What to Expect During The 2019 Costa Rica Rainy Season

It’s the end of May and the rainy season is upon us in Tamarindo.  Here’s a heads-up on what to expect during your Tamarindo Green Season vacation.

 

Tamarindo weather
A peaceful green season morning at the beach in Tamarindo.

Predictions:

2019 has been a year of the “El Nino” weather pattern here in the equatorial regions. This means that our dry season began early and was extra hot and dry.  According to the El Nino pattern, we were told to expect a not-very-rainy rainy season, and this made everyone who loves Costa Rica’s flora and fauna very sad.  These cyclical fluctuations are part of normal weather fluctuations, but extra harsh dry seasons are difficult times for plants and animals.  They aren’t great for our taxed aquifers either, but humans are able to truck in water in a way that deer and monkeys aren’t.

Luckily for all of us, those predictions are turning out to be misrepresentative of the way the rainy season is starting out!  We’re getting lots of delicious rain, and Guanacaste is green as the garden of Eden.  The temperature has dropped back into the “pleasant” range, and life is good.

Expect:

Afternoon showers

It almost never rains all day, especially not in the first half of the rainy season.  It’s not impossible, but it’s uncommon.  The rainy season mostly consists of sunny days with occasional afternoon showers.  They may be thunderstorms that roll through to cool off hot afternoons, or they may be simply cloud systems that bring rain and then dissolver over the ocean.  Enjoy them!  Tamarindo locals—both native Costa Ricans and implants from other places—love the rainy season.  If you thought you wanted to plan your Costa Rica vacation to avoid the Tamarindo rainy season, think again.  Don’t miss the best, most relaxing time of year.

tamarindo surfing
Surf the warm waves early in the morning while the wind is offshore.

Humidity

The rainy season is humid—you might as well know it.  Some people like humidity in the air; some people don’t.  It should probably go without saying that rainy times of the year by the ocean have a higher humidity level than say, Las Vegas.  Two days in Tamarindo in the rainy season, and you’re guaranteed to look 10 years younger than you did when you got off the plane.  Your skin loves the humidity even if your brain is unaccustomed to it.  Enjoy it.  Think of it as a free sauna.

The humidity is most noticeable right before the rain starts to fall.  Refreshing afternoon or evening showers bring relief.  If it gets to be too much for you, enjoy the indoor comfort of your air-conditioned Tamarindo vacation rental, or one of the Tamarindo restaurants that offer indoor seating.  Better yet, jump in the pool or the ocean.  You’ll forget about it in a second.

Lots of lush vegetation

In the green season, expect green!  This is the time of year that trees are covered with new leaves, gardens spring back to life, flowers bloom, birds and monkeys are filling their bellies again with their favorite treats…  Nature is absolutely exuberant!  Mountains are green, pastures are green, forests are green, gardens are green—you could color the whole countryside with a palate of shades of green from emerald to lime to pine.  Canopy tours are fun to take at this time of year, mountain hikes, bike rides, horseback trail rides—anything that puts you out in nature under the millions of leaves.  Every breath you take is saturated with pure oxygen they create.

 

jungler
Photo: Unsplash

More insects

Pack your favorite insect repellent and use it.  Monkeys, hummingbirds, iguanas and the wild deer in the mountains aren’t the only creatures that thrive in the rainy season.  Critters that creep and buzz like it too, so be prepared.  We make sure to keep them out of your Tamarindo vacation rental as best we can, but if an industrious ant or a sneaky spider outwit us, don’t be surprised.  They aren’t dangerous; they’re just pesky and ingenious.  A broom, a shoe, or a can of spray can take care of any of your insect visitors if they are unwelcome.  Make sure to keep insect repellent on or nearby, especially in the mornings and evenings.  Mosquitoes don’t like hot sun, so they shouldn’t be much of a bother while you sunbathe, but they can chew up your toes under the table at dinner if you forget the repellent when you leave the house.  Throw some in your back and just keep it nearby.

costa rica insects
Tropical flowers of every imaginable shape and color emerge when the rains begin.

Mud

More and more of Tamarindo’s roads are paved, but when the weather gets rainy, it’s fair to expect a little mud.  How much of it you have to drive or step through depends on where your Tamarindo hotel or vacation rental is located.  Mud can be slippery, so walk carefully.

A word to the wise:  For your Tamarindo rainy season vacation, bring a pair of sandals that can get wet.  When we say sandals, we mean something besides your flip-flops—something that straps to the back of your ankle.  Why?  Because of flip flops in the rain or on a wet road/sidewalk flip water, mud and little stones all up the back of your legs while you walk.  We Tamarindo locals might know something about this.  We actually prefer to take our shoes off to walk in the rain, but we know you don’t have jungle feet as we do, so we won’t recommend you do that.  Bring rain-worthy sandals that strap to your feet so that you won’t slip or have to do a load of wash when you get back to your vacation rental.

Refreshing evenings

Evenings after a tropical rain shower are the best thing you will ever experience.  Depending on where you live and what you’re accustomed to, you may find rainy season evenings pleasantly cool.  You may, at most, want a light sweater or a light long-sleeved shirt.  Don’t bother with coats or jackets—it never actually gets cold in Costa Rica at sea level.  In May and June, the sun sets between 6 and 6:30 PM, and by 7:00 PM it is dark.  These long tropical evenings under the stars or under raindrops are the perfect relaxing end to days filled with fun in the sun.

 

pangas costa rica
Enjoy a delicious meal at Pangas Beach Club in the cool evening breeze.

Warm ocean water

Rainy season wind patterns create amazingly warm ocean temperatures in Tamarindo.  Breezes generally blow on-shore during the afternoon hours which keeps the sun-warmed surface water close to the beach where we can enjoy it.  Surfers aren’t the biggest fans of on-shore winds, but if you get up early enough or you wait until sunset, a few hours of light off-shores are often your reward.

Mornings are the sunniest part of the day

No matter what else happens during the day, mornings are generally the sunniest.  This is important to you to know so that you plan your trips and tours accordingly.  Take your Tamarindo surf lessons, your canopy tours, your snorkeling trips, your ATV tours, or whatever else our concierge helps you plan during the morning if at all possible.  Leave the afternoon for relaxing, listening to the rain, sipping a cocktail, or taking a nap.

Lower prices

Because the first half of the rainy season coincides with summer in the northern hemisphere, more vacationers choose destinations closer to home, and Tamarindo experiences its lower tourist season.  Less demand creates, in some cases, lower prices.  You won’t find this price fluctuation in stores or restaurants, but you may find it in hotels and vacation rentals, in car rental agencies, and in some tour companies.  Boutiques offer sales and restaurants are more likely to offer low-season specials, especially to guests who pay in cash.  Don’t be concerned about cash—you don’t need to go to the bank for colones.  Tamarindo businesses are all more than happy for dollars and in fact, you will be surprised by how many of them lists prices in American dollars.

 

tamarindo vacation rental
Many homes like this beach-front beauty are easier to afford in the lush green season.

Electricity flickers

This can happen at any time of year for a variety of reasons or for no reason at all, but for sure during Tamarindo’s rainy season, don’t panic if the lights go off.  Storms are one of the things that can cause power outages.  When the electricity goes, the wifi goes with it but don’t worry—when one comes back, the other will follow.  Nowadays, power outages of longer than 30 minutes are rare.  They aren’t impossible, but they are unlikely.  If the lights go off for no apparent reason, just remember this is part of everyday life in the jungle and everything is going to be fine.  If you can see that your vacation rental is the only house to have lost power, you might want to contact us or whichever company is responsible for the home.  If you can see that other homes near yours have also lost power, the best thing you can do is hang tight and enjoy the ride.  Property managers can pull a lot of strings, but power company issues are bigger than we are.  Chances are we’re in the dark too, and the lights will be back by the time you find your phone.

Beautiful sunsets

Have you heard that the rainy season has the most beautiful sunsets?  It’s true.  The clouds act like screens or prisms the reflect or refract the light of the sun as it sinks below them on the horizon.  Dry season sunsets are beautiful too, but they’re a simple firey ball sinking into the sea.  Rainy season sunsets can be performance pieces that go on and on until night has completely fallen.

 

tamarindo sunsets
Every evening a unique show is displayed between the sky and sea.

A Word to the Wise:  Rinse out your salty stuff

We’re ending this What to Expect post with a tip:  rinse out your salty beach stuff with fresh water when you get out of the ocean.  Why?  Because salt holds moisture, and if you hang your salty bathing suit up to dry in the rainy season…it won’t.  You will be putting on a clammy wet bathing suit tomorrow.  Guaranteed.  The salt in the cloth will pull water from the humid air, and your salty stuff will never dry.  If you hang it in the sun and it dries there, it will pull in moisture from the air during the night and feel sticky when you go to put it on.  It takes just a moment to rinse the salt out of your bathing suit before you drape it over the shower or a patio chair or to dry, and you’ll have a much more pleasant experience of putting it back on in the morning.

We have all kinds of rainy season tips and advice.  Contact us to get in on the best of Tamarindo’s green season, 2019!

