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Tamarindo vs Santa Teresa – Which is the Better Costa Rican Vacation?

Last updated on January 24th, 2023 at 09:16 pm

Tamarindo vs Santa Teresa Costa Rica – Two of Costa Rica’s most popular beach towns in Costa Rica are Tamarindo and Santa Teresa. While Tamarindo is known for its surf and nightlife, Santa Teresa on the other hand is known for its laid-back atmosphere and beautiful beaches. Both places offer a wide range of activities such as surfing, yoga, and hiking.

Read here comparison Nosara vs Santa Teresa, Tamarindo vs Jaco and Nosara vs Tamarindo

Commonly pitted against each other, Tamarindo is more developed and touristy, while Santa Teresa is more secluded and natural. Tamarindo is located in northwest Costa Rica while Santa Teresa, on the other hand, is located on the Nicoya Peninsula (on the southern Pacific coast). Let’s compare the top things to look at when deciding which destination to travel to in Costa Rica so you can choose the better option for you.

Guanacaste Beaches - Beaches in Tamarindo - Santa Teresa vs Tamarindo
Guanacaste Beaches – Beaches in Tamarindo – Santa Teresa vs Tamarindo

Comparing Tamarindo vs Santa Teresa

Why are these beaches often compared when they are very far from each other? Tamarindo and Santa Teresa are often compared because they are both known for their beautiful beaches. Also, both places are known as surf destinations in Costa Rica.

Tamarindo is located on the northwest coast of the Guanacaste province and is known for its lively nightlife, great surf, and a wide range of activities for tourists such as ATV tours, zip lining, and sport fishing. It’s a more developed town with a variety of restaurants, bars, and shops. Tamarindo is also more touristy, and you can find a lot of amenities and services catering to tourists.

Santa Teresa, on the other hand, is located on the Nicoya Peninsula and is known for its laid-back atmosphere and beautiful beaches. Santa Teresa is more of a surfer’s paradise, and it’s a popular spot for yoga, hiking, and horseback riding. Santa Teresa is smaller and less developed than Tamarindo, with fewer restaurants and shops, but it still offers a variety of amenities and services catering to tourists.

Both Tamarindo and Santa Teresa offer beautiful beaches, and opportunities to enjoy the outdoors, but they have different vibes and atmospheres. Tamarindo is more developed, and it’s a good option for those looking for a more active and lively vacation. Santa Teresa is more laid-back, and it’s a good option for those looking for a more relaxed and peaceful vacation.

In summary, both Tamarindo and Santa Teresa are great beach destinations in Costa Rica, however, have different characteristics that may appeal to different types of travelers. Choosing between the two will shape the Costa Rican trip you’ll have. Of course, you can always come back and visit the other one or if you have more than enough time, visit both!

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Booking Your Travel Insurance – Tamarindo vs Santa Teresa

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Beaches and Activities – Tamarindo vs Santa Teresa

Beaches in Tamarindo – Tamarindo vs Santa Teresa

Tamarindo Beach

Tamarindo Costa Rica - Tamarindo vs Santa Teresa, Santa Teresa vs Tamarindo
Tamarindo Beach in Costa Rica

This is the main beach in Tamarindo and is known for its great surf. The beach is also home to many surf schools, where you can take lessons or rent equipment. There are also a number of restaurants and bars along the beach, making it a great spot for a night out.

Langosta Beach

Tamarindo vs Santa Teresa - Which is the Better Costa Rican Vacation?

This beach is located just north of Tamarindo and is known for its calm waters and beautiful sunsets. It is a great spot for swimming and sunbathing. There are also a number of restaurants and bars along the beach.

Playa Conchal

Tamarindo vs Santa Teresa - Which is the Better Costa Rican Vacation?

This beach is located about a 30-minute drive from Tamarindo and is known for its crystal clear waters and beautiful white sand. It is a great spot for snorkeling and sunbathing.

