Tamarindo, Guanacaste is one of Costa Rica’s most visited towns. You wouldn’t be the first to wonder if it’s also affordable.
Turns out, it is! While there are certainly plenty of tours and experiences you could splash out on, there are also plenty of budget-friendly Tamarindo things to do. From surfing and beach-hopping to sea turtle nesting and partying, Tamarindo offers up a full menu of free and inexpensive sights, experiences, and things to do for budget travelers.
Here are a few of our favorites:
It’s no secret that Tamarindo’s surf is epic, so it’s also no secret that this is a must-do activity while you’re in town.
What you may not know is that surfing can also be a budget activity in Tamarindo, Guanacaste, thanks to inexpensive board rentals: Offered up and down the beach for about $10-$20 a day, you can grab a board of your very own and catch the waves to your heart’s content. Be sure to check out these top beginner Tamarindo surf breaks and intermediate/advanced surf breaks.
Ride the Estuary Ferry
Sometimes, it’s the little things! Located at the north end of town, Tamarindo’s estuary ferry is about as much fun as can be had for about $1-$2. This little boat will ferry you across the river mouth – a wise choice, given that crocs can lurk here! – and over to Playa Grande, where you can spend a day beachcombing.
… And Relax on Playa Grande
While we’re on the topic of Playa Grande, this is a great place to spend a morning, an afternoon, or even an entire day.
Even though it’s a literal hop, skip, and a jump from downtown Tamarindo, Playa Grande is often uncrowded and quiet. Here, you can surf, stroll, or simply enjoy beach life. Bonus: there are several restaurants, cafes, and even a brewery (Las Olas Brewing) on Playa Grande, so you can truly while away in the day with not a care in the world.
Go Beach Hopping
We’re willing to bet the beaches are a big part of the reason you’re here in Costa Rica and specifically in Tamarindo, Guanacaste. So, why not take a day (or three) to beach hop around the coast?
If you want to go full budget traveler, then you can grab your banana bike and pedal your way to the best beaches on the coast. Or, if you feel like splashing out, rent a car, hire a driver, or call a taxi/Uber to shuttle you around.
Experience Sea Turtle Nesting
Sea turtle nesting is one of our top life experiences, if you’d like to call it that. There is just something incredibly special and mesmerizing about watching these ocean giants lumber to shore, dig a pit, and lay hundreds of future turtles. Of course, this is also one of our region’s most critical preservation activities, as all Costa Rican sea turtle species are considered endangered. So, there are many great reasons to add this to your itinerary.
Something to note is that the most common location for sea turtle nesting is Ostional Wildlife Refuge, which is located 90 minutes south of Tamarindo, and therefore requires either an expensive tour or transportation to get there. If you’re on a tight budget, we recommend trying to spot leatherback sea turtles at Las Baulas National Marine Park, located right here in Playa Grande. The sightings are not as consistent and the turtles are not nearly as numerous, but when timed right, it’s an equally moving sight and experience.
Note that you must take an official tour (the only legal way to visit the turtles), which runs around $25-$35.
Visit the Tamarindo Night Market
If you want to tap into the true flavor of Tamarindo, Guanacaste then you can’t miss the Tamarindo Night Market. Open every Thursday from 6:00 to 9:00 p.m., this local mainstay is part dining, part entertainment, and part market.
Walk in and you’ll find dozens of local artisan vendors, who sell everything from handcrafted jewelry to glass-bottled kombucha. There are fire dancers and DJs and traditional Costa Rican dancing, as well as other forms of entertainment, which pair very well with the market’s onsite restaurants and food vendors, who serve up everything from cheesy pizza and pork BBQ to empanadas and vegan options.
Learn to SUP
If you’re looking for a little extra challenge in your vacation, we strongly recommend giving stand-up paddle boarding (SUP) a try!
This now not-so-new water sport is an incredible balance (literally) of equilibrium, core strength, and mettle – and it is hugely enjoyable, to boot! You’ll need only a SUP board (similar to a surfboard) and a paddle, a calm(ish) ocean, and a desire to explore. Paddle out, stand up, and start paddling: The wide world of the Pacific awaits!
Embrace Sunday Funday / Sunday Pool & Beach Crawl
Tamarindo is known as a destination for fun – and luckily, much of that fun can be enjoyed on a budget!
Case in point: Sundays in Tamarindo. You’ll have your choice of Sunday Funday, which is held on Sundays beginning at 11:30 a.m.; the weekly event is a pool party with live music, plus a free boat and shuttle included. It’s always a fabulous time!
We can also recommend the weekly Pool & Beach Crawl, also on Sundays, which begins with a 12-1 p.m. pre-party at Sharkys. Next up, join your fellow beach-crawlers to board a recycled U.S. school bus (yep, it’s exactly as you imagine it!) to crawl down the coast, explore some littler-known stops, and grab a drink at each. It culminates in oceanfront music, live entertainment, beach volleyball, and a bonfire at happy hour. And then, of course, a bus ride home!
