A Foodie's Guide To Tamarindo

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Tamarindo A Beach Town With Laid Back Vibes And A Serious Foodie Scene

Endless sunshine, long white shores with some rocky patches, sunsets that will sweep you off your feet. Foreigners and locals alike make the essence of the cool laid back beach town of Tamarindo. Tamarindo’s perennial status as Costa Rica’s top surf destination draws a fascinating blend of local and foreign cultures. There is no denying that this pint-size cosmopolitan beach town offers so much. You’ll expect to find endless sunbathing, great eateries, and always a wave to catch somewhere.

TAMARINDO

Although the town is not as crowded as other Pacific Coast beaches like Jaco, tourists and expats make their presence abundantly known. You’ll find more signs in English than in Spanish, and more international restaurants than sodas. Don’t let this discourage you from visiting. This eclectic blend of tico and foreign vibes is what makes Tamarindo a cool place.

With its foreign community, you’ll expect to find down right good food and an amazing farmer’s market. There are no amazing deals in Tamarindo, though, it is a great place to splurge on inventive fusion eateries. This slice of paradise almost felt like home.

There are its imperfections, and plenty of them, which make it that much more authentic and likable. It's humble at its core. Tamarindo's rugged beauty is a special place that even it's luster hasn't worn off with the onslaught of tourists. It is no wonder that this beach town remains a gem.

Travel Guide: Tamarindo
Travel Guide: Tamarindo
Travel Guide: Tamarindo
Travel Guide: Tamarindo
Travel Guide: Tamarindo
Travel Guide: Tamarindo
Travel Guide: Tamarindo
Travel Guide: Tamarindo

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Tamarindo Shortlist

Start with the Tamarindo Feria (Farmer’s Market) on Saturday morning, from 8am - 1pm, for fresh, organic veggies and fruits, superfoods, gluten-free baked goods, natural soaps, oils and lotions, and a fun hippie beach vibe. Fresh fish, caught in the waters of Costa Rica’s Pacific Ocean, is available at good prices. Try a cup of a cool ceviche with hot sauce from the fish guy. A walk through this farmers market, you’ll quickly see that this market is just like any other American farmers market - minimal produce vendors and lots of handcrafted, artisan items, and food. It reminds me a lot of home. A lot like the Ferry Building Farmers Market in San Francisco. One can find baked goods including breads, sweets and everything in between at a number of tables throughout the market. One them even offers gluten-free baked goods.

As you walk through town, you’ll come across plenty of restaurants. As a gluten intolerant traveller, Tamarindo offered a variety of places that offered naturally gluten-free options, as well as gluten-free specific places. Grab a bite to eat or stock up on artesian fare or Kombucha at La Bodega. I guarantee you’ll have the best the best and freshest organic sandwiches and salads here.

Grab a cup of coffee at Tico Cafe, which also serves up some delicious pastries and bites. They ever offer gluten-free options. Sprout for fresh, organic salads and smoothies infused in the most delicious of combinations.

Cafe Princessa for a cappuccino and cinnamon roll. Nogui’s for sunset, ceviche and pie. Green Papaya for a fresh Green Papaya Salad or an Ahi Tuna Salad. Also try the Coco Loco desert. It’s amazing. Patagonia Argentinian Grill & Restaurant for Camarones a la Provenzal, Ensalada del Camp and a Skirt Steak washed down with a Malbec or Sangria. If you aren’t a meat eater, don’t worry the offer a few vegetarian dishes and great salads. Or head down to their sister restaurant, Patagonia del Mar for fresh seafood dishes and a notable wine list. The Seafood Skillet is darn good. Bambo for great sushi. Which is owned by the same folks over at Patagonia and Patagonia Del Mar. Pangas for a beautiful sunset dinner. Sprout for fresh, delicious salad or sandwich, and made to order smoothies. It's a little out of town, but it is worth the trek. Grab a brew and enjoy the beach at Witch’s Rock. Shrimp Hole for simple yet amazing shrimp and rice dishes. Falafel Bar for kabobs with a few Mediterranean sides.LongBoards BBQ for smoked wings. Pizzeria La Baula for thin crust pizza. Seasons by Shlomy for one of the best meals you’ll have in Tamarindo. Langosta Beach Club for great ambiance and music along the beach. Langosta is a bit pricey for Costa Rica standards but comparable to a typical big-city restaurant in the States. El Chilito for a Chipotle style dining experience and the only good Mexican restaurant. All other taco spots are a disappointment. Wild Panda for drinks. Cafe Santa Rita for smoothies and coffee. LIVE Sushi for great sushi.

