Surf Travel Guide: Surfing Tamarindo Costa Rica
Surf Travel Guide: Surfing Tamarindo Costa Rica
Tamarindo, Costa Rica from the air
A surf trip to Costa Rica would not be complete without a journey to the west coast, where surfers can find some of the most consistent waves in the entire country. The region is called Guanacaste, and it's jam-packed with beaches that bring the heat almost 365 days a year.
Depending on what type of atmosphere you're looking for, a vacation to this part of the country can really turn your surf trip from mediocre to goddamn phenomenal.
There's a party-heavy surf town called Tamarindo, where you can find perfect waves, rowdy nightclubs, and some of the country's best cuisine.
Tamarindo will be perfect for beginners, intermediates, and advanced surfers because the wave really is whatever you make it. There will be some days that the swell will reach overhead, and only the badass local Ticos will hit the water, but most days, it's going to stick between 3-5 feet.
It won't be like your barrel days on the water, but I promise days on the water in Tama are some of the best I've ever had.
The town isn't the cheapest (possibly one of the most expensive) but can easily be enjoyed by any surf dirtbag that's strapped for cash. From my experience in Tamarindo, I only really have positive things to say.
The waves are consistent, and bikini babes' spread is definitely the most impressive of all of Central America.
The Wave At Tamarindo
Big Long Lines
Tamarindo has its pros and definitely has its cons. There will be waves just about every single day of the year, but you may have to share those waves with a few Chads from New Jersey (no disrespect to the NJ crowd).
As a vacation hot spot, many people are trying to learn how to surf here, but you'll find you have some space if you head over towards the river mouth. Tourists tend to stay away from the river mouth because of the crocodile horror stories the Ticos and myself have been telling to tourists for years.
There hasn't been a legitimate croc attack in that river for years. I swim across it to surf Playa Grande 5 times a week and haven't been bothered. Derek says he used to do the same.
But beware, there are crocodiles in there, I've seen them!
Anyways, the wave in Tamarindo will be a substantial beach break, with exposed rights and lefts, which gives you the option of choosing what you want to rip. Personally, when the river mouth right is working, I'll head there 9 times out of 10.
The wave in Tamarindo doesn't generate the power of a Hawaiian powerhouse, but it's going to be fun if you know what you're doing. These are definitely intermediate style waves, so don't head there hunting for barrels because you're going to just be sent further north to Witch's Rock—article coming soon here on Wave Tribe, so stay tuned.
Generally, you'll catch fun-sized waves that you'll be able to cut back, catch air, and bust those 3's that you've wanted to show off. With a wave that isn't going to crush you if you bunk a 3, Tamarindo is easily one of the best beaches to surf in Costa if you don't mind forfeiting size for fun (that's what she said).
Tamarindo is, without a doubt, the best surf/party destination in all of Costa Rica. The bars tend to close when the sun comes up, the Imperial beers are cheap, and you can get away with just about anything.
Every restaurant, hotel and surf school knows every single language. From English to Swedish, you'll feel comfortable knowing that the locals actually understand what you're talking about in your drunken stupor.
Though Tamarindo is made up of only about two streets, there are dozens of restaurants in the town. There's so much to do in Tamarindo that even if you don't surf, you'll have the best vacation of your life.
If you're there in December or April and a taxi driver offers to drive you "La Rodeo," take him up on that. The Rodeos in Villareal (town right outside Tamarindo) is one of the year's biggest Tico parties.
Just imagine hundreds of Ticos taunting bulls, running for their lives, wasted beyond belief on rum, a straight party. Regardless of what season or day of the week you're in Tamarindo, I promise there will be something to do.Â
Whether you want to get blackout wasted or sip sangria and watch the sunset, Tamarindo delivers an unforgettable beach vacation that tourists have loved for decades.
Surf Camps In Tamarindo
If you're a beginner surfer or you just want a refresher course, Witch's Rock Surf Camp is a great business to support. Developed by surf legend Robert August, the surf staff here is the most knowledgeable and organized surf camp.
