Of all the places on the southern tip of the Nicoyan Peninsula, we had heard the most about Montezuma. Of all the people we had talked to, there was never a negative word said about it. We really hadn’t done a lot of homework on the place but we knew it had a few hotels and restaurants and had pre-decided that if we spent the night, it would probably be in Montezuma. Neither one of us knew what to expect as we drove down the steep road leading into town and to be honest, we still have mixed feelings about the place. It is at once greater and lesser than we expected.
It is greater in that it is quite a cute little offbeat town tucked on the sides of a mountain with gorgeous beaches running along both sides of it. There are a dozen little restaurants and shops hidden along its curving streets and lanes. There is a nice park and play center right smack in the middle of it all. The people in town seem friendly enough and the prices, though not amazing, seem on par for that area of the world. There is a definite “earthy” feel to the town with yoga classes, all natural foods and organic fare available at a bunch of places. We even had decent healthy food at The Bakery Cafe while watching a pair of monkeys descend from the treetops to entertain us while we ate a late lunch.
That all being said, there seems to be an hidden undercurrent to the town. Both ends of the beach have…
In my last post about our travels in Costa Rica we were bouncing our way South down the Nicoya Peninsula. I say bouncing simply because the only road from Naranjo to Paquera is about as rough a road as you’ll ever drive. After such a tough stretch driving down, we were greatly relieved to finally make it to our planned destination.
We were hopeful that Santa Lucia, Tambor and Montezuma would ease our frazzled nerves and give credence to their well deserved reviews. Well, that isn’t totally true. After that rough road we were anxious to just sit back and rest. We weren’t sure Santa Lucia and Tambor would offer much respite, but we looked forward to seeing them regardless.
We had met another couple that had stayed in Santa Lucia while we were day tripping out of San Jose a few weeks before. Long story short, they loved the area, but said there really wasn’t a whole lot to do in Santa Lucia proper. Oh sure, they went ziplining, did a little snorkeling, walked the beaches and went kayaking but there wasn’t a lot to do in the town itself. Following their advice, we simply cruised through town and did a quick stop at the local beach to check out the views. After a bit of walking around, we jumped back into the jeep and headed to Tambor.
The area around Santa Lucia was gorgeous (as expected) however they were right on the money in terms of things to do. If you’re hoping for a string of restaurants and a wild nightlife just keep on trucking. Santa Lucia is perfect for…
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.
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.
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 4×4 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 4×4 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 4×4 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…
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…
Tamarindo’s expensive, and the grocery stores are no exception. Once we got used to the sticker shock after coming from San Jose, we managed to find almost everything we needed at the local Tamarindo supermarkets.
Super 2001 – Our condo was about half a block away, so this was our default place to stock up on groceries. This is a very small supermarket (only about five isles, so about the size of a convenience store in Canada or the US).
The good. Considering the store is so small, they have a respectable selection of North American staples. There are some decent bakery items (including pizza) in the cases next to the cashiers. The wine selection was good.
The bad. Not cheap, but nothing is in Tamarindo. This is the smallest of the three main grocery stores 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…
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…
Costa Rica will always have a special place in our hearts. Some of our experiences were both transformative and surreal, like watching an endangered leatherback turtle lay her eggs on a moonlit beach at Playa Grande. Some of our times there were more carefree, like the amazing afternoons spent lounging by the pool and boogie boarding at the Langosta Beach Club. Some were simply exhilarating, like gliding down a zipline head first as your feet just barely clear the treetops. Some were also ominously relaxing, like swimming in a natural hot pool on the slopes of a still active volcano.
Even more profound and memorable, however, is that Costa Rica was the place where we first discovered Trits…
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…