Travel Guide: Tamarindo
Travel Guide: Tamarindo
Travel Guide: Tamarindo
Travel Guide: Tamarindo
Travel Guide: Tamarindo
Travel Guide: Tamarindo
Travel Guide: Tamarindo

If you're on the hunt for authentic Costa Rican cuisine, try Doña Rosa along the main road. Doña Rosa has been serving the most traditional Costa Rican grub out of the back of her station wagon on the streets of Tamarindo for ten years. Doña Rosa and her daughter make the food every morning in Cartegena, about a half hour drive from Tamarindo. She serves the typical casado, a platter with arroz con pollo (chicken and rice), black beans, fried plantains, and other traditional fare for only 2,000 colones, or $2 USD. This is by far the most food we’ve been served in Tamarindo for the least amount of money. Still looking for local flavor? Head to FT’s Tamarindo Restaurant for simple local food. Soda El Buen Comer for delicious casado and watermelon drink.

Along the beach, you’ll see a variety of different types of vendors selling things like empanadas, churros, soft, delicate cookies called alfajores, beer, soda, water, amongst other things. The Juice Box is located on the beach closest to the estuary by Witches Rock. The hipster-cool stand carries fresh juices like coconut water, carrot juice, and watermelon juice. The Mango Guy sells fresh green mango on a cup, what you can season with lemon, salt, pepper or hot sauce. The Ceviche Guy sells a mean ceviche along the beach.

Travel Guide: Tamarindo
Travel Guide: Tamarindo
Travel Guide: Tamarindo
Travel Guide: Tamarindo
Travel Guide: Tamarindo

Places like Sno Shack, Mango Verde Smoothie Shop, and Mandarina for fresh fruit batidos (smoothies) that are made to order. The Sno Shack, in particular, makes a really good green smoothie that includes kale, spinach, basil and pineapple. Los Angeles style parmesan hard shell tacos from Eat My Taco. Down the road from Witches Rock is a lady that sells kebobs that she bbq’s fresh. Take you pick between beef or chicken. Keep an eye out the Pipa Guy selling pipa fira (cold coconut water). Walking the Tamarindo streets every day with his blue cooler filled with coconuts, the Pipa Guy attracts customers with his megaphonic voice that traverses the entire town. If you’ve never drunk the water straight from a fresh coconut, then you are in for a pleasantly delicious surprise.

Addy's Famous Cuban Subs for a Cuba Libre after a night out. Stop at the open food court area across from Plaza Conchal and great a smoothie at Pura Vida Tropical Juice Bar; Asian Fusion Bistro for sushi; La Princesa Cafe for coffee or a David’s Chai. If you have a sweet tooth, try the cheesecake. There are other places with in this small food court worth checking out. Just a few store fronts over, next to Mandarina’s is Jazz's Tamarindo for crepes.

Old West Meets Costa Rica at Black Stallion Surf Cafe & Saloon
Old West Meets Costa Rica at Black Stallion Surf Cafe & Saloon
IMG_6Old West Meets Costa Rica at Black Stallion Surf Cafe & Saloon293

Things To Do

The Black Stallion Surf Cafe and Saloon is where the Wild West meets Costa Rica. This eco-park is a short 10-minute drive outside of Tamarindo. Ziplining, horseback riding and a Costa Rican BBQ is what you'll experience here. Marlin Del Rey for a fun afternoon of boozing, snorkeling and sunset chasing. Snuba for an under-the-sea adventure mixed between snorkeling and scuba diving. Rent a bike from Blue Trailz and cruise around town. Catch a wave or take a lesson with one of the many surf shops along the main road. Get balanced with a Friday Sunset Yoga class at Ser Om. Catch a sunset, especially at low-tide, they tend to be pretty spectacular. Take the Avellanas Express to Lola's at Playa Avellana for a day of relaxing.

The nightlife in Tamarindo is happening. The uber trendy Cala Luna on Friday nights. Love champaign? You'll especially love ladies night free champs. Tuesday and Saturday nights at El Garito for EDM. Monkey Bar is great on Friday's, too. They have a live band and a DJ playing, so you are able to choose which side of the party you wish to be on. Aqua a more intense night club experience. A great place to be on Friday or Saturday and there's even a pole on stage. El Pescador for happy hour, and dancing on the beach on Saturday nights. Many love Pasatiempo on Wednesday nights. To be honest... This was not up my alley of "fun." It's more Tamarindo expats reliving their glory years, jamming out to classics. If this is your type of thing, I'm sure you'll have an awesome time.