The 7 Best Guanacaste Beaches

Along with all the other fun things you’re going to do on your Costa Rica vacation, make sure to leave some time to get out and explore the other beaches that are waiting for you here on what we affectionately call Guanacaste’s “Gold Coast.”  These are our top 7 recommendations:

Tamarindo

guanacaste beaches
Tamarindo beach. Photo property of crsurf.com

We know you won’t miss Tamarindo because it’s the home of your Tamarindo vacation rental, but let us tell you why it’s so wonderful so you can get just a little more excited for your trip.  Tamarindo is for sure one of Costa Rica’s most beautiful beaches.  The wide crescent-shaped bay has picturesque hillsides that drop into the sea on either side, and in the middle Captain Island is crowned by white shells, lava rocks, and low bushes.

Tamarindo is exceptional because it shares its bay with the Las Baulas National Marine Park.  All of Playa Grande which encompasses the northern half of Tamarindo Bay and the Las Baula estuary that bisects the beach are national park territory and therefore obey strict preservation codes.  In Baula turtle nesting season, you can take a nighttime beach walking tour in Playa Grande and perhaps have the fortune of witnessing a giant sea turtle laying eggs.  Boat or kayak tours of the estuary are an amazing way to see mother nature’s marine nursery and are available every day.

Surfing is what made Tamarindo famous back in the early 1990s when Robert August and Wingnut released the movie The Endless Summer II.

Guanacaste beaches
Surfing in Tamarindo. Photo courtesy of Leonardo Pinero

Different parts of the beach break better depending on swell direction, but in Tamarindo, there’s always something to ride.  If you’re not a surfer, sign up for Tamarindo surf lessons because Tamarindo is the perfect place to get on a board for the first time.  At the sandy beach break beside the estuary, you’re guaranteed not to meet up with a rock because there aren’t any, and the waves are gentle enough to be perfect for learning.

Non-surfers love Tamarindo as much as surfers do.  It’s a safe beach for swimming, a spectacular place for people-watching, and when the tide is out you can wander endlessly in the sunshine along the water’s edge.

Langosta

Langosta is Tamarindo’s sister beach to the south.  At low tide, you can get there from Tamarindo by walking around the rocky point and continuing on until you come to Langosta’s San Francisco estuary.  You can’t get back to Tamarindo that way at high tide, so either make sure you don’t linger too long or be prepared to walk back along the road.

guanacaste beaches
Langosta beach sunset at low tide


Langosta beach is rockier than Tamarindo, and the dropping tide fills hundreds of tide pools that act like mini saltwater swimming pools.  Admire the shells, look for sea urchins, watch little crabs hurry and iridescent blue fish dart around. You can sit in the pools and enjoy the relaxing crash of waves on the rocks without having to navigate their strength.

Surfing is the favorite pastime in Langosta.  Different spots along the beach are better at different tides, and the Langosta estuary is a favorite as well.  On the other side of the estuary in Langosta, the sandy beach stretches all the way to Hacienda Pinilla with plenty of peaks to give you a ride.  Because Langosta is more open to deep water and not in a shallow bay like Tamarindo, the waves are much bigger and stronger in Langosta.  Langosta is much rockier, too, so no beginners, please.  In Langosta, it’s best to paddle out only where you see other people surfing to avoid nasty reef rash and board repair.

Avellanas

If you’ve been researching the beaches in the Tamarindo area, you’ve already heard of Playa Avellanas.  Avellanas is about 30 minutes south of Tamarindo over a road that is partially paved and partially not.  You can get to Avellanas all year long, but how adventurous the ride will depend on the amount of rain that’s fallen recently.

 

guanacaste beaches
Avellanas is the perfect place for a low-tide beach walk

Avellanas has got something for everyone.  It’s a surfing beach for sure, with beach breaks, an estuary with a sand bar that holds a swell, and a popular reef break just in front of the beach club at Hacienda Pinilla.  Avellanas is also an excellent place to go to just chill out.  From the main parking lot, you can walk north for miles along the beach.  Miles.  If you decide to do that, take water, because Avellanas is not like Tamarindo–there are a few places to stop for refreshment but mostly there are mangroves and ocean.

Lola’s is a popular restaurant there in Avellanas by the parking area.  It’s named after a famous beach pig who loved the salt water and lived a long happy life there on the property.  Lola’s has food, drinks, shady seating and a few hammocks for customers who make it there on time to get one.

Playa Negra

Down the coast, past Avellanas you’ll come to Playa Negra.  Playa Negra is named after the darker colored sand and is a favorite surf break for intermediate and advanced surfers.  Playa Negra’s point break holds a big swell and the rocks you have to navigate on the way in and out of the water make it a place that beginners should leave to the more experienced.

guanacaste beaches
Welcome to Playa Negra’s sun and surf

A fun little town has grown up around the break, with bars and restaurants, coffee shops, art galleries, craft and souvenir stores and of course hotels and surf shops.  If you’re not a surfer, you can still enjoy a swim in the water at one of Playa Negra’s less rocky spots.  You can have a delicious meal at a beachfront restaurant and then take a leisurely beach walk and soak in the sun and the sounds of the pounding surf.

Playa Conchal

Playa Conchal is about a half hour north of Tamarindo.  There are two ways to get to Playa Conchal–one of them is through the Reserva Conchal Resort, and the other is by continuing down the road to Playa Brasilito and then walking or driving along the sand to Conchal.  Walking is always a safe bet.  Driving can work, or you can get your rental car stuck in soft sand.  The voice of experience, here, has done both and recommends the hike, but you decide.  Obviously, the resort entrance is the favorite choice, but only guests of the resort are allowed through the gate, so if you’re just exploring, you’ll need to take the scenic route.  But hey.  Isn’t that the idea of exploring?

guanacaste beaches
Photo by Stacy Epps

Playa Conchal is literally made of small shells.  Historically it was made of shells of all sizes, but the growth of tourism brought about a quick end to variety.  It’s still a beautiful beach, and wonderful for snorkeling, but if you can find it within your heart to leave the pretty shells where they are and take home only pictures, Playa Conchal will thank you for it.  Who knows what factors are at play to make this spot the spot where so many millions of shells were deposited by ocean currents as to form the entire beach without actual sand?  All beaches need their shells, but Playa Conchal especially needs them because, with no shells, it has nothing to be made of.

Bahia de Los Piratas

Bahia de Los Piratas, or Pirate’s Bay, is off the beaten path.  Unpaved country roads through Guanacaste’s back country will take you to this beautiful little cove where swimming, snorkeling, and fishing are the favorite activities.  Colorful fish, rays, turtles, starfish, and sea urchins are some of the things you may discover under the surface at Bahia Los Piratas.

guanacaste beaches
Sun and shade at Bahia de Los Piratas

Pack a picnic lunch to eat in the sand under the trees at Bahia Los Piratas, or enjoy a simple meal at one of the little restaurants that you’ll find along the way.  This is a great beach for a relaxing day or afternoon at a less commercial spot that locals love to visit.

Sugar Beach

Sugar Beach is a beautiful sandy beach located just a bit further north where the terrain becomes steeper and the hillsides drop almost directly into the water.  The best way to enjoy Sugar Beach is to drive to the Sugar Beach Hotel, park in the hotel parking lot, and be sure to compensate for this service by purchasing something to eat or drink in the hotel’s beautiful ocean view restaurant.

guanacaste beaches
Overlooking Sugar Beach from the hilltop


Sugar beach is not a surfing beach, but it’s a wonderful place to relax, swim, wander along the water’s edge in the sun, doze off in the shade, and enjoy a fantastic meal at another off-the-beaten-path spot you probably wouldn’t find if we hadn’t told you about it.  You’ll pass lots of other interesting beaches and small towns on the way to and from Sugar Beach, so take your time to explore whatever you see that sparks your curiosity.  Guanacaste is full of surprises to discover!

Email us or call us now with your questions so that we can help you get your Tamarindo vacation rental booked and give more information about the fantastic beaches you might want to visit during your Guanacaste vacation.

 

Top 6 Reasons to Have a Tamarindo Destination Wedding

A Costa Rica destination wedding is a wonderful idea!   You get to go on vacation with your favorite friends and close family while you celebrate this important moment—what’s not to love about that?  The other thing that’s great about a destination wedding is that it automatically helps you make selections on the guest list.  You don’t have to feel bad about not inviting your ex-next-door-neighbor or your best friend from the 7th grade because that’s not how destination weddings work.  It’s the perfect compromise between having a “normal” wedding, and eloping—you get to celebrate, but only with your nearest and dearest.  Awesome.

Costa Rica wedding photographer
Photo: Toh Gouttenoire

So why should you pick Tamarindo for your Costa Rica wedding?  We think it’s a no-brainer and there are 6 of the top reasons!

  1. Tamarindo Beach Is Amazing

Tamarindo beach is fabulously, famously beautiful.  At low tide in Tamarindo, the water recedes, leaving a vast stretch of sand with outcroppings of lava rock that is a dream setting for a tropical sunset wedding.  What could be more romantic?  We can’t think of anything.  High tide beach weddings are beautiful as well, with the water lapping at your toes and the sound of breaking waves providing the music.  If you decide not to hold your wedding directly on the beach, there are lots of beachfront venues available where Tamarindo can form the backdrop of the photos you will treasure for a lifetime.

Tamarindo Beach in the early morning.

