Playa Tamarindo begins where
Playa Grande ends, a picturesque estuary separating the two. Tamarindo is where leatherback-
turtle watchers find hotels. Launches begin ferrying passengers across the estuary around midnight. Visitors tiptoe quietly
along the beach and pause to observe the huge turtles as they awkwardly pull themselves up on the beach to bury their
eggs 6 feet deep in the sand. This is an unforgettable sight; some of these turtles are said to grow to more than 12 feet
across and weigh up to 1,500 pounds! The one I watched laying eggs may have been a pygmy; she was barely 8 feet wide.
Our guide claimed that during the peak of the season, as many as 350 turtles can be on the beach in a single night.
Because of excellent surfing beaches and nearby Playa Grande turtle beaches, Tamarindo has
always been a magnet for tourists of all ages. The coastal region here is easily accessible by pavement rather than gravel and
dirt roads, which ensures a steady stream of visitors as well as new residents who often become part of the business
community. Another development is the new international airport in nearby Liberia. The airport is now served
by Delta (Atlanta), American (Miami), and Continental (Houston). Tamarindo has become a textbook example
of foreign development of a Costa Rican Beach
Village with a cosmopolitan mix of nationalities. Almost all businesses restaurants, hotels, shops, bars, and so forth
appear to be owned by foreigners: Italians, Germans, French, with several other European nations represented. American
businesses are [n. the minority in Tamarindo.
This highly successful development changed the town from the sleepy village often years ago into a busy, highly commercial
entity. Some residents and longtime visitors lament these changes, while others appreciate the presence of upscale
restaurants, quality retail and food shopping options, including a supermarket, and other conveniences that a mere village
would lack. While some yearn for the good old days, Rob Gibson, a Tamarindo homeowner, says: The
surroundings are still spectacular, and the relative success in protecting Playa Grande and
the estuary behind it from unbridled development has been key to maintaining its attractions. Even the beach at
Tamarindo is large and long enough to take a lot of development without losing its attractiveness. The walk to
Langosta still evokes a feeling of Big Sur more than Playas del Coco ambiance.
(Playas del Coco is the epitome of tourist beachside development.)
The emphasis in Tamarindo is strictly on foreign Tourism and foreign residents. A few years ago, a
Tico complained to me: We keep selling our land and moving farther back into the hills. Now we are working
for foreigners on land we once owned. Before long we wont be able to afford to live in our own village! That prediction has
come true; the price of real estate makes property ownership impossible for local families, and hotels are priced out of range
for vacationing Tico families. However, Rob Gibson who speaks Spanish with local working
people observes no general sense of resentment. Most Ticos say that tourists and part-time residents are good
because they bring money and create jobs in the area. Love the practicality and lack of xenophobia among
Costarriquenos, and if we gringos behave decently, perhaps we can keep it that way. Rob
also points out that there are definite advantages to living in an expatriates enclave. I dont know how much your gringo
neighbors would help you in a crisis, but it is nice to have so many of them around.
For those with school-age children, this is the only region outside the Central Valley with an international K-12 college-prep
school. Country Day School Guanacaste is a private facility located between Tamarindo and Flamingo. It ist inexpensive, but
as one parent said, The school is small enough for the teachers to have a one-on-one relationship with their students.
Theres also a bilingual elementary school, Ninos del Mundo, with classes for students in pre-
kindergarten to fourth grade.
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