In this month’s newsletter, we explore some of the many aspects of life in Tamarindo, including some favorite pastimes of friends of the community, a day in the local lifestyle, a new-old take on personal care and health, and finally, what exactly the culture of Tamarindo is and why it has remained so strong even in an era where small towns often struggle to maintain their own identity.
Horses, Rally Cars, the Electric Grid, and a Clean Wave | All Around Senderos
Tamarindo has always been a place of celebration, dancing, and decadence, but during this time of year, if a friend asks you out to the fiestas, they’re usually not talking about hitting the strip. Instead, they might be mentioning the traveling rodeos that journey around Guanacaste during the dry season.
Las Fiestas are one of the oldest Guanacaste traditions, drawn straight from centuries of cattle herding and horseback riding. In towns all up and down the coast, Fiestas bring the whole town (and most of the surrounding region) out to celebrations with bull riding, carnival rides, and games, food, music both traditional and modern, and plenty of good times.
Less well-known to tourists are the Tope parades that are held leading up to the Fiestas. These festive processions feature the most beautiful and well-bred horses in the region, fully resplendent in gorgeous fabrics and colors, along with the riders from the upcoming rodeo, and a wide variety of musicians, dancers, and costumes, all out to mark the beginning of the Fiestas.
You can see our very own Marketing Director Arianne Beeche and her husband, Mario Beeche outside of Iglesia Inmaculada Concepción de María, one of the most famous architectural landmarks in Liberia, as she participated in the Tope de Liberia, the most prominent and famous Tope alongside the one in Santa Cruz.
A beautiful animal and a beautiful family!
But for one of our team members, Sales Operation Manager Maria Luisa Fabres Rojas, the celebratory pace of the Tope doesn’t have quite the top speed she’s looking for. That’s because Maria Luisa is a rally car driver, and not just your run-of-the-mill racer.
In fact, she’s one of the top navigators in Costa Rica and just left for a week to participate in the second edition of Rally Jameel, the first-ever women’s rally car event held in Dubai (also seen in the picture is her Australian teammate and driver Lya Lama).
Starting from AlUla to Hail to AlQassim, the 1600 km off-road race covers some of the Arab Peninsula’s most striking landscapes and cultural landmarks and takes a full 3 days to complete.
To those familiar with Guanacaste’s back roads, the photo above definitely looks familiar. Apart from the camels!
After the 3 day race, Maria Luisa and Lya Lama (aka Team Beast) finished 16th overall, a massive result for a field of 38 that featured multiple world-champion rally car racers including Annie Seel and winner Ewelina Chlebowska, we are certainly celebrating her incredible milestone here in the office!
Electrifying Senderos (Without the Horsepower)
And while the rally cars Maria Luisa’s driving won’t be electric for a few years (though excitingly, cars at the world championship are transitioning to electric), we’re also happy to share news on the ongoing infrastructure improvements in Senderos.
All of the electric grid is installed and connected underground in Phase 2, and homes under construction are now officially receiving their meters, which is one of the last hurdles for many of these homes to transform from beautiful structures into dream homes.
And thanks to Costa Rica’s massive investment in a sustainable electric grid — which has generated 98+% of its power from sustainable sources 8 years running — these homes will look as good from an ecological perspective as they are striking, artistic architectural contributions to the mountainside.
And Helping The Clean Wave on Tama’s Beaches
And there’s more to come out on the beaches as well. Later this month, Senderos will be joining forces with The Clean Wave, a national sustainability initiative to clean Costa Rica’s beaches and keep this vital part of our country beautiful and healthy.
Members of our community both in Senderos and from around Tamarindo will join with volunteers from The Clean Wave on Thursday, May 25th, for a clean-up of Playa Tamarindo aimed at reminding all of us of the small things we can do every single day to protect our natural resources.
All ages are welcome to join, and water, sunscreen, gloves, buckets, and instructions will be provided at the event. If you’d like to learn more, you can RSVP, see the schedule, and visit the event page here.
An Average Day in the Life in Tamarindo
It’s hard to capture the way of life in Tamarindo in just one trip. Traveling here as a visitor is its own experience, and there’s a reason people find it compelling enough to want to live here, but you don’t quite scratch the surface of the pleasant, present rhythm of life for those who actually call Tamarindo home.
Sunrise comes about the same time every day of the year, give or take 45 minutes in either direction. If you’re heading out to catch the first smooth waves before the winds pick up, you might be up before dawn. If it’s a weekend, some people in town might still be up at dawn or set to sleep in, but that’s for another article.
But for the most part, we measure the start of the day here in Senderos as the sun rises, and the end of the day as the sun falls — around 12 hours of light thanks to our location so close to the equator. There’s something about slowly waking up to natural light at sunrise that just feels right.