Watch the Sunset
There’s something to be said about the best things in life being free. One major point in favor of this maxim is a Tamarindo sunset: Brilliant almost every night of the year, this daily event is a favorite for everyone who has ever been to Tamarindo, Guanacaste.
We recommend hitting the beach around 5:00 p.m. to find your favorite spot. (Sunset is around 5:30 to 6:15, year-round.) Grab a seat, dig your toes into the sand, and simply enjoy the sight, as the tropical sun kisses the horizon and sets the sky ablaze in a fiery show of pink and purple, orange and yellow.
Look, there’s no beating around the bush here: Tamarindo is known for its joie de vivre! We love a good party and, therefore, a good party always seems to find its way to Tamarindo.
So, when you’re low on funds but big on fun, we recommend walking downtown to find a party that meets your vibe. Whether you’re as mellow as jazz or high-energy like techno, you will always find a bar, restaurant, or club that’s only as expensive as the drinks you order.
Hit the Food Trucks
Why are food trucks such fun? We can’t quite put our finger on it but still we know it to be true!
Luckily, we now have the Jardín de Tamarindo, aka the Tamarindo Garden – a garden of food trucks, that is! Here, you can much, savor, and sample everything from budget-friendly Costa Rican ceviche and humongous waffles to cheesy tequeños and noodly stir fry. It’s an international smorgasbord and we love it!
Stay Here: Ibis Condo #1
Tamarindo | 2 Beds | 2 Baths | Sleeps 6
When you seek relaxation, amenities, and luxuries without the luxury price, Ibis Condo #1 delivers. One of our favorite budget-friendly vacation rentals in Tamarindo, Guanacaste, this cozy condo is just right for anyone who seeks big amenities and serious oceanfront charm.
Located at the serene and beachfront Langosta Beach Club, this lovely condo is directly across from the beach – and yet, just a 10-minute walk to downtown Tamarindo. It’s the best of both worlds, for travelers who prefer to have one foot in tranquility and the other in the joys of downtown life, from tours and shopping to dining and nightlife.
At Ibis Condo #1, you’ll feel like you’ve entered another world: Sit out on your private terrace, surrounded by forest foliage. Retreat to your condo interiors, warm with local hardwoods, tropical ambiance, and modern touches. Prepare a meal in the fully equipped kitchen, read a book outdoors in the shade, or simply spend time with your travel companions. That’s why you’re here, after all!
Your rental also includes full membership privileges at Langosta Beach Club, with its beachfront, infinity-edge swimming pool overlooking the warm Pacific, plus upscale amenities including a French restaurant, full fitness center, Pilates and yoga studio, and a great bar with spectacular ocean views.
Stay Here: Villa Motmot
6 Beds | 4 Baths | Sleeps 14
Villa Motmot – named for the motmot bird, one of Guanacaste’s most beautiful birds and a frequent visitor to this incredible villa – is both wholly welcoming and completely luxurious, in all the right ways. We’re talking a secluded hilltop location and Pacific Ocean views, a rooftop deck and a front-row seat to some of those magnificent sunsets we promised!
Located just 10 minutes (on foot!) to Tamarindo beaches, this eco-villa has a green soul and a story to tell: For more than 25 years, its builders have helped protect and reforest Costa Rica’s rainforests and now, they have built an incredible home with a low carbon footprint, including solar-heated water, solar-powered energy, water recycling, and a highly biodiverse garden to support birds and mammals.
Inside and out, you’ll spot no shortcuts: Villa Motmot is a celebration of modern and environmentally friendly design. As an example, each of the home’s six bedrooms features a king bed, smart TV, and A/C; the tropical gardens host not only wildlife but also a 12 x 7 meter Boule court for Boccia and Petanque; and the rooftop deck sprawls over 100 square meters (1,080 square feet).
Seeking More Budget-Friendly To-Dos in Tamarindo, Guanacaste?
That just happens to be our concierge, Cris’s, specialty!
She’s an expert in Tamarindo travel: Digging beneath the surface and reaching beyond the norm, Cris not only makes it her job to know Tamarindo (and its restaurants), but to get to know you, too! She’s like a real-life guidebook who expertly overlays Tamarindo’s most iconic experiences and must-do adventures with your needs, preferences, and plans. What’s more, she’ll work with your budget. Any budget – really.
It begins with our welcome packet, which you’ll receive after you make a booking. It’ll introduce you to many of our favorite things, so have a look. Start building your wish list. And then, talk to Cris and let the fun begin. It’s part magic, part expertise. And, as we said, completely free. So go ahead, pick Cris’s brain! She can’t wait to hear from you!