Tamarindo is a popular resort beach town located in the Guanacaste district of Costa Rica. The area is filled with lots of tour operators, resorts, and surf shops (the area is famous for its surfing).
Visiting Tamarindo was an interesting experience and, while there were a few budget options, the area is more expensive than other parts of the country because of all the resorts and development.
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 cool roadside stops, a wide beach, some luxury clubs and bars, and lots of beauty but I didn’t find myself drawn to this place. I think it’s perfect if you have more money to spend and are looking for a resorty trip but, for the budget or backpack traveler, come through, spend a night or two, and move on.
This travel guide to Tamarindo will give you the low down on everything you need to know to plan your visit!
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. Go to Monkey Bar on Fridays for some great live salsa bands and a DJ later in the evening. Yucca Bar (inside Hotel Pasatiempo) frequently has open mic nights, as well as local bands covering American and British pop music on other nights. Both bars are consistently packed with locals and tourists, making for an excellent atmosphere! There is usually something going on every night of the week, so ask locals where the best spots are to check out.
2. Go sunset sailing
Head out on a catamaran for a sunset sailing trip. The boats are stocked with a bar and provide snacks as you take in the amazing North Pacific sunset. Tour companies like Iguana Surf will even take you to a secluded bay area for some snorkeling before the sun sets. Expect to pay around 55,115 CRC ($98 USD) per person.
3. Go ATV riding
There are a few ATV tour operators in town where you can hop on an ATV tour and ride into the hills above town, along paths dotted with iguanas and other wildlife. There are various routes, including mountainous terrain, beaches, and forest, as well as that all-important sunset tour. Action Tours’ two-six hour tours cost between 36,555-81,545 CRC ($65-145 USD)!
4. Go zip-lining
There is barely anywhere in Costa Rica that doesn’t offer zip-line tours, 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 launch off of seven cables in the mountainside into the treetop canopy. You’ve got a good chance of coming face to face with congo monkeys, lizards, wild boards, armadillos, and even small deer. These tours start at about 36,555 CRC ($65 USD).
5. Take a kayaking tour
The same company that does ATV tours (Action Tours) also runs scenic 2.5-hour kayaking trips. You’ll 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 22,495 CRC ($40 USD) per person.
Tamarindo Travel Costs
Hostel prices – During peak season, a bed in a four-six bed room will cost as much as 11,245 CRC ($20 USD) per night. For a room with eight beds or more, expect to pay around 8,780 CRC ($15 USD). During the off-season, a bed will cost about 8,435 CRC ($15 USD) each night, no matter how big the room is.
A basic private room with a shared bathroom costs from 25,305 CRC ($45 USD) per night during peak season. Prices are also 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 – Nightly rates for a budget two or three-star hotel room start at about 42,180 CRC ($75 USD) per night in peak season. In the off-season, budget rooms start from 36,555 CRC ($65 USD).
Tamarindo has lots of Airbnb options. A shared room (like a bed in a dorm) averages about 16,310 CRC ($29 USD) per night, while a private room is about 39,930 CRC ($70 USD) per night. A full apartment averages about 120,350 CRC ($214 USD) per night, but you can find plenty of apartments under 61,860 CRC ($110 USD) per night if you don’t book last minute.
Average cost of food – You can find affordable food in Tamarindo if you stick to street food or small family-owned restaurants, where meals like pizza cost 5,625 CRC ($10 USD). Sandwiches cost about 3,375 CRC ($6 USD) and burritos are 2,250 CRC ($4 USD) each. If you’re thirsty, grab a smoothie for 1,685 CRC ($3 USD). A burger combo is about 3,500 CRC ($6.25 USD).
At mid-range restaurants, traditional casado (rice, beans, veggies, and meat) from the sodas is usually about 3,375 CRC ($6 USD). Pasta dishes will cost from about 6,500 CRC ($12 USD), and a beer to wash it down is about 1,200 CRC ($2.15 USD).
Higher-end restaurants will have seafood entrees starting from 9,560 CRC ($17 USD), while meat dishes like filet mignon is from 11,500 CRC ($20 USD). Vegetarian meals and pasta go for about 9,000 CRC ($16 USD). A cocktail is from 4,100 CRC ($7 USD).
If you cook for yourself, you’ll spend between 25,305-28,120 CRC ($45-50 USD) on groceries per week, which will get you basics like meat, bread, eggs, cheese, some veggies, and fruit.
Backpacking Tamarindo Suggested Budgets
If you’re backpacking Tamarindo, expect to spend about 34,928 CRC ($60 USD) per day. This budget will cover a hostel dorm, a bicycle rental, street food and cheap local eats, entry to the national park, and free activities (like the beaches). Prices are pretty consistent throughout the year.
