The Choice: Tamarindo vs Playa Grande?

People ask us often, to explain the difference between Tamarindo vs Playa Grande? Why should they choose one over the other? The choice and final decision is ultimately yours, and as individual as you are.

Here is a little summary of Tamarindo and Playa Grande:

Tamarindo:

  • Tamarindo is much more touristy- busier, more shops, more people, more stuff…
  • If you are looking for nightlife- clubs and bars are open late and there is a lot of choice in Tamarindo.
  • Tamarindo has a lot of restaurants. I am told, however, by some who frequent there, that it is hard to find a great one. Always a good idea to ask locals. At the moment, Nordico, Seasons by Shlomy and Pangas are topping the charts, along with Pura Vegan, Noguis and La Bodega.
  • Activities are more readily accessible in Tamarindo. Like Playa Grande, it also has good surfing. Down-side is that the learning to surf area is small and crowded with surf schools.

Playa Grande: 

  • Playa Grande is more peaceful.
  • Uncrowded is the key word for Playa Grande- there aresurf  a couple commercial stores (our surf shop and another), a collection of small boutique hotels, and a lovely, uncrowded 4km stretch of beach which is separated from Tamarindo by an estuary… the only place you will find a crowd is at main peak surf break, when the waves are good!!
  • Playa Grande doesn’t have a real ‘town center’… in fact, it doesn’t have a church, soccer field, bakery, bank or any other key installations one would think was crucial in a ‘town’!
  • Small boutique hotels, not resorts, are the rule in Playa Grande. RipJack Inn, with 21 rooms, is one of the biggest. Many others have no more than 6 rooms.
  • The estuary separates Playa Grande from Tamarindo and vice versa.
  • Playa Grande has 9 or 10 restaurants, almost all are really good! Upstairs at the RipJack, La Marejada (converts to a sushi restaurant for Saturday and Sunday nights), Bula Bula, El Point, Cafe Mar Azul, Cantarana, Seven BBQ, Cafe del Pueblo, El Huerto Pizzeria, and Kike’s Place…
  • Relaxing, walking on the beach, surfing, boogie boarding, riding a bike, looking for animals are the primary activities in Playa Grande.
  • Surf lessons in Playa Grande are less stressful as they are uncrowded and away from the hustle and bustle of Tamarindo.
Summary: 
Many people say that they wished they stayed in Playa Grande. They would have rented a car and headed to Tamarindo a night or two for the nightlife, or to check out the abundant souvenir shops.
For others, Playa Grande is too quiet. It takes an effort to go anywhere else, and can feel remote- so if you like peace and quiet but also to explore, rent a car!
I would say that you know yourself best- do you like the hustle and bustle of a touristy town? If so, Tamarindo might be best for you.
Are you ok taking things slower while on vacation? Do you prefer a quieter setting, where you can visit a busier place if you need to? If so, Playa Grande might be the best choice for you.