YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections


Coasting Through Life in Costa Rica : Resort village of Tamarindo offers surf, sand and the chance to view giant turtles.

February 23, 1992|LUCY IZON

TAMARINDO, Costa Rica — Pelicans nose-dive and fishing boats bob in the waves, while surfers hide from the hot noonday sun under the roof of Henry's open-air beach-front cafe.

Tamarindo is missing high-rise hotels and aggressive hawkers, and the bank is a mobile trailer that parks in the unpaved square several days a week. The fact that it isn't very developed accounts for much of the charm of this small, Pacific Coast village.

What is does offer visitors is the opportunity to economically enjoy the sun, sand and sea of a popular surfing destination, and at night the chance to witness firsthand the wonders of nature.

The surf rolled in like thunder as we trekked along neighboring Playa Grande beach by moonlight. We were searching for a tractor-like trail, evidence that a giant leatherback turtle had crawled out from the sea to deposit and hide her eggs--60 to 70 of them--in the high, dry sand at the edge of this three-mile-long beach.

Seven of them made appearances during our 90-minute visit. One 800-pound creature allowed us to sit quietly within touching distance as she filled her nest in a trance-like state.

Arranging to watch the turtles is easy if you visit during the nesting season, November through March. Local residents charge $10 to $20 U.S. to take small groups of visitors, by boat, to the beach, which is now a national park. Up to 70 huge turtles will nest there each night. With proper guidance on how not to disturb the turtles, you can sit relatively close.

Tamarindo can be reached in 4 1/2 hours by bus from San Jose. If you take the public bus, the cost is about $5 U.S.; an air-conditioned bus services the Hotel Tamarindo Diria for about $20. The domestic airline, Sansa, charges about $28 U.S. for a one-way flight.

Arriving in Tamarindo without lodging reservations can be a problem, since there are sometimes more tourists than beds. Unless you are carrying camping equipment, it's best to book ahead, even if you plan to check out cheaper establishments upon arrival. The cheaper the rates, the less likely you are to have air conditioning or hot water.

Club Europa puts together packages for a young clientele traveling to Tamarindo and other beach resorts in the area, from Miami. The rate for eight-day packages, including flight from Miami to San Jose, plus two nights in San Jose, ground transportation to Tamarindo and five nights at Hotel Tamarindo Diria or Pueblo Dorado, is $568 U.S. per person for triple accommodation; $625, double, and $785, single. Special spring-break beach parties are planned for departures on March 13 and April 18. For details, contact Club Europa at (800) 525-0525.

Rates at the beach-front, 60-room Hotel Tamarindo Diria are $72 U.S., based on double occupancy, and $78 triple. Call locally (506) 33-0530. Club Europa also uses the 22-room Pueblo Dorado, which is a block from the beach. Winter rates are $61 double, $70 triple. For reservations, call (506) 22-5741. Both have air conditioning, restaurants and swimming pools.

Much of the beach crowd heads down to the Tamarindo Resort Club, a complex of characterless cabins that sleep up to five people. Each rents for $93 per night (plus $7 for air conditioning) during the winter season. For reservations, call (506) 23-4289. A refrigerator and stove is provided, but don't count on hot water. Travelers who come equipped can camp for free along the beach, as long they don't set up on hotel property.

OTEC, the Costa Rican travel service that specializes in student and youth travel, is offering special discounts from the United States for students under 30 and youths under 26. Discounts are valid for those who hold international identification cards.

OTEC's discount travel deals to Costa Rica use Continental Airlines, which flies to San Jose from Miami and Houston, or Lacsa, the national airline of Costa Rica. Lacsa flies to San Jose from Los Angeles, among other U.S. cities. The student/youth fare from LAX is $450 round trip. The Lacsa student/youth fares are valid for up to one year.

Student/youth fares to Costa Rica can be arranged through many student travel agencies, including Council Travel offices in major American cities. In Los Angeles, call (310) 208-3551.

Los Angeles Times Articles