A mid-range budget of about 81,545 CRC ($145 USD) per day will cover staying in a private hostel room, eating out for all of your meals, a daily tour, a few bus rides, or taxi/Uber rides, and some drinks. If you want to spread out your budget, you can take a tour every other day and reduce your daily spend by about 17,464 CRC ($30 USD).
On a luxury budget of about 182,775 CRC ($325 USD) or more per day, you can get an excellent four-star hotel near the beach, any meal you want, drinks, tours, and motorbike rental (or lots of taxi rides). The sky is the limit! If you’re going to do more expensive tours (like whitewater rafting and sunset cruises), you should add about 16,870 CRC ($30 USD) per day to your budget.
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 USD.
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 towns with lots of 2-for-1 beer deals, including at Nogui. (The hours sometimes change.) Also, check out El Be and Barefoot Lounge for their happy hour deals.
- Avoid tour activities – There are a lot of great but expensive group activities and tours in the area. Skip them, and do the free activities such as hitting up the beach.
- Eat at the sodas – “Sodas” are small family-run restaurants which specialize in inexpensive local meals, usually costing around 2,925 CRC ($5 USD) including a drink. 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. Ask for discounts. This is especially true for activities like zip-lining and ATV off-roading.
- Shop around – Because there are so many places offering surf lessons, shop around for the best price in town. It’s normal for there to be up to an 8,000 CRC ($15 USD) difference between surf companies for similar types of lessons so be sure to shop around!
- Couchsurf – If you plan ahead, you can usually find really nice Couchsurfing hosts. This way, you not only have a place to stay, but you’ll have a local host that can tell you the best places to go and things to see.
- Pack a water bottle – A water bottle with a purifier will help you save money and thousands of plastic bottles by purifying the tap water for you. My preferred bottle is LifeStraw ($49.99).
Where To Stay in Tamarindo
There are plenty of beachside budget accommodations here in Tamarindo. As it does get busy here during peak season, you’ll want to book in advance! These are some of my suggested places to stay in the Tamarindo area:
How to Get Around Tamarindo
Bus – There are a few buses that run between Tamarindo and nearby attractions (like the beaches). The Avellanas Express is a surf shuttle that goes to Avellanas, Negra, and Playa Conchal for about 6,750 CRC ($12 USD) return.
Bicycle – There are several bicycle rental shops around town, with costs ranging between 5,625-11,245 CRC ($10-20 USD) per day (including for beach cruisers which will help you navigate the coast). Kelly’s Surf Shop and Tamarindo Bike Shop are just two companies that rent out bicycles.
Motorbike – Motorbike rentals start at about 25,305 CRC ($45 USD) per day in the off-season and 33,745 CRC ($60 USD) in peak season. Some shops will have a minimum of two-day rentals, though, and insurance is at least an additional 5,625 CRC ($10 USD) per day. Rent from El Gringo rentals.
Golf Carts – If you’ve got a few people willing to pitch in, golf carts are an affordable way to get around. Tamarindo Golf Cart Rentals has four-seaters available for 28,120 CRC ($50 USD) 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 14,060 CRC ($25 USD), while it’s about the same price to Playa Grande.
Uber – Believe it or not, Tamarindo has Uber! There’s just not that many of them. You can save $15 off your first Uber ride with this code: jlx6v.
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. You’ll definitely want to book your accommodations and tours well in advance if you’re coming during this time!
It’s typically hot and humid all year in Tamarindo, with temperatures staying pretty consistent. April is the warmest season with temperatures around 97.1°F (36.2°C).
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, especially in touristy places like Tamarindo. Don’t flash your valuables around in public, and don’t bring them to the beach.
Don’t roam around town or on the beach alone after dark. Avoid doing drugs or taking part in sex tourism.
Stay away from that stuff, and you’ll be fine. People are friendly and helpful, and you’re unlikely to get into trouble.
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.
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.
- Momondo – This is my favorite booking site. I never book a flight without checking here first.
- Skyscanner – Skyscanner is another great flight search engline which searches a lot of different airlines, including many of the budget carriers that larger sites miss. While I always start with Momondo, I use this site too as a way to compare prices.
- 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!
- Rome 2 Rio – This website allows you to see how to get from point A to point B the best and cheapest way possible. It will give you all the bus, train, plane, or 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
- 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 natural 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 had 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 witty tale comes from Nadine Pisani, who shares her story of quitting her job to forge a new life in sunny Costa Rica. 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: