Costa RicaCosta Rica

Day 3: Getting to Know Tamarindo

Destination: Tamarindo

Tamarindo hotel poolAfter a continental breakfast in Luna Llena's new restaurant, I wanted nothing more than to relax at the hotel's pool and soak up the sunshine. The low humidity coupled with ocean breezes kept temperatures mild and comfortable.

Early December, I was quickly discovering, was a prime time to be traveling in Guanacaste. The holiday crowds had yet to arrive, prices were still low, and the sun was here to stay (at least until May).

Tamarindo shopsHotels and restaurants were ramping up for the Christmas season, and holiday lights were artfully strung around coconut palms.

I lounged by the pool with a mindless book and chatted with a couple who had just been married in Tamarindo. They exchanged vows at a quintessential beachside ceremony, an intimate gathering of family and friends along the shore. And now they were ready for some adventure -- a canopy tour, catamaran excursion and surf lessons.

With my afternoon free, I decided to explore more of Tamarindo and check out some of the new art galleries and cafes. Surf lessonsA number of souvenir stores and high-end boutiques were open, along with a dozen or more surf shops. There were three new shopping plazas, one of which had an Auto Mercado.

For those of us who live in small town Costa Rica, the Auto Mercado is king of all supermarkets. It is the purveyor of all things we cannot find, namely imported goods -- among them, dark beer, kalamata olives and a variety of delicious cheeses. I spent a few wondrous moments perusing the aisles, simultaneously wishing and fearing that one day my little town of Atenas would be worthy of its own Auto Mercado.

Palm trees at Tamarindo beachI was meeting up with an old friend from my days as an English teacher in Heredia. Bryan had been living in Tamarindo for two years and was the perfect guide to the area's restaurants and nightlife. He still partied like a rock star and knew the hotspots and good sushi restaurants.

On any given night, there is something going on in Tamarindo -- ladies' night, reggae dance halls, discos and poker games at the casino.

We started off with rum drinks at Luna Llena's poolside bar and moved on to Witch's Rock for sushi. I hopped onto Bryan's motorcycle for the ride to La Barra and then Pasatiempo for live music. The crowd was a blend of locals and sunburned tourists, and Bryan seemed to know everyone there. We toasted to our good lives in Costa Rica and spent a night catching up on travels and friends.

Day 3: Getting to Know Tamarindo in Pictures