Tamarindo: Then and Now

About eight and a half years ago I had the privilege of taking a 15-day vacation to Costa Rica. Four of the fifteen days were spent in Tamarindo.

Just yesterday, I crossed the border from Nicaragua into Costa Rica. Since Tamarindo is just a few hours from the frontier, I thought I’d pop in for a compare and contrast session: Tamarindo then, and now.

Back in ’02 I remember one little dirt strip that ran parallel to the beach, and some undeveloped hills nestled behind. There were very few accommodations in those hills, including a cozy, very affordable place where I stayed.

When the bus driver announced the stop for Tamarindo, I exited, looked up and down the road, but had no recollection of anything. I was in a built-up area of countless kitschy and contemporary surf shops, hotels, bars, restaurants and souvenir stores, none of which had that rustic, developing-world feel of yesteryear.

After checking into a hostel, I quickly went for a walk, trying to find that little strip, beach, and hills from yesteryear. I found the spot, remembering one surf-shop/bar/hostel that remains. The name is the same, but it has evolved perhaps fifty-fold. It no longer appears as something small, which stands out on its own.  It’s now part of a built-up beach resort in a developed land. I remembered being in that little establishment, which is now huge, modern, perfectly laid out, and ten times as expensive, like everything else in Tamarindo.

I walked in and behind. The same beach is still there, which enabled me to jog some more memories.

I walked along the beach and then retreated back to the road and up into the hills behind. A whole development has been created in those hills. I saw nice hotels, modern apartments and dream homes. I noticed the building that’s still pushing the hilly forest back.

I wasn’t able to locate the idyllic little place that I’d stayed in so long ago.

Tamarindo has world-class surfing.  For a surfer, this destination is still a paradise, although a more extravagant one. The beach and little surf-shop, bar, and hostel is all that remains from Tamarindo’s earlier days.

Over eight years have now passed since my previous visit. The evolution I see makes me realize that a hefty fraction of my life has passed since the prior visit.


6 responses to this post.

  1. There are a ton of pristine beaches down here. I actually could have taken a dip while I was taking those pics but didn’t.
    My purpose for going was to compare and contrast it to the other time I went there. The metamorphosis is unreal.


  2. To me, the ocean always trumps the inland no matter what.
    Did you go swimming?


  3. Posted by Simon Bravo on March 1, 2011 at 21:01

    Wow! I knew it was destined to happen to Tamarindo.


    • SIMÓN: I forgot to write that they even have an airport there now. I’ve been told that the whole pacific coast is similar. It’s not cheap either. Many things are even more expensive than in the U.S. Costa Rica is considered a middle income country; It’s no where near as affordable as it used to be.


  4. Posted by Al on March 1, 2011 at 15:35

    That beach looks awesome, I hope you had a chance to go for a swim. It’s nice to know that things are moving forward in Costa Rica. Perhaps things are not as idyllic as they used to be from an earth drifter’s point of view, but that is probably a reflection of a better standard of living of the locals.


    • AL: Tamarindo is a playground for North Americans who are willing to spend as they would for a vacation in the states. It’s turned into a full-blown resort town, growing to potentially rival a place such as Cancun or Acapulco. It’s not the real Costa Rica as there is more English spoken there than Spanish. Many expats live there and have driven the prices up. I don’t think that the locals are benefiting all that much. Yes it’s a beautiful place and you are right, these resorts are not for drifters but for vacationers.


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