Instructors know basically every language, teach concisely, and prices are very affordable. Witch's Rock is named after the famed Witch's Rock surf break near Playa Naranjo.
Though a tough spot to reach, Witch's Rock and Ollie's point are two of the most incredible surf destinations in all of Central America. Here is their video for a digital taste.
Witch's Rock and Ollie's Point are two of the most incredible surf destinations.
Where To Stay In Tamarindo
Pura Vida Hostel
This is a great place to stay if you're looking to save money on accommodation and also want to meet a ton of rad people. This place is safe, comfortable, cheap, and super fun.
They host reggae parties on Thursdays, have hammocks everywhere, and a really cool staff. Bunks cost between 8-15$ per night, with private rooms ranging anywhere from 20-40$
This is probably where you want to stay if you are vacationing with your family or having a real job and can afford to stay at a hotel. This place is right on the beach, the staff will hold your board, and the Diria owns nearly half of Tamarindo.
Rooms aren't cheap, though. You're going to spend between 300-600 per night, but the rooms are epic. I stayed here when my Dad came down for Christmas, and it was definitely the best hotel we stayed at during our little Costa Rica surf adventure.
They are one of the few bars that actually can make killer cocktails, but they won't be cheap.
Though this resort-style hotel isn't actually in the heart of Tamarindo, it's definitely one of the best all-inclusive hotels in Costa Rica. It's right on Playa Langosta, which is the adjacent beach to Playa Tamarindo.
The swell works excellent here, and the resort has private access to the river mouth break. A stay here will cost you a hefty tab, but if you plan to vacation with your family, this is a great place to do so.
Where To Party In Tamarindo
If you come to Tamarindo and don't end up waking up on the beach with an empty bottle of rum, then you really didn't party hard enough. There's a bar called Sharky's, where everyone usually starts the night.
They have a great ladies night on Saturday, which brings in a ton of, you guessed it— ladies. Also, they have an excellent 2 for 1 cocktail hour that will get you right wasted after a day on the surf.
Another great spot to spend your night is at a bar at the end of the beach called Pacifico. This place is where all the local Tico surfers hang out, drink brews, and pick up their nightly squeezes.
I spent most of my nights at Pacifico, stealing bottles of Flor de Cana and asking the DJ to play more rock n' roll.
Pacifico is an excellent spot with a lot happening. They may charge you a 2$ cover, but most nights when it's popping off, it's totally worth it.
But the best of the best is a bar and grill called, Witch's Rock. Robert August, one of the legendary surfers from Endless Summer II, repurchased this plot of the land way in the 70s and has turned this place into the best stretch of Tamarindo.
As opposed to Diria, which has totally Americanized the beach, Robert August built a more Tico warm spot for surfers to hang out. Witch's Rock is actually a brewery— they have an amazing Witch's Rock Pale Ale and a tasty Gato Malo dark ale.
There's a band called Glass Eye that plays at Witch's Rock every Friday night from 5-8ish, and they're fantastic. If you only have one night in Tamarindo, I suggest you check out this spot, for it's really the best that Tamarindo has to offer.
To Sum It Up: Trip To Tamarindo
Tamarindo is your most surf-friendly, a tourist-packed town in all of Costa Rica. Notoriously known as Tama Gringo, you'll find more tourists than locals, making food prices, drink, and stay more expensive than ever.
Though Tamarindo gets a bad reputation for housing so many tourists, it truly is one of the more entertaining beach towns I've visited.
As a poor backpacking surfer, I lived in Tamarindo for 6 months and scraped by just fine. If you avoid eating out every night, don't break your surfboard, and drink the local rum, you'll be able to have a nice cheap vacation in Tamarindo.
Overall, Tamarindo is a safe, colorful, lively town that is home to some of the country's most fun waves. Just remember to budget your funds and remember that everything will be a bit more expensive in Tamarindo.
- Playa Grande
- Playa Avellanas
- Playa Langosta (article coming soon)
- Playa Flamingo (article coming soon)
Do you want more stories and tips in surfing? Here’s our podcast to add to that wave! Also check out our Surf Trip Packing List article for the things that you need to prepare when you go to Tamarindo!