You have to be careful when and where you swim on Tamarindo’s long white-sand beach. The calmest water and best swimming are at the southern end of the beach, toward the Hotel Capitán Suizo. Much of the sea just off the busiest part of the town is best for surfing. When the swell is up, you’ll find scores of surfers in the water here. Be careful: In several places there are rocks just offshore, some of them exposed only at low tide. An encounter with one of these rocks could be nasty, especially if you’re bodysurfing. Also, avoid swimming near the estuary mouth, where there are two dangers: strong currents and crocodiles.
Tamarindo has a host of good tour operators. The best are Xplore CR ★ (www.xplorecostarica.com; tel. 844/278-6877 in U.S. and Canada; 2653-4130 in Costa Rica), Tamarindo Transfers & Tours ★ (www.tamarindoshuttle.com; tel. 2653-4444), and Iguana Surf (www.iguanasurf.net; tel. 2653-0613). All offer a range of half- and full-day trips, including outboard or kayak tours through the nearby estuary and mangroves, excursions to Santa Cruz and Guaitíl, raft floats on the Corobicí River, and tours of Palo Verde and Rincón de la Vieja national parks. Rates run between $50 and $200, varying by the length of the tour and group size. All the hotel desks and tour operators here offer turtle nesting tours ★★★ to Playa Grande, in season, or you can contact ACOTAM (tel. 2653-1687), a specialized local operator.
Canopy Tours: No canopy tour is available right in Tamarindo, but the Monkey Jungle Canopy Tour (tel. 2653-1172; www.canopymonkeyjungle.com) and Cartagena Canopy Tour ★ (tel. 2675-0801) are nearby. Both charge $50 per person and include transportation from Tamarindo. Of these two, the Monkey Jungle operation is much closer, but I prefer the Cartagena tour, which has a much more lush forest setting. Still, I think your best bet is to take a day trip to Hacienda Guachipelín and do the zip-line and canyoning tours there.
Four-Wheeling: Arenas Adventure Tours (tel. 2653-0108; www.tamarindoaventuras.com) offers a variety of guided ATV tours from 1 to 3 hours from $45 to $140 per person. This company also rents dirt bikes, snorkel equipment, surf and boogie boards, and jet skis and offers a full menu of other guided tours around the region.
Golf: Hacienda Pinilla ★★ (tel. 2681-4500; www.haciendapinilla.com) is an eye-candy, 18-hole links-style course located south of Tamarindo. Greens fees run around $150 for 18 holes, including a cart, with discounts for guests staying at Hacienda Pinilla or the JW Marriott resort. Many people staying in Tamarindo also play at the Westin Playa Conchal Resort & Spa ★★, an excellent resort course.
Horseback Riding: Although some will be disappointed, I think it’s a very good thing that horses are no longer allowed on the beach. Fortunately, you’ll find plenty of opportunities to ride in the hills and forests around Tamarindo. Most local tour operators offer horseback riding options, but I recommend you go riding with Casagua Horses ★ (tel. 2653-8041 or 8871-9266; www.paintedponyguestranch.com). Rates for horse rental, with a guide, are around $25 to $40 per hour.
Sailboat Charters: Several boats offer cruises from Tamarindo, many of them with an open bar. Catch a ride on the 80-foot schooner Antares, built in 1947 (tel. 8587-3095; www.tamarindosailing.net), or try the 40-foot catamaran Blue Dolphin ★ (tel. 855/842-3204 in the U.S., or 8842-3204 in Costa Rica; www.bluedolphinsailing.com) or 66-foot catamaran Marlin del Rey (tel. 877/827-8275 in the U.S., or 2653-1212 in Costa Rica; www.marlindelrey.com).
A half-day snorkel or shorter sunset cruise should cost $75 to $85 per person, and a full day should run between $100 and $150 per person. This usually includes an open bar and snacks on the half-day and sunset cruises, and all of that plus lunch on the full-day trip.
Scuba Diving: For scuba diving or snorkeling, check in with Agua Rica Diving Center ★ (tel. 2653-0094; www.aguqrica.net), the best and longest-running operator in Tamarindo. This is a full-service shop offering day trips, multiday dive cruises, and resort- and full-certification courses.
Sportfishing: A host of captains offer anglers a chance to go after the “big ones” that abound in the offshore waters. From the Tamarindo estuary, it takes only 20 minutes to reach the edge of the continental shelf, where the waters are filled with mostly marlin and sailfish. Although fishing is good all year, the peak season for billfish is between mid-April and August. Contact Tamarindo Sportfishing (tel. 2653-0090; www.tamarindosportfishing.com), Capullo Sportfishing ★ (tel. 2653-0048; www.capullo.com), or Osprey Sportfishing (tel. 8754-9292; www.osprey-sportfishing.com).
Tennis: You can rent court time and equipment at the Tamarindo Tennis Club (tel. 2653-0898), which features two lighted outdoor courts on the back road on the way to the Hotel El Jardín del Edén. It is open daily from 7:30am to 8pm, and court time runs $10 per day. You can also play at Hacienda Pinilla for $5 per hour during the day, and $10 per hour at night.
Watersports: If you want to try snorkeling, surfing, or sea kayaking in Tamarindo, Agua Rica Diving Center, Iguana Surf, and Arenas Adventure Tours rent all the necessary equipment. They have half-day and hourly rates for many of these items.
Tamarindo has a host of surf shops and surf schools, if you want to learn to catch a wave while in town. Tamarindo’s got a great wave to learn on, although it can get very crowded at the popular beginners’ breaks. For gear and lessons, try Tamarindo Surf School (tel. 2653-0923; www.tamarindosurfschool.com), Kelly’s Surf Shop ★ (tel. 2653-1355; www.kellyssurfshop.com), or Witch’s Rock Surf Camp ★ (tel. 888/318-7873 in the U.S. and Canada, or 2653-1238 in Costa Rica; www.witchsrocksurfcamp.com).
Wellness Centers: Most of the higher-end hotels have their own spas, and most hotels can call you a massage therapist. But if you’re looking for a local day spa experience, try Cocó Beauty Spa (tel. 2653-2562; www.cocobeautyspa.com), which has a wide range of treatments and packages, from facials and pedicures to hot stone massages. Alternately, you can head about 15 to 20 minutes inland to Los Altos de Eros ★ (tel. 800/391-1944 in the U.S. and Canada or 8850-4222 in Costa Rica;www.losaltosdeeros.com) for one of its signature, full-day spa experiences.
For a good yoga session, contact Ser Om Shanti Yoga Studio (tel. 8951-6236; www.seryogastudio.com)
Especially For Kids
Bolas Locas Mini Golf (tel. 2653-1178; www.bolaslocas.com), located next to Dragonfly Bar & Grill, is a nice change from the beach and pool. This 18-hole course features a wave wall, a waterfall, and a traditional Costa Rican oxcart as obstacles. A round of golf costs $8 for adults, $6 for children under 10.