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Located in the small, enchanting tourist town of Tamarindo, Playa Tamarindo is a beautiful, crescent-shaped beach, with a wild, fresh look. Long and broad, Playa Tamarindo is part of a bay that includes Playa Grande to the north, separated from Playa Tamarindo by, Estero Tamarindo, a gorgeous natural salt water estuary.
The town of Tamarindo has developed into one of Costa Rica's most popular beach areas and despite rapid development, retains an irresistible lazy, low-key charm. The appeal is obvious. Playa Tamarindo offers everything one could imagine from a Costa Rican beach town. Sun, gorgeous beaches, world class surfing, fishing, diving, and nature tours are all either right here or found nearby.
Once the venue for local fishermen and the occasional Costa Rican vacationer, today Playa Tamarindo has numerous hotels, vacation renatals, restaurants, plenty of surfers, as well as one of the liveliest night-life scenes on Costa Rica's Pacific coast.
Playa Tamarindo's sand is greyish brown and its water blue. The Pacific Ocean offers both calm sections for swimmers and consistent waves for surfers. While swimming at Tamarindo can be great, and the water pleasant, one does have to watch out for underwater rocks and under-currents. To avoid rocks, walk until you find a clear section of the beach and be careful when wading in the water.
On the beach, Tamarind trees provide well-needed shade and the packed sand is ideal for long strolls, especially to the Tamarindo Estuary; home to many species of birds, animals and the mangrove forest.
Boat tours are available into the mangroves of the estuary. Water birds are the attraction here - great herons, egrets, kingfishers, ibises, ospreys with caimans, iguanas, howler monkeys and otters providing the terrestrial side-show.
Tamarindo is surrounded by National Parks to its north and south, and mountains with breathtaking views to its east. Nature is abundant. Leatherback Turtles lay their eggs in the northern part of the bay, at Playa Grande, and Howler Monkeys are heard and seen swinging on branches throughout Tamarindo. In some restaurants giant Iguanas will come up to tables expecting scraps. In the late afternoons you can hear the parakeets screeching in the trees, preparing to settle down for the night.
Tamarindo is located on one of the world's great year-round warm water surfing coasts that includes Playa Langosta, Playa Avellana, Playa Grande, as well as the renowned tubes of Witches Rock at Playa Naranjo in Santa Rosa National Park.
The area offers opportunities for surfers of all skill levels to enjoy the great waves that bless this part of the coast. Tamarindo was the first stop on an epic worldwide surf journey in the popular movie Endless Summer II.
Warning: If you are a beginner, take some lessons. The surf can be quite heavy and there are lots of rocks jutting out of the water offshore. Keep your distance from the estuaries or you might find yourself carried out to sea by the currents.
The best time to dive in Guanacaste is during the Green Season (June to November) because the water is calmer and clearer and even warmer than during the Dry Season.
Tamarindo is the cradle of west coast sportfishing with blue-water fishing boats that ply Costa Rica's famed northern Pacific fishing grounds for marlin, sailfish, big tuna and other game fish.
The best reason to be in the Tamarindo area is to witness the nesting of the baulas, the giant leatherback turtles, at nearby Playa Grande.
Part of Las Baulas National Park, this long beach is one of the world's most important nesting sites for this huge reptile. Adults grow to an astonishing 1,000 pounds and more, making the leatherback the world's largest marine turtle. Its annual nesting ritual is one of the most impressive sights in the natural world.
During nesting season, October through March, hundreds of visitors descend on Playa Grande to watch the female leatherbacks emerge from the surf and laboriously make their way up to the dry dunes, deposit 100 or so golf ball-sized eggs into a shallow pit, cover the whole thing up again and then drag themselves back to the sea.
Unfortunately, tourists seem to be loving these shy creatures to death. As the number of spectators has increased, the number of arriving turtles has dropped to the point where some naturalists are urging a total ban on turtle-watching tours.
This hasn't happened yet but if you want to see the leatherbacks, go with a reputable naturalist guide, don't use flashlights of flash cameras, stand back and be quiet.
Between Playa Grande and Tamarindo is the latest addition to the area's outdoor attractions, the 18-hole championship golf course of the Rancho Las Colinas property development. When the Papagayo wind blows and the tropical sun beats down, this Ron Garl course is a test of your swing and your endurance. Several Tamarindo hotels, including Hotel Pasatiempo, offer guest memberships.
If one course isn't enough, you might also elect for a round or two on the Robert Trent Jones II-designed course at the nearby Meliá Playa Conchal Resort Hotel.
Tamarindo offers an excellent choice in both quality and price. Book well in advance for peak-season accommodations (mid-November through the end of April)—although discounts are often available during the "green season."
Both of Costa Rica's national airlines, Sansa and and Nature Air (formerly named Travelair) , have daily flights to the Tamarindo airstrip. The new international airport at Liberia is just 45 minutes away.
By car from San José it's about a four-and-a-half hour drive to Tamarindo. Take the Inter-American highway north out of San José, go all the way to Liberia and turn left. It's blacktop all the way until the last five km.
Tamarindo has a variety of restaurants featuring cuisine to suit every taste. It also has unique shops and galleries that sell local clothing, pottery and artifacts. There is plenty of nightlife ranging from latin salsa beach bars to surfer night-clubs.