People ask us often, to explain the difference between Tamarindo and Playa Grande? Everyone has a choice, so we should they choose one over the other? The final decision is ultimately yours and as individual as you are.
Here is a little summary of Tamarindo and Playa Grande:
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. Sharky’s is a top spot for sports-fans and a good time with great bar food.
Tamarindo has a lot of restaurants but only a handful of outstanding ones. At the moment, Nordico, Seasons by Shlomy and Pangas are topping the charts. Pura Vegan, Noguis and Patagonia are great too. We also love Bamboo Sushi for their ambiance and delicious sushi of course!
Activities are more readily accessible in Tamarindo and it is easier to join in on group activities as there are more people.
Like Playa Grande, Tamarindo also has good surfing but the waves at Tamarindo’s best spots tend to be smaller in size than Playa Grande’s main peak. Down-side to Tamarindo is that the learning to surf area is small and crowded with surf schools.
Playa Grande is more peaceful.
Uncrowded is the keyword for Playa Grande. There are a couple of commercial stores (our surf shop and another), a collection of small boutique hotels, and a lovely, uncrowded 4km stretch of beach. The beach of Playa Grande 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 and highly recommended. Many others have no more than 6-8 rooms. Hotel Bula Bula and La Marejada Hotel are also great choices.
The estuary separates Playa Grande from Tamarindo and vice versa.
Playa Grande has 9 or 10 restaurants, and all are really good! Upstairs at the RipJack, La Marejada, Bula Bula, El Point, Cafe Mar Azul, Cantarana, Seven BBQ, Cafe del Pueblo, El Huerto Pizzeria, and Kike’s Place are the current ones.
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.
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 tourist 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.
One of the most frequently asked questions we receive, is what to take on your trip to Costa Rica?
While we aren’t experts in all areas of Costa Rica, we sure can suggest some must-haves for your trip to Playa Grande and other beachy towns.
If you have ideas you think we should add to the list, feel free to email us, we would love to hear from you!
Below is your packing list:
Sunscreen- a water-resistant type- we stock SunBum and HeadHunter which are great!
Beach pants (for sunset watching, mosquito-free)
Long sleeved lightweight shirt (as above)
Insect repellant (especially May through to end November)
US dollars in smaller denominations of up to $50’s (don’t exchange your cash back home, the exchange rate will be awful!)
Sarong which can double as a beach blanket
A pair of Tevas/ Keens/ sneakers you can get wet or dirty (for the adventure day, horseback riding, white water tubing and other super fun adventurous activities!)
If you plan on scuba-diving, bring your PADI card.
Items you no longer need at home and wish to donate to a good cause- used sneakers, clothing, always are appreciated at CEPIA, a fantastic local charity. Also, any spare space you might have for Pack for a Purpose items would be greatly appreciated and can be left at Frijoles Locos to be taken to La Paz Community School.
Toiletries (Toothpaste is more pricey here, razors for shaving too. Tampons aren’t all that easy to get here and variety is limited… plus the price is super high. Check out the Diva Cup for a very travel-friendly alternative that is also environmentally friendly!).
What not to bring?
In many cases, this is even more important of a list.
Leave at home the following unnecessary items, or note the caveats:
Valuables- excessive jewelry or jewelry of high sentimental value. We are low-key here at the beaches, and its not worth losing to the ocean or being the victim of petty theft.
Any computer equipment that isn’t fully backed up to a hard drive that you leave at home.
Any expensive video/ camera equipment unless you have it fully insured (prepare in advance, and make sure you have all the requirements from the insurance company, in case it gets stolen).
Stilettos, fancy shoes, fancy clothes. The most you will need is a pretty beach dress or a polo shirt for men… it’s all about casual here!
Excessive make-up – it’s so hot, and most restaurants don’t have AC so it will slide off anyway 😉
Many travelers find great joy in giving back to the communities they visit. Creating meaningful travel is easy when you visit Playa Grande and surrounds on your next trip to Costa Rica!
How can I participate in a meaningful way?
Frijoles Locos Surf Shop is proud to support La Paz Community School. Their scholarship program gives today’s youth all possible chances for a bright future. In generations to come, local families will have more opportunity to create their own businesses and become leaders within the community. At the same time, an increased awareness of our environment and importance of sustainability is encouraged.
La Paz Community School is a non-profit organization that was founded in 2007 in order to address fundamental socioeconomic and cultural gaps prevalent in this region. Providing a meaningful, thoroughly outside the box education to underpriveleged youth paves the way to change. The difference this school makes to the community at an individual, community, and nationwide level is palpable.
Fill empty space in your luggage!
The scholarship program at La Paz Community School enables students who would never have been afforded the chance to receive such a quality education, to do so. While donations to the scholarship fund help cover costs of education, there are so many other needs to be met, which is where you can really help (Pack for a Purpose).
Pack for a Purpose encourages travelers to fill space and empty pounds in their luggage with much needed supplies such as crayons, pens, pencils, rulers, compasses, frisbees, musical instruments and more. Check on the Pack for a Purpose site to see what is in most demand at the time of travel.
Meaningful travel starts with action from you! Frijoles Locos supports CEPIA, founded by the wonderful, talented and visionary Laeticia DeWeer. CEPIA is an organization that helps improve the quality of life of youth and families in the local area, by supporting and training to assist the poor in job placement, teaching new skills, attending to physical and mental health of those in need, and promoting cultural development.
Your time and effort is appreciated- contact CEPIA to find out ways to can help.
Thank you for your time and effort in giving back to the community you are visiting. In this way, you are truly helping to change the future of these wonderful children and consequently, their own families.
One of the best ways to maximize your vacation and minimize stress while on vacation is to plan before you arrive. At Frijoles Locos Surf Shop we are so much more than your simple retail store. Utilize our experience and years of providing quality concierge assistance, tour planning and activities guidance- contact us well ahead of your Costa Rica vacation and you won’t be disappointed.
Visiting Costa Rica for your vacation will be one of the most memorable vacations of your lifetime. Whether you are a surf enthusiast, adrenalin junkie, family with kids or couple planning a romantic vacation, Costa Rica has something for everyone.
Surf Lesson fun in Playa Grande Costa Rica
Starting with surf lessons in Costa Rica- you have many options for places to visit. We are most experienced and knowledgable on Playa Grande for surf lessons. Surf lessons in Playa Grande mean little to no crowds, plenty of space to find a patch of sandy beach to practice catching waves without the danger of running into someone else who is learning. Our Playa Grande surf lessons are conducted on the south end of Playa Grande where there is less people and smaller waves.
Sunset sailing and snorkeling on a catamaran or private sailboat is probably one of the most relaxing ways to experience a Costa Rican sunset. Years of working with different providers and listening to comments of our valued customers on what works and what doesn’t, means that we are confident in the providers we recommend. We trust them to do the very best by our customer. Whether you are staying in Playa Grande, Tamarindo, Flamingo, Playa Danta, Potrero, or Reserva Conchal we have an excellent option for you. Guests staying at the Four Seasons Papagayo can rest assured they aren’t paying the notorious and inflated “Four Seasons” special rate if you book with us.
Adventure and adrenalin junkies will enjoy a full day of activities including zip-lining, white water rafting in inner tubes, mud baths and hot springs, horseback riding along with lunch for a very competitive rate- especially if you rent a car and drive yourselves. There are better options for families, or adults, so do some advance planning with Frijoles Locos and ask us which destinations are better for your group.
We look forward to helping you create your next Costa Rica vacation!