You and your guests are going to do a lot more than just have a wedding ceremony on this trip, and Tamarindo beach is a place that has something for everyone.  The surfers can surf, the swimmers can swim, and grandma can sip pina coladas in the shade.  You might think that’s a given at any beach, but not necessarily.  Some beaches are too rough for swimming, others are too flat for surfing, and many are remote enough that a cold umbrella drink would be hard to come by.  Tamarindo has it all, and the beach itself is reason number one not to go anywhere else. You probably don’t even need the other five reasons, but here they are:

  1. The Climate is Perfect

Tamarindo has perfect weather.  Think about it: that’s the main ingredient that puts a place on the destination wedding list in the first place, right?  People aren’t exactly lining up to get married in Iceland.  In Tamarindo, we have 365 days of summer, and rainy days–days when it rains from morning to night–are rare.

Costa rica wedding photographer
Photo: Toh Gouttenoire

There are two seasons in this region: the rainy season and the dry season.  It’s impossible to say which one is the “best” because there are “best” things about both of them.  The best things about the rainy season are:
–Everything is lush and green.
–The sunsets are glorious, with the clouds that act like prisms and turn every imaginable color.
–Evenings are comfortably cooler.

Costa Rica wedding photographer
Photo: Toh Gouttenoire

The best things about the dry season are:
–For 6 months you can forget about the rain factor.
–The humidity is very low.
–Tamarindo is at its busy, vibrant best.

When you contact us for more information, we can tell you what kind of weather to expect on your special day.

  1. There are Amazing Event Venues and Tamarindo Vacation Rentals

For your Costa Rica destination wedding, you need the perfect vacation rental and you also need the perfect venue for the event.  Tamarindo has both of these things.  We offer elite vacation rentals that range from beachfront to mountain top—many of which are so spectacularly beautiful that many couples choose to make the vacation rental property the event venue.  In other words, in Tamarindo, it is possible to rent a house so big and so gorgeous that you scrap the idea of getting married directly on the beach, and you instead get married in the beachfront or ocean view mansion that you have rented with your family and friends.  You can have a catered meal, a DJ, a Costa Rica wedding photographer and more —in the privacy of your own five-star space.  Think it over.

Casa de Luz is an excellent Tamarindo vacation rental home/event venue

In the Tamarindo area, there are vacation rental homes/event venues that can sleep over 20 guests.  Another option is to rent multiple adjacent villas in a gated community if you’re bringing a large multi-family group.  We’re the experts at helping you get these details ironed out, so contact us and let’s talk about what kind of Tamarindo wedding you’d like to have.

  1. You Get Your Favorite1st World Amenities

You may not have thought about it this way, but one reason Tamarindo it the best place for your Costa Rica wedding is that you and your guests will be comfortable here.  We absolutely recommend that you branch out and do some roughing-it in life, but…  maybe not for your wedding!  You can do that next year—plus you have grandpa with you and your sister’s pack of kids, so let’s make things easy on everybody.  Here are some comforts you will find in Tamarindo—things you might take for granted but shouldn’t in Central America—that you cannot be guaranteed to find just anywhere:

Costa rica wedding photographer
Photo: Toh Gouttenoire

–We’re less than 2 hours from the airport.
–The roads are paved.
–We have American-style supermarkets.
–Everybody has wi-fi.
–Everything is air-conditioned.
–We have pharmacies, dentists, and doctor’s offices.  Just in case.
–It’s easy to rent a car in Tamarindo.  Oh, and the gas station is only 10 minutes away.
–You can walk anywhere in town (yay, no steep hills).
–The water is drinkable (most people prefer bottled water, but the tap water will not make you sick).
–You can use American dollars pretty much everywhere.
–Essentially every business of has at least one person who speaks English.

  1. Tamarindo Has Excellent Restaurants

One of the reasons to have your destination wedding in Tamarindo is that the town is full of great restaurants.  Our very favorite is Pangas Beach Club, and Pangas Beach Club also happens to be an excellent wedding venue.  Pangas is located in the sand at the sleepy north end of Tamarindo beach underneath sprawling laurel trees and beside the Las Baulas National Park.  Their menu is amazing, and the setting is magical.  No, it really is.  At Pangas, your event can be held in the outdoor beachfront dining area under the trees or moved indoors if the weather is uncooperative.  It’s the perfect place to combine the option of a beach wedding in the sand with an elegant meal and your own private dance party afterward.  Pangas also caters, so if you decide to get married at your vacation rental, keep them in mind for the meal.

And then there are all the other restaurants in town!   Where to go for dinner is one of the toughest choices Tamarindo’s visitors have to make and believe us, it’s not easy.  A destination wedding is a very special trip for everyone in your group, so you want a place like Tamarindo where every meal you get will be the best one you’ve had on vacation.

costa rica wedding photographer
Photo: Toh Gouttenoire
  1. There Are Tons of Fun Things To Do

You getting married is obviously the most unforgettable part of this trip for everyone, but so many other wonderful memories are going to be tied to this trip forever for all involved.  Tamarindo and the surrounding area is a playground of fun and fascinating things to do.  There is literally something for everyone.  There is golf, sport fishing, and surfing.  There are catamaran cruises, spas and wellness centers, yoga studios, and shopping.  There are National park tours, canopy zip lines, ATV treks, mountain biking and of course the let’s not forget just enjoying the beach!  Your Tamarindo wedding is going to be the central event of the best vacation your friends and family have ever had because Tamarindo literally has something for everyone.

The fun isn’t over when the sun goes down, either!  Tamarindo nightlife offers everything from fire dancers on the beach just after sunset to deejays that will keep you dancing all night long.  Have your bachelor and bachelorette parties where you can dance in the sand and stroll down the street exploring the colors and languages that mix in this unique town.

Costa Rica wedding photographer
Photo: Toh Gouttenoire

Because of all of the reasons that Tamarindo is the best place for your Costa Rica destination wedding, you aren’t the first one to think of it—lucky you!  Many first-class wedding planners make a living in Tamarindo and we’d be happy to give you our recommendations on who to call first.  Let us help you get the party started. 

Costa rica wedding photographer
Photo: Toh Gouttenoire

Enjoy Both Tamarindo & Nicaragua on Your Costa Rica Trip

If you’re the kind of traveler who’s interested in a truly unique Central American vacation, we have an idea for you:  visit Nicaragua.  Think about it–you already have your passport, and from Tamarindo the Nicaraguan border is only half as far as the Costa Rican capital of San Jose.  Two and a half hours north of us, a whole new country is waiting for you to explore.  It’s a country of lakes, volcanoes, farmland, busy towns, stunning beaches, and rich culture.  In many ways Nicaragua is similar to Costa Rica, especially to Guanacaste which once belonged to Nicaragua but chose to annex to Costa Rica about 200 years ago.

Nicaragua
Photo: Unsplash

How to do a two-country vacation?  Fly into Liberia’s Daniel Oduber airport and spend the first part of your vacation in your Tamarindo vacation rental.  Enjoy the exciting variety of things to do in Tamarindo and the unforgettable variety of Tamarindo restaurants and nightlife.  We recommend you stay in Tamarindo for as long as you can while still leaving yourself at least a night or two to spend in Nicaragua.  You could easily spend a week in each place if your vacation schedule allows.

You’ll want to take a taxi or a bus to the border.  You won’t be able to drive a Costa Rican rental car into Nicaragua, so if you’ve got one, turn it in before you leave Tamarindo.  Crossing the border from Costa into Nicaragua is a fascinating experience. You’ll arrive at Peñas Blancas (the Costa Rican side of the border), get your luggage, go through the line to have your passport stamped, and to pay some taxes and fees.  There is a bank at the border where you can change American dollars or Costa Rican colones for Nicaraguan cordoba, or you can change cash with one of the many money changers that carry wads of bills around.  If you choose to skip the bank line, be careful.

It is possible to get a reasonable (if not ideal) exchange rate instead of standing in line, but ask what rate you’re getting, use a calculator to figure it out, and count carefully the cordobas you are given.  If you realize later that something is wrong, there won’t be anything you can do about it.  Next, you’ll take a 2-3 minute walk down a shady road to the Nicaraguan side of the border crossing.  Yes, you actually cross this border on foot.  It’s pretty cool.  On the Nicaraguan side, you’ll get another stamp in your passport, pay some more taxes and fees, and then you’re ready to explore!  Get on a bus or take a taxi and watch Nicaragua unfold in front of you!

Photo: Unplash

 

The town of Rivas is the first place of interest you will come to in Nicaragua.  It’s a small colonial city about 40 minutes north of the border.  Rivas is a great place to stop for lunch on your way to Ometepe, Granada, or Masaya, but Rivas itself is not exactly a tourist’s dream destination.  It has plenty of history and if you’re going to Nicaragua for the straight-up cultural experience of everyday life in the country then Rivas is for you.  If you’re looking for luxury, beauty and the kind of pampering you experience in Costa Rica–keep going.

