Costa Rica has always been a place I have wanted to go. My brother, having studied abroad there for a year told me tales of beautiful beaches, spending the weekends surfing, gorgeous tropical weather, and diverse ecosystems with lots to explore and discover. So as 2017 wound down I decided that 2018 was going to be the year I make as many of my travel dreams come true. So I started planning… Costa Rica was definitely at the top of my list and lucky enough Sunwing was going to help me make it happen. My plan - head to Costa Rica as a travel photojournalist and content creator, and fulfill my dream to visit Costa Rica all the while sharing my experience with you guys - FINALLY!
The morning of our flight we woke up to a massive snow fall! Getting to the airport was going to be more of a trek then we imagined and my stomach started to wrench at the thought that we may miss our flight - or worse it would be cancelled. Before I could drown in negative thoughts I decided to bite the bullet, pay the uber surge and just make my way as fast as I could to the UP Express. Thankfully we arrived at the airport with 20 minutes to spare and with the help of Sunwing's staff and our 'Sunwing Elite' status we were processed and on our way within minutes! The flight of course was NOT cancelled and after a little de-icing we were on our way. The flight itself went very smooth, the in-flight crew very friendly, and after aecend we were offered a glass of sparkling wine - don't mind if I do.
Tamarindo, a small town in the Guanacaste province of Costa Rica is located on the Pacific coast of the country. What I didn’t know when I landed was that it was also a little over an hour drive away from the airport. Lucky enough Sunwing, arranges transfers for their customers FOR FREE to their hotels when booked as a package! Having never flown with Sunwing before and having never in my previous travels ever seen this happen (or had this service available to me), I thought it was genius! Usually when I arrive to a destination I have to pay out-of-pocket for transportation via either a shuttle service or a taxi just to get to my hotel/final destination - but not this time!
Finding the bus was easy and soon enough we were pulling up to my hotel just in time for dinner. Since Tamarindo is a small town they really only have one big hotel - the Tamarindo Diria - a beautiful 3.5 star (completely underrated in my opinion) hotel with the most gorgeous beach front views, and the only hotel with a private garden and direct access to the beach! That night I was so excited to be in Costa Rica, explore the hotel, and check out the small town of Tamarindo, I hardly slept!
Waking up to the sounds of the ocean is always nice but waking up to it and seeing the amazing panorama view of the beach right from the comforts of my large room balcony was breathtaking. Sitting there drinking my Costa Rican coffee I would see people slowly starting to claim their beach chairs, locals going for morning walk along the beach with their dogs, sailboats anchored in the distance and a group of horses available to ride roaming up and down the beach. It was perfect. It was Pura Vida!
With my last sip of coffee I quickly got ready, went down to check out the hotel and familiarize myself with the area. The small town of Tamarindo has a main strip that runs parallel to the ocean in addition to maybe two or three small streets that splinter off of it. It’s a small town, but with tons of energy. The Tamarindo Diria is located smack in the middle of the main strip and straddles either side of the road. One side (the one I was staying at) had beach-front hotel views, beach access and a smaller (but not small by any means) pool. This side was dubbed the ‘Sunset Village’. On the other side of the road you have the ‘Lagoon Village’ and the ‘Tropicana Village’. The ‘Lagoon Village’ has the most beautiful (and very large) pool oasis, a grotto, a kid friendly pool, and a swim up bar. The “Tropicana Village’ is an ‘adults only’ area with their own quiet adults only pool and lounge bar. There are hotel rooms available in all three villages, it just depending on what kind of vacation you are more into. The Lagoon and Tropicana side however, also features condos, tennis courts, shops and a casino! Oh did I also mention that the hotel also has five restaurants and bars? Weather you want pizza, seafood, steak or explore typical Costa Rican cuisine they’ve got you covered. No matter what side of the hotel you end up on, you will have access to everything!
After familiarizing myself with the hotel and running around to take some pretty pictures, it was time for a beach walk. The sand on Playa Tamarindo is made up of packed sand making it very easy to walk on with very little effort. The beach itself is very wide and the water is warm, almost like a giant salt water bathtub. Although you see many people out in the water enjoying surfing, the progression in depth is very gradual making walking out into the water very easy. This combined with the fact that there wasn’t really any undertow or sea life made it seem super safe for kids, beginner swimmers, or even novice surfers like myself! The beach is public domain and therefore you can walk around with ease, dropping in and out of different beach-front bars and restaurants, and mingling with locals as you go along. At sunset don’t be surprised if you start to hear the sounds of live music echoing from these small bars and restaurants - definitely a great way to end the day and make you feel totally decompressed. You are on vacation after all!
One thing I noticed about Tamarindo is all the expats! Finding someone who speaks English is not difficult at all. As a matter of fact all the menus are available in English even at the restaurants off the resort. If you are big into sports, Tamarindo has an American sports bar called Sharky’s so you never have to worry about missing the big game. Although the Hotel Tamarindo Diria is beautiful I definitely recommend wandering around Tamarindo. I always felt completely safe and besides the local restaurants (Green Papaya and Falafel Bar were two we loved and frequented more then once), there is a night market on Thursday from 6-10 pm where you can buy artisan products, food, drinks etc. that I definitely recommend. If you are looking for a place to go out there is also a small disco/nightclub called Crazy Monkey. Located less than 500 meters from the hotel it has two dance floors, one with a live band that plays Salsa music and one with a DJ that playing hip hop. On Friday nights Crazy Monkey gets really busy. Packed with tourists and locals alike, it’s a really nice way to immerse yourself in the vibe of Tamarindo.
If you have seen the surf documentary The Endless Summer II you would know that Tamarindo is famous for surfing. With plenty of surf shops to choose from there is no need to bring your own board to catch some waves. On top of having your pick from a handful of surf shops that rent boards, the beach also has lots of instructors equipped with boards ready to help you ride your first Costa Rican wave. Having taken surfing lessons in the past, I headed over to Surf Culture to rent a board for the day, which only cost me $10. The shop is located less than a 5-minute walk from the hotel and the staff are very knowledgeable. They can help you with everything from finding the perfect board for your skill level and height, best spots to surf, and even some friendly tourism advice like the best place to go out that night and where to eat!
As I said in the beginning Costa Rica has so much to offer in the way of exploration and discovery. Towards the end of our trip my boyfriend and I spent an entire day in a small town of Bueno Vista with Sunwing Experiences. We went ziplining, had a Costa Rican coffee tasting, went horseback riding, tried volcanic mudding, hung out in hot springs, and to finish the day off, did a hike to a magnificent waterfall. The entire tour was arranged through Sunwing and can even be booked on the flight over! Bueno Vista is about 1.5 hours away from the hotel Tamarindo Diria, but Sunwing Experiences arranges transportation there and back and provides lunch. So if you are looking to get out of the hotel and really experience Costa Rica I definitely recommend trying the Bueno Vista Tour. With about 11 hours from pick up to drop off it’s definitely a jam-packed day of fun activities and totally worth every penny.
I know this was a long post but I would be doing the trip a disservice if I didn’t give you the full scoop. Traveling to Costa Rica was everything I imagined and more. It’s not often I find a destination that I want to go back to so quickly but this is one country I am eager to explore more of. If you ever get a chance to go or are thinking about doing a trip with your loved one, family, or even a big group of friends, I definitely recommend Tamarindo, Costa Rica and for ease, great tour partnerships, and price value, Sunwing.