“Buenas!” “Hola!” “Pura Vida!” Common greetings among friends and strangers alike. Despite a surge of growth, Tamarindo still offers that “place where everybody knows your name, ” small-town vibe.
Historically this Pacific coastal town nestled along the Nicoya Peninsula of Costa Rica’s Guanacaste region, just two-and-a-half hours south of the Nicaraguan border, was a quiet fishing town. A few boats in the bay and not much else other than lush flora and native wildlife.
Not until the 1970s did some curious surfers stumble upon this otherwise undiscovered beach town and recognize the incredible surf break that exists just offshore. Shortly after, in 1974, Coopeguanacaste (the electric cooperative servicing the Nicoya Peninsula) brought electricity to Tamarindo–while the arrival of landline phones was still far ahead, not arriving until 1996.
Pun intended, Tamarindo caught its big break when its once secret surf breaks, scenic beaches, and pura vida lifestyle starred in the 1994 surf movie Endless Summer II. The film has been renowned since its release for attracting a cult-like following of surfing nomads and nature lovers to seek the idyllic spots that had been scouted out by the filmmakers. Sure enough, just a few years following the film’s release, Tamarindo began to evolve into a bustling beach hub.
With just over two miles of golden sand, the beach stretches from one end at the mouth of the Tamarindo estuary to the other, where a point formed from volcanic rock separates Tamarindo from its neighboring Playa Langosta. The palm tree-lined beach is postcard quality, with its pristine blue and turquoise waters. Drawing sunbathers, yogis, beach volleyball, soccer players, and surfers of all skill levels; there is plenty to do for those seeking an active lifestyle.
Beyond the palms, separating the beach from the town, the main road is lined by beachfront restaurants, bars, hotels, yoga studios, tourist shops, and probably the most prevalent: surf shops.
Aside from the world-renowned surf and paradise-like atmosphere, Tamarindo proved to be no one-hit wonder when it garnered international attention once again in 2004 for being located within one of the world’s five “Blue Zones”—areas where people regularly reach the age of 100, and in good health.
Of course, this comes as no surprise. The Nicoyan water boasts the highest calcium content in the country, lowering rates of heart disease and strengthening bones. Also, the diet in the region is based on staples including rice, beans, and maize. Very few processed foods are consumed, fruits high in antioxidants are highly accessible, and people tend to consume fewer calories overall.
With one of the warmest and driest climates in the country, Tamarindo and the surrounding region experiences direct sunlight nearly every single day of the year. Temperatures are consistent year-round, fluctuating normally between 80 F and 95 F. Even during the “rainy” season, lasting approximately from May to October, a day without sunshine is rare.
All that said, it’s easy to understand how this town has become one of Costa Rica’s most popular beach towns; popular among Ticos (a native Costa Rican), but also a large expat community and tourists from around the world. With a growth in popularity has come a growth in amenities and infrastructure.
Located just over an hour from Daniel Oduber Quirós International Airport in Liberia, accessible via a paved road the whole way, Tamarindo is about as convenient as it gets for a beach town that still allows you to “get away from it all.” And if you need to head to the nation’s capital of San José, you can drive along a paved highway and be there in about five hours. Scheduled daily bus service to and from San José and other larger cities is available and reliable too.
You’ll find three banks in town, including Banco de Costa Rica and Banco Nacional (the country’s two largest chains). There’s a local hardware store for basic needs and a couple of shops offering services like printing, faxing, scanning, and copies.
So the question is, what if there were a place where you could enjoy the tranquility of the beach, yet the excitement of a busy little town? A place where both relaxed retirees or ambitious digital nomads can thrive. A place with just enough modern-day amenities to suit your everyday needs, but not so developed to hinder its slightly bohemian, off the beaten path charm. This place exists, in Tamarindo, and could be the perfect spot for someone ready to reinvent life as they know it with a daily dose of sun, sand, and a tropical ocean breeze.
Retire in Tamarindo
Tamarindo, Costa Rica offers a little something for everyone interested in an affordable, peaceful, and simple beachside retirement.
It’s a town where everyone knows your name, but also offers plenty of places and spaces to enjoy time by yourself. A beach community offering modern amenities and day-to-day necessities, but also a slower pace and a bit of an old fashioned sentiment. A hot and dry climate offering sunshine nearly every day of the year, and welcomed tropical showers to bring out pops of color among the local flora. A haven for outdoor adventure seekers and nature lovers.
In comparison with many of the popular North American coastal retirement destinations, one of the most desirable attributes of Tamarindo is the affordable tropical setting. It is possible for a couple to live in Tamarindo on a monthly budget of $2,000, and unique from many other Central American destinations, Tamarindo also offers luxury living, should that be what you’re looking for. Aside from housing, the two most costly budget items will be electricity and imported goods.
Sometimes the scariest part of retiring abroad is the thought of being far from family and friends, but amidst all the things that make Tamarindo a postcard-perfect destination, what many expats enjoy most is the instant sense of community they experience here. With a mix of locals, retirees, digital nomads, and surfers from around the world, people tend to be friendly and welcoming, and newcomers don’t stay “new” for long. In addition to the ease and accessibility of air travel, this helps calm some of the common nerves before the big move.
For years now, Tamarindo has remained one of the most popular retirement destinations for North Americans not only in Costa Rica, but in all of Central America, and hopefully this overview provides a glimpse into the many reasons why.
Lifestyle in Tamarindo
Modern Nicoyans have strong roots to the indigenous Chorotega, whose traditions have been hailed for enabling people to remain relatively stress free. Alas, the “pura vidalifestyle” people rave about after having been to Tamarindo.
For many, daily sightings of howler monkeys and a variety of lizards never gets old. Between the monkeys and the plethora of tropical birds found here, chances are you’ll be waking to the tune of a different type of alarm clock.
Being able to get pretty much anywhere in town within 10 to 15 minutes on foot is a major draw for the roughly 1,000 year-round residents (a population that swells to 5,000 or so during peak times for tourists and part-time residents). If you need to take a taxi for any reason, it will usually cost between $2 and $4 and public bus fare to get you to surrounding cities are low. For example, to go to Santa Cruz (the local municipality center) would be $1.30, and a bus ride to Liberia will only cost $2.50.
While the nearest hospital is in Liberia, in town you do have access to doctors through local clinics as well as multiple pharmacies. There are five accessible grocery stores as well as the weekly feria (farmers’ market) on Saturdays. At the feria you can purchase locally grown produce, and other local products like herbs and spices, cheeses, fresh fish, and eggs for a fraction of the cost you’d normally pay.
Whether you want to learn to surf, log some hiking mileage, catch your own dinner out at sea, lounge seaside in a hammock, or put a dent in your reading list, each day can be as action packed or relaxed as you choose and is guaranteed to come to a close with an extraordinary Pacific coast sunset.
Real Estate in Tamarindo
If you’re interested in buying real estate here, it’s possible to buy a nice two-bedroom condo or home in Tamarindo for under $200,000. Long term rentals with updated kitchens and bathrooms, in a location with friendly walkability, usually run between $800 and $1,000 per month. However, there are always better deals to be found, usually through word of mouth.
Here are some sample properties on the market in Tamarindo:
A two-bedroom, two-bathroom condo in a gated complex with 24-hour security in the heart of Tamarindo, within walking distance to everything in town, and about three blocks to the beach. Just steps from the pool, this condo offers a unique combination of Central American charm with elements like custom wooden door frames and a staircase, but also modern must-haves such as granite counter tops. Price: $135,000.
If a stand-alone home with outdoor space is on your wish list, you can buy a 1,000 square foot, two-bedroom, two-bathroom home; outfitted with a lushly landscaped private terrace and yard, abounding with indigenous tropical flora, for $299,000. The best part? This home is just a few steps from Tamarindo beach, and less than a mile to the center of town. You’d be hard pressed to find a comparable property this close to the beach in Florida’s most popular beach towns for less than $1 million.
“Living large and luxury.” If this sounds like the ideal tagline for your tropical dream home, you can find a three-bedroom, four-bathroom, custom built home, complete with an infinity pool and an ocean view. Watch the sun rise and set over the Pacific ocean from your Jacuzzi tub, or enjoy spotting tropical birds and howler monkeys in your private, tropical gardens. Fully furnished and outfitted with the finest decor, finishes, fixtures, and latest modern amenities, this oasis is a walkable distance both to town and the beach, and is listed at $489,000.
The single most important piece of advice for scouting real estate in Tamarindo is to link up with a reputable and experienced realtor. Because of the real estate demand here, there are countless agents you could work with, but not all will deliver the same caliber of knowledge as those who have worked in the market for many years and know it inside and out. Network, ask for referrals, and consult as many previous clients as possible to properly vet a realtor’s reputation and capabilities.
You should visit Tamarindo, rent for a while, and scout properties in person. Real estate websites and listings are not regulated the same way they are in North America, and sometimes it can be the case that a property is much different than what you thought you were looking at online. It is not recommended to purchase property sight unseen.
Cost of Living in Tamarindo
While many expats will find a lower cost of living in Tamarindo than in many coastal North American towns, it’s important to have realistic expectations and know that with an influx of both North American and European expats in recent years, the cost of living has risen here. While the town is full of Central American charm, you will still have access to plenty of modern amenities including high-speed internet, upscale restaurants, and luxury condos.
A monthly budget in Tamarindo will be highly variable depending on the sort of lifestyle you lead. It’s possible to keep things simple and live frugally, but if you plan to have a car and maintain a lifestyle that includes luxuries like frequent meals out and imported goods, a monthly budget could easily climb to between $2,000 and $3,000.
As with most places in the world, the closer you want to live to the beach and to town, the more you’re likely to pay for housing. These locations, however, are often highly sought after, because in general many people enjoy the ability to live in Tamarindo without a car. Going further out of town for more affordable housing often means having to buy some type of vehicle.
Here is a sample monthly budget for a couple in Tamarindo. Included is the cost of a vehicle, although most expats find they don’t need one.
|Housing (rental of a luxury two-bedroom, furnished apartment)||$1,000|
|Utilities (including water/electricity, internet, and bi-weekly maid service)||$300|
|Cell Phone (minutes and data for two people)||$25|
|Groceries (including some imported goods and alcohol, also based on buying all produce and fish from local market)||$400|
|Maintenance and fuel for one car||$140|
|Misc. (personal items, etc.)||$80|
|Entertainment (two people dining out four times a month with drinks, dessert, and tips)||$200|
|Caja (social security) healthcare – for legal residents this cost is 7%-11% of the applicant’s monthly income, which can also cover a spouse or dependent.||Variable|
|Monthly total||$2,145 + Caja variant if a resident.|
|Yearly total||$25,740 + Caja variant|