Tamarindo, Costa Rica

Tropical beach in Tamarindo, Costa Rica. (ThinkStock)

What to do in Tamarindo

About 200 miles northwest of the capital of San José, Tamarindo is a boomtown in the province of Guanacaste, in the northwest Pacific region of Costa Rica. It was once a simple hippie hangout, but now has a tangle of unplanned tourist development along the gorgeous beach. Some say the boom has been too big; however, the beach town retains its allure. It's gone from earthy to upscale in recent years, with more designer shops and cafes and more expat Americans residing full time. Tamarindo is surrounded by national parks to its north and south, and mountains with breathtaking views to its east, thus making it a major ecotourism center for ATV tours, turtle watching, diving, horseback riding, canopy tours, jungle boat rides, and rainforest hikes. Iguanas and howler monkeys are a common sight, even right in town.

Tamarindo is a major surfer destination and was featured in the film The Endless Summer II. Diehard surfers may be a bit overwhelmed by novices crowding the waves now. No matter, a number of excellent surf spots dot the coastline just beyond Tamarindo, including Playa Grande (famous as a major leatherback turtle nesting site) and Playa Langosta.

The wide range of accommodations from guest houses to luxury boutique properties, abundant international restaurants, and active (if sometimes rowdy) nightlife—along with very dependable surf and sun—have established Tamarindo as one of the most popular beaches in Costa Rica. The landscape can be arid from December to April, but the rest of the year it teems with greenery and a bevy of monkeys, birds, and butterflies. Offshore, the continental shelf drops off nearby, making for excellent deep-sea fishing for marlin, dorado, sailfish, and wahoo.

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