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Tamarindo history and development

Staff Writer

Fisherman in Tamarindo in the 1950'sUntil the early 1980’s, Playa Tamarindo was a sparsely populated fishing village, where local residents lived off catching and selling red snapper and bass fish in the estuary of the Matapalo river. Playa Tamarindo almost did not exist as a town or community before its tourism boomed, so even to this day, practically none of the employees in tourism activities reside in the district. They mainly live in neighboring communities such as Villareal, 27 de Abril, Huacas or San Jose de Pinilla. Playa Tamarindo was not an official district in the Municipal County of Santa Cruz until November 27, 1995 because it didn't have enough residents.

Vendor selling agua de Pipa (coconut water) in Tamarindo in the 1980's

In the province of Guanacaste, at the end of the decade of the 1990’s, tourism started escalating in relevance. It caused the province to move from an economy based on agricultural activity to one based almost completely in providing services. This happened when the first foreign visitors discovered the incredible surf breaks, the gorgeous scenery and the extensive white sand beaches. By 1997, there were only about four places that provided lodging in town and just a couple of restaurants in the area. Its growth took place at the end of the last century influenced mainly by international surfing events, the construction of the Daniel Oduber Quirós International Airport and the hotel industry that grew exponentially because of the high demand.

Playa Tamarindo is today the most developed tourist destination in the northwest region of the Nicoya Peninsula. It now has access to top quality services and has cabins, hotels and incredible restaurants for all tastes and prices. In this area, the tourism industry is developed especially by investment corporations, wholesale groups and international hotel developers dedicated to mass tourism and the real estate business. 

Logo for the Tamarindo farmers market

The town has grown to be a well-established community with businesses such as vacation rentals, pet shops, car rental offices, surf shops, sailing and sport fishing offices, hostels, bars, casino, land and air transportation companies, spas, banks with full service and ATM machines, public schools, US accredited private schools, grocery stores, fresh produce markets, smoothie stands, bakeries, gyms, a variety of souvenir and clothing stores, an art gallery, several medical clinics and pharmacies, dental offices, computer stores, multiple real estate offices and even internet cafes. Remax Ocean Surf and Sun was established first in 1999 and is still at the same location!

Playa Tamarindo’s growth in the last 20 years has made it the center of attention of the north west Pacific coast of Costa Rica. Having such influence in the traffic of tourism and investors into the Guanacaste province also caused the quick development of the neighboring beach communities such as Playa Flamingo, Hacienda Pinilla, Reserva Conchal and Playa Danta. These communities now have premium 5 star resorts, such as the Westin in Reserva Conchal, multiple condominium towers and gated communities in Playa Flamingo, a 4,500 acre gated ranch community called Hacienda Pinilla with a JW Marriot and 18 hole golf course, and even a very popular Italian style, luxury beachfront housing development in Playa Danta called Las Catalinas.

We are far from the little fishing village it was before! All of this generates large amounts of job opportunities for the community and reassures the long term potential of the Playa Tamarindo area and it’s surrounding communities, guaranteeing a bright future with many new things to come for our little piece of paradise in this side of the beautiful Costa Rican coast. So if you are thinking of learning more about Playa Tamarindo, or investing in the area, don’t hesitate any longer and book your flight!