By Jennifer LaCharite
As the largest developed beach town in the province of Guanacaste, Tamarindo is a popular surfing destination. In fact, it’s surfing that put Tamarindo, Costa Rica on the map, so to speak.
While it’s no secret to the Ticos (locals) that Tamarindo beach is perfect for surfing, especially for those learning the sport, much of the world hadn’t heard of the former fishing village until it was featured in the surfing movie “The Endless Summer II” in 1994.
The movie, which showcased Costa Rica surfing in Tamarindo, Ollie’s Point, and Witch’s Rock, featured surfer Robert August, who starred in Bruce Brown’s first “The Endless Summer” movie, which came out in 1966. The summer never ended for August, who still lives and surfs in Tamarindo, shaping surfboards for his business, Robert August Surf Co., and doing presentations at local surf shops.
A trip to this iconic surf town is sure to make you feel like a true surfer when you follow our Surfers Guide to Tamarindo:
Now that you know how important surfing is in Tamarindo, you’ll want to give it a try…and bring your friends! Iguana Surf is the only surf camp in Tamarindo willing to take on large groups while practicing all required Covid precautions, such as practicing social distancing, wearing masks indoors, and ensuring proper sanitation measures are carried out. In fact, Iguana Surf Camp closed our shared dorm rooms at the beginning of the pandemic and offers private rooms at no extra cost, all to ensure our clients have the best and safest vacation we can provide.
Tamarindo is a long beach with breaks sure to please beginners, intermediates and experts alike, so even if you’ve never surfed before you’re sure to find all types of waves and surfers along the beach.
If you want to chill like a real surfer, you go to the beach, hang out, and wait for waves. It’s a meeting place for the typical Tamarindo surfing life. Being at the beach at sunset, which is between 5:30 and 6:30 pm every day, is a key element in the surfer lifestyle. Not only is there the obvious beauty of watching the sunset over the Pacific Ocean, but there is often entertainment to be found. Whether it be fire dancers, live music, or watching a friendly game of barefoot soccer (futbol), there is always some entertainment to be found at Tamarindo Beach.
If all that movement you’re sure to do on your Tamarindo Costa Rica surfing vacation leaves your muscles feeling stiff, there’s a weekly Saturday morning yoga on the beach class you can take part in.
If you like variety, there are two centrally located food courts in Tamarindo that offer lots of options in one spot. The new El Mercadito de Tamarindo Gourmet Food Market has everything from tacos to pizza to Moroccan cuisine. If you’re looking for more local and affordable cuisine, the food court by Wild Panda may be more your pace. Just look for the sign that says “Suck my Cocktails” and you’re in the right place. Order a couple of their all-day 2-for-1 cocktails while you’re there.
If you’re really looking for the food that the locals eat, there is typically a red food truck near the main intersection before the rotunda that is popular with the local surfing crowd. If food trucks are your jam, there’s a spot called Jardin Food Truck Park that offers vegan, Caribbean and Latin American food. We like to recommend tourists who want to taste real Costa Rican food try out Soda el Estero, a buffet-style “soda”, which is a local style restaurant, with cheap but amazingly good food. You’re spoiled for choice when it comes to restaurants in Tamarindo, but if you want to eat like a real tico surfer you stick with the basics!
Your plans in Tamarindo must include a trip to the farmers market. The Feria (market) is set up every Saturday from 8 am until 1 pm. Held by the skate park, you’ll find fresh and local fruits and vegetables, homemade crafts such as jewelry, and even health products made with real Costa Rican ingredients such as moringa and coconut oils. A Saturday evening market also takes place in a more intimate setting. Both ferias include live music and food and are great gathering points for tourists and Ticos alike.
You’ll also want to check out the stores downtown during your Tamarindo surfing vacation. There are a few bikini shops that sell bathing suits designed and made in Costa Rica. And of course, there are the surf shops – a classic surfer hangout. The Iguana Surf crew posts weekly events in their shop so you can see what’s happening in town, and there are plenty of places to buy surf clothing and equipment. Arenas and Roca Bruja both have good selections.
After the typical surfer sunset meet-up, a great stop is one of many beachfront bars serving everything from mojitos and Pina Coladas to National beers – Imperial and Pilsen – the true nectar of the Costa Rican surfer. After this, surfers tend to follow the music, meandering along the main drag to settle wherever the beats are bumping and the beers are cheapest. The beach bars by Iguana Surf are well known for having great sunset beer promotions. Beach bonfires typically take place in front of El Chiringuito and TamaOnda tapas bars. This is also where you can usually catch a fire dancer’s show nearby.
In the early morning or afternoon, grab a coffee with the other surfers at Breakfast Grinds, located right by the Iguana Surf Camp. It has a high vantage point to check out the waves at the beach before heading out to surf. The restaurant opens at 6 am for the early birds looking to catch some waves.
While Tamarindo surfing is already an exciting activity, there are other sports surfers like to do from time to time…when there’s no swell! Bike riding is a popular choice for surfers, usually with a rack attached to their board. There are several places you can rent a bicycle in Tamarindo for $10 to $15 a day. If you want to go further and spend a little more, try renting a moto (motorcycle), which is the ultimate surfer way to get around town!
Another fun way to get around and see the beaches and mountains surrounding Tamarindo is with an all-terrain vehicle. Our ATV tour will take you along the stunningly beautiful beaches of the nearby surf towns, cruising along rugged trails, and romping through the dry tropical forest of the mountains.
Surfers are known for having a deep respect for the ocean and the surrounding environment and can be very serious about its preservation. The Tamarindo Estuary is an important nature reserve for the surrounding beaches. A great way for surf lovers to immerse themselves in this un-surfable environment is by renting a kayak to explore the calm waters. Iguana Surf also offers boat tours of the estuary for those surfers wishing to give their arms a break!
Now that you know everything you need to know to feel like a true surfer in Tamarindo it’s time to book your trip! We know you may feel uncertain about whether or not it’s a good time to travel, but many people are making a Tamarindo surfing vacation their first vaxication, meaning the first vacation they take after getting their Covid shot. Costa Rica is making it easier for tourists, too. Starting August 1, 2021 anyone entering Costa Rica with proof of vaccination will not have to buy travel insurance. Visitors simply have to fill out an online health pass before entering the country. Negative Covid tests are not required to enter Costa Rica for all travelers regardless of their status.
Now is the time to see if trying out the surfer life in Costa Rica is right for you!