My exploration of Costa Rica has been off to a slow start.
Well, at least that’s how I feel when I think back to how jam-packed my travel schedule was in Europe when my work week included three day weekends. It’s also just so easy to travel around Europe. Trains and planes are frequent and cheap.
Costa Rica is a different story. Flying anywhere is way out of my budget, train travel is not an option and buses can be slow and infrequent. Travelling around Costa Rica using public transportation is easy if you have a dedicated amount of time for a vacation, but when you are limited to two-day weekends like me, it poses a bit of a challenge.
Last weekend I decided to take advantage of a rare three day weekend and finally visit a beach in the Guanacaste Province of Costa Rica, which is known to be home to some of the country’s most pristine beaches.
Discovering Tamarindo, Costa Rica in Photos
I chose to visit Tamarindo because, well, there is a direct 6 ½-hour bus there from San Jose that seemed to be easy enough to figure out.
Tamarindo is in the Nicoya Penninsula on the Northern Pacific Coast of Costa Rica. It is the fastest growing city in Costa Rica and rife with big hotels, fancy eateries and ex-pat business owners. In fact, Tamarindo is nicknamed Tamagringo because of all the tourists and residents from the United States who frequent the streets speaking English.
The vibe in Tamarindo is certainly different from anywhere else I’ve been in Costa Rica. At night many tourists here wear lacy dresses and heels, a far cry from the flip-flops and sundresses of Playa Jacó. Prices are high and often listed in the US-dollar. There’s more hassle from shop owners to buy their bargains and mostly everyone speaks English to you right away.
Tamarindo is also the fastest growing city in Costa Rica, though its population is rather small at just more than 3,500. In the busy months around 2,000 tourists also make the city their temporary home.
But the real beauty of Tamarindo is found on the white soft sands of Playa Tamarindo, a long, uninterrupted stretch of beach that takes an hour and 15 minutes to cross. I know this because one night at sunset I walked the entire length of the beach and back.
The beach is mostly rock-free making it a haven for surfers. During my visit the waves were gentle and frequent, making it the perfect place for me to practice my skills.
Portions of the surf are covered in rocks though, which adds a beautiful element to the landscape.
Restaurants, bars and hotels line a portion of the beach. One morning I stopped for breakfast at the Oceans. I enjoyed typical gallo pinto con huevos and a cappucinno while gazing at the most serene landscape of palm trees, tan sand and blue waters of the ocean just several feet away.
Amongst the madness of Tamagringo I wandered in search for Costa Rican authenticity one evening. I found it at Soda el Sabor de la Vida, a small family-owned restaurant recommended to me by the receptionist at Coral Reef Surf Hostel.
While waiting for my arroz con pollo I spoke with the owner Daniel who was quite curious as to how my solo gringa self had stumbled into his restaurant.
Daniel and his family speak no English, he would probably never learn, he told me. But he was brimming with curiosity about the United States and my home state of California.
How big is California? How many people live there? Is it hot?
For 20 minutes I sat with Daniel answering his questions about California and asking my own about his family and life in Tamarindo.
My arroz con pollo came wrapped up in a box. I said gracias and pura vida before making my way to the beach to lean up against a palm tree and eat while stare out at the dark waves.
The owner’s son, a boy of maybe 7 ran past me on the beach carrying a bag of palm leaves.
“Buen provecho, muchacha y gracias!” he shouted on his way to a well-lit restaurant. He stopped there and wandered amongst the tables in search for some tamagringos to buy his palms.
Where to Stay in Tamarindo
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