Tips

There are three significant towns within a 20 minute radius of Casa Linda, that offer a variety of services and shopping options: Huacas, Villareal, and the bustling tourist town of Tamarindo.

Buying Basic Items

Groceries

There are a few small stores in Playa Grande, including one that just opened last summer outside the Las Ventanas complex. For small items or the occasional bag of sugar or bottle of juice, they are fine. Otherwise there are many options just a few minutes away…

SuperCompro: Decent size supermarket in Huacas, about 10 minutes away. They carry fruits and vegetables, milk, juice products, cereal, etc.

Mega Super: Medium-Large modern supermarket on the way to Tamarindo, just before Villareal, 15-20 minutes away.

Auto Mercado: Large, modern supermarket in Tamarindo, 20-25 minutes away.

La Oliva: Store that carries imported food items and wines

Street fruit markets in Tamarindo and Villareal: On week-ends mostly, there is a street fruit and vegetable market near the soccer field in Villareal, and near the bus stop in Tamarindo.

There are several Panaderias (bread and pastries shop) within driving distance, including one at the main fork in Huacas, and two or three in Tamarindo on the main road. They carry an assortment of sweet or meat pastries and bread products.

Other Basics

Pharmacies: Farmacia Tamarindo is 20-25 minutes away. For small items, there are a couple of pharmacies in Huacas just before the main fork.

Gas Stations: There is one large JSM Gasolinera halfway between Huacas and Villareal.

Surf shops: Dozens in Tamarindo. In Playa Grande, we’ve rented surf boards at Frijoles Locos and at Playa Grande Surf Camp (PGSC). Both have a good inventory and reasonable prices, and the service was friendly and welcoming. My three young kids have also taken surfing lessons at PGSC, and they were pretty happy with their experience.

The map below shows all these places. You can also view it inside Google Maps by clicking on the upper right corner icon (the broken-up square).



Restaurants and Cafes

I’ve listed some of the places we like near Casa Linda. Tamarindo is a tourist town and has dozens of restaurants for all tastes. We’ve only tried a few, we’ll keep working on it 🙂

Cafe del Pueblo: Italian restaurant in Playa Grande. Quaint, small, with reasonable prices and good food, and very friendly service.

El Huerto: Pizza place (and a few other menu items) in Playa Grande. Reasonably priced, great pizzas.

Nari: Pizza place in Tamarindo. Note: right next to Nari is a wonderful little gelato place. Highly recommended…

Nogui’s: Large menu iconic restaurant on the beach in Tamarindo. Good food.

Sharky’s: American style bar/cafe in Tamarindo. Drinks, bar food (try the ceviche if they have it)

These are also shown in the map above.

Renting a Car

The one thing you have to remember about doing anything in Costa Rica is to relax, and be patient. You also have to be prepared:

  • Decide whether you are going to rent a 4 wheel drive, or a compact. If you are spending most of your time in a resort, or in the city, you won’t need a 4×4. If you will be visiting Monteverde, the Nicoya Peninsula, etc., you will…
  • Figure out your insurance coverage (and requirements) before you go. If your credit card company or your existing driver’s insurance offers some coverage, print out paperwork that shows this and take it with you.
    • The Costa Rica government requires all rental car contracts to include basic liability insurance – SLI, also called Third Party Waiver (TPW). It covers damages to other people, their cars, or property and cannot be replaced with credit card coverage. It should be $10-15/day…
    • CDW (collision damage waiver) and LDW (liability damage waiver) are required, but they’re usually covered by major credit cards. Some rental car companies combine them with SLI to make them appear mandatory.
    • Rental agents are excellent at stressing the risks of signing up for anything less than the maximum insurance coverage. In the end, it has to be your decision, depending on how comfortable you are with driving in a foreign country.
  • Ticos are pretty aggressive drivers. Practice defensive driving. Lane lines don’t mean very much here, and passing other cars on a two lane road is practically considered a sport. On country (or really on any) roads, watch for people, kids on the side of the road, bikes, dogs, etc. Especially at night. Sidewalks are rare, and most roads are just wide enough for two cars (one in each direction), so it gets tricky..

Money, SIM cards, Etc.

colonesThe currency in Costa Rica is the Colón (₡). The exchange rate has been stable for years and hovers around ₡500 for US$1. Almost all stores will accept US dollars for payment, but you’ll do better if you use the local currency. Most banks will let you exchange foreign money for Colónes.

You can buy a prepaid SIM card for your phone at the airport (probably the easiest solution) or at some of the telecom stores (there are many). Do it. It’s cheap, and it’s much better to have a different phone number for a few days than to be stuck with huge roaming phone and data charges when you get home. ICE/Kölbi SIM cards cost approximately $5 to activate, and you will instantly have phone/text and data service at very reasonable rates. Recharging is easy and can be done on the phone, or at any grocery store. This excellent article has more details.