Tamarindo is a popular resort beach town located in the northwest of the country. The area is famous for its surfing and is filled with adventure tour operators, luxurious ocean-side resorts, and laid-back surf shops.
While there are a few budget options here, the region is generally more expensive than other parts of the country due to all the resorts.
I think Tamarindo makes for a good stop before you head to other parts of the Nicoya peninsula, which are often less crowded and cheaper. It has some nice beaches, luxury clubs and bars, and lots of natural beauty — but I didn’t find myself drawn to this place.
If you have more money to spend and are looking for a resort-y trip, this is a good region to spend time in. However, backpackers and budget travelers can likely just spend a night or two before moving on.
This travel guide to Tamarindo gives you the low down on everything you need to know to plan your visit and save money.
Table of Contents
Top 5 Things to See and Do in Tamarindo
1. Visit Las Baulas National Marine Park
2. Go surfing
3. Go rafting or tubing
4. Hit the beach
5. Go fishing
Other Things to See and Do in Tamarindo
1. Catch some live music
When the sun goes down, Tamarindo comes to life. The Crazy Monkey Bar is usually packed with locals and tourists alike, making for an excellent atmosphere. There is usually something going on every night of the week, so ask your hotel/hostel staff where the best spots are.
2. Go sunset sailing
Head out on a catamaran for a sunset sailing trip. Boats have stocked bars and provide snacks as you take in the amazing North Pacific sunset. Tour companies like Iguana Surf can even take you to a secluded bay area for some snorkeling before the sun sets. Expect to pay around 55,000 CRC per person.
3. Take an ATV tour
There are a few ATV tour operators in town where you can hop on four-wheeler and ride into the hills above town. There are various routes, including mountainous terrain, beaches, and forest, as well as that all-important sunset tour. Expect to see plenty of wildlife. Action Tours’ offers tours lasting 2-6 hours that cost 40,000-101,000 CRC.
4. Go zip-lining
Ziplining is popular all around Costa Rica, but if you haven’t had a chance to go on one yet, head to Monkey Jungle. Their zipline and canopy tour is located in a tropical forest where you can catapult down seven cables in the mountainside through the treetop canopy. You have the chance to see monkeys, lizards, armadillos, and even small deer. Tours start at 30,000 CRC.
5. Take a kayaking tour
The same company that does ATV tours (Action Tours) also runs scenic 2.5-hour kayaking trips. You can paddle peacefully through the estuary separating Tamarindo Beach and Playa Grande, where you’re likely to spot crocodiles, tropical birds, and even monkeys. Tours cost 25,000 CRC per person.
For more information on other destinations in the country, check out these guides:
Tamarindo Travel Costs
Hostel prices – During peak season, a bed in a dorm costs around 9,500 CRC per night, no matter how big the room is. During the off-season, prices are generally the same although you may find them up to 1,000 CRC lower. Free Wi-Fi is standard and several hostels here also have pools. A few include free breakfast as well.
Private rooms with a shared bathroom cost 29,000 CRC. Prices are about the same in the off-season.
There’s nowhere to really camp in Tamarindo and it’s forbidden on the beaches due to the delicate turtle habitats.
Budget hotel prices – Budget two- and three-star hotels start at 60,000 CRC per night in peak season. In the off-season, expect to pay at least 40,000 CRC.
Tamarindo also has lots of Airbnb options. A private room costs around 60,000 CRC per night while entire homes/apartments average 110,000 CRC. However, you can find plenty of apartments under 60,000 CRC per night if you don’t book last minute.
Average cost of food – Costa Rican cuisine is centered around rice and beans, which are usually eaten for every meal. Potatoes, plantain, pork, and beef are also popular. Gallo pinto (rice and bean stir-fry) is the national dish. You’ll find it mixed with eggs for breakfast. Other popular meals include fried plantain and chicken and rice.
Sandwiches cost around 4,500 CRC and burritos are around 3,000 CRC. A burger combo meal is about 5,300 CRC.