Photo: Unsplash

If you turn off the main highway before you get to Rivas and head west to the coast, you will find a popular beach town called San Juan del Sur.  San Juan del Sur is like a mini-Tamarindo of yesteryear.  Lots of little shops, diverse cafes and restaurants, a wide range of hotels and hostels, a traditional market and local art/craft vendors are all gathered into a little hillside town by a gentle bay.  If you only have one or two nights to spend in Nicaragua, this is the place for you.  It’s easy to get to, easy to find things to do in, and a quick trip back to Costa Rica so you can make your flight.  Walk the beach, take a tour to other nearby beaches, or get in on a surf trip to the famous break at Playa Matapalo.  Shop the markets, go for a swim, and enjoy your favorite meal at sunset for a fraction of what you would pay in Costa Rica.

Probably the most amazing thing you can do in the southern sector of Nicaragua is to visit the island of Ometepe.  Ometepe rises out of in Lake Nicaragua, and you will see it as you travel north from the border crossing into the country.  You can’t miss Ometepe on a clear day because the two enormous volcanoes that formed it rise from the sea-sized lake that stretches for hours along the coast.  To get to Ometepe, you’ll go to the town of San Jorge just a few minutes from Rivas, where you’ll take a ferry.  The ferry will transport you and lots of other colorful passengers across the lake to the island. Ometepe is so big that you don’t even feel like you’re on an island.  Of course then Lake Nicaragua is so big that it doesn’t feel like a lake!   On Ometepe, one of the most unforgettable things you can do is to hike the volcanoes.

Photo: Unsplash

Sister volcanoes Concepción and Maderas, formed the island, and guides can take you for an unforgettable trip up either one.  Concepción is an active volcano.  You can hike up to lava rock fields near the cone where steam pours from fissures between the rocks.  It’s not perhaps the safest pastime, but you can do it if you’re up for the adventure.  Maderas is a dormant volcano (the safer sister!) and contains a cool lake in its crater.  A hike up Volcan Maderas is considerably less dangerous and just as beautiful in different ways.  Got time?  Do both!

The other thing you need to do on the Island of Ometepe is get with a guide–hire one privately or take a tour–of Ometepe’s historical interest points.  See one of Somoza’s coffee plantations, hike to petroglyphs in the mountains, travel to indigenous communities, visit thermal pools, and discover the rich history of Nicaragua’s turbulent past.  You will never forget Ometepe.  Guaranteed.

Photo: Unsplash

Further into Nicaragua lies the colonial town of Granada.  You will drive along the shore of Lake Nicaragua for a full hour from Rivas before you are even near Granada.  Granada is one of the oldest colonial cities in the Americas and it is also a rich source of indigenous historical sites and modern historical points of interest.  Visit a colonial church, pre-Columbian statues, a fortress from the many wars Nicaragua suffered in the 20th century and hike a volcano that predates all of it. Tourism is Granada’s main source of income, and this is one of the places in Nicaragua where discerning travelers can be the most comfortable.  Budget travelers will do fine anywhere in Nicaragua, but Granada is one of the places where high-end accommodations and services will be easier to find.

Our last recommendation for your quick trip to southern Nicaragua is the city of Masaya.  Masaya is famous for two things–the volcanic national park it is named after, and its art/craft markets.  Tours to the volcano are low-intensity (unlike Concepción and Maderas on the island of Ometepe) and can be enjoyed by everyone.  This is Nicaragua’s first national park and is a great idea for a night-time activity when the glowing lava in the crater is a spectacular sight.

 

Before you leave Nicaragua, get your souvenir shopping on at one (or both!) of Masaya’s markets.  There’s a municipal market and a tourist market.  The tourist market it what it sounds like–a bright, clean market with comfortable aisles filled with crafts and souvenirs that are exactly what you want to bring home with you from your visit to Nicaragua.  The municipal market is where the locals shop.  There is also a souvenir section (cheaper, too!) in the municipal market, but talk about a cultural experience that will challenge your comfort zone!  Baskets, fruits, vegetables, raw meats, raw fish, shoes, shirts, bags, backpacks, watches, socks, cleaning products, personal products, lunches, breakfasts, baby clothes, chickens, cosmetics…  It’s all there jumbled together.  The only thing you won’t find at the municipal market is personal space.

Photo: Unsplash

 

Our advice?  Don’t miss it!  You’re in Nicaragua after all!  Make sure your bags are zipped shut and dive in.  Do something you’ve never done before.  Soon enough you’ll be back home in the chilly freezer section of your local grocery store where everything is much more under control but not nearly as interesting!

Are you interested in seeing Nicaragua?  Contact us while your vacation is in the planning stages and let us give you some of our expert tips and advise on how to get the best of both countries!

 

 

 

 

Vacation Rental of Tamarindo – Top 5 Places to Stay in Tamarindo

One of the most important decisions you have to make as you plan your Costa Rica vacation is where to stay in Tamarindo.  There are all kinds of options for every budget and every group size.  Some are beachfront, some are hilltop spots with an ocean view, some don’t offer an ocean view but are literally a 2-minute walk to the surf and sand…how do you decide?

The first variable is group size.  If you’re traveling alone or with a friend/partner, a small vacation rental condo or a Tamarindo hotel room might be the right choice for you.  If you’re planning a group travel occasion or a special event like a wedding or an important birthday celebration, you absolutely want a Tamarindo vacation rental home where all of you can share a common area.

Tamarindo Beach

Photo by Tamarindowiki – Tamarindowiki helicopter aerial photo, CC BY-SA 3.0, 

The next question is budget.  Generally speaking, the more you are willing to pay, the closer to the water you can stay.  That principle doesn’t always apply, but it’s a reasonable guide.  And of course keep in mind that a Tamarindo vacation rental is always a great deal because the cost is split between all of your group, and having your own kitchen keeps you from having to purchase every meal in a restaurant.

Today, we’re featuring for you our Vacation Rentals of Tamarindo Top 5 Places To Stay.  If we listed them according to how wonderful they are, they would all be first–which is impossible.  So we’re placing them here, from largest to smallest, according to the maximum number of guests each property can accommodate.  Check out these amazing options:

Casa Costa Blanca

Max Occupancy: 24

Tamarindo Vacation Rentals

Casa Costa Blanca

Casa Costa Blanca is a jewel.  It would be worth rounding up a group of 18 or 20 people to come to Costa Rica with you just for the joy of spending your days and nights in this breathtaking beachfront mansion.

The home is located inside the gated community of Hacienda Pinilla, Guanacaste’s premier gated community.  Hacienda Pinilla is a popular vacation destination for surfers because of the 3 miles of coast that the property lies along, and golfers also love it for the 5-star 18-hole golf course.

Casa Costa Blanca is set right by the sand.  From the terraces and the infinity pool, you can watch the waves crashing onto the lava rock and sand, and take in tropical Pacific sunsets that will blow your mind.  The main house is a two-story structure that contains a full kitchen and living/dining area on both levels.  This allows you all kinds of creative flexibility for privacy and togetherness within your large group.  A spacious outdoor barbeque terrace is designed to seat and serve all the guests of a full house, making the beachfront lawn an especially appropriate spot for beachfront weddings.

Tamarindo Vacation Rentals
Casa Costa Blanca’s beachfront outdoor living area

No wedding?  It doesn’t matter.  Corporate retreats, yoga retreats, family reunions–all of these group travel occasions merit a vacation rental like Costa Casa Blanca.  This home is hands-down our top pick for large groups!

Compass House
Max Occupancy: 16

Tamarindo Vacation Rentals

Compass House

Compass House is our pick for larger mid-sized groups.  It’s right here in Tamarindo Beach, set on a hillside overlooking Tamarindo’s rooftops, the Tamarindo Bay, and Punta San Francisco toward Langosta.  Compass House is brand new and is the quintessential chic modern minimalist vacation rental property.  You will love it.  The sharp angles and muted colors of the home itself accentuate the brilliant blues, greens, and the organic shapes of trees and clouds that surround it.  From each room of the house, giant glass windows and sliding doors blur the lines between what is inside and what is outside.

We love Compass House for lots of reasons–one of which is the size of its common spaces.  Cooking, dining, and lounging areas are all combined in a single open design that adapts well of groups of all kinds.  A kitchen spans the back of the living area, which includes an indoor dining option, and opens onto the pool terrace where an outdoor dining table made of a single slab of local wood stretches the length of the space.

Tamarindo Vacation Rentals

Bedroom at Compass House

Compass House isn’t our largest home in Tamarindo, but it’s still an excellent choice for your destination wedding or other special events.  Imagine the photos of your sunset ceremony by the pool with brilliant cloud colors illuminating the background on your special day.  Sunset cocktails on the terrace are the perfect way to celebrate any occasion.

Casa Ventanas

Max Occupancy: 12

Tamarindo Vacation Rentals

Casa Ventanas

Casa Ventanas is a Tamarindo favorite, and we don’t just mean ours–we mean everyone’s!  This is a vacation rental home you’re going to have to book in advance.  The location is fantastic and the home is beautiful.  You’ll want to a car or a golf cart to get up the hill to the ocean look-out spot where Casa Ventanas is perched, but don’t take that to mean its location is remote.  Casa Ventanas is right in Tamarindo but set just above the businesses of the beach and the street.

The home, with a west wall comprised entirely of ocean-facing windows (“ventanas”) overlooks the Tamarindo Bay from Punta San Francisco to the south, to the Las Baulas Estuary and Playa Grande to the north.  The panorama from the pool, the dining room, and the bedrooms is breathtaking.

