Should You Go To Tamarindo, Costa Rica?
I must say, Tamarindo impressed me. Plenty of surfers had told me about how crowded it was, overdeveloped, dirty, etc. But what I found was a charming little surf town that was much more pleasant than other Central America surf hubs such as La Libertand in El Salvador or San Juan del Sur in Nicaragua. Tamarindo seemed more along the lines of Sayulita Mexico. A fun, funky beachfront town that appeals to a wide range of visitors.
Driving into town the first thing I noticed were the streets were clean and there were many tall trees and green plants everywhere. The town has a very lush feel to it (I was there in late May, beginning of rainy season). My first stop was Witch's Rock Surf Camp where I grabbed a board and hit the surf right out front. The waves were small and unimpressive but any surfer visiting Costa Rica for the first time has to be stoked just to be in the water.
Surfers walking along Tamarindo beach with small waves in background. This is an excellent beginner spot.
The vibe in the water was great, everyone from local rippers to young kids with their dads were out having a good time. After getting out of the water you can rinse off at the great outdoor shower in front of Witch's Rock, leave your board and wet items on right on the grass (or shrubber) and dine on a huge breakfast or lunch at Witch's Rock beach front restaurant. Even if you're not staying here, it's pretty easy to make it sort of a home base for the day. They have boards for rent, food to eat and a surf shop on site, what else do you need?
Boards and rash guards hanging out on the bushes at Witch's Rock Surf Camp while the owner eat breakfast.
Maxi has been renting out boards at Witch's Rock Surf Camp for over 15 years!
Heading up and away from the beach there are many homes and condos on the hillside with truly spectacular views. Don't go without taking time to hike or drive up a few hundred yards, then turn around and be amazed at the ocean views around you. Heading a little further into the main part of town (this means walking another 2 minutes from Witch's Rock) you'll find plenty of surf shops, restaurants, tour agencies, hotels, even upscale boutique shops and cafes.
View from the hill in the Las Mareas development. Definitely a nice place to stay.
Tamarindo then officially ends and Playa Langosta begins, but the transition is mostly seamless. The coastline takes a bend here which is a plus for surfers as you have more options for finding favorable swell and wind conditions. The Playa Langosta side is dominated by newer upscale condos and hotels. The Villa Alegre has been there quite a while and has some charm. At the end of the road is a great surf spot at the river mouth. There is the huge and sprawling Barcelo Langosta sitting right on the surf break. This resort would be good for a family, especially if you're used to staying at larger resorts with huge swimming pools and lots of people about. I took a quick peek, though it's not my style the place actually looked very nice and you can't beat the location for surfing.
The pool (and surf in background) at Barcelo Langosta. Big resort, good for families or a first time Central America traveler.
The gorgeous Hotel Capitan Suizo in Tamarindo. If you need beachfront upscale accommodations, stay here.