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.
Photo 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.
photo 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
Photo 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.
Stock 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.
–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.
Explore 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.
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.