Traditional casado (rice, beans, veggies, and meat) from the sodas is usually about 5,000 CRC while higher-end restaurants have seafood entrees starting from 12,000 CRC. Expect to pay around 15,000 CRC for a higher-end meal with a drink.
Beer is 2,200 CRC while lattes/cappuccinos cost 2,000 CRC. Bottled water is 1,100 CRC.
If you cook for yourself, expect to spend between 25,000-30,000 CRC per week on groceries. This gets you basic staples rice, beans, veggies, fruit, and some meat.
Backpacking Tamarindo Suggested Budgets
If you’re backpacking Tamarindo, expect to spend about 33,000 CRC per day. This covers a hostel dorm, a bicycle rental, cooking most of your meals, eating some street food, and free activities (like the beach and the national park). If you plan on drinking, add 2,200-4,400 CRC per day.
A mid-range budget of about 80,000 CRC per day covers staying in a private hostel room or Airbnb, eating out for all your meals at local sodas, taking some tours, having a few drinks, and taking the occasional taxi to get around.
On a “luxury” budget of about 170,000 CRC or more per day, you can stay in a hotel, eat out anywhere you’d like, drink more, take more private tours (like rafting or fishing trips), and take taxis everywhere or rent a scooter. This is just the ground floor for luxury though. The sky is the limit!
You can use the chart below to get some idea of how much you need to budget daily, depending on your travel style. Keep in mind these are daily averages – some days you’ll spend more, some days you’ll spend less (you might spend less every day). We just want to give you a general idea of how to make your budget. Prices are in CRC.
Tamarindo Travel Guide: Money Saving Tips
Tamarindo is one of the more expensive destinations in Costa Rica, so it’s easy to overspend if you’re doing a lot of tours and excursions. Here are some suggested ways to save money in Tamarindo:
- Take advantage of happy hours – There are lots of happy hours in town with 2-for-1 beer deals. Ask your hotel/hostel staff for recommendations.
- Avoid tour activities – There are a lot of great (but expensive) group tours in the area. Skip them and do the free activities such as hitting up the beach and hiking.
- Eat at the sodas – “Sodas” are small family-run restaurants which specialize in inexpensive local meals, usually costing around 5,000 CRC. These hole-in-the-wall restaurants offer the best value in the country.
- Combine tours – You can often get discounted rates for activities if you are combining two tours in one day. This is especially true for activities like zip-lining and ATVing.
- Shop around – Because there are so many places offering surf lessons, shop around for the best price in town (especially if you’re doing a multi-day surf camp).
- Pack a water bottle – A water bottle with a purifier can help you save money (and thousands of plastic bottles) by purifying the tap water for you. My preferred bottle is LifeStraw.
- Visit in the off-season – Accommodation is often cheaper if you don’t visit during the busy peak months. Just make sure to book early!
Where to Stay in Tamarindo
There are plenty of beachside budget accommodations here in Tamarindo. As it does get busy during peak season, you’ll want to book in advance. Here are some of my suggested places to stay around Tamarindo:
How to Get Around Tamarindo
Bus – There are a few local buses that run between Tamarindo and the beaches. Expect to pay around 1,300 CRC for a ticket.
Bicycle – Tamarindo is easy to explore on bike. There are several bicycle rental shops around town (including Kelly’s Surf Shop and Bike Shop Tamarindo) that rent bikes for 5,000-12,000 CRC per day.
Motorbike – Motorbike rentals start at 27,500 CRC per day in the off-season and 37,000 CRC in peak season. Some shops have a minimum of two-day rentals, though, and insurance is at least an additional 6,000 CRC per day. El Gringo is one of the best places to rent from.
Golf Carts – If you’ve can get a few people to pitch in, golf carts are an affordable way to get around. Tamarindo Golf Cart Rentals has four-seaters available for 31,000 CRC per day. Plus, they’re electric, so no need to buy gas!