Hotels in Tamarindo

Cala Luna Boutique Hotel & Villas: This hotel is located right on Tamarindo Beach and offers luxurious rooms and villas. It also has a restaurant, bar, and spa on site.

Hotel Capitán Suizo: This hotel is located on Langosta Beach and offers rooms with ocean views. It also has a restaurant, bar, and swimming pool on site.

Hotel Diria: This hotel is located in the center of Tamarindo and offers rooms with private balconies. It also has a restaurant, bar, and swimming pool on site.

Hotel Pangas Beach Club: This hotel is located on the beach and has its own surf school, restaurant, and bar on site.

Other Top Things to Do in Tamarindo – Santa Teresa vs Tamarindo

Surfing

Tamarindo vs Santa Teresa - Which is the Better Costa Rican Vacation?

Tamarindo Beach is the main spot for surfing, where you can find many surf schools and rental shops. Some other popular surf spots nearby include Langosta Beach and Playa Grande.

Wildlife watching

There are several tour operators in Tamarindo that offer guided wildlife tours. Some popular places to see wildlife nearby include the Marino Las Baulas National Park and the Hacienda Guachipelín.

Fishing

You can find fishing charter operators in Tamarindo that will take you out to sea to catch sailfish, marlin, and other big game fish.

Hiking

There are several hiking trails in the area, such as the Rincon de la Vieja National Park, where you can explore the rainforest and see some of the local wildlife.

Sport activities

Tamarindo vs Santa Teresa - Which is the Better Costa Rican Vacation?

ATV tours, horseback riding, and rappelling can be found in the nearby towns such as Santa Cruz, Nicoya and Liberia.

Golf

Tamarindo has an 18-hole golf course, the Hacienda Pinilla Golf Course, which is located a short drive from Tamarindo.

Spa treatments

There are several spas in Tamarindo where you can get a massage or other spa treatment. Some popular options include The Spa at Jardin del Eden and The Spa at Cala Luna.

Shopping

Tamarindo has a variety of shops where you can buy souvenirs and local crafts. You can find everything from clothing and jewelry to art and home decor.

Visit nearby towns

Tamarindo is conveniently located near other popular towns such as Santa Cruz, Nicoya and Liberia, which can be accessed by car or public transportation.

Beaches in Santa Teresa

Santa Teresa Beach - Santa Teresa vs Tamarindo
Santa Teresa Beach

Playa Hermosa

This beach is located just south of Santa Teresa and is known for its great surf. It’s a popular spot for both experienced surfers and beginners. The beach is also known for its beautiful sunsets.

Playa Santa Teresa

Tamarindo vs Santa Teresa - Which is the Better Costa Rican Vacation?

This beach is located in the center of Santa Teresa and is known for its beautiful white sand and crystal-clear waters. It’s a great spot for swimming, sunbathing, and snorkeling.

Playa Carmen

This beach is located just north of Santa Teresa and is known for its beautiful scenery and peaceful atmosphere. It’s a great spot for swimming and sunbathing.

Playa Manzanillo

This beach is located on the southern end of the Nicoya Peninsula and is known for its beautiful scenery and secluded atmosphere. It’s a great spot for swimming and sunbathing.

Playa Conchal

This beach is located about a 30-minute drive from Santa Teresa and is known for its crystal clear waters and beautiful white sand. It’s a great spot for snorkeling and sunbathing.

Playa El Carmen

This beach is located on the north side of Santa Teresa, it’s a great spot for swimming and sunbathing, also offers some of the best surf conditions in the area.

Playa Hermosa Sur

This is a secluded beach, located on the southern end of Hermosa Beach, it’s a great spot for those who want to avoid the crowds.

Playa El Chico

This beach is located on the southern end of the Nicoya Peninsula and is known for its beautiful scenery and secluded atmosphere. It’s a great spot for swimming and sunbathing.

Playa Las Villanas

This beach is located on the southern end of the Nicoya Peninsula and is known for its beautiful scenery and secluded atmosphere. It’s a great spot for swimming and sunbathing.

