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The Pros + Cons of Living in Tamarindo Costa Rica

March 15, 2021 5 min read

[Post originally published 8/17/18, updated on 3/15/21]

As the saying goes, time flies when you're having fun - - and I really can't believe almost five full years have passed since leaving NYC, quitting my corporate job, putting all my belongings in storage (called Mom & Pop storage), and moving to Tamarindo, Costa Rica to surf.

When I first moved, I worked for Robert August (AKA Mr. Endless Summer), blogging and running his social media. Working for such an iconic person in surf history was definitely an experience. I loved how most of the time I could make my own work schedule and I was stoked to not be working "in the office" every day.  

And I got to surf. A lot.



In my free time, I started to follow one of my other passions, photography. First, photographing and posting images of Tamarindo on my blog + Instagram was a good way to keep my family and friends updated on my Costa Rican adventures. Then, it became a side hustle with my Costa Rica photo postcards. Selling my photographs via these postcards gave me confidence to further pursue photography as a career.


Now, in addition to selling my sunset + beach prints here at The Sunset Shop, I'm a lifestyle photographer, serving weddings, elopements, families, brands and magazines like Harper's Bazaar and Coastal Living! Every day, I'm beyond blessed and stoked to say that I'm making a living as a photographer!!!! 

"Where the Sky Meets the Sea"


I now spend most of my year in Costa Rica, with the remainder spent in magical Savannah, GA - which is gorgeous, amazing and also happens to be where my parents lives.

I know, you're probably thinking why would I ever want to leave Costa Rica or split time?

The honest truth?

Costa Rica may be a little slice of Pura Vida for vacation, but living here (like I believe living anywhere else in the world) has its pluses and minuses.

So what should you expect if you’re thinking of moving to Tamarindo, Costa Rica?

The Pros + Cons of Living in Tamarindo, Costa Rica


Pros of Living in Tamarindo Costa Rica:

  • There's no need for a beach getaway.
    I don't have the crazy urge to go on vacation like I did when I lived in NYC. Sure, I miss the ease of hopping on a plane at JFK to Europe, but I’m at the beach every day!

  • One word: SUNSETS!!
    The sunsets in Tamarindo are AMAZING (but you already knew that)!!! Soon after landing in Costa Rica, I started chasing and photographing the sunsets.


 "The Girl and the Water"


  • Ok, one more word: WAVES!  
    The waves in Costa Rica are simply magical - - peeling waves, offshore winds, and warm water. Within a 5-10 minute bike ride, I have access to several surf breaks and several others within 30 minutes. Without a doubt, I’ve gotten spoiled here real fast!

    (Check out my surf guides to Tamarindo, Avellanas,  Playa Grande, and Nosara!)

    Aerial wave print by Samba to the Sea at The Sunset Shop. Image is an aerial photo of a wave breaking in Tamarindo, Costa Rica.

    "The Backyard"


    • I live in an international community. 
      My friends are from all over the world (Argentina, France, Italy, and Canada to name a few).  Tamarindo is a great example of a diverse, mixed community.

    • I don't need a car daily.
      Did you know that I don't own a car in Costa Rica? I can walk or bike to pretty much everything I daily need in Tamarindo, from the supermarket, beach, restaurants, pharmacy, etc. Since I don't need a car for every day use, for now not owning a car works for me and makes sense for my budget (hint: budgeting is key for living in Costa Rica, as it can be quite expensive to live here). Plus, I easily can rent a car when I need to! No need to worry about maintaining a car in a beach climate, yes please! 

    • I'm outside and experiencing beautiful Mother Nature everyday.
      Ahhhh, nature. It’s right outside - -  the Howler Monkeys at dawn (or eating my Papaya trees right outside my front door), Iguanas, singing Parrots! I love my daily walks on beach and through the hills in Tamarindo with my little Chihuahua Gidget.


      "A la Playa / To the Beach"

      Cons of Living in Costa Rica:

      When your dream becomes everyday life, there are definitely things that can wear on you... until you get back in the waves. Here's the reality that many don't consider when they dream of moving to paradise.

      • The phrase Pura Vida has a good AND a bad side. 
        Sure, Pura Vida literally means "Pure Life" and generally is said with a smile, but it also mean Tico Time/ “latin time” or "tomorrow is another day". Pretty much everything here just operates slower than the US. Long lines at the bank, power going out, and driving 40 miles down the coast takes over two hours!  Convenience and ease is not a focus, like it often is the US.

      • Sometimes I don't surf everyday.  
        Contrary to what my parents think (hi mom and dad!), I don't surf everyday. I’d love to surf everyday, but my work takes priority, and other times the conditions are just not that great. Sometimes a week or more goes by without surfing - - (gasp!) I know!

      • The cost of living in Costa Rica is high. 
        It's expensive to live in Costa Rica -- especially thanks to the 13% tax on all goods and services. Costa Rica is not a cheap country. Most tourists are surprised at the cost of accommodations, tours, and food.  And people who live here make a lot less. Think US prices, but much lower wages than the US. And did you know that cars here cost double than they would cost in the US? Thank you Costa Rica import tax!

      • The weather in Costa Rica is hot -- tropically hot!
        The sun is HOT, HOT, HOT! Tamarindo is located 10 degrees north of the equator, meaning that the sun is very strong here! And the weather April, the temperatures soar over 100 degrees with high humidity. Click here to read more about what the weather is like in Costa Rica.

      • People come and go.  
        Tamarindo is a tourist and very transient town. Just as fast as you make a new friend, another one is moving out of town! Some people only come for high season to escape the northern hemisphere winters and others are like me - - how has it been over eight years?! 

      • Practically everything needs to be imported.
        Besides agriculture, Costa Rica is not a very industrious country, which means a lot of imported goods at much higher prices and not a ton of variety. My luggage is always packed to max weight every time I come back from the US with goods like protein powder, shampoo, and sunscreen! BUTTTTTTT, at least my beach + sunset prints don't need to be imported thanks to a professional + high quality printer located in San Jose (about five hours from Tamarindo)!


      Boho chic living room with framed beach print. Beautiful pink rain and pastel sunset print. Anthropologie pillow, Urban Outfitters pillow, Target home decor, History of Surfing Book. Photographed by Samba to the Sea for The Sunset Shop. La Boheme in Nosara Costa Rica.

      "It's Raining Sunshine"


      P.S. if you'd like to learn more about my transition + journey of trading my NYC corporate heels for a surfboard and camera in Costa Rica, head on over to theLiving Out Loud podcast and listen to the current episode featuring me as the guest!


      So what happens when a young finance professional leaves the concrete jungle to for paradise found in Costa Rica?  Meet Kristen Brown, the founder, sunset chaser and mastermind behind Tamarindo-based Samba To The Sea. Kristen’s work has been seen in Harper's Bazaar UK, Korea, and Germany and has worked with major brands like American Express.   Kristen shares her story about leaving New York City after meeting and getting offered a marketing job with surfboard shaper, Robert August, her story on entrepreneurship, and how the magical sunsets of Costa Rica lead her to her passion in photography. Kristen's story is not only inspiring but one that will show you that taking a risk and following your passion might lead you to new grounds and opportunities for a more purposeful life.  Kristen M. Brown of Samba to the Sea on the Living Out Loud podcast. 


      Do you have more questions about Costa Rica?

      Click here to read more of my Costa Rica tips, check out the highlights in my Instagram stories "CR Tips", or feel free to email me and ask away!



      P u r a   V i d a,



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