If shopping is your thing, Buena Nena and Dolores Shop for cute dresses and rompers. The clothing here reminds me much of Coachella wear. Trendy, boho and a lot of fun. Soaps and lotions from Alegria. Books and Samba To The Sea postcards and notecards at Jamie Pelligro Books. There are a few bikini shops with cheeky bikini styles.

Travel Guide: Tamarindo
Travel Guide: Tamarindo
Travel Guide: Tamarindo

More On Tamarindo

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Old West Meets Costa Rica at Black Stallion Surf Cafe & Saloon

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To call this, a typical "BBQ" would be an insult as it was one of the most impressive and delicious spreads I’ve ever had.

Old West Meets Costa Rica at Black Stallion Surf Cafe & Saloon

Just a 10-minute drive from the most popular surf town in Costa Rica is a massive 2,000 acre eco-ranch with pristine indigenous wildlife, creeks mountains, huge trees and nature all around that is out of a Jurassic Park movie set. Black Stallion Surf Cafe & Saloon is the casual, rustic masterpiece of once professional surfer Alex Urbaniak.

Untitled design (6)Old West Meets Costa Rica at Black Stallion Surf Cafe & Saloon

Alex was born with animals on game reserves and watched his father run hotels. With the need for thrill and adventure, he left his home country of South Africa, became a pro surfer and traveled the world as much as he could, surfing and adventuring unknown surf spots. This led him to a career in design, working for many large clothing companies in Hong Kong, Australia, Europe and the United States. He always has the next idea and understands what's makes something cool and fun to do. Black Stallion Surf Cafe & Saloon is the perfect example of just that.

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Black Stallion offers zip lining, horseback riding, hiking and the well know BBQ Fiesta, which is super popular, just check on TripAdvisor. Plenty of customers can attest. Select one activity or a combination of them, but make sure to stay for the BBQ Fiesta.

Old West Meets Costa Rica at Black Stallion Surf Cafe & Saloon Old West Meets Costa Rica at Black Stallion Surf Cafe & Saloon

At the ranch cafe, we enjoyed a sangria at the cafe as we waited for the tour to begin - a two hour somewhat private horseback ride and feast for us and two others. After we met and mounted our horses, we trotted off on a trail where you could see howler monkeys just lounging around high on the trees. The grounds are beautiful, and the 360 views from the top at sunset are breathtaking.

Old West Meets Costa Rica at Black Stallion Surf Cafe & Saloon

Dinner is the main event and attraction. After horseback riding, we had a fantastic meal just after sunset, hung out and enjoy the BBQ saloon & cafe. To call this, a typical "BBQ" would be an insult as it was one of the most impressive and delicious spreads I’ve ever had. Plenty of fresh salads, rice, and other sides; sauces to accompany your choice of protein. Some of the menu items included Grilled Chicken, Steak, Homemade Chorizo Sausage, Fish, and grilled pineapple. It was like being invited over to a friend's house for dinner. The food was absolutely amazing!

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Good times, good time. Alex, some of his friends, dogs, and staff entertained us for the next 2+ hours over drinks and an incredible meal. From other reviews on TripAdvisor, I know he didn't treat us any different. Alex welcomes all that come to experience Black Stallion with open arms, as if you were long lost friends, a sibling of sorts. Alex just enjoys life and what he does. He has great stories and carries a great conversation no matter what the topic. The food, drinks, atmosphere, and conversation were awesome that it would be the first thing on my list to do while in Tamarindo. And, if Alex's warm hospitality wasn't enough, at the end of the night he offered to drive us home.

This is one experience, not to be missed in Tamarindo. The food and the laid back atmosphere was the perfect combination and it truly embraced what being in Costa Rica is about for me “good times.” I know that we’ll be back, especially for the Friday Seafood BBQ with a menu offering of BBQ shrimp, corvina, dorado, Mai Mai & lobster and all the side dishes a tropical style buffet. Alex also plans to expand to a Zipline, Ride, Surf and BBQ outing. Once this is set, this will absolutely be a destination for the thrill seeking wayfarer.

Tour combos with the BBQ start at $85 person; BBQ Fiesta, $45 per person; Seafood Fiesta BBQ, $55 per person. Reservations are required.

A special thanks to Alex Urbaniak and Black Stallion Surf Cafe & Saloon. As always, all opinions are my own.