If you’re considering studying Spanish and would like to combine your language studies with world-class nature and a uniquely laid-back vibe, we’d suggest looking a little further afield. Playa Tamarindo, a beachside town on the North Pacific side ofCosta Rica, is a hidden gem for Spanish learners – here’s why we love it so much and why we think you will too.
1. A happy community
The locals know each other well in this small coastal town. People of all backgrounds mix – locals, expats, students, travelers – and many visitors report a feeling of togetherness when getting to know the “Ticos”, as Costa Ricans call themselves. The now-famous Costa Rican phrase “pura vida,” typifies this way of life and means no worries, no fuss, and no stress. Ticos know it’s best to enjoy life and be happy.
And there’s more to love: an unhurried way of life, combined with a strong sense of community, and a good dose of vitamin D has even given the Nicoya Peninsula, where Playa Tamarindo is located, a spot inthe world’s Blue Zones where locals live extraordinarily long lives.
2. Language and culture
Apart from learning to relax, while in Tamarindo you’ll also learn the local Spanish accent and slang – including more words for “rain” than you ever imagined. You’ll get brownie points for using pelo de gato (drizzly), baldazo and aguacero (downpour), and temporal (heavy rain that doesn’t stop for days).
3. Beaches, beaches everywhere
Tamarindo has world-class beaches north and south. Feel the sand between your toes at Langosta, Avellanas, Pieta, Minas, Flamingo, and Conchal. Fun fact: because Costa Rica is flanked by the Caribbean and the Pacific, you can easily catch beachside sunrises and sunsets. Signal the end of class time by watching the sunset over the Pacific, or roll out of bed early on the weekend to catch the Caribbean glow. Whichever you choose, they happen at the same time each day – thanks to Costa Rica being so close to the equator.
4. Surfing and adventure sports
With 801 miles of Costa Rican coastline, there’s sure to be a section you’ll never forget. Tamarindo is a good place for beginner surfers, with a multitude of surf schools, consistent waves, and warm Central American waters that don’t require wetsuits. Ashore, Playa Tamarindo is also a great starting point for adventure sports. Canopy tours that fly you along the tops of the rainforests, kayaking excursions, rafting, horseback riding, snorkeling, scuba diving, cliff diving, or mini All Terrain Vehicle (ATV) road trips through beach and rainforests.
5. Food, fruit…
Apart from its great dining scene, be sure to visit a “soda”: an informal restaurant serving rice and beans, fried empanadas, gallo pinto (rice and black beans stir-fried together), casado (plantain, meat, cheese, rice, beans, tortillas, and other elements), and patacones (crispy-fried plantains). And don’t forget Tamarindo’s array of tropical fruits. Grab a juice mixing papaya, mango, star fruit, avocado, and guanabana for a tropical treat.
6. …and coffee
Thanks to Costa Rica’s rich ecosystems and the combination of high rainfall, mountains, good rich soil, and cool air, its coffee is abundant and internationally-renowned. The Tarrazú bean is among the world’s best. So go ahead – grab yourself a cup while studying.
7. Great weather, intense natural wonders
Its name truly says it all. “The rich coast” boasts over 121 active volcanoes, intense rains, warming sun, and stunning beaches. Across Costa Rica, the same day can feel breezy at the beach, cool in the highlands, or dry and hot in the Northern Plains. However, over in Tamarindo the weather hangs out around 80 degrees with sunshine all year round, low humidity, and a quarter of the rainfall of other areas of Costa Rica. Yes, please.
8. Pack light
Tamarindo is coastal and tropical, so pack shorts, boardshorts, t-shirts, sandals, hat, and light-weight dresses. Add hiking boots for the outdoors, something a little nicer for nights out, and a light rain jacket if traveling in the rainy season – but you can feel fine about leaving bulky clothing at home.
9. Important wildlife reserve
A stunning 5 percent of the world’s wildlife (including more than 10 percent of its butterflies), is from teeny Costa Rica. Soaring and fluttering in the skies, there’s a rainbow of 900 species of birds, including toucans, parrots, macaws, and 52 different types of hummingbirds. Below the skies, you’ll find sloths, monkies, crocodiles, turtles, otters, and lizards. When in Costa Rica it’s impossible not to see wildlife – though you can take trips especially to see its beautiful animals, such as the emotional release of sea turtle hatchlings at the Reserva Tortuga.
10. National Parks and Reserves
Costa Rica has more than 100 protected areas. While in Tamarindo, take time to visit the Tamarindo Wildlife Refuge, created to protect crocodiles and howler monkeys. Later, schedule a trip to the Corcovado National Park, said to be the world’s most biodiverse place. Other picks include Caño Negro National Wildlife Refuge – a wetland full of crocodiles, birds, lizards, and monkeys – and Monteverde Biological Cloud Forest Reserve, highlands atop the clouds with splendid canopy tours on suspended skywalks.