Tamarindo is renowned as a top tourism hub in the Guanacaste area for a reason. The list of activities is seemingly endless with thrilling adventures such as waterfall rappelling and canopy zip-lining within a 30-minute drive of town. This Pacific town is the ideal place to check off all Costa Rica travel must-do's - from spotting a crocodile on a wildlife tour to sunset horseback riding on the beach, it's tough to be bored in Tamarindo. All the following activities can be booked at a local tour company.
Step on the gas with one of the town's ATV tours - splash through streams and speed around the jungle as you check out Costa Rica's stunning wildlife. A morning tour is the best choice to spot howler monkeys and other critters as you zoom down Tamarindo's wooded back roads. Another surprisingly romantic option is a sunset tour (plan on leaving around 4 p.m.) where you and a guide will cruise the beach taking in the breathtaking red and pink hues of the sun sinking into the Pacific. Tours can be anywhere from a few hours to a full-day and include safety equipment and driving instructions to help guests fully maximize their ATV experience. Recommended for ages twelve and up.
Boating, Hiking & Wildlife Watching
Rich in biodiversity, the Tamarindo Wildlife Refuge is an exotic escape for visitors to witness a wide variety of animal and plant species on several types of tours. By boat or by foot, travelers will likely come face-to-face with crocodiles, coatimundis, howler monkeys and an array of waterfowl.
Paddle through the mysterious mangrove forests of the Tamarindo Estuary in the morning before the sun reaches its highest point. Plan on paddling at least 2 hours - the trip is challenging, but rewarding as it offers an up close and personal way experience with wildlife.
Glide through the estuary depths on a smooth motorboat ride with an expert guide from Las Baulas National Marine Park. Good for all ages. Tours depart from Las Baulas National Marine Park Ranger Station, located on the road to Tamarindo, 437 yds. (400 m.) north of the Best Western. The trip takes 3-hours - good anytime before 4 p.m. - and costs US$20 (10,000 CRC).
Hiking trails span the 1,200 acre (485 hec.) wildlife refuge with paths that range from easy to challenging. From leisurely stroll to sweaty climb - however you do it, traversing this rich batch of biodiversity is an excellent wildlife watching activity. If you plan on hiking solo, speak to a tour guide and learn the trail maps before heading out. Group hikes are also available.
Visitors can fly high above the trees on any one of the many zip-line canopy tours offered in the area. Tamarindo tour companies organize trips to several nearby canopy forests. Some courses offer more than 10 cables totaling almost a full mile in length. That's one mile of adrenaline as you soar across the treetops and take in the lush greenery and the canopy wildlife. Tours usually take 2-hours not including transportation time. For the best canopy experience, a morning tour is the best choice for spotting wildlife. Zip-lining is very safe, but can be challenging and slightly intimidating - recommended for physically-fit and active travelers.
Go spelunking in the Barra Honda National Park, the only park in Costa Rica with cavernous underground trails. Barra Honda is just over 1-hour by car or shuttle from Tamarindo. Plan on devoting a full day for this tour that departs daily from Tamarindo. Visitors will immerse themselves in the 70-million-year-old caverns, home to staggering stalactite and stalagmite formations. Cave-dwelling wildlife and fossilized relics also inhabit these underground passageways. Tours include a bilingual guide, transportation, park entrance fee, and lunch. Note that the hour-long hike to the caves is challenging and hiking shoes are required.
A true Costa Rica vacation requires both adventure and rejuvenation and Tamarindo is the perfect destination for both. After a morning ATV excursion, spend the afternoon unwinding at one of the town's day spas. There are several spas located in the center of town and others can be found in many boutique hotels. Indulge in popular treatments such as a Costa Rican mud wrap or a papaya-sugar exfoliating body scrub. Other options include a variety of independent masseurs who set up daily on the beach and offer well priced ($40 per hour) massages set to the soothing sounds of the ocean breeze and waves crashing in the distance.
For all the men out there who aren't sure what to do while the women soak the sun at a spa day, never fear - there are two world class golf courses within 30-minutes of Tamarindo. The scenic 18-hole course at Hacienda Pinilla, a luxurious estate 15-minutes away from Tamarindo. Die-hard golfers can also show off their game at the impressive Garra de Leon Golf Course - a luscious 18-hole, par 72 course - a 30-minute drive from Tamarindo in Playa Conchal.
Saddle up with a horseback riding excursion. Trot up backcountry mountains or gallop down the beach - no matter your equestrian experience, there are riding options for every skill level. Tours depart from the center of town and vary in length depending on the activity - devote a half-day to exploring the forests or just two hours to a sunset tour.