If you’re one such early riser, the first morning hours are a great time to take a walk out through the trails (some prefer a solo stroll, but our most longstanding homeowners list this as the best time to walk the dog). Back at home, the morning mists of green season or the gentle breeze are great for a cup of coffee, a personal practice on the terrace, or a dip in the infinity pool before the kids wake up.
The controlled frenzy of getting the kids dressed, fed, and ready for school is a relatively universal experience, but it’s a little more relaxed when you can step outside to take a breath and take in the view of the estuary, the sea, and Tamarindo waking up in the morning sun.
Once the kids are off to school, the morning takes whichever turn the day calls for. The cool morning hours are a great time to head down to the Tamarindo Feria to shop for groceries, swinging by AutoMercado or Mentha & Limón to fill in any ingredients you couldn’t find. The heat of the late morning is a great time to head home, take work calls, finish off email, or sink into the day’s projects, whatever they may be.
A simple meal — like homemade gallopinto with fresh fruit you picked up that morning — is never a bad option, or you can head into town for a bite for a change of scenery. A quick surf as the sun is setting (no sunscreen needed) while the kids take their lessons just makes too much sense, so you can stop to enjoy the golden waves breaking easy on the shore as you wind down into the evening.
After that, it’s time to wrangle the older kids home and return back to the beautiful chaos of parenting and hosting, culminating in a delicious meal (thanks to your neighbor’s catch of fresh fish that day and some excellent produce from the market) served in the indoor-outdoor dining room for family and friends.
Hosting every night is no necessity. More often than not, the evening will take you out along the bars, restaurants, breweries, and music venues of the town, whether you’re meeting family friends or setting out for a personal date night.
But a nightcap on the porch as the kids are off playing together and the lights of Tamarindo twinkle on doesn’t hurt either, and something about looking down at it all from your own home helps you remember that this isn’t a dream, before you wind down to bed and prepare for whatever the next day holds.
We 💜 Tama | Welcoming Mentha & Limón
Happy to officially welcome Mentha & Limón to the neighborhood! Located 30 meters north of the Senderos entrance on the main road to Villareal, this organic market features the very best of Costa Rican produce, herbs, natural remedies, and personal products, all sustainably and organically farmed right here in Costa Rica.
It’s a bit like having the Tamarindo Feria open every day of the week on your front doorstep, full of interesting products from local farmers and growers who know everything this diverse environment has to offer, and we couldn’t be happier.
Costa Rica has a culture of traditional, indigenous, and organic medicine that traces back far prior to the colonial era — primarily making use of Costa Rica’s thousands of native medicinal plants and herbs.
The revival of this natural perspective on personal care, cuisine, and supplements has been strong in Tamarindo and throughout the country in the past decade and is part of what led founder Scarlett to create Mentha & Limón — a modern space for natural health.
In particular, Mentha & Limón specializes in locally sourced ingredients, organics, and supplements, ranging from golden seaweed, soothing teas, and natural beauty products to organic coffee, spices, and herbs in bulk, and produce.
Worth taking a stop next time you’re around Senderos or on your way to Tamarindo!
The Soul Survives | The Tamarindo Almanac
In Tamarindo, and throughout the surrounding area, there is an unmistakable character. It’s an outlaw spirit, one that becomes apparent the longer you spend time here. There’s little on record about Tamarindo before the last century and almost none before that.
But as we rejoin the history of Tama in the mid-20th century, it was a remote fishing village called home by a small number of families who subsisted on the catch from the bay and the nearby estuary. Located far from the large urban centers in Santa Cruz and Liberia, it took a little bit of chance and multiple waves of outsiders before Tamarindo would become the town that it is today.
There were surfers wandering the Central American trail in the mid-century, where only the bravest made their way to this secluded spot far from Guanacaste’s few bustling pueblos.
There was Adelita Zuniga, who first saw Tamarindo’s possibility as more than a remote surf camp, and successfully petitioned the Costa Rican government to lease the land upon which she built the Hotel Doly, and helped provide the land that would then become the Tamarindo Diria, which still stands to this day. Perhaps her more lasting impact is the fact that she dynamited the cliffside along the estuary, which is now where the main road runs into town — providing what at the time was the only access to Tamarindo by land.
Even the early developers who joined her in rolling the dice on Tamarindo were outcasts from families, youngest children looking to make their mark, or dreamers with crazy ideas (some good, some bad). But yet, from those myths and memories, a living and breathing town started to grow.
Several years after the Doly and Diria went up (and many years after it had started to become more than just a surf camp), Tamarindo got electricity, and soon after, access to fresh water. Hotels, electricity, and freshwater were the lifeblood that Tamarindo needed to start growing at a much faster rate, and by the 1990s, the nearly-forgotten backwater bay had become a small and bustling tourist spot.
