North Pacific Coast: Places to Explore

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Tamarindo

Once a funky beach town full of spacey surfers and local fishermen, Tamarindo is now a pricey, hyped-up hive of commercial development and real estate speculation, happily accompanied by a dizzying variety of shops, bars, and hotels, and probably the best selection of restaurants of any beach town on the Pacific coast. There's a tony shopping center at the entrance to town with an upscale AutoMercado supermarket and a Scotiabank branch and ATM. On the down side, still-unpaved roads kick up dust and mud alternately, depending on the season; and strip malls and high-rise condominiums clutter the rest of the main street and obscure views of the still-magnificent beach. Some low-life elements are also making security an issue. But once you're on the beach, almost all the negatives disappear (just keep your eyes on your belongings). Wide and flat, the sand is packed hard enough for easy walking and jogging. How good it is for swimming and surfing, however, is questionable, since the town has twice lost its Blue Flag clean-beach status (because of overdevelopment and the total absence of water treatment). The water quality is especially poor during the rainy months, when you'll want to do your swimming and surfing at nearby Playa Langosta, or Playa Grande. Strong currents at the north end of the beach get a lot of swimmers into trouble, especially when they try to cross the estuary without a surfboard.

Surfing is the main attraction here, and there's a young crowd that parties hard after a day riding the waves. Tamarindo serves as a popular base for surfing at the nearby Playas Grande, Langosta, Avellanas, and Negra. There are plenty of outdoor options in addition to surfing, though, among them diving, sportfishing, wildlife watching, and canopy tours. You can play 18 rounds at the nearby Hacienda Pinilla golf course, or simply stroll the beach and sunbathe.

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