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 tiny shopping center at the entrance to town with an upscale AutoMercado supermarket and a Scotiabank branch and ATM. On the downside, still-unpaved roads off the main drag kick up dust and mud alternately, depending on the season. Strip malls and high-rise condominiums clutter the rest of the main street and obscure views of the still-magnificent beach.
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, among them diving, sportfishing, wildlife watching, and canopy tours. You can also play 18 rounds at the nearby Hacienda Pinilla golf course, or simply stroll the beach and sunbathe. Some low-life elements are making security an issue, but upscale hotels and inns have their own security and gated parking. Once you're on the beach, almost all the negatives disappear (just keep your eyes on your belongings).