Tamarindo Vacation Rentals

Open common area at Casa Ventanas

Extended families love this home, sets of friends traveling with kids come back year after year, and intimate wedding parties choose this spot all the time.  What could be better than waking up in Casa Ventanas looking out over the trees at the water?  Get up, have a cup of hot coffee in the shade of the terrace by the pool, and listen to the parrots and monkeys discuss their plans for the day.  This home is located within a gated community that provides an extra layer of safety and comfort to your Tamarindo vacation.

Pacific Soul Catamaran
Max Occupancy: 8

Tamarindo Vacation Rentals

Pacific Soul

How imaginative are you?  How adventurous?  What if your vacation rental wasn’t located on land?  What if your vacation rental, for a night or two or three, was a catamaran?  Are you in?

The Pacific Soul Catamaran is a pristine 4-bedroom 4-bath catamaran with a captain and crew who are up for whatever you are.  Want to go surfing?  They’re ready.  Off-shore deep sea fishing?  Let’s go.  A coast-line cruise with (or without?) on-land stops at adventure centers, restaurants, or hidden coves?  How about a combo of any/all of the above?  Pacific Soul voyages are completely customizable to your group and your interests.

The sailors aboard the Pacific Soul are amazing cooks, and all meals are included.  The bar is always open, and sea toys like snorkel gear, a kayak, paddle board and noodles for floating are included for your use.  Don’t take an afternoon snorkel cruise, move onto the boat and make it your home!

Tamarindo Vacation Rentals

Bedroom and living area of Pacific Soul

You won’t believe the beauty of the sunset or the moonrise as you will experience them anchored in a secluded bay with just clouds and stars overhead.  The crew on the boat has been sailing in and around the area for decades, so you’re in good hands and can completely relax on this floating piece of paradise.

Villa Mansita

Max occupancy 6

Tamarindo Vacation Rentals

Villa Mansita

For our smallest featured property, we’re taking you back to Hacienda Pinilla.  Villa Mansita is an exquisite 2-bedroom condo located in Hacienda Pinilla.  This condo is on a property that borders the beach and overlooks the Pacific horizon, but it is not set directly on the water.  Not to worry–a quick walk down the brick path and your toes will be in the sand!

This luxury condo offers every amenity of Hacienda Pinilla and it has an extra:  its location adjacent to the JW Marriot Resort.  Enjoy meals at the restaurants in the resort as availability permits, and freely enjoy the shady beachfront palapas and convenient restrooms.

Tamarindo is only a 15-minute drive from Hacienda Pinilla so don’t let the secluded feel of your Villa Mansita hideaway fool you–in no time at all you can be in Tamarindo walking the streets lined with colorful shops and world cuisine, listening to the amazing array of languages overheard here every day.

Tamarindo Vacation Rentals
Villa Mansita Master Bedroom

These five properties are featured to give you an idea of the variety of homes available for you to choose from in the planning stages of your Costa Rica vacation.  Contact Vacation Rentals of Tamarindo today and let us help you pick the one that’s right for you!

 

The Best Waterfalls in Guanacaste

costa rica waterfalls
Photo by Nicole King

If your Tamarindo vacation is in the planning stages now, that means you’ll most likely be visiting us in our green season, and the green season is the best time to visit Costa Rica’s waterfalls!   You have lots of choices throughout this mountainous country of unbelievable natural beauty.  Some waterfalls are easy hikes, some are more difficult, and some offer the option of riding through the forest to the falls on horseback. 

If we were to tell you about all of the waterfalls in Costa Rica, this post would be an encyclopedia, so we’re going to focus mainly on the ones with the closest proximity to your Tamarindo vacation rental.  The coast of most of Guanacaste is surrounded by gentle rolling hills that, as you can imagine, are not exactly the place where spectacular waterfalls are found.  For really amazing waterfalls, you need mountains, so your trip to the waterfalls will start off with a drive of two hours or more.  It’s ok!  You can make your waterfall visit part of a full-day adventure package that includes other family fun like zip-lining, rafting, and a volcanic mud spa, or you can make a waterfall like the one at Rio Celeste an additional destination on your Costa Rica vacation after leaving Tamarindo.  There are plenty of fun things to do in Tamarindo, but don’t get so caught up you forget to go out exploring some of the rest of the country!

Los Llanos de Cortez

The Los Llanos de Cortez waterfall is a local favorite.  Holidays and weekends are a great time to go and not only enjoy a refreshing swim in the cool gentle pond at the bottom of the falls, but also to participate in a real Costa Rican cultural event.  Families bring picnic lunches and spend hours swimming, playing, napping, and eating in the shade.  The hike from the parking area at Llanos de Cortez to the actual falls takes only about 15 minutes and is not terribly rigorous.  It’s a great place to bring a blanket or some beach towels, some sandwiches and some cold drinks.  Wear your bathing suit and comfy shoes.  You might want to throw your favorite insect repellent in the bag too just to be on the safe side.

 costa rica waterfallsLos Llanos de Cortez is a great place to spend a hot afternoon

Rincon de la Vieja National Park, located about two hours north of Tamarindo, is an excellent place to go for waterfall-exploring adventures because within the park there are four popular falls.  Plan a day trip with a local tour operator, or just drive on up to the park entrance and begin your explorations.  Here is a sneak peek at the four waterfalls in Rincon de La Vieja National Park:

Cangreja Waterfall

A trip to the Cangreja Waterfall starts with a 3-mile hike through the Rincon de la Vieja national park. Keep an eye out for howler monkeys, white-faced monkeys, and coatis as you go.  Howler monkeys are more common in Guanacaste than white-faced monkeys, but mountainous regions receive more rain than the coastal lowlands and are more attractive to this timid species.  Coatis are curious members of the raccoon family that live all throughout Central America.

 

costa rica waterfalls
Photo by Giovanna Gomez

The La Cangreja waterfall contains the blue-colored mineral called cobalt which it picks up as it flows through this volcanic region.  The cobalt in the water creates the stunning blue color of the pool at the bottom of the falls.  Bring your bathing suit if you’re up for a swim!

Las Chorreras Waterfall

Las Chorreras is located close to Hacienda Guachipelin, an adventure center just on the edge of Rincon de La Vieja National Park.  Guachipelin offers horseback rides to the falls, or you can simply hike–either the short 20-minute trail or the longer 40-minute one for more scenery and a better chance of catching a glimpse of wildlife.

We know you weren’t born yesterday, but just in case you weren’t born hiking through the forest, here’s a jungle hiking tip:  BE QUIET.  For a better chance to see all types of birds and animals, stay away from noisy groups of hikers, and talk quietly or not at all.  See if you can get through the forest without it noticing you.

costa rica waterfalls
Photo by Christoffer Engstrom

Two waterfalls cascade into a refreshing cobalt-colored pool Las Chorreras.  It’s a great place for a swim and some seriously dreamy jungle relaxation before you begin the trek back to civilization.

Victoria Waterfall

The Victoria Waterfall takes a 115-foot drop into a canyon inside Rincon de la Vieja national park.  This is no stroll-through-the-forest-with-a-picnic-basket waterfall; this is the falls that summons only the adventurous!  Tour operators offer a variety of experiences at the Victoria Waterfall.

costa rica waterfalls
Photo by Sacha Styles

You can hike through the forest to the canyon, then carefully pick your way down the steep descent to the foot of the falls, or you can opt for a horseback ride that will take you to the place where you will repel down the canyon wall through the spray of the falls.  How adventurous are you?  Either way, when you get to your destination, there will be plenty of time to relax, swim, and feel the power of the pounding falls before you begin the trek back.

Oropéndola Waterfall

The Oropendola Waterfall is a short forest hike from the entrance to the Rincon de la Vieja National park.  You can drive to the park entrance, or, if you’re spending the day at the park as a guest of one of the various tour companies, you may be offered the option of a horseback ride in place of the drive.  Either way, this 82-foot waterfall is something you don’t want to miss.  Enjoy the forest greenery on the way in, and take a refreshing swim in the cool, pristine mountain water.

Photo property of www.guachipelin.com

 

All waterfalls will obviously be fuller and more powerful during and just after rainy months.  River currents will also be stronger, so be careful as you enjoy cooling off in the water.  During dry months, due to the lower volume of water, volcanic mineral concentrations–like cobalt which gives a stunning blue color–will be higher, so unique colors in the water will be easier to appreciate.

Speaking of unbelievable cobalt-colored waterfalls, there is one in the Tenorio National Park (about 3 hours from Tamarindo) that is so stunning, the river that dives over the falls is named after the color:  Rio Celeste.  Because getting to the Tenorio National Park is a bit of a trek, we recommend that you spend at least one night in the area.  La Carolina Lodge is a popular rustic mountain lodge that combines roughing it with luxury accommodations and is only a short drive from the park.

costa rica waterfalls
The Rio Celeste waterfall.  Photo property of www.tripadvisor.com

Rio Celeste receives lots of visitors, and the trail from the park entrance to the falls is maintained to keep it relatively easy to traverse.  The last segment that takes you down to the falls is a long and rather steep flight of stone stairs set into the mountain.  Take it slow so that you don’t slip.  For fit hikers who are up for a challenge, take the longer hiking trail either to or from the falls and enjoy a few extra kilometers of the beauty of Guanacaste’s mountain flora and fauna.

Rio Celeste is not one of the waterfalls with a swimmable pool.  The rocky area that surrounds the brilliant blue pool is slippery and difficult to navigate, with no natural beach area that makes getting in and out of the water a safe option for the general public.  In order to avoid potential injuries at this remote location, swimming is not permitted.  A simple slip on the way into or out of the water that produces something as non-life-threatening as a twisted ankle does create a logistical nightmare for the park service and is thus rigorously avoided.

As you can see, no matter what time of year you take your Tamarindo vacation, one of the best things to do in Tamarindo is get out of town and explore the waterfalls.  There are lots more falls throughout Costa Rica–these are only the ones closest to home!

costa rica waterfalls
Photo by Seth Doyle

Contact our expert concierge to get the inside scoop on which falls are the best ones for the abilities and interests of your group, and get your adventure excursion on the books starting now!

 

 

 

Exploring One of the Best Places to Visit in Costa Rica – Southern Pacific

Some of the best places to visit in Costa Rica are hidden in the rainy jungle areas in the central Pacific regions of Costa Rica.  Your Tamarindo vacation rental is a full day’s drive north of these spectacular jungle surprises, so to see them, you’re going to have to call your boss, contact the airline and extend your trip!  It’s worth it.  The purity of the beautiful jungle you will discover off the beaten path in Costa Rica is amazing.   These are spots that your average tourist on the average Costa Rica vacation is not going to see or probably even heard of, but we thought you might want to know about.

costa rica southern pacific
Photo by Alan Godfrey

You could get to the southern Pacific portion of Costa Rica either on a SANSA flight from Tamarindo’s small regional airport to Puerto Jimenez in the heart of this lush area, or you can drive.  Both options offer beautiful scenery from a different perspective.  How much time do you have?

If you drive, make sure that you take the coast road, pass Jaco and Quepos and keep pushing south.  It won’t be long until you’re winding between the ocean and the mountains on your way to Dominical.  This area is famous as being among the best places to visit in Costa Rica for surfing and whale watching.  Whales obeying migratory patterns pass through deep water close to the Costa Rican shoreline every year, giving us wonderful opportunities to observe them.  Other areas, like Tamarindo, for example, set behind a more significant ocean shelf which makes whale sightings somewhat unusual.  In the Southern Pacific segment of Costa Rica, however, whales are much easier to see and you will have a much better chance of getting to watch them glide by in the water.  Another thing that Dominical and other southern beaches have due to the proximity of deep ocean water is big waves.  Take your surf lessons in Tamarindo for sure, and leave the southern surf to the more experienced paddlers.

Osa PennisulaPhoto by Steve Halama

 

While you’re in the Dominical area, before you push south to Uvita and beyond, spend a day at the Nauyaca Waterfall.  This amazing spectacle is one of the most unbelievable things you will see during your visit to Costa Rica.  Take a jungle horseback ride through the rainforest and end up at a hidden waterfall that thunders from the mountain.  Bring your bathing suit because you’ll want to jump in!

The whole southern region of Costa Rica is full of surprises that your average tourist never sees.  Its distance from both international airports weed out most travelers right away because if you come to Costa Rica with only a week to explore, there are so many other easier, closer destinations.  But you’ve been to all of them already, and you’re ready to take it up a notch–to see the real rainforest and to live on the outer edges of the grid.  The extreme dry season that is natural to the Pacific Northwest (Tamarindo) never makes it into the southern third of Costa Rica.  Here, it is green all year round, trees looking like something from Lord of the Rings form solid canopies and ferns you thought were only houseplants tower wild above your head.

osa pennisula
Photo courtesy of https://nauyacawaterfallscostarica.com

Push south past Dominical and you’ll come to Uvita.  In Uvita, you’ll want to visit Marino Ballena (Whale) National Park, go snorkeling, and watch the humpback whales that pass by on their annual migratory routes.

Past Uvita, you’ll arrive at the Osa Peninsula, the true jewel at the heart of the south of Costa Rica.  Our featured property there is called Casa del Cabo, a two-bedroom luxury jungle bungalow perched on a hill that overlooks the sapphire blue of the Golfo Dulce.  This home is the ideal Costa Rica vacation rental for nature lovers who enjoy open-air living in harmony with their environment.  It is constructed from local natural-fall lumber and leaves a minimal ecological footprint. Dozens of fruit trees planted around the property feed birds, monkeys, and iguanas as well as the home’s visitors on fresh seasonal fruit.  You can walk to the beach from this home to surf, fish, beachcomb and swim all day long.  It’s easily at the top of the list of the best places to visit in Costa Rica.

costa rica vacation rental
Casa del Cabo is a luxury jungle bungalow near Corcovado National Park on the Osa Peninsula

There are two more things you have to do while you’re traveling through Costa Rica’s southern Pacific coastal region.  One of them is that you have to visit Corcovado National Park.  Corcovado National park is where you will find the only remaining old growth rainforest on the Pacific coast of Central America.  The park includes 23 miles of pristine beaches and a diversity of flora and fauna unequaled anywhere else in Central America.  Backpacking is the recommended way to see Corcovado National Park.  All park visitors are required to enter with a certified guide who will help to ensure your safety.  If jungle camping isn’t your style, shorter day-time hikes can lead you through the beauty of this unique park and get you back into your bed for a good night’s sleep.

The second thing you can’t miss in this region if you’re a surfer, is Pavones.  Across the Golfo Dulce from Corcovado National Park, Pavones is about a stone’s throw from Panama.  It is also one of the longest-breaking lefts in the world, so if you’re a goofy-foot surfer, GET THERE.  The curvature of the way the land and sea meet on the south point of the Golfo Dulce creates a wave that is unimaginably long.  You’ll get out with your board and walk back up the beach to paddle out again and again until you’re so tired you can only sit at the beach-front bar by the break and watch it peel.  Now, that’s a dream vacation!


Pavones.  Photo courtesy of Una Ola Surf Camp

The real question to ponder is, “How are you going to make this happen?”  If you’re able to take a longer break from your day job, you could combine a southern jungle safari trip with a Tamarindo vacation rental.  After a trek through the untamed south, Tamarindo–with our tame beaches and upscale selection of cuisine–will seem like the lap of luxury to everyone you’re traveling with!  If you’re already familiar with Guanacaste and you’re willing to pass us by on this trip, you could simply fly into and out of San Jose’s Juan Santamaria International Airport which will be closer to these destinations than Liberia’s Daniel Oduber International Airport.

Contact us now and let us help you plan your Costa Rica trip. We’re the local experts and our Concierge can answer all of your questions and throw you helpful tips to make sure this trip to Costa Rica is the best one you’ve ever taken!

Your Vacation Guide to Costa Rica’s Semana Santa (Easter Week)

You call it Easter Week; Latin America calls it Semana Santa.  You celebrate with chocolate, colorful eggs, and meals based on ham or perhaps lamb.  Costa Rica celebrates with…none of the above.  Costa Rica celebrates with stuffed tamales, corn and dried cheese biscuits called “rosquillas,” trips to the beach, and lots of guaro.  It’s going to be the cultural experience of your life.  We’re creating this guide for you so that you can know what to expect when to expect it, and how to have the best vacation of your life in the midst of this unique cultural experience.

tamarindo vacationPhoto by Natalya Zaritskya

 

Semana Santa Weather

First, lets’ talk about the weather.  Semana Santa comes at the hottest time of year.  If you love hot, you’re going to be the happiest beach bum on the beach!  If you don’t do well with heat and you have booked an Easter vacation in a Tamarindo, you will probably choose to spend the middle part of the days in air-conditioned places or up to your neck in the pool.  This is no problem!  Your Tamarindo vacation rental or Tamarindo hotel will have air conditioning and a pool, so enjoy!  Open-air dining in Costa Rica is common, but some air-conditioned Tamarindo restaurant options are The Santa Rita Café, Nordico Coffee, Rumors, Wok n Roll, Wabi Sabi Sushi, Antichi Sapori, and Buon Appetit.  Hit the beach in the early mornings before 9 or after 5 pm for sunset, and you will still catch it at the most beautiful times of the day.

 What Happens in Tamarindo During Semana Santa

Semana Santa starts on the Monday before Easter, and for the first few days, it’s pretty much like any other week of the year.  This is our busy season, so the town will be lively, the streets will be busy and this Tuesday won’t look much different than last Tuesday.  Things will start changing though, on Wednesday because from Thursday to Monday, the entire country shuts down.  Everybody in Costa Rica is on vacation.

Tamarindo coconutsphoto by Vivana Araque

The beaches, which up until Wednesday afternoon/evening have been full of vacationers from around the world, will now be visited, additionally, by all of Costa Rica.

Anybody who has a car or can get into a bus or a van goes to the beach with as many members of their family as possible during Semana Santa.  It’s a national tradition.  Costa Ricans from San Jose who doesn’t get to the beach at any other time of year escapes the city now for some sand and sun.  It gets wild.  Hotels are full. Hostels are full.  Any place you can park a car becomes a campground.  You kind of have to see it to believe it.  It’s got its pros and its cons. If you chose Tamarindo for its lively nightlife and colorful people-watching, you will be thrilled with the spectacle Semana Santa provides.  If you chose Tamarindo for its peaceful sunsets and laid-back vibe…you might experience the cons a little more acutely.  Just so you know.

The “real” Costa Rica blends itself in with the designed-for-the-tourist Costa Rica beach experience during Semana Santa and it is truly a unique once-a-year experience.

 

Things You Will Like About Semana Santa in Tamarindo

–free concerts at the beach
–unbeatable people-watching where you can observe Costa Rica’s various cultures (rural, city) in addition to the international mix of visitors|
–lively nightlife from sunset until dawn
–hot, sunny weather every day

tamarindo surf lessonPhoto courtesy of Leonardo Pinero

 

Things You Might Not Love About Semana Santa in Tamarindo

–There will be lines in the grocery stores.  Expect this, and be prepared to practice your pura vida.
–The beach is going to be very full.  Some people don’t mind this and some do.  Just know that in Semana Santa it is totally normal and to be expected.
–There will be traffic chaos in Tamarindo.  Again, we want your expectations to be realistic.  Tamarindo is a resort town built along the streets of a sleepy fishing village, so Semana Santa traffic is a mess.  It isn’t dangerous, but it will require everyone to practice their patience.

Semana Santa Survival Tips

–Go to the grocery store early in the week and STOCK UP.  We know you’re on vacation and you’d like to take a break from meal planning, but believe us: stock up.  You’ll be able to go to the store any day, but do yourself this favor.  It will make your vacation more restful.  When you do need to make a store run, the earlier hours of the day will have shorter lines and the people in them will be soberer.  That helps.


tamarindo marketStock up ahead of time and avoid lines later

–Remember this:  In Costa Rica, it is technically illegal to buy/sell alcohol from Thursday through Saturday. In tourist-centered areas like Tamarindo, this law is no longer enforced, so you won’t run into trouble right here.  You may not be able to buy a beer in small towns or other less-tourist-oriented locations.  Just so you know.

–Download a Tamarindo tide chart https://crsurf.com/costa-rica-surf-report/costa-rica-tide-charts-2019/ and enjoy the beach at low tide as often as you can during Semana Santa.  At low tide, there’s more beach!  High tide compresses the Semana Santa throngs into a thin ribbon along the street and the buildings, and honestly, it can be kind of a lot.  A quick glance at the tide chart shows that the tide will be low in the mornings and evenings when the climate is the kindest, so already the elements are conspiring to give you a break.

–Make dinner reservations.  This is a good idea during the whole busy tourist season, and especially in Semana Santa.  You don’t need to book weeks ahead—a few hours, or a day at the most, should be fine.

seafood Dinner
Photo by Liubov Ilchuk

 

–Walk.  Seriously.  If at all possible from your Tamarindo vacation rental or hotel, walk where you need to go.  Wear comfortable walking sandals, bring a hat, bring a light-colored long-sleeved cotton shirt to keep the sun off, bring a backpack to carry your stuff (avoid the shoulder/back pain that comes from heavy shoulder bags that cause you to walk in an unbalanced manner), and WALK.  You will get where you’re going faster on foot than taking the car and getting stuck in Semana Santa Tamarindo traffic.  Walk.  You won’t be able to find anywhere to park the car, anyway.

–Sign up for some day activities that take you out and about.  A short list of suggestions follows:

Take an estuary tour.  The tour lasts only about 2 hours, but the Las Baulas Estuary that separates Tamarindo from Playa Grande is an untouched national park and is probably the single most relaxing thing you can do in Tamarindo besides floating in the pool with a pina colada.  Which you could also do.

tamarindo estuaryExplore the beautiful Las Baulas estuary

Take an afternoon sailing/snorkeling trip. Anything that puts you on a boat and gets you out to sea is a great idea.  The tours will probably be full, but they won’t be too full to be fantastic.  The ocean is relaxing, and whereas there is no limit on how many people can go to the beach, there is a limit on how many people can get on the boat.  Tamarindo offers a list of sailboats and catamarans that do half-day sailing trips with drinks, munchies and snorkel gear included.  You’ll escape the crowds for the afternoon and be back just after sunset.

Sign up for a day-trip adventure package.  There are lots of them and they are so much fun!  Since everyone who can get to the beach will be here, spend a day in the mountains zip-lining, horseback riding, checking out wildlife refuges and butterfly gardens, river rafting, hiking…there are all kinds of options.  Let our concierge help you decide which adventure center offers the package that best suits your style.

tamarindo snake
How about a hug from a friendly boa constrictor?

Semana Santa is lots of fun and marks the end of our high season.  Next up is the time when things slow down and, hopefully, sooner rather than later, the rains begin.  We really need them!  Contact us now about activities to plan during your Semana Santa stay in Tamarindo or to make a reservation during our upcoming green season.

tamarindo beach

Things to do In Tamarindo – March/April 2019

Welcome to your Tamarindo spring break!  It’s hot, it’s sunny, and there are lots of exciting Things to Do in Tamarindo to make this the most fun vacation you’ve ever taken.   If you haven’t already done so, make your reservation right now for your Tamarindo Vacation Rental.  The town will fill to capacity in the coming weeks, so get your foot in the door now!

things to do in tamarindo
photo by Anders Wideskott

 

Tamarindo International Surf Film Festival

We’re kicking off the excitement on March 15 and 16 with the First Annual Tamarindo International Surf Film Festival.  The festival will be held on the at the Multicines movie theatre beside Automercado just before you hit the beach in Tamarindo.  This event is part of the Robert August Surf and Turf golf/surf tournament that takes place right here every year and benefits CEPIA.  CEPIA is a non-profit organization in Guanacaste that helps schools and organizes sports, educational activities, and counseling services for the local children and youth. There are going to be two evenings of surf films, food, music, and raffles. Advance purchase tickets are 15$ for one night or 25$ for both nights.  Tickets will be available at the door as well for 20$ each.

You can buy advance tickets for the International Surf Film Festival at the Tamarindo Multicines movie theater or at Bookstore of the Waves beside Cafe Tico.

Learn more about the festival, where to buy tickets, and about CEPIA here:  www.tamarindosurffilmfestival.org

tamarindo surfing
photo by Cameron Kirby

Fiestas in Villareal

What do you know–the end of the Surf Film Festival is not the end of the fun, because, on March 17, you don’t want to miss the Tope that kicks off a week of fiestas in Villareal.  This is a real Costa Rican traditional cultural event!

A tope is kind of like a giant horse parade–with plenty of booze–that ends in a rodeo.  See, we told you that you don’t want to miss it!  The origin of this tradition hails from Guanacaste’s cattle ranching culture and simulates a massive cattle round-up, except that nowadays the bulls for the week’s rodeo will be transported to the arena in trucks.  The tope procession will leave Tamarindo and ride over the back road through the mountains to Villareal on Sunday afternoon.  If you’re not up for mid-day horseback ride in the blazing sun, don’t worry.  Get to Villareal where there will be food, music, and dancing as the riders arrive in the late afternoon.

Practice up on your Spanish by checking out the Facebook page :
https://www.facebook.com/events/557885081289072/

costa rica rodeo
photo property of The Howler Magazine

La Senda Music Festival

Make sure you don’t miss the one-of-a-kind La Senda Music Festival on March 22 and 23.  La Senda is the world’s largest natural maze and it is located right here in Guanacaste about 20 minutes from Tamarindo.  On the weekend of March 22 and 23, La Senda will host a celebration of art and music dedicated to the purpose of elevating our senses and leading us to become more conscious of the immediacy of nature and of our presence in the here and now.  Tickets for these events are on sale right now at various area businesses and through Yapp app.

World Wine Festival

The following weekend on March 30, plan to attend The Wine World Festival at Reserva Conchal.  This festival will be a day to celebrate wonderful wines, live music, and the beach.  Tickets are $20 and include admission to the festival, a personal wine glass, and a welcome mimosa.

wine
photo by Kelsey Knight

That will wrap it up for March, but April is busy too!  Semana Santa begins on April 14, but let’s save the best news for last.

Bingo!

One thing you can do every month in Tamarindo is join our community for a bingo game that benefits the Surfrider Foundations beach cleaning program.  This bingo game is a great way to make a donation and come away with a fantastic prize!  It’s held on the first Friday of every month at the Surf Club Sports Bar at 7 PM.

Clasica Reacreativa Mountain Bike Race

On April 18, right in the middle of Semana Santa, Hacienda Pinilla will host the 5th annual Recreativa mountain bike race.  Hacienda Pinilla is full of exciting mountain bike trails that range in difficulty from no-problem to are-you-kidding-me.  The race has a 40 kilometer and a 220-kilometerroute, so pick the one you’re most ready for and don’t forget that midday temperatures at this time of year are often in the upper 90’s.  The race costs $25 to join and includes hydration stations and free t-shirts for the first 200 takers.  Check out the link below that will give you more information on the race and get signed up in time for a shirt: https://www.evolutionmarketingcr.com/mtb-recreativa-pinilla

 

Tamarindo triathalon
photo property of 5ta Clasica Recreativa

Semana Santa

So now, on to Semana Santa.  Semana Santa is what we call Easter Week in Latin America.  Outside of Latin America, Easter is normally a day or at the most, a weekend.  Here, it’s a whole week.  If you haven’t ever experienced Semana Santa in Costa Rica–well, you’re in for a surprise.

Semana Santa starts off rather unobtrusively.  At first, you might not notice anything special about it, but hang tight.  Schools are closed during Semana Santa and by the end of the week, everything is closed.  Everything.  As a tourist visiting popular tourist destinations, you probably won’t directly experience the “everything is closed” factor, but if you were to roll through the capital city or small Costa Rican towns instead of hanging at the beach, you would.  Here comes an important piece of information:  as everything is closed during Semana Santa, it means pretty much all of Costa Rica is on vacation.  And what do Costa Ricans do when they’re on vacation?  The same thing you do!  They go to the beach!  The beaches, during the second half of Semana Santa, are jam-packed.  They just are.  You should know this.  If you love lots of activity and people-watching, this will be fun for you.  If you love solitude and quiet beach walks, Semana Santa may tax your patience.  Tamarindo is never boring, but during Semana Santa, just like the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day, it really does become a whole different place.

things to do in tamarindo
Tamarindo is a busy place during Semana Santa and year-end holidays!

If you thrive on the vibrancy of busy beaches and love the free concerts and family activities, please join right in!  If you are looking for a more restful atmosphere, you may want to go exploring.  Head south to Avellanas, Playa Negra, or venture as far as Nosara and Playa Guiones.  Trek north.  Brasilito and Flamingo will probably be busy, but swing by Playa Potrero, Playa Danta, or Sugar Beach.

Another thing you could do to beat the Semana Santa crowds is planning some Tamarindo tours to places like Rincon de La Vieja National Park, an Arenal Volcano Tour or do the Monteverde Canopy Tour at the Monteverde cloud forest.  These spots will be cooler than the sweltering coast, and whereas they are popular destinations, will not receive as much traffic as Tamarindo.

As you can see, this is going to be the best spring break of your life.  The temperatures are climbing and so is the excitement in Tamarindo!  Contact us and let us help you lay out a vacation plan for the coming weeks.

How to Get from Any Costa Rican Airport to Tamarindo

Let’s start at the beginning.  You’re planning a trip to Tamarindo.  You’ve already booked your Tamarindo vacation rental, so you will be purchasing a plane ticket that lands you either in the Juan Santamaria International Airport (SJO) in San Jose, or in the Daniel Oduber International Airport (LIR) in Liberia.  Which one is better?  Good question. It depends on the length of your vacation and the places you most want to visit.   Tickets into San Jose (the capital) are often cheaper than tickets into Liberia, but San Jose is a 5-hour drive from Tamarindo.  (Best-case scenario estimate on time, there.)

costa ricaPhoto by Farhath Firows

 

Liberia is only about one hour away from Tamarindo and other favorite beaches, which makes it a vacation favorite.  If you’re coming to do a full Costa Rica tour and plan to spend time in the Central Valley as well as in Guanacaste, then SJO might be your better choice.  Otherwise, forget it.  Spend the extra money and fly into LIR, because what you save on tickets you will spend overnight in a hotel and on transport to Tamarindo.

Assuming you take our advice and fly into LIR, here is:

How to get to Tamarindo from LIR

  1. Shuttle van transfer

The easiest, cheapest way for you to get from the Liberia airport to Tamarindo is on a shuttle bus.  Tamarindo Shuttle is a reliable company that has been operating this route (and many others!) for many years.  Tickets are affordable and you can book them online.  The great thing about a shuttle bus, in addition to the price, is that you don’t have to worry about being overcharged, about getting lost, or about your luggage disappearing—you just get off the plane and into the van.  Next thing you know you’ll be climbing out of the van at your Tamarindo hotel.

If it means anything to you, this is the way Tamarindo locals (like me) get to and from the airport.  Wink, wink.

  1. Private shuttle transfer

If you are traveling with a large group or if you prefer to hire your own van for privacy or for the privilege of not having to share, private shuttle transfers are also an option.  Contact us for private Liberia to Tamarindo shuttle information and reservations.  We may have a sister company that does the best private transfers in Costa Rica!

costa rica vacation rental
A comfy shuttle van can drop you off at your door.
  1. Rental car

Renting a car might even be the #1 option if:  you are not going to be super tired when you arrive, it’s going to be daylight when you arrive, and you have a healthy spirit of adventure.  Hear me when I say:  DRIVING FROM LIBERIA TO TAMARINDO IS EASY.  You have to make all of 3 turns, after you leave the airport, to arrive at the beach.  Finding your Tamarindo Vacation rental or your Tamarindo Hotel, however, can be another matter.  Roads are narrow, twisty, not always well-lit and signs are usually confusing or non-existent. But we do drive on the right side of the road here and if you need to stop and ask for directions, everyone knows where Tamarindo is.  So, think it over.  If you’d like a rental car to meet you at the airport in Liberia, let us know.  We can make that happen, and we work with only the best.

  1. Taxi

You can take a taxi.  This is the best method to get to Tamarindo ONLY if you have for some reason failed to plan ahead and make other arrangements.  Why?  Because taxi drivers can charge you whatever they want.  If you haven’t booked a shuttle, you haven’t rented a car, and you need to get to Tamarindo, sooner or later you’re going to pay whatever you have to.  We don’t have safety concerns about taxis from Liberia to Tamarindo, but you will pay more than necessary.  If that’s not a concern for you, then don’t worry about it.  Get off the plane, throw your bags in a taxi, and get here!

 

Tamarindo Bay’s stunning dry-season shades of blue. 

  1. Public bus

Please don’t take the public bus.  We’re putting it on the list because it IS an option, but don’t do this to yourself.  It will take you about 3 hours to get from the Liberia airport to Tamarindo, and there will not be air conditioning or potty stops. To find out if there will be a bus arriving at the airport at the time you need one, Google Transportes La Pampa.  If you are traveling with little or no luggage and spending as little money as possible is of the utmost importance to you, the bus may be your best bet.  I’ve been on the public bus to Liberia many times.  You will survive.  But you’re a tourist and I’m not.  Just saying.  This trek is not for the faint-hearted.  And don’t try this with a lot of large suitcases, please.

If you decide that flying into San Jose is better for an option for you, then you’ll want to know:

How to get to Tamarindo from SJO

Photo by Hanson Lu
  1. Shuttle

Not be predictable, but the best option is still often a shuttle van.  For about $50, a shuttle company can take you from the airport or your San Jose area hotel to Tamarindo.  They generally leave in the morning and in the afternoon.  Surfboards and other special-sized luggage will incur an extra charge.  They are comfortable, safe, punctual, and reasonably speedy.

  1. Rental car

Another option available to you is to rent a car and drive from San Jose to Tamarindo.  If you know your way around Costa Rica, this could be a comfortable option for you.  If you don’t know your way around Costa Rica it can be nerve-wracking, as your phone with a US chip may not be able to get online without wi-fi–and you will not have wi-fi in your rental car.  But don’t let me talk you out of an adventure!  If you are curious and love surprises, reserve a car that will be delivered to you at the San Jose airport and let the fun begin!  If you do this, let me recommend that you take Route 27 out of San Jose, not Route 1.  Either way works, but Route 27 circumvents some wild, winding mountain roads that you don’t really need to navigate on vacation.

You are sure to see iguanas like this one on your Tamarindo vacation!  Photo by ferdinand feng
  1. Fly

Tamarindo has a tiny airport!  Small planes make the Tamarindo/San Jose trip several times a day, and you can be here from San Jose in only an hour if you fly.  Why you would prefer to book a separate flight on a puddle-jumper from the capitol to the beach instead of just flying into Liberia is a mystery to me, but I’m laying it out here for you because it IS an option.  Do you love rollercoasters?  Then this is the flight for you!  These sturdy little planes are the right ones for the job, but hold on to your hats!  The scenery is gorgeous on a clear day, so fight for that window seat.

  1. Public bus

The public bus from San Jose to Tamarindo does not necessarily deserve to be at the end of the list, but somebody has to be last.  This public bus (Empresa Alfaro, or Tralapa) is MUCH BETTER than the Liberia/Tamarindo public bus.  These buses are generally air-conditioned, run on a very predictable schedule, and are much more comfortable than our local public buses.  Tickets cost about $10 and must be purchased at the terminal or can be purchased along the road if there is room on the bus for more passengers.

There are two factors, however, that make this my last recommendation for people vacationing in Costa Rica.  One factor is that the bus makes only one bathroom stop on a 6-hour bus ride.  If you have a huge bladder then who cares—but I don’t, and I care.  The other factor is that I worry about the security of your luggage.  Passengers are given tags for the bags that go into the luggage compartment and drivers are good about checking the tags, but…  Still.  It’s Central America and your luggage looks awfully tempting to active imaginations who picture it full of brand-name clothes and brand-new electronics.  Yikes.  Also, unless you keep small bags on your lap at all times, it is not safe to fall asleep on the bus.  What I mean is that if you put your backpack on the luggage rack above your head and sack out for a nap, you may or may not find it there when you wake up.  You won’t be mugged, but if you make it easy, be aware of what could happen.

surf lessons costa rica
Surf’s up in Tamarindo!  Get your board! 

So, there you go.  You have options.

Still, have questions?  Email us or call us.  We’re a pack of Tamarindo locals who can give you better advice than anyone else because we live here and we know the inside story.  Pura Vida!