Should I Visit Tamarindo Costa Rica?

Tamarindo is just one of those towns: You love it or hate it. Noone seems to be ambivalent about Tamarindo. Me? I loved and hated Tamarindo.

The Good

Tamarindo's amazing beach to seems to go on forever

Great waves, perfect for surfing, boogie boarding, or just chilling by the sand. At high tide, the waves are way too big and powerful for little kids and weak swimmers. At low tide, waves are smaller, and a bit more manageable for the little ones, if you keep an eye on them.

A foodie's dream beach town. Tamarindo has a great selection of fantastic restaurants (though a bit expensive), but there are a few budget options.

Friendly folks and a laid back vibe.

Daihatsu Bego Costa Rica

The Elusive Tamarindo Car Rental

You'd think renting a car in Tamarindo would be easy. There are probably a dozen car rental places in Tamarindo. Hertz. Dollar. Budget. Mapache. National. Alamo. Economy. Vamos. Toyota Car Rental. Poas Car Rental. PuraVida Car Rental. All this in a town in Costa Rica with fewer than 5,000 people during tourist season. It's just that all the cars are all rented to someone else. All the time. We were in Tamarindo for month. After checking out some of the awesome things to do in Tamarindo, we called to pick up a 4x4 for a off-road roadtrip a couple of days in advance. Unforturnately, when we called to make a reservation for our Tamarindo car rental, not one of the car rental agencies had a little 4x4 for rent. Or even a car of any kind for rent. They told me to check back the next day. This went on for a couple of days, until voila, Hertz had a little Diahatsu 4x4 for us. The moral of the story? When in Tamarindo, reserve your car well in advance. Not a bit deal for us, as we had plenty of time and a flexible schedule, but it may be a problem if you're only in town for a week...
Mango Condo Tamarindo

Pura Vida at Mango Condos Tamarindo

We stayed at Mango Condos for a month during our stay in Tamarindo, Costa Rica. Overall, Mango was one of the cheaper Tamarindo condos we looked at renting. We were quite happy with the value that we got for the price, despite a couple of minor problems.

Price. We negotiated with the ever-patient owner, Julius, and got our two bed, one bath unit at Mango condo for a month, starting in mid-January, for $1,200 USD. When we went, the Tamarindo economy was still in a bit of a funk, but prices were starting to pick up again, so you might pay more.

Security. The condos have a secure, locked front entrance, with separate keys for each condo. There are three levels, with condos facing either the dusty front street or the big leafy trees in back. A troupe of howler monkeys traveled through trees in the back a couple of times, making for some great wildlife watching out back. Because the condo is about a three minute walk from the beach, none of the condos have ocean views.

Pool. The pool is nice but small, with a small kiddie pool and an attractive fountain. It's great for a quick plunge, but not really big enough to hang out at all day. It's in the center of a small courtyard, and out of the sun most of the day. The cafe tables by the courtyard are a great place to read the local paper or enjoy a drink...

Mandarina Tropical Juice Bar

Searching For Cheap Restaurants In Tamarindo

Tamarindo has no shortage of great restaurants. It does, however, have a big shortage of cheap restaurants. With a month to spend in Tamarindo, and a family of four to feed, we didn't want to spend a fortune on eating out. These are the best cheap eats that we found in Tamarindo on a budget.

Pizzeria La Baula

This place has me so Pavlovian-conditioned that just saying Pizzaria La Buala makes my mouth water. Pizzeria La Baula is a home run: Amazing pizzas with high quality ingredients and a comfortable, casual, attractive place to hang out.

If you're craving anything other than pizza or salads...

Playa Tamarindo Cheap Things to Do Sunset

Amazing Cheap Things To Do In Tamarindo

Tamarindo is famous for its surf breaks, and almost equally famous for being a bit expensive and full of tourists. We spent a month in town enjoying the waves, and got a chance to track down some of the best cheap things to do in Tamarindo.

Boogie boarding on Playa Langosta. While Playa Tamarindo is the most famous beach in Guanacaste, Playa Langosta is just a short walk away. The waves at Playa Langosta are generally smaller, and better for families and newbie surfers. That said, we caught the waves at Langosta at high tide on a big swell day, and managed to smash a boogie board in two. Cost: One replacement cheap boogie board from Super Compro grocery, $10.

Zip lining at New Monkey Jungle Canopy Tours. Great from begining to end. New Monkey Jungle has seven zip lines and an awesome...

View on Road from Naranjo to Paquera Costa Rica

A Rough Road that Shakes, Rattles and Rolls

Once we rented our car in Tamarindo, we knew it was only a matter of time before we headed out on a longer road trip. We had already enjoyed the nearby beaches and were looking for something a little different. We still had the condo for another week and a half at that point. For the amount we paid for the place we didn't mind taking off for a few days and staying in a hotel to break things up.

The choice was either south down the Nicoya Peninsula or east to Lake Arenal and the volcano. At the last second we chose south and let me say it was a wild few days...