Playa Hermosa Norte

This is a secluded beach located on the northern end of Hermosa Beach, it’s a great spot for those who want to avoid the crowds.

Other Top Things to Do in Santa Teresa

Tamarindo vs Santa Teresa - Which is the Better Costa Rican Vacation?

Surfing

Santa Teresa is known for its great surf and is home to many surf schools where you can take lessons or rent equipment.

Yoga

The town has several yoga centers where you can practice yoga and meditation, surrounded by nature and the sound of the ocean.

Hiking

There are several hiking trails in the area, where you can explore the rainforest and see some of the local wildlife.

Sport fishing

Santa Teresa is a popular spot for sport fishing, you can take a fishing charter to catch sailfish, marlin, and other big game fish.

ATV tours

Santa Teresa and the Nicoya Peninsula offer a lot of ATV tours to explore the area and see the beautiful surroundings.

Horseback riding

You can take a horseback ride along the beach or into the jungle to see some of the local wildlife.

Zip-lining

The area around Santa Teresa offers several zip-line tours, where you can fly through the jungle canopy and see the beautiful scenery from above.

Spa treatments

Santa Teresa has several spas where you can relax and get a massage or other spa treatments.

Shopping

Santa Teresa has a variety of shops where you can buy souvenirs and local crafts.

Comparing Food and Restaurants – Tamarindo vs Santa Teresa

In Tamarindo, you can find a wide range of international and local cuisine, including Italian, Mexican, and seafood. There are also several bars and nightclubs where you can grab a drink or party at night. There are also several street vendors and food trucks where you can find affordable and delicious street food.

Santa Teresa, on the other hand, has a more limited selection of restaurants, but it still offers a variety of dining options. You can find a mix of international and local cuisine, including Italian, Mexican, and seafood. There are also several bars and nightclubs where you can grab a drink or party at night, but the nightlife is not as lively as in Tamarindo. Santa Teresa also has some street vendors and food trucks where you can find affordable and delicious street food.

Comparing Nightlife – Tamarindo vs Santa Teresa

Tamarindo is known for its lively nightlife, with a variety of bars, nightclubs, and live music venues. There are several bars and nightclubs in the town center where you can dance and party, and there are also several beachfront bars where you can enjoy a drink while watching the sunset. Tamarindo is also known for its nightlife and entertainment, you can find a variety of events such as live music and parties happening throughout the week. Some popular options include The Green Room, Pangas Beach Club, and Monkey Bar.

Santa Teresa, on the other hand, has a more laid-back nightlife scene. There are a few bars and nightclubs in the town center where you can grab a drink and listen to music, but the nightlife is not as lively as in Tamarindo. The nightlife in Santa Teresa is more relaxed, there are fewer options and less variety, but you can still find some good options for a relaxed night out.

Comparing Luxury Travel – Tamarindo vs Santa Teresa

Tamarindo is a more developed town with a wider range of luxury accommodation options and amenities such as high-end resorts, spas, and private villas. The town also offers a variety of luxury activities such as sport fishing, yachting, and private tours. Tamarindo is a good option for luxury travelers looking for a more active and adventurous vacation with a variety of amenities.

Santa Teresa, on the other hand, is a smaller and less developed town with a more laid-back atmosphere. There are also luxury accommodation options such as high-end resorts, spas, and private villas, but the selection may be more limited than in Tamarindo. Santa Teresa offers a more relaxed and peaceful luxury vacation, with a variety of activities such as yoga, horseback riding, and hiking. It’s a good option for luxury travelers looking for a more relaxed and peaceful vacation with a more laid-back atmosphere.

Comparing Budget Travel – Tamarindo vs Santa Teresa

Tamarindo is a more developed town with a wide range of amenities and services catering to tourists. There are several budget-friendly accommodation options such as hostels, and a variety of restaurants and bars where you can find affordable meals. Tamarindo also offers a wide range of activities such as surfing, ATV tours, and zip-lining, which can be a good option for backpackers looking for an active and adventurous vacation.

