Costa Rica: Tamarindo

costa rica - tamarindo.jpgNo one thinks Tamarindo is a good idea anymore. It used to be a quintessential lazy Costa Rican beach town offering mindblowing sunsets and excellent surfing but, like many tiny treasures on an accessible route, it has become over-popular and unpleasant. Mind you, it’s not a total disaster: we’re comparing it to a pretty tasty list of destinations. I’d still go there over, say, anywhere in Florida.

I’ve heard tell of criminal goings-on – prostitutes and drugs – but saw no evidence of either, so if they are in fact there, they’re not intrusive. In contrast, the potholes are just as bad, if not far worse than has been reported. You will not be able to drive above five mph on any of the roads in town and I would never subject anything less than a four-wheel-drive to the bone-shattering experience. That’s saying something since we have since driven the length of the Nicoya Penninsula on side roads which could better be described as footpaths. Tamarindo’s roads are appalling even by Costa Rican standards.

We stayed at Casa Sueca, just outside the center. It’s not an unwalkable distance, but, given the dust and lack of scenery, it’s far enough that you’ll want some kind of vehicle to get around. (You can walk from the hotel to town via the beach, but it’s a hike.) They offer rooms with kitchens; it’s clean, friendly, spacious, just across the road from beach access and run by Americans. This last is not necessarily a plus to me but it did mean free wireless access and efficiency in making last-minute arrangements for seeing nesting turtles and circumventing the three-day ban on liquor that surrounds each national election.*

Why did we go, given it’s bad reputation? Because I am a turtle fanatic, that’s why, and Tamarindo is the only place you can see nesting turtles in December, so back off.

*Elections happen twice a year and the ban is publicized nowhere on any web site or guide book that I came across. If you’re the “lie in a beach chair and sip rum drinks” type, plan ahead. For seventy-two hours – from Friday at midnight to Monday at midnight – no establishment, bodega or restaurant or beach stand, is allowed to serve liquor of any kind. Some hotels and restaurants will give you a bottle of wine or an illicit daiquiri, but don’t count on it. Either book your trip for the following week or arrive in time to stock up on rum and blenders on Friday.

Sidebar: Friends we were meeting stayed at Capitain Suizo just a few doors up the street. Despite it’s ridiculous name, Suizo is a very nice hotel. $200/night nice but they do offer a more comprehensive experience than the largely DIY Casa Sueca where luxuries were limited to a coffeemaker in the room. The hotel faces the ocean, has the requisite cushioned teak beach chairs and drink service by the pool. Their breakfast buffet is excellent – try the fresh, soft brown bread with your fruit and coffee – and accompanied by iguanas and enormous, cheeky, sugar-packet stealing birds.

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