Lightweight mountain bikes are available for rent in downtown Tamarindo starting at US$15 a day. Local cycling shops specialize in guided mountain bike tours ranging from half-day to multi-day trips that include round-trip transportation to nearby trails, drinks, a guide and technical support. For those who prefer to rent a bike and go it alone, there are spectacular mountain trails right outside the center of town, which cater to more experienced riders as the terrain can be rocky and steep. Another option is to rent Tamarindo's signature beach cruisers (US$10 a day) - perfect for pedaling down the beach at sunset or exploring the luxurious real estate of Langosta - just over one mile (2 km.) south of Tamarindo.
For a laidback river adventure, explore the Corobici River on a safari float - a tamer version of a river raft. Float down gentle rapids with the help of a guide and enjoy a leisurely cruise as you take in the scenery. The Corobici runs through a tropical dry forest, allowing travelers the opportunity to spot species that could be from the pages of a National Geographic magazine such as basilisk lizards, white-faced monkeys, iguanas, and river turtles. Plan to devote a full day for this tour - vans depart from Tamarindo and must first make the one-hour trek toward Liberia to get to the river. Tours include transportation, bilingual guides, safety equipment and lunch. Suitable for all ages.
Beautiful catamarans and yachts set sail on a daily basis from Tamarindo Bay. Sunset tours feature appetizers and a champagne toast. Many half-day cruises include snorkeling, kayaking, dolphin watching and a fresh seafood lunch (and yes – most boats include a fully stocked bar for those looking to add a little booze to their cruise). Good for all ages - Prices start at US$80.
Snorkeling & Scuba Diving
Scuba diving and snorkeling tours are popular in Tamarindo – especially during the rainy months between May and October, when visibility is at its best (between 30 and 80 feet or 9 and 24 m.). Local dive shops offer affordable day trips and standard PADI certification courses for more adventurous visitors. Morning or afternoon excursions aboard catamarans may also include dolphin watching and snorkeling options.
Boats depart twice per day for the Catalina Islands, an archipelago located 20 minutes offshore. Here, divers can observe a myriad of aquatic life – spotted eagle rays, white tip reef sharks and colorful schools of tropical fish. Whales frequent the area from September to March, and large schools of cow-nosed and devil rays can be spotted between January and March. Orcas, whale sharks and nurse sharks are also known to visit these waters on occasion.
Sport fishing is world-class in Tamarindo, with common catches including blue, black and striped marlin, wahoo, sailfish, yellow-fin tuna and mahi mahi. Marlin can be caught year-round, but December through February are said to be the best months for your catch. Depending on what you want out of your sport fishing experience, luxurious boat charters and multi-day packages are also available. Some outfits offer catch-and-release trophies that are handmade according to the weight and dimensions of each catch and can be shipped to nearly any country in the world.
Several Spanish immersion programs are available in Tamarindo for those looking to pick up the local language. Students can study the language while living with a local family, and learn about typical traditions and culture. Programs generally run from one week to two months.
Surfing is an integral part of Tamarindo culture. Warm waters and year-round breaks make this beautiful beach ideal for both beginners and pros. The town is chock full of surf shops that offer board rentals, lessons and ding repairs. Amateurs prefer Tamarindo's somewhat smaller breaks, while more experienced locals surf the larger, often desolate waves of neighboring Langosta or Playa Grande. Several surf camps feature multi-level programs that include surf tours to all of the best local hot spots. Multi-day trips to nearby Witch's Rock and Ollie's Point are also available.
Nearby Playa Grande is known as one of the largest leatherback sea turtle nesting sites in the world. Every year between October and March, hundreds of leatherbacks come ashore to lay their eggs. Guided evening turtle tours can be arranged in Playa Grande at the Las Baulas ranger station or with the Local Guide Association at Tamarindo's satellite station (2653-1687).
Take a scenic flight on a two-person ultralight plane to experience Tamarindo from a bird's-eye-view. Daily tours depart from town and soar along the coastline, introducing passengers to the Pacific Coast's blue-water beaches, rocky points and luscious green mountains and tropical dry forests. On a clear day, visitors may even spot humpback whales, dolphins, and marine turtles in the ocean.
Brave Tamarindo's cool mountain rivers, where gorgeous scenery blends with twisting, turning waters that race over rocks and around bends. During a lull in the action, rafters often spot howler monkeys, iguanas, white-faced monkeys and other native wildlife. Beginners can book a full-day tour on the Colorado River (Class II-III), while experienced rafters will love spending an entire day on the Tenorio River (Class III-IV).
Stretch those sore muscles and inhale the revitalizing sea breeze after a day's adventure with an hour of beachfront yoga. Yogis can customize their own namaste experience and choose from over five studios in Tamarindo that offer various styles of yoga including Vinyasa, Hatha Flow and Yin Yoga. Classes range from beginner to advanced and cost between $5 and $15 per class (between one and two hours).