Here are some things I wanted to share from my recent early May trip to Tamarindo. I will preface this by saying that I am a youthful-looking, but experienced solo male traveler that does not get rattled easily.
- As a vegetarian, this is an easy town to dine in. Falafel Bar and Pura Vegan were two of my favorites.
- The beach is great, especially for surfing and especially if you're a beginner surfer. It's cheap and easy to rent a surfboard. The sunsets, when not obstructed by clouds, are some of the best I've ever seen anywhere.
- I had some great experiences with locals, some who went out of their way to be friendly.
- The hotel where I stayed, In the Shade, just a block of the main drag, was modern, comfortable and had helpful owners (from Europe).
- The town (not the beach or the beach businesses), particularly along Avenue Central, but also Calle Central, can be quite sketchy at night. There are lots of pirate cab drivers (some who double as drug dealers) and lots of men standing around idly or selling drugs. I was offered cocaine on several occasions, to the point I didn't want to walk around there anymore.
- There were ATM issues aplenty in town. At one point, two ATMS on Avenue Central would dispense no more than $20USD in total and no less that $20,000 sized CRC bills, which can be a challenge to exchange for services at local businesses when you're buying low-price items. Also, the ATM issues seemed to cause somewhat of a panic, as people were lining up to pull money out and it could take up to a 30 minute wait.
Generally speaking, I would recommend Tamarindo during the day, strictly for beach activities, but there are so many better and safer-feeling places in Guanacaste to base yourself for a vacation.