Taxi – There are always taxis parked in front of Tamarindo’s central plaza. Some have meters, but others will prefer to negotiate rates. A taxi from Tamarindo to Conchal is about 15,500 CRC, while it’s about the same price to Playa Grande.
Tamarindo also has Uber but there’s just not that many rides available so be sure to leave yourself plenty of time if you’d prefer to use Uber.
When to Go to Tamarindo
Tamarindo is at its busiest (and most expensive) when the giant leatherback turtles come to nest between October and March. Book your accommodations and tours well in advance if you’re visiting during this time.
It’s typically hot and humid all year in Tamarindo, with temperatures staying pretty consistent. April is the warmest month, with temperatures hovering around 97°F (36°C).
The dry season here runs from December to April, while May to November is the rainy season. Rainfall is at its heaviest in September and October. If you want lower prices and fewer crowds, come during the rainy season.
How to Stay Safe in Tamarindo
While Costa Rica is one of the safest countries for traveling and backpacking in Central America, petty theft like bag snatching is one of the most common types of crime here. Don’t flash your valuables around in public, and don’t bring them to the beach.
If you go out at night, only bring the cash that you need. Leave the rest of your money and credit cards at your accommodation.
Don’t roam around town or on the beach alone after dark. Avoid doing drugs or taking part in sex tourism.
If you’re taking a taxi, negotiate the fare with your driver before getting into the cab. Otherwise, you’re at risk for getting ripped off. Always ask your hostel/hotel staff how much you should expect to pay so you know when you’re getting ripped off.
If you experience an emergency, dial 911 for assistance.
If you’re worried about getting scammed, you can read about the 14 travel scams to avoid right here.
Remember: always trust your gut instinct. Avoid isolated areas at night, and be aware of your surroundings at all times. Make copies of your personal documents, including your passport and ID.
For more in-depth coverage of how to stay safe in Costa Rica, check out this post we wrote that answers some frequently asked questions and concerns.
And be sure to purchase good travel insurance. Travel insurance will protect you against illness, injury, theft, and cancellations. It’s comprehensive protection in case anything goes wrong. I never go on a trip without it as I’ve had to use it many times in the past.
Tamarindo Travel Guide: The Best Booking Resources
These are my favorite companies to use when I travel to Costa Rica. They are included here because they consistently find deals, offer world-class customer service and great value, and, overall, are better than their competitors. They are the ones I use the most and are always the starting points in my search for travel deals.
- Skyscanner – Skyscanner is my favorite flight search engine. They search small websites and budget airlines that larger search sites tend to miss. They are hands down the number one place to start.
- Momondo – This is my other favorite flight search engine because they search such a wide variety of sites and airlines. I never book a flight without checking here too.
- Airbnb – Airbnb is a great accommodation alternative for connecting with homeowners who rent out their homes or apartments.
- Hostelworld – This is the best hostel accommodation site out there, with the largest inventory, best search interface, and widest availability.
- Couchsurfing – This website allows you to stay on people’s couches or spare rooms for free. It’s a great way to save money while meeting locals who can tell you the ins and outs of their city. The site also lists events you can attend to meet people (even if you’re not staying with someone).
- Booking.com – The best all-around booking site that constantly provides the cheapest and lowest rates. They have a no money down policy, great interface, and the widest selection of budget accommodation. In all my tests, they’ve always had the cheapest rates out of all the booking websites.
- Intrepid Travel – If you want to do a group tour around Costa Rica, go with Intrepid Travel. They offer good small group tours that use local operators and leave a small environmental footprint. If you go on a tour with anyone, go with them. And, as a reader of this site, you’ll get a discount when you click the link!
- Rome2Rio – This website allows you to see how to get from point A to point B in the best and cheapest way possible. It gives you all the bus, train, plane, and boat routes that can get you there as well as how much they cost.
