I’m in Costa Rica sitting astride a grey, salt-petrified driftwood log at the top of the golden beach. I run the palm of my hand along the silky-smooth grooves in the wood as they twist and turn along its length. I sip from a bottle of ice-cold local beer, the bubbles fizz on my lower lip as I drink. Two brightly coloured parrots fly by. They squawk a loud “hello” as they swoop low over my head, then soar into the dense forest canopy behind me. Sweet smoke from a wood-burning stove drifts past on the faint sea breeze, as a nearby restaurant gets ready to greet its evening diners. I imagine a huge bowl of fragrantly seasoned chicken with succulent rice and pungent beans and my mouth waters.
I dig my toes into the warm sand, then stare out across the foaming breakwaters as they rhythmically stroke the sandy foreshore. The sea starts to turn a deep umber as if the sun is scorching its surface. I stare in awe at the smouldering fireball in the sky as it turns from golden saffron to burnt orange, then a deep crimson. It seems to slowly sink into the Pacific Ocean as it disappears over the horizon. I precariously perch my beer bottle on the sand then raise the camera hanging around my neck to my right eye. I squint into the viewfinder and hold my breath. I try to keep deathly still as I slowly twist the lens to focus the viewfinder on the surfer striding across the beach before me. As she heads back to her cabana, a surfboard tucked under her arm, she forms a perfect silhouette against the sanguine gradients of the evening sky. A perfect picture, at the end of a perfect day, on a perfect beach. Welcome to Tamarindo, the playground of Costa Rica.
Tamarindo - A Beach Lover's Paradise
On the Pacific Coast of Costa Rica, Tamarindo has become a major draw for tourists and expats alike. For this reason it is often referred to as Tamagringo by the Costa Ricans. Don’t let this put you off though, as Tamarindo has a lot to offer even the most picky traveler. The coastal town resides on the Nicoya Peninsula in the Guanacaste region of Costa Rica, which has a reputation for its reviled surf spots, as well as innovative eco-tourism.
As a place to relax at the end of a tiring tour of the many rainforests, volcanoes and nature reserves that Costa Rica has to offer, Tamarindo is an ideal base. There are plenty of restaurants, bars and hotels catering to everyone’s tastes and budgets.
Things to Do In Tamarindo, Costa Rica
There is a broad selection of tours available in the resort, including white water rafting, horse riding, rainforest hikes, snorkeling, and zip-lining. Most of the major hotels offer a range of tours and trips starting in Tamarindo, and though often more expensive than what the touts by the shore can offer, these do always come with the necessary insurance and other essential safety measures some of the cheaper options may not have.
Howler Monkeys Amongst The Mangroves
We opted for snorkeling around the nearby Isla Capitan, where we spotted a Pufferfish and a Barracuda gliding along the reef. We also took a guided kayak and walking tour of the mangroves on the peninsula to the North of the main Tamarindo beach. When under the canopy, our guide began mocking the loud call of the Howler monkeys (a growled “huh” made deep in his throat that echoed loudly in his chest). Within minutes the canopy above our heads was shaking wildly as about a dozen of these magnificent primates came to investigate. The monkeys’ excited calls permeated around the forest, and before long the entire forest erupted into a frenzied cacophony of eery howls stretching far away into the distance.
A Surf Dude’s Heaven on Earth
The real reason most come to Tamarindo is for the excellent surfing. The surf is reliable and though further offshore the “white-tops” become frighteningly violent, there are smaller breaking waves closer to shore – making it an ideal surf beach for experts and beginners alike. There are lots of options for board hire as well as lessons from the plethora of wooden surf shacks along the beach. The tourist board advises sticking to the central area of the beach where the surf is more reliable and there are fewer rip tides. Beware, although we didn’t see any, to the north of their beach, closer to the river mouth, there are warning signs about crocs!
When To Go to Costa Rica
Peak season is between late December and April which is effectively the “dry” season, but in Costa Rica expect the occasional short downpour or thunderstorm. However, cloud bursts usually come in the evening or nighttime bringing a cooling relief to the otherwise hot and humid climate. Outside of peak season, expect more frequent and longer-lasting cloud bursts but much cheaper prices and far fewer tourists for those who prefer things a little more laid back.
Where To Stay In tamarindo
The Tamarindo Diria hotel provides luxury rooms, many with sea views as well as cabanas for a little extra space. The lush tropical grounds, including a large swimming pool, lead right onto the beach and there is a selection of bars and restaurants (the chicken restaurant comes highly recommended by myself). Double rooms start at £160 per night during the peak season and £110 in the low season. We recommend opting for the sea view rooms with a balcony, where you can sit and sip a cocktail whilst watching the sun go down.
Image Source: Hotel Website (www.tamarindodiria.com)
Best Places To Eat.In Tamarindo
Tamarindo has a multitude of options when it comes to eating out. Avoid the overpriced ‘beach barbecues’ along the shore. If it’s street food you’re looking for, simply wander into the town where there are a plethora of stalls and cafes with cheap, delicious menus. The excellent El Mercadito food market is also a great place to eat and drink, and has an upbeat, truly local atmosphere.
One evening we ate at the excellent La Oveja Mexican restaurant, with the most delicious and enormous plate of Nachos I’ve ever enjoyed. We also loved sipping cocktails whilst listening to Salsa right next to the beach at the rustic El Be Beach Club.