The Surfer's Guide to Costa Rica - Playa Tamarindo
Playa Tamarindo, Costa Rica

If this is your first Costa Rica surf trip, starting in
Tamarindo is a good plan. While Jacó is a bigger, busier
resort with more surfers and surf shops, Tamarindo is a
great way to get your feet wet. For starters, it’s an easy
surf trip, especially for beginners and families, and there
are a bunch of breaks walking distance from the wide
selection of hotels and condo rentals, so you don’t even
need a car. If you want a car you can rent one right there
in town. There are a lot of good surf shops carrying a
great selection of rental boards, so you don’t even need
to bring a board. Tamarindo is easy.

Tamarindo is also crowded, a bit touristy and growing all
the time. It has a web site ( and fast
food chains. The growth has been managed fairly well by
the local businesspeople and residents, but at times it
seems it’s gotten out of hand.
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There are more surf shops in Tamarindo than Malibu. They’re constantly popping up and moving around, so
it’s difficult to stay current, but here’s the basic lowdown. The oldest and probably best known is Iguana
Surf. The original Iguana Surf is up on the road to Langosta. A newer annex is across the road from the
main beach. If you need a board to rent or buy—longboard, shortboard or softboard—their selection is pretty
good. They rent by the hour, day or week, as do most of the other surf shops. They also rent bicycles, videos,
sun umbrellas, tents, racks, kayaks, arrange estuary tours and even boat taxi services to the breaks that
may have be unreachable due to muddy roads, like Avellanes or Playa Negra. In between all those activities
you can also log on to the Internet. They bill Iguana Surf as having “Everything you need to enjoy your stay,”
and they do a pretty good job. Heck, they’ll even pull your car out of a ditch if you are stupid enough to back
into one (thanks guys!).

You’ll see Tamarindo Adventures on the road to Iguana Surf. You can’t miss it. It has a two story surfboard
for a sign. It’s probably the biggest and best-stocked surf shop in Costa Rica. Across the way from
Tamarindo Adventures is Blue Trailz. This shop has a great selection of high quality boards to rent, lots of
SurfTech epoxies, and underscoring the international nature of Tamarindo, Blue Trailz is owned by a
Belgian couple, Wim and Marjan. And don’t miss the Robert August shop at the Tamarindo Vista Villas.
Here you can rent epoxy Robert August longboards, like the Wingnut model and RA’s signature “What I
ride.” It’s small, but has most of what you need.

The newest surf shop and the one closest to the surf is the Witch’s Rock Surf Camp Surf Shop. Loaded with
gear and fashions, the new shop is triple the size of the old one, and conveniently located right there on the
main road as you come into town.  

There are probably a dozen broadband Internet cafés in town. @Internet has been there the longest. It’s in
the little strip mall on the left just as you turn to go up the hill toward Langosta. But you really don’t have to
search for an internet café; they’re everywhere.

Tamarindo is big enough to have medical services, which you’ll find at the “Medico” in town.

Getting there

To drive to Tamarindo from the San José area, take the Interamerican Highway north and look for the sign
for the Tempisque Bridge. After crossing the bridge follow the signs to Nicoya, Santa Cruz, 27 de Abril, then
Tamarindo. This route includes some dirt road driving on the stretch between 27 de Abril and Villareal. You
can avoid that by continuing north from Santa Cruz to Belén and hanging a left. It’s an easy drive with lots of
signs. You can do it in about four to five hours, depending on traffic and stops.

There’s also an airstrip two miles outside of town with daily service from San José (45-minute flight) by
SANSA and Travelair, and even direct flights on Delta. Private charter services are available too. And there’s
the international airport in Liberia, a 45-minute drive, which has regular service from Miami and Atlanta.

Tamarindo Rivermouth (El Estero)

This is the first break as you drive into town. It is accessible from anywhere in Tamarindo, but most directly
via the trail across from El Milagro. Best on upcoming medium tide and a strong northwest (rare) or combo
swell, but it’s good on souths too (which is mostly what you get). Good rights peel from outside the
rivermouth just off the reef and get fast and sometimes hollow, especially with winter offshores. The lefts go
into the rivermouth from the south, fast and sometimes hollow, too. But it all depends on the sand bars, of
course, and they’re good four out of five years.

Given its proximity to the hotels of Tamarindo, the rivermouth can get very crowded. But sometimes you can
get it to yourself because everyone else is at Playa Grande, other spots or sleeping in.

Tamarindo Beach Break

Pretty typical beach break. Can get good, and it is often crowded, especially in the evenings when the locals
and surf schools come out, but you can find the occasional peak to yourself. Like all of Tamarindo, it does
not break when the swell is small and the tide is high. Best on mid-tide.

Pico Pequeño

Directly in front of the Tamarindo Diría Hotel sits a small, lava finger reef. Off that reef breaks a nice right that
ranges from mushy to tubey, depending on the swell and tide. Works best on mid-tide and it does need
some swell. Low tide gets sketchy because it gets too shallow and it’s a lava rock bottom. It does not
handle a crowd well, and there is always a crowd. But if you stay at the Diría, or the Hotel Doly next door to
the north, you can watch it while having a beer and catch it just right—tide and crowd.

Henry’s Point

Rocky lava reef in front of the Zully Mar Restaurant. Mediocre at best.

Isla Capitán

Talk about perfect offshore reef barrels… Everyone who has ever come to Tamarindo has gazed at the lefts
breaking off the north side of the little deserted island out in Tamarindo Bay, and wondered why no one
surfs it. Get to the right vantage point and you will see rights breaking off the south side of the island too, but
the lefts are better. Just hop in a boat or paddle 20 to 30 minutes from the beach in front of Casa Cook’s
and Capitán Suizo. If you stay at Cala Luna or Sueño del Mar Bed & Breakfast the paddle is way shorter as
they are out near the point. Breaks best at higher tides. Something else cool about Isla Capitán: At low tide
the rights and lefts wrap around the island and break over a little reef into each other like clapping hands.
And you can ride these waves into each other. Hey, it's something to do on a low tide, blown out afternoon.

Excerpted from The Surfer's Guide to Costa Rica & SW Nicaragua, available at
©1996-2012 SurfPress Publishing. All rights reserved.