Leaving for Costa Rica August 10, Got a place in Tamarindo for the first 2 nights. Is this a place to stay for the entire trip and just travel the coast or is there somewhere with better surf that is reasonable? Also do you need a 4X4 to get around down there?
I guess it depends of what your looking for and how long you are there. Tamarindo has blown up over the years and now is filled with restaurants, internet cafes, and bars. Gringo surfers fill those places and the Tamarindo rivermouth during evening sessions.
A 4X4 isn't a necessity if you're planning on staying close. You can walk to Langosta and Grande and even if you drive you won't need a truck. You may need one to get to Avellanas or Playa Negra. i haven't been back in a couple of years so I don't know how much the roads have changed. They seem to get better every time I visit....which actually sorta sucks as it makes the breaks more accessible and more crowded.
The drive to Witches Rock isn't bad from Tamarindo if you want to go north. It's a bit more tricky to find Mal Pais driving south but you can make it in about 4 hrs, if I remember correctly, taking the short route (which involves a drive in a river and about 20K on the beach.) You'll want a 4X4 if you do this.
Oh, and Nosara. Forgot Nosara. Another option to the south but has become crowded too.
Day 1 I suggest hitting Playa Grande and seeing what you think. It's a powerful, hollow beachbreak super-close to Tamarindo (you can walk but watch for alligators when you paddle across the rivermouth. I actually never saw one but they tell me they are there.
scratch some of that. Grande is not a fun walk, you have to cross the rivermouth at tamarindo for $5 with a local boater who will take you over. You could paddle, but I do not recommend it. Once you are there, you still have to walk much further for the main peak. YES, rent a 4X4, soon as you get to the airport you will be hounded by services, so no worries on finding that as it makes you feel famous for a second.. I just got back last week from Grande after several trips and the only thing that sucks about renting a car is they take that $750 dollars off on top of the actually payment, which you pay upon returning. I would recommend the insurance which is about $17 a day. We paid 450 total for a RAV 4 for a week( 6 days), and they deposit the $750 hold back. I pulled up my account once I was there and it did not even show that they took that out. Grande is much better, several peaks, hollow and shifty, def. a high tide break, can get crowded at times, can get really good as well. After surfing there, at the main access there is a taco stand called taco star, really good and cheap,plus they show surfing vids to get you amped for the 2nd session out there, good stuff! Grande is only about 15 minutes from tamarindo. Langosta like the other guy said is right up the road from Tamarindo, gets good as well, is rocky/ reef bottom unlike sandy bottom at grande. Signs will show you wear to go, just pay attention. You have to alot, b/c there are cows, horses, crazy drivers, etc on the roads down there. Tamarindo has plenty of stuff, def. spoiled in that area in my opinion as the prices have gone up. There is also two banks in Tamarindo, go to one of those and exchange your cash. That is the BEST WAY, b/c they give you the full amount and show you through reciept. You can get very ripped off by just paying cash every where, remember it is 3rd world and they need the money. They have exchange vendors in the airports, do not do that, the service fee for that is a joke. Other spots, witches and ollies I recommend taking a trip through witches rock surf camp in tamarindo, do not drive, it is not that long, but super ****ola road and could screw up your ride esp. with the rainy season starting. Other spots about 30 mins away is Negra, speaks for itself, crowded on that one peak ofcourse, and Avellanas where the locals BLOW! They will snake you without a care in the world if it gets good. I highly recommend Avellanas though, b/c the left there is simply world class if it is reallllly on. It has to be big for it to get really good there though. So if it is solid 8ft at grande, go to avellanas or else it will be small and weak. There are 3 spots there as well, to the left Little Hawaii--sketchy reef break at lower tide wait til tide fills in, right in front of the parking lot is the best in my opinion, just sit on the peak and wait for a left as it will reel down the beach, some closeout a bit though, just need the right wind. Then further down is the rivermouth, really fun right there, DO NOT go left, big boulder that boils up and has been known to have several victims. The bottom there and out front is mainly sand and very dull rock, it is safe and is a mellow break. Just get there early or late afternoon on the rising tide! The restaurant there LOLA's is the shizzy, order the chicken satay and a strawberry /banana smoothie and trust me it will hit home how much you love Costa Rica as you look out at the surf while enjoying that. Hope this helps.
Tons of other spots you can travel too, check out surfline for them. Nosara is good, get ready for a long paddle though. I would split up your trip and head to hermosa, dominical, mal pais, etc.. It is been really solid that part of Costa Rica all year.
Bfloyd-planning trip to grande in Jan or feb.-where would you recommend staying in grande-wife will be with me so i need somewhere thats going to be safe/clean, etc. for her(no "dorm-room" type rooms)-if shes got a clean room, a place to lay out, etc.,ill be able to take this trip for many more years to come
There are a few that are nice, Hotel Las Tortugas is right on the break. However,they have the tiny hotel area ( pool, cabana hut, restuarant) ,but I would recommend staying at their apartments. We had to switch rooms from the hotel area to the apartments b/c my girlfriend had a panic attack over some bugs and filth. The apartments were much nicer and reasonable, just have to walk down the hill to the break, no biggie. The only thing we had was some ants, not many at all and you are going in the dry season, so no worries.Here is there site: http://www.lastortugashotel.com/
now I am not too sure about the Playa Grande Inn rooms, the restaurant area is very cool though, small menu, but good beverages!!
Those are the main ones right there, all are in 50-75 yard walking distance of the beach. The hotel las tortugas apts maybe 200 yards, gets you amped though on the walk, plus you witness hundred of crabs and possibly some howler monkeys on the walk that are harmless and funny to watch. There are several different kinds of rooms, so do your research, email them. My personal opinion would be the apartments at hotel las tortugas, it is so reasonable, cool little area under the trees and not far from anything at all that you need. It is very quiet as well, great to sleep in, they have little decks that look over the forest which is surprisingly nice, one of them has a personal pool and the decks. It has a great view due to its high deck. Just email and ask about it or see if you can find it on the website. Cheers mate, hope this helps!