Tamarindo is a town and distrito located on the Nicoya Peninsula on the Northern Pacific coast of Costa Rica in the Province of Guanacaste. The district has a population of 6,869, although the town itself is about 500. It can swell to 5,000 people or more during the tourist season and during special holidays. The main attractions are surfing and eco-tourism.
Towns belonging to the district besides Tamarindo are Villarreal, Santa Rosa, Garita Nueva, Hernández and San José de Pinilla.
Playa Tamarindo is a long beach, with excellent waves near the mouth of the estuary. Currents can be strong, especially on a falling tide. Tamarindo has two main breaks for advanced surfers: Pico Pequeño a rocky point in front of the Hotel Tamarindo Diriá and the excellent river mouth break across from Cabinas Tsunami called El Estero. The rest of the beach breaks are perfect for learning. The biggest waves can get up to 12 feet, although only during November and December.
Playa Grande beach is also where the Leatherback Turtle comes to lay its eggs. The leatherbacks take over the beach from November to April, digging their nests up to one meter deep, lay their eggs and cover the pit with sand, and return once again to the sea. After 60 to 90 days, the hatchlings emerge and immediately make their way to the water.
There is no road access from the town of Tamarindo to Playa Grande, as the two are separated by the Tamarindo River. However, there are small boats waiting to ferry people across the river at a modest fee. You can easily walk from the center of Tamarindo to the edge of the river along the wide beach.
There are other eco-friendly activities including watching turtles during their nesting season at night, diving, snorkeling, body surfing, zip-lining, estuary trips, horseback riding and fishing. During the December to April period when the water turbidity is low, fishing may be done from the shore.
The beaches in the area are generally clean and recent efforts by the government and local business organizations are proving themselves. Unfortunately, the area has become a boon to developers who have cut corners and not installed proper infrastructure including black water treatment. While the beach has not regained its Blue Flag Status, in September 2008, it did get a clean bill of health from the Costa Rican Government. The town is trying to regain its Blue Flag Status.