Tamarindo Gear and Packing Guide
If you’re heading on the road and need some gear suggestions, here are my tips for the best travel backpack and for what to pack!
The Best Backpack for Travelers
Straps: Thick and cushy with compression technology that pulls the pack’s load up and inwards so it doesn’t feel as heavy.
Features: Removable top lid, large pocket at the front, hydration compatible, contoured hip belt
If you want something different, refer to my article on how to choose the best travel backpack for tips on picking a pack and other backpack suggestions.
What to Pack for Your Trip
- 1 pair of jeans (heavy and not easily dried, but I like them; a good alternative is khaki pants)
- 1 pair of shorts
- 1 bathing suit
- 5 T-shirts (Unbound Merino is my preferred company. If you’re a member of NM+, you can get 15% off your purchase)
- 1 long-sleeved T-shirt
- 1 pair of flip-flops
- 1 pair of sneakers
- 6 pairs of socks (I always end up losing half)
- 5 pairs of boxer shorts (I’m not a briefs guy!)
- 1 toothbrush
- 1 tube of toothpaste
- 1 razor
- 1 package of dental floss
- 1 small bottle of shampoo
- 1 small bottle of shower gel
- 1 towel
Small Medical Kit (safety is important!!!)
- Hydrocortisone cream
- Antibacterial cream
- Hand sanitizer (germs = sick = bad holiday)
- A key or combination lock (safety first)
- Zip-lock bags (keeps things from leaking or exploding)
- Plastic bags (great for laundry)
- Universal charger/adaptor (this applies to everyone)
- LifeStraw (A water bottle with a purifier)
Female Travel Packing List
I’m not a woman, so I don’t know what a woman wears, but Kristin Addis, our solo female travel guru, wrote this list as an addition to the basics above:
- 1 swimsuit
- 1 sarong
- 1 pair of stretchy jeans (they wash and dry easily)
- 1 pair of leggings (if it’s cold, they can go under your jeans, otherwise with a dress or shirt)
- 2-3 long-sleeve tops
- 2-3 T-shirts
- 3-4 spaghetti tops
- 1 light cardigan
- 1 dry shampoo spray & talc powder (keeps long hair grease-free in between washes)
- 1 hairbrush
- Makeup you use
- Hair bands & hair clips
- Feminine hygiene products (you can opt to buy there too, but I prefer not to count on it, and most people have their preferred products)
For more on packing, check out these posts:
Tamarindo Travel Guide: Suggested Reading
Monkeys Are Made of Chocolate: Exotic and Unseen Costa Rica, by Jack Ewing
This book gives a fascinating overview of how animals, plants, and people interact with one another in Costa Rica’s rainforests. It’s written by Jack Ewing, a naturalist, and born storyteller. Here, he shares a treasure trove of observations and stories gathered for more than 30 years of living in the country. Chances are, you’re coming to Costa Rica to discover some of the country’s amazing ecosystems. This book will get you excited about it.
In Search of Captain Zero: A Surfer’s Road Trip Beyond the End of the Road, by Allan Weisbecker
In 1996, Allan Weisbecker sold all his worldly possessions and set out in search of his long-time surfing friend, Patrick, who went missing somewhere in Central America. Traveling with only his dog, his surfboards, and his truck, Allan’s journey from Mexico to Costa Rica is a memorable one, filled with scarier moments (like evading bandits) and warmer ones (like befriending the locals). It’s really the tale of ultimate friendship.
Happier Than a Billionaire: Quitting My Job, Moving to Costa Rica, and Living the Zero Hour Work Week, by Nadine Hays Pisani
It’s the classic travel tale — overworked professional realizes that the 9-5 to grind isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, and sets out to seek greener pastures. This is a nice, light read for when you’re just flaking out on the beach or by the pool. But, along the way, you’ll learn why Costa Rica is one of the happiest places on earth.
Tamarindo Travel Guide: Related Articles
Want more info? Check out all the articles I’ve written on Costa Rica travel and continue planning your trip: