Consider starting your next Costa Rica Vacation on the Pacific coast of Costa Rica in Guanacaste, often referred to as the “Gold Coast.” This land in northern Guanacaste is revered for its beautiful beaches, dry tropical forests, five-star resorts, quaint boutique hotels, gastronomic variety, world-class waves, and adventure tourism. In the late 1980s Costa Rica became a popular nature tourism destination and its main competitive advantage is a well-established system of national parks and protected areas, covering around 23.4% of the country’s land area, the largest in the world as a percentage of the country’s territory, and home to a rich variety of flora and fauna. For a country that has only 0.03% of the world’s landmass astoundingly it is estimated to contain 5% of the world’s biodiversity, a miraculous statistic for a country the size of West Virginia. Located in the far northwest corner of Costa Rica, Guanacaste’s geographical features are diverse and exotic with endless options for recreation. There are countless reasons why locals and international visitors alike travel to Guanacaste given the diversity of life in what is one of the worlds last dry tropical rain forests Guanacaste offers a truly unique micro climate in a country with 5 distinct micro climates. By comparison all of North America contains only 2 micro climates in a much vaster land mass. From Playa el Jobo in the upper north west of Guanacaste to the southwest Guanacaste beach town of Playa Bongo , the many beach towns on this stretch of coast are easy to fall in love with and many remain relatively untouched offering opportunities for lifestyle change, exploration, or both. The admitted nexus of the Gold Coast’s Nature and Eco Tourism offerings and the most popular Costa Rica Vacation destination in the entire country is Tamarindo beach, well known for its surfing, bohemian vibe and ever increasing culinary opportunities, Playa Tamarindo remains relatively unspoiled due to its unique geography and strong conservation practices. One thing to remember; Tamarindo’s long term evolution and popularity stems from one seminal fact that has attracted the type of people invested in guarding its unspoiled beauty. Great waves suitable for expert and beginner alike and a persistent solid right break year round is what has attracted surfers from all over the world who visit then try to figure out a way to stay and make a life here, resulting in a pretty cool community overall who live, work and surf every day. Pretty nice!
We are after all a business directory so this introduction would not be thorough without touching on some of the driving factors in the Costa Rican economy and how some surprising investment sweet spots have managed to persevere even in the midst of the Corona Virus. It was no surprise to me that a high percentage of the over 1000 businesses listed in our directory were devoted to Costa Rica Real Estate and the many subsets of business activities where Real Estate is a required underpinning. Costa Rica Vacation Rentals being the most obvious and the numbers don’t lie. Costa Rica Vacation second home and condo sales have remained consistent even during the pandemic and the underlying financial health of these type of investments certainly explains why this remains so. However even these great numbers rely on the popularity of Tourism in Costa Rica which is responsible for the fantastic returns being realized on Costa Rica Real Estate purchases centered around the Costa Rica Vacation rental market. I explore this phenomenon further using a discounted cash flow analysis of some of the higher end investments that have generated a surprisingly solid and consistent return on investment. I examine this dynamic further in the article “Costa Rica Real Estate’s surprising investment sweet spot.” Where we dissect and present a detailed cost benefit analysis of several real world high end Costa Rica Real Estate investments in the Tamarindo area and break them down factoring in appreciation total cost of ownership, real world income data and present my surprising findings especially regarding returns on truly high end investment vacation rental investments from 1- 8 million dollars. The basic conclusion being that while most people cannot afford to purchase an 8 million dollar beach front mansion in Costa Rica, there are many who are willing to pay top dollar to rent such an experience for short periods resulting in a surprisingly high ROI for high end vacation rental homes and condos in Costa Rica.
A word about how people are visiting and living in Costa Rica which has changed in my 15 years in country. When I first arrived my goal was to explore every nook and cranny and immerse myself in the culture and the language. As tourism has increased and Costa Rica’s popularity grows more visitors are opting for a Costa Rica Resort style vacation, mostly of the pre packaged all inclusive variety where visitors often never set foot outside the resort. By not experiencing or even sampling the culture of the people that live and were born here it is not uncommon to meet expats who have lived here for ten or Fifteen years who have little concept of the language or customs because they never engage the local population which is embarrassing and reflects poorly on our nation. Bottom line; if you want to move to Costa Rica at the very least make a concerted effort to master the language and engage the ” Ticos” who are a warm and lovely people who will hand you the shirt off their back especially if they see that you are making an effort to speak and understand their culture. Analagous to the safe version of vacation going in a foreign country. How ex pats choose to live here has begun to establish patterns that in my mind defeat the potential benefits of moving and having a full life in a foreign country. Ex Pats over these years have begun congregating in gated guarded communities separated from the local culture by high walls and armed guards, Practicing the type of exclusivity that is designed more to keep the locals out creating vast enclaves for the like minded. Frankly if moving to a foreign country so you can live in an exclusive community of wealthy people from New Jersey is your goal then stick to New Jersey as you are missing out. At the very least folks please take some Spanish lessons.
pictured: the beach chairs outside of Noguis Restaurant on Tamarindo Beach
As Tamarindo’s popularity and Real Estate values have soared and the Ex Pat community has expanded in surrounding towns and villages, so too have the culinary and lodging possibilities improved immensely. So today I thought we could walk out of your Tamarindo Hotel and duplicate my favorite way to spend the day on Playa Tamarindo.
Let’s assume that your Costa Rica Vacation has started with a beach front Vacation rental or one of many Tamarindo lodging options. You will not have to go far to explore some very cool hideaways and special places within walking distance from Tamarindo center. From there we will work our way farther afield and get into some serious exploration and some truly wondrous and beautiful finds only a modest drive or scooter ride from Tamarindo.
Depending on what kind of day you are in the mood for you can head either north towards Playa Grande and the Tamarindo estuary or south towards the entrance to Playa Langosta estuary. Either direction will work no matter if exploring is your desire or a 4 star dining experience is more your speed. Crossing the estuary to Playa Grande on one of the small panga boats
that hover there and charge a buck or two to cross opens up a very beautiful walk along the beach side (great shell hunting) or the ability to work your way through the beautiful paths that cut through the mangroves and come to the Playa Grande beach road. At the very end of this beach road where these paths will lead is a sleepy beach hotel that I always liked. Once you find the caretaker they are always happy to dig out a cold Pilsen to enjoy by the pool. Quiet and beautiful. Of course, you can also enter from the beach side or continue down the beach.
A word about the Tamarindo estuary
Spreading our blanket next to the estuary and enjoying the shallow rushing water used to be one of our Friday go tos. Usually with a nice bottle of French wine at El Cocodrillo just up the path to finish. Turns out el Cocodrillo is aptly named as in recent years the tourist habit of feeding the Crocodiles (Cocodrillo in Spanish) has created a situation where the animals have come to associate humans with food . This unfortunately led to a few humans becoming food. Swimming across the estuary as I’ve done many times is no longer recommended.
Please dont feed The Crocodiles!
Walking south towards Playa Langosta is worth the journey and two features make it so. Just past Nogui’s and El Pescador, two staunch mainstays at the south end of Tamarindo beach, it’s possible to come away from the water a bit and walk the natural grassy tree laden paths that constitute the meeting of ocean and land that remains before the secluded beach mansions and exclusive hotels that dot the beach onwards to Playa Langosta . Pristine and beautiful.
This estuary provides the egress for all the water that builds from mountain runoff during the rainy season creating vast mangrove swamps that lie behind Tamarindo and Langosta and almost all beach towns in Guanacaste. This makes the mile hike from Tamarindo worth it as the wild life and serene beauty of this spot is unforgettable and as far as I know, it’s still safe to swim there. At least it was safe last time I swam there. If I hear otherwise I’ll let you know. So far nothing to report.
Langosta Beach club
I will admit to being a food snob and was bereft until Arnaud and his wife took over the Langosta Beach Club. Not only is the food first class the view and ambience elevate this to a World Class destination Yes you might spend a couple bucks but you will be accommodated royally in the poolside cabanas that look like the inside of a Sultans tent each with an inviting champagne bucket and many culinary possibilities. My favorite kind of place. The food is first class in the French style and the beachfront tables are exquisite for lunch while the kids can surf a few feet away. The club even rents boards. My favorite go to day off here was to drink Heinekens with my buddy Andre at The pool bar and order whatever steak was on special that day. I think the last one was stuffed with goat cheese sorrel and mushrooms and cooked a perfect black and blue which is next to impossible to get done right here unless a fine cut of beef is used. In this case I believe Arnaud was using Argentine beef. You get the picture. They take food seriously. Best to reserve a space on weekends and holidays if you want a cabana. Ask for Arnaud
A Friday religion with us. Sushi and draft beers on the picnic tables behind the Witches’ Rock Surf Camp with Lisa and Andre. The house does their own brews and offers a very respectable Indian Pale Ale that’s one of my favorites. Watching the surf and beach action with Playa Grande sweeping off into the distance is a great way to spend a Friday afternoon. Plus the sushi is awesome. A don’t miss spot.
Laguna del cocodrillo
Usually a solo adventure with a book for me or occasionally with my girl. Coincidentally the French bakery and kitchen is run during the day by the mother of Arnaud ( of Langosta Beach Club) and she keeps a solid affordable wine list and Panini menu and a few French stand by lunch entrees to enjoy at the quiet back tables overlooking the portion of the estuary where they used to feed the Crocodiles. The Crocs have fortunately moved further into the estuary and we no longer feed them. Right? This is one of my true favorites for a quiet beach day and I highly recommend it.
Grande is next door to Playa Tamarindo but it’s a big beach and easily accessible from Tamarindo beach. I’d recommend coming at it by vehicle although I have done a few entire days there on the hoof exploring and that’s wonderful too if you like a lot of exercise. There are lots of small beach hideaways where you can park your vehicle and wile the day away without seeing another vehicle. Playa Grande is considerably more laid back and lightly developed compared to Tamarindo. The long beach road that traverses the length of Grande is bordered on one side by the estuary where locals have homes with small docks that ply the canals of the estuary. It’s a cool ride and several pocket communities have sprung up back there. Lovely and quiet with a few hidden jewels
Los Baulas national park
As you wind your way north along Grande you are in this park which protects the area. There are a sparse few beach homes at this end as most building has been tied up in international court for years. Driving to the very north end offers several little hideaways for your 4 wheel drive vehicle that bring you right to the beach without doing harm. If nobody beats you to it you can enjoy a full day with the beach to yourself except for a few intrepid souls like me that walk the whole beach from Tamarindo. So private that it’s a favorite spot for nude sunbathing. Also a great spot for surf fishing when the estuary releases, also body surfing, and as I mentioned; Very Private.
Talk about private this is one you can get lost trying to find driving. Better you grab a panga at the Tamarindo side, they will take you right to the dock next to the restaurant and just up the estuary a bit. Great way to spend a day at a nice pool. Restaurant has typical food and a full bar for cocktails with real glasses.
This sleepy hotel sports a lot of potential diversions my favorite being the restaurant on the second floor of the hotel that overlooks the sparse beach trees and the surf. The setting is unique and rustic with a fine display of how the indigenous people use the Impressive native hardwoods. Breakfast here for me was a delightful treat and the fare, like the design, is true Guanacasteco. The second story beach view and ambience makes this worth the visit However even though its quiet they have a lot of tables and chairs ready. Good for big groups although I have never seen one there. The restaurant services the downstairs pool area that sports a few deliciously deep hammocks and a pretty path to the beach. Don’t miss the hidden heated Jacuzzi tucked into a lush corner of the pool area great chaise lounges and tables by the pool make this a great place to pass a day.
The beach bar attached to the back of the hotel is a favorite of mine. 5 stools, a great view, a great bartender, the best burritos in town, not to mention the nicest owner you could meet. A midwest girl that looks like she stepped off the cover of a California surf magazine which is why she’s here of course. A Very nice spot! This is a great walk from Tamarindo just look just behind the wooden lookout tower.
A word about swimming Playa Grande.
Playa Grande is very rough and tumble beach with multiple wave directions and rip currents. That’s why its a great surf spot. However unwary often inexperienced swimmers are lost there every year.
Please be careful!