Central Pacific : Tamarindo
Tamarindo is in Costa Rica. Located on the Pacific Coast, Tamarindo is a popular destination for couples and families looking for a good time. With spectacular beaches and rainforests, Tamarindo is the epitome of everything that Costa Rica prides itself on. However, if you are expecting to experience the real Costa Rica then Tamarindo is probably not for you - it's something of a tourist trap geared towards Americans on short vacations and prices are high (comparable to US and Europe) with rarely the quality to match.
It is recommended to fly into Liberia (city in Costa Rica) international airport and take a Taxi from there which lasts a little over 45 minutes. Most airlines fly to Liberia from Houston, Miami, Atlanta or Los Angeles. Tamarindo also has an airport which is approximately a 45 minute flight from San Jose. The bus ride from the San Jose costs $12 dollars leaving Alfaro Station. The bus stops frequently and the trip takes around 6 or 7 hours but there is much to see throughout Costa Rica. Purchase 2 hours or more in advance as buses in CR often sellout. If coming from Liberia, there are buses every couple of hours, fare is a couple of dollars. Not the world's most comfortable buses, they stop everywhere and take multiple detours off the main road into villages and the journey takes about 2.5 hours. However, it's a good way to see the Costa Rican countryside.
The town is nice and small, a sort of miniature tropical paradise. You can find taxis, rent cars, or scooters.
Numerous lagoons in the area are filled with wonderful wildlife. Incredible sunsets and sunrises on beautiful beaches add to the overall experience. Rainforests are just a short ride away, as well as volcanoes and other aspects of nature unique to this region of Costa Rica.
Tamarindo has become a mecca for surfers and blue water sport fishermen, with a sport fishing fleet of talented and conservation oriented captains who are the pioneers of the Pacific coast. Their record catches of marlin, sailfish, giant tuna and other species have become legendary. Whether you want deep bluewater fishing, or reef or shoreline fishing, the fleet can accommodate you. Surf casting and handlining in front of your villa for snook and jack are also popular. Any way you do it you can be sure to have your fresh catch cooked up for you at one of the friendly beachfront restaurants.
Warm water surfing is enjoyed year 'round and families find this area offers opportunities for surfers of all skill levels to enjoy the great waves that bless this part of the coast. Tamarindo was the first stop on an epic worldwide surf journey in the popular movie Endless Summer II. Be aware that the beaches are very crowded with amatuer surfers these days. It can be hard to catch waves without running into another tourist. The crowds do start to thin out as evening approaches though.
Visitors also can choose to scuba dive, snorkel, go on beach cruises, water ski, jet ski, go ocean and river kayaking, wind surfing, sailing cruises and horseback riding. Bicycles, beach gear, surfboards, boogie boards and equipment of all types are available for rental from specialty stores.
In addition, there are only a few places in the world where the Giant Leatherback Turtle comes to lay her eggs, and National Park Las Baulas is one of them. A short ride from Tamarindo, watching this beautiful part of nature is a once in a lifetime event.
Nearby Hacienda Pinilla, an exclusive beach resort and residential community, offers six pristine beaches, SCUBA diving, snorkeling, surfing and fishing as well as horseback riding, an 18-hole championship golf course, and about 10 miles of nature trails.
There are a few great places to go at night. La Barra is a great bar where everyone goes for some salsa dancing, watch out though, the locals are all very good at it. There is another place called Pacifica playing mostly Top 40 music for the younger crowd at the end of the main street in Tamarindo. At the other end, you can find a relative new place, Agua. Pretty nice interior compared to the other bars, but it has a tendency to be a little empty at times. Be careful about pickpocketers around Agua, especially of those men dressed as females.
Many local vendors offer authentic Costa Rican jewelry. For children, inexpensive souvenirs are to be found everywhere .
Tamarindo offers an amazing selection of international and typical Costa Rican restaurants. Tamarindo has a French and German bakery, as well as restaurants catering to health-conscious and vegetarian. There is an abundant supply of fresh local seafood, fruits and vegetables. Most restaurants face the beach, so while waiting for food, one can play in the sand or admire the beautiful sunset.
However, most restaurant food is not cheap by Central American standards. Expect to pay $10 for a starter, $15-20 for a main dish, $3-4 for a juice or smoothie, $6-7 for a sandwich.
Tamarindo also has grocery stores, fresh produce and fruit juice stands, and internet cafes.
Locals will come daily during lunchtime with food in the back of their truck and sell to local Costa Ricans for about 2000 Colones you get a full plate, it's a great way to try local cuisine.
Any tropical drink is recommended. Fresh papaya, mango, pineapple, and bananas are Tamarindo's specialty. When in Tamarindo, definitely try a Tamarind and Ginger agua fresca if you find it.