The Liberia International Airport’s expansion in 1995 to open to international commercial flights finished connecting Tamarindo to the rest of the world, and through the 90s until the financial crisis of 2009, Tamarindo (and the rest of Guanacaste) was a hotbed for rapid (if overstretched) investment. The ruins of failed projects still dot the coastline, and the Guanacaste frenzy calmed during the 2010s until reigniting post-lockdowns as the global cultural shifts brought beautiful lifestyle-focused destinations and remote work into the forefront.
The history of Tamarindo here — at least as told so far — is nothing new. But what’s fascinating as you trace this evolution is the way that Tamarindo’s culture has changed, and the many ways that it has stayed the same.
The idea of an outlaw spirit has remained in Tamarindo, and it’s likely that strong elements of counterculture will always thrive here. Surfers, seafarers, wanderers, and small-town residents carry with them a natural resistance to the big box, globalized culture, and it’s contagious enough that most who settle here begin to think the same way.
But the inevitable passage of time and the inevitable improvements to Tamarindo (like all bustling and developing towns) always bring in a more general audience of guests, visitors, and investors, especially in a place that’s such a “best-kept secret” like Tamarindo. It’s a natural progression for a tourist town— infrastructure, safety, and general hospitality improvements bring down the barrier to entry and enjoyment, and new, less rugged types find a place that they can enjoy. Investors see possible growth, and like Adelita before, try to carve out their own piece of paradise.
Many of Tamarindo’s improvements were much needed. Water and electricity (and later high-speed internet) fuel businesses and aspects of the town that could not exist otherwise. There are few — outside of maybe a few of the rugged surfers and fishermen who called Tamarindo home long ago — that would argue these amenities didn’t make Tamarindo better.
But as Tamarindo has grown and developed, it has certainly evolved. Not long ago, Tamarindo was a haven for drinking, drugs, trafficking, prostitution, petty crime, and generally decadent illegal activities. It would be naive to say that Tamarindo’s seedier roots are completely gone — and to some, that’s a good thing — but the Tamarindo we know today has slowly taken on new aspects of its identity.
There are schools in Tamarindo, and places where kids can play safely. There are homes, residences, and neighborhoods. There are places to focus on your mental, physical, and spiritual health. The strip is far safer in both the day and at night compared to just 10 years ago, thanks to conscious eyes on the street and investments into Tamarindo’s local police department.
Wander the bars of Tamarindo in the wee hours, and you’re bound to find those unhappy few who’ll complain that the “Old Tama” is gone. But just like we sometimes idolize and idealize the Wild West without remembering its flaws and bruises, most would say that the Tamarindo of today is better than it has ever been. Safe, with better transport and healthcare, more conscious of its community and the natural world even with its larger population, and easily connected to the world that gives Tamarindo its international flavor and supply of visitors.
As a town matures, the question always becomes “how much is too much change,” which brings us back to the soul, the spirit of a place like Tamarindo, and what it really represents. A place to be wild and free. A place to celebrate. A place to surf, and be one with nature. And a place to meet others from near and far that share the same spirit.
Those elements of a culture can be stolen, developed right out of a place through hostile economic practices and competition, the destruction of spaces both natural and manmade, and by driving out or replacing the people who gave a town such a community.
But those elements can also be strengthened, given importance and a platform to influence the culture of a growing town.
Both forces exist in a push and pull being played out across the world right now, but one thing small-town cultures have working for them in the modern era is natural persistence. It’s strange to call the economic shocks of 2009 and 2020 good things, but they provide a check to frantic growth and a cultural reset. When economic headwinds make times hard, only those truly dedicated to a place remain, and can continue to strengthen and build their vision of a town driven by more than a few quick dollars.
The world is scattered with projects that have lost their soul. You need only look along the coastal backroads of Guanacaste to see them. But there are also towns that refuse to die, ancient places like New Orleans, Chicago, and Rome: towns that have been burned and flooded and sacked and rebuilt each time because in the absence of buildings, in the absence of money, sometimes… the soul of a place survives.
For much of its history, Tamarindo was a hidden gem, but no hidden gem can stay hidden for long, especially if it truly is a gem. The true question of a culture’s survival is: can your culture survive the waves of economic tension, can it persist through development, until it becomes strong enough, and has an identity powerful enough that no international chain or global investment fund can replace it?
Tamarindo hasn’t burned. But it has faced hardship. And with each challenge, with each setback, the true residents and stewards of the Tamarindo culture have doubled down and pushed forward. Like the rings on a tree, each new migration of people and each new challenge have left their mark on the history of a town as it’s grown.
The result is a town that has grown stronger, and one whose roots are now dug deep. A place where you are always free to escape from the world, carve out a personal paradise, and embrace your inner wild side — whether you find it among the waves, in the tropical forests, from the sunlit mountainsides, or with friends dancing in the streets.