I took a surf lesson from Secret Spot Surf Division and was really pleased not only with my lesson (I can surf now!!!), but with the content inside the shop. It wasn't just a "Surf Shop" with boards you can rent and such, but a really cool clothing and accessory store. They had brands from all over the world, including Hurley, Redley, Vans, Sanuk, etc, and a wide variety of beach clothes for men and women. I was especially impressed with the variety of girls' (and boys') swimming suits made in Latin America (while they also sold swimming suits from popular brands like Puma, Hurley, etc). The suits from Brazil and Venezuela are especially cute--all unique and one of a kind--and made to flatter all sorts of body styles. They were very unlike the cookie cutter swimming suits you can buy in the states.
If you want to learn how to surf, I would highly recommend getting lessons from this shop/surf school. I took my lesson with Rafael Rodriguez, and was really surprised to learn that he and his co-worker are the only NSSIA (National Surf School and Instructor's Association) certified instructors in Tamarindo, and their shop is the ONLY NSSIA certified surf school in all of Costa Rica. I felt like I was in really good and safe hands, as I know that in order to get the certification the instructor has to go through a rigorous training session in the US, pass CPR and safety training, as well as have at least 10 or some odd years of surf experience.
What to buy: If you are shopping for a swimming suit in the states especially for this trip, I would suggest putting it off until you get here. The prices are about the same, but the suits here (especially at Secret Spot) are really unique and will be a great reminder of your trip to Tamarindo. You'll be the envy of all your friends.
You should also buy your surf lesson from this shop...and if you want to go out on your own (which I don't recommend, you'll save yourself a lot of time and hassle by learning with an instructor first) you can rent a 'tabla' (surf board) from this shop as well.
What to pay: Less than you'll spend for high quality suits in the states: about $45-70.
Visit the studio and gallery of porcelain potter, Martha Cooper Mays.
Located on Playa Junquillal, next to Hotel Iguanazul, producing functional tableware and home decorating items. All are made on the potter's wheel, each is unique, "one of a kind" and all related in brilliant colors a flowing hand painted theme.
All made from durable, chip resistant, microwave and dishwasher safe, porcelain clay.
See the work being made and browse the gallery full of both Cooper Mays wares, and other Costa Rican artwork in pottery, wood and fabric.
What to buy: Dinnerware and functional home decorating items.
What to pay: $12.00 and up. But there a big sales events all the time. Now 50% off all Cooper Mays porcelain.
With the exception of the Alegria handmade soap shop, there is nothing in Tamarindo that cannot be bought at the airport or at home for less. The prices here are outrageous.
We stopped at grocery store in San Jose on our way home and bought the same coffee and salsas being sold in Tamarindo for 70% less. For example, one pound of coffee in Tamarindo was $7, in San Jose it was less than $1.
Your choices are limited in Tamarindo. There are three small grocery stores. Our favorite was the southern most store in Playa Langosta about 1/4 mile from our B&B. It is owned by an Italian family and their selection of wine was surprising. This market also offered the freshest meats of the three.
What to pay: Prices are comparable to the US
shopping?.. absolutely not a problem, just walk on the main street and you can find from the local craft to the silliest souvenir... and my best liked was the Galeria Paseo de las Estrellas, a big tent protecting the stalls and a nice, very patient lady who dusted any of my choice before inserting it in a white envelope protecting it with a piece of adhesive tape...