The Pros and Cons of Living in Tamarindo

6 things I hate about living in Tamarindo, Costa Rica and 7 that I’m going to miss!

As Jake and I round out the last week of our three-month stay in Costa Rica, it feels at times like we’re hurtling towards our departure. Our flights and shuttle to the airport are booked. We’ve stopped buying groceries in bulk, knowing that soon we won’t need them.

Tamarindo isn’t the nicest Costa Rican town. It’s touristy, crowded, and freaking expensive to budget travelers. Our “bargain” apartment 15 minutes out of town, also means a long walk to the store—often in pouring rain. Yet, as much as I’ve complained about living here—there are a lot of things I’m going to miss.

Before you dismiss living in Tamarindo, here’s what I really thought about living here.

6 Things About Living In Tamarindo I’m Tired Of…

1. Walking

It seems like the roads here have two states: ankle-deep mud, or extremely dusty. In the dry season, they spread molasses on the roads to help tamp down parched roads. It rains so much in the wet season that nobody bothers. If it hasn’t rained for at least a day, any car or motorcycle passing by will send up a thick earth. Not fun if you’re on foot!

Worse than inhaling sand is the muddiness. I’ve lost good flip-flops to sticky mud when the thong part of the shoe snaps. It’s also impossible to walk fast on muddy, rocky, and uneven ground without risking a stubbed toe, or a face plant!

2. Eating The Same Foods Over And Over

Costa Rica isn’t exactly known for gourmet food.Restaurants around Tamarindo usually serve either cheap but indistinguishable local food, or overpriced tourist fare. The national dish gallo pinto (beans and rice) is delicious, but I tired of even that after a month.

We’ve found a bigger selection of food at the bigger grocery store outside of town like Automercado and Megasuper. Without a car however, our choices for food are pretty limited, especially when trying to eat vegetarian. We’re lucky if we find tofu, and when we do it’s pretty expensive.

3. Mosquitos

After 3 months, I’ve mastered a long battle with mosquitos through a combination of coconut oil, hot spoons, and very strong bug spray. By mastered, I mean I get 0-2 bites a day instead of 2-3 per hour. Still, I can’t say I’m not relieved for a break from being insect food.

4. Making Sure to Keep Potable Water Around in Case of Outages

Living in Costa Rica has taught us not to take reliable water, electricity, and Internet for granted.

5. How Much It Costs to Live Here

We chose Tamarindo because it’s the closest thing to a big city on the Nicoya Peninsula. It has more developed roads, and is small enough that we don’t need a car to get around. If the infrastructure is a little better in Tamarindo, that’s because it’s extremely touristy. Besides rent, our living expenses in Costa Rica were almost as high as back in New York. At least back home, a $12 bowl of seafood soup means getting more than 8 ounces.

6. Thin-Crust Pizza

I may be from New York, but I will take a doughy deep-dish crust over a thin one any day. Unfortunately, the only pizza places we’ve found in Tamarindo all do thin-crust. I still enjoy it of course—pizza is pizza—but I do miss the more unhealthy robust pies we have back home!

Pros and Cons of Living in Tamarindo

…And 7 Things I’ll Miss

1. Easy Access to Surfing

We know of at least 12 surf spots within walking distance of Tamarindo. We can get to even more when we rent a car, hitch a ride, or book a group shuttle out of town. As long as there’s swell, we always had access to at least one beach that will work for the tide.

2. No Rules

We can’t drink cervezas while walking to the pizzeria back in the U.S. Nor can we continue to drink our beers at the restaurant while waiting to pick up said pizza.

3. Costa Rican Ingenuity

Yesterday, we were walking to the “super” after dark and passed a white pick-up truck on the side of the road with a small crowd gathered around it. It looked like the truck had tried to make a turn and one of its wheels rolled into a ditch.

On our way back, we saw people had chained the front of the truck to a backhoe (the kind you’d find shoveling dirt at any construction site) to tow it out. To us, this is the beauty of Costa Rican living. The whole place isn’t more than a step up from a third-world country—but what they lack in resources, they make up for in creativity!

4. Living In Tamarindo’s Just A Step Up From Living In The Jungle

We’ve seen huge iguanas sunning themselves by main streets clogged with people and cars. Toads and stray cats hang out by our compound’s pool. Oh, and a howler monkey has taken permanent resident outside our kitchen window. Animals are just a part of life in Costa Rica.

5. Pura Vida

Most people we came across, even in passing, greeted us with an “hola” or “pura vida.” The community of non-tourists/permanent residents living in Tamarindo is also pretty small. You start to know people just by seeing them over and over. While I’ve written about the petty theft problem in Costa Rica, most people we’ve met were wonderful. We’ve gotten rides from strangers, and even taken impromptu day trips with people we just met and never felt like we were in danger.

6. Tamarindo is a Perfect Marriage of Surfing and Nightlife

We’ve left the house with our surfboards at 4:30 a.m. to find the town alive with club-goers heading home for the night. We’ve then seen some of the same people heading out to surf when we’re coming back later that afternoon. ‘Surf, drink, live, repeat’ is something of an unspoken mantra for young people living in Tamarindo.

7. The Costa Ricans Know How to Live

I remember one day we were out getting groceries and couldn’t figure out why so many businesses around town were closed on a weekday. We asked a local taxi driver we’re friendly with. He looked around, shrugged and simply said, “Ticos” (Costa Ricans).

Are you living in Tamarindo now, or planning to?

4 thoughts on “The Pros and Cons of Living in Tamarindo

    • Steph says:

      Me too! They’ve always been attracted to me, so I’ve always been terrified to be anywhere tropical but I recently discovered coconut oil is a great way to minimize bites!! Highly recommend for keeping those nasty bloodsuckers at bay!

    • Steph says:

      Hey Elle,

      I’ve never been to Peru but I can attest that Costa Rica is stunning! I just know you’ll have a wonderful time! Let me know if you have any questions or need help planning your trip, I’m happy to share everything I know! I’ve also written some guides on visiting Costa Rica you may find useful in your planning too!


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