hiking, and swimming. Below are the beaches and hiking trails we visited during this trial retirement.
**Click the names of the beaches for the exact location of where the destinations are. Other suggestions such as parking is within the description.
Most of the roads to the beaches are not paved. I assume that this is because companies offer ATV rides all through the area. It paid off to rent AWD or 4WD cars to do away with the hassle of getting stuck in the middle of nowhere. Always take sun protection and insect repellant with you to have a more comfortable and enjoyable rest of your vacation.
Playa Tamarindo & Playa Langosta
Tamarindo Beach is looming with tourists and vendors all day. At dawn surfers tend to flock the shores in search of a good waves. You can ride horses across the long beach or have a relaxing massage while listening to crashing waves on the shore.
Parking is available on the beach (for a fee) and off-street in town. During our stay we usually parked on the street across El Mercadito Tamarindo (no fee and no “parking attendants”).
At dusk, people would find their own spots on the beach to watch the pacific coast’s golden sunset before heading out to enjoy Tamarindo’s famed nightlife.
Langosta Beach is a 6-minute drive from Tamarindo Beach. It is more peaceful and calmer. Some areas of the long beach have rocks where crustaceans play hide and seek. There are small trees that proved to be useful especially midday. Langosta beach is littered with a variety of small seashells like the Turitella.
We accessed the beach thru a park with a sign that says Alameda#14 and parked right next to it. The park has a pathway that leads right to the beach.
Located about 30 minutes from Tamarindo, Flamingo Beach has no dedicated beach town center and consists of luxury condos and hotels that is separated from the beach by a large mangrove forest. This makes Flamingo Beach feels like it is an isolated oasis.
The main road that crosses this crescent shaped beach has shops, restaurants, and rentals. The sand is soft and white, but in certain times of the day when the light conditions are right it has a slightly pink hue, thus the name Flamingo. (There are no flamingos in Flamingo Beach, sorry!)
You can park at the side of the road and then choose a spot where you could sit or have a picnic. The waves during our visit were high and sweeping, but it is not a good surfing spot because the waves only crest closer to the shore.
Grande Beach is part of the protected region of Marino Las Baulas National Park. This is because it is a nesting site for leatherback turtles. For this reason, the beach is closed from 6pm to 6am from October to March to avoid disturbing the turtles’ rhythm.
Grande beach also offers excellent surfing conditions, so it attracts enthusiasts of varying levels of skill. During our visit around sunset the waves were very strong and ferocious and tons of surfers of all ages were bobbing in and out of the water with their surf boards waiting to ride the next good wave.
It was lovely to see a small community of locals walking their dogs, waiting for the sunset, and enjoying their time in paradise. There is a parking lot to access the beach, “parking attendants” will ask 1000 colons to “watch your vehicle”
Playa Puerto Viejo
We were initially going to Conchal Beach but our GPS took us to another path that ended on the beautiful and serene Puerto Viejo Beach. This is an isolated beach. Parking is available right in front of the beach. We parked right next the beach access and had lunch at the back of the car.
There were a handful of people taking a stroll, I am thinking that they came from the bigger Conchal Beach that is a few minutes walk. The waters are clear, and much calmer compared to the previous on this list. There are trees that line the beach where you can hang your clothes while taking a dip or relaxing as you listen to the waves lapping on the sand.
Mirador Penca & Playa Penca
Towards the end of our trip we visited a couple of viewpoints, one of which is the Penca Viewpoint. This boast of a view of the crescent Hermosa Beach which was stunning. The turquoise blue ocean littered with tiny white boats meeting the white sandy shores was like a photo from a travel magazine.
Right beside the viewpoint we met an old “pipa” (coconut) vendor that endured our presence as we posed right next to the cliff. It was a hot sunny day and so we treated ourselves with I think the freshest coconut water (700 colons) that I had ever drank at one time. There is no entrance fee or parking fee to access the beaches and viewpoint.
Continue the drive down at the end of the peninsula and you would reach Penca Beach. This is a another secluded beach, in part mainly because it is quite difficult to reach.
At the parking area there would be more coconut vendors that will offer to take care of your car, but parking is still free. What we just did after was to buy coconuts from them for the trouble of “watching the car”.
Most of the area starting from the gate on the main road is private property, so there would be fencing and “no trespassing” signs all over. Head out to the narrow walkway northwest of the parking and continue down the side of the hill to get to the beach.
When we got there, it was unbelievable how immaculate and isolated it was. The views were gorgeous, the sand pure and the water was warm and refreshing. We even had a too close of an encounter with rays riding the waves on the shore. Luckily, we didn’t get sick from the possible stings we sustained.
Some visitors drag picnic supplies and chairs so they can enjoy the ocean more in comfort with their families. Just be mindful in taking your trash with you to maintain this beach’s untouched appeal.
Mirador Mina & Playa Zapotillal
One other “out in the middle of nowhere” beach and viewpoint we visited is the Mina Viewpoint in Zapotilla Beach. Upon reaching Zapotillal Beach, at the end of the Playa Mina Road there will be an area with sparse trees facing the beach directly. This is the parking lot. Your friendly “parking attendant” will approach you to offer his services.
This very secluded beach is as beautiful as it can be. Quiet, calm, and relaxing that there’s barely 10 people hanging out at one time. There are trees that offer shade for those who want to enjoy a picnic or take a nap.
To see the viewpoint, walk south into the forest until you see a long rope at the edge of the hill. This is the start of the trail to the viewpoint. It is not paved and well-maintained, so hike with caution. You will need to walk at the side of the hill with very narrow paths. Head on until you reach the top of the cliff and marvel at the amazing views of Zapotillal Beach and Thristy Rock behind it.
If you are still up for more hiking and more “out of this world views”, continue behind the bushes opposite the viewpoint. You would come out a wide inclined path, turn right down the incline and continue going up until you reach the tip of this small peninsula. It is a plateau on top of the cliff that offers magnificent views of the Pacific Ocean.
Playa Danta & Dantita
Follow your GPS to get there, however when you reach Sugar Beach Rd, where there are rows of apartments and shops, it may instruct you to turn left in one of the streets, but you can’t because it is private property. Continue straight until you reach a fork in the road, turn left to get to the Danta Beach parking.
You can access both beaches from there (follow the signs). Danta is closer to the start of the trail. It is a long beach that is next to a real estate development. It still gives a peaceful vibe but that could change in a few years.
Dantita Beach is about half an hour hike from Danta. It will include a lot of climbing so be prepared, but I would say it is worth it. It is a smaller beach (hence the name) and we saw a few critters here and there during our visit.
Can’t get enough sun and sand? We highly recommend the beaches of Manuel Antonio National Park.
The perks of a FI mindset
Creating lasting memories and building stronger relationships with your loved ones, is what being intentional with your life could bring. Reforming our mindset had allowed us to learn new skills and explore unique places, such as Costa Rica, that would have never been possible with the lifestyle we had before.
Knowing the ins and outs of our finances had opened a lot of options and flexibility in our lives. It allowed us to be in the “now” and savor the rich experiences that every trial retirement brings.