Santa Teresa, on the other hand, is a smaller and less developed town with fewer amenities and services. There are fewer budget-friendly accommodation options such as hostels, and fewer restaurants and bars where you can find affordable meals. Santa Teresa is more laid-back and relaxing, and it’s a good option for backpackers looking for a more relaxed and peaceful vacation. Santa Teresa is known for its great surf and yoga options and also offers a variety of activities such as hiking and horseback riding.

Comparing Cost of Travel – Tamarindo vs Santa Teresa

The expenses for a week in Tamarindo and Santa Teresa can vary depending on your travel style and the specific activities you plan to do. However, on average, a week-long trip to Tamarindo or Santa Teresa for one person can cost around $1,500 to $2,500 USD, depending on the level of accommodation, activities, and meals.

Here’s a breakdown of some of the expenses you might incur during your trip:

Accommodation: Expect to pay anywhere from $25 to $200 per night for accommodation in Tamarindo or Santa Teresa, depending on whether you choose to stay in a budget hostel or a luxury hotel.

Food: The cost of food in Tamarindo or Santa Teresa can vary depending on where you choose to eat. You can find meals for as little as $5 to $15, but you can also find more expensive options.

Activities: The cost of activities in Tamarindo or Santa Teresa can vary, but on average you can expect to pay around $50 to $100 for a full-day tour, or $20 to $50 for a half-day tour.

Transportation: Tamarindo and Santa Teresa are easily accessible by car or public transportation, you can find bus rides for around $5 to $10. Taxis are also available, but they can be more expensive.

Surfing: The cost of surfing in Tamarindo or Santa Teresa can vary depending on whether you choose to take a lesson or rent equipment. Expect to pay around $50 to $100 for a lesson, or $20 to $50 for equipment rental.

Miscellaneous expenses: You should budget for additional expenses such as souvenirs, tips, and any other personal expenses you may have.

Best to Visit – Weather in Tamarindo and Santa Teresa

Tamarindo and Santa Teresa both have tropical climates with similar weather patterns throughout the year.

Both Tamarindo and Santa Teresa have a dry season (from December to April) and a rainy season (from May to November). During the dry season, the weather is generally sunny and dry, with less rain and fewer clouds. This is the peak tourist season, and it’s the best time to visit if you want to enjoy the beaches and outdoor activities.

During the rainy season, the weather is more cloudy, and there is more rain. This is the low tourist season, and it’s the best time to visit if you want to enjoy a more relaxed and less crowded vacation. However, it’s worth noting that the rainy season in Tamarindo and Santa Teresa is not as heavy as in other parts of the country and rain usually comes in short showers.

Currency and ATMs – Tamarindo vs Santa Teresa

The currency of Costa Rica is called Costa Rican colón and as of now, $1 USD is worth 620 CRC Costa Rican colón. Do not exchange your currency at the airport because you’ll get less than what you’ll get with the city’s exchange.

If you are bringing USD you can use them while traveling around Costa Rica, so no need to exchange them.

Bank or debit cards in an ATM are the recommended way to access your funds while traveling in Costa Rica. Know real-time currency exchange here, USD to CRC.

Final Thoughts – Tamarindo vs Santa Teresa, Which is the Better Costa Rican vacation for you?

While Tamarindo is an incredible surfing beach town in Costa Rica, Santa Teresa offers a more laid-back beach vacation. For us we love Santa Teresa better, however, Tamarindo definitely has its own charm. Tamarindo is the better choice if you want a more vibrant nightlife after your water activities during the day. It’s definitely more urban and has lots of tourism, parties, and restaurants. While you can get all these in Santa Teresa as well, Santa Teresa is more laid back and with lesser restaurants and lesser crowds for nightlife.

Let us know which one you choose. Either way, you’ll have an incredible time. Let us know if you have questions about Costa Rica and til our next guide!

Ruben Arribas is the co-founder of Gamintraveler and a Spanish traveler who has traveled to more than 100 countries around the world. He is now a full-time digital nomad.