Tambor Costa Rica

Tambor Beach
Bahia Ballena, the wide bay of Tambor

Tambor is set in the valley of a large and calm horseshoe bay, the Bahia Ballena, which in English means whale bay. During dry season these giants of the seas used to come into the bay. Nowadays with the increased coastal activity whales no longer frequent the bay of Tambor.

The beach of Tambor is easily accessed with a car and you find shade under almond and palm trees. The volcanic history serves up a grey-colored, hard-packed sand which gently slopes into the crescent bay. Low tide produces a broad expanse of beach and the shallow waters are exceedingly calm, offering good swimming for even the most timid of bathers.

Playa Tambor
Swimming is safe in Tambor

The valley of Tambor is cradled by lush forested hills which are part of the Biological corridor of the Nicoya Peninsula. To the north of the Tambor bay lies the » Curu Wildlife Reserve which protects various ecological habitats and a wealth of wildlife. It is fronted by the Islas Tortugas, a tropical island paradise which can be visited on a boat tour.

To the north of the village center the majestic Rio Panica creates a scenic river landscape. You can hike along the river on your own or make a guided bird watching tour, offered by hotels in Tambor. See also » Costa Rica’s birds. There is also a local breeding program in Tambor for scarlet macaws and sometimes you can see flocks of these gregarious, large parrots foraging the almond trees on the beach.

A facet of Tambor that intrigues many visitors are the large patches of barren, abandoned lots. They are the remains of failed large-scale real estate projects. Despite many development plans Tambor never really took off as a residential or tourist destination. The village has retained its somnolent atmosphere with a tranquil Tico population and a contingent of retired North American expats.
However, 6 km north of the village of Tambor you find the self-contained vacation world of Barcelo’s Hotel Playa Tambor with over 400 hotel rooms. Hotel Playa Tambor was Costa Rica’s first all-inclusive tourist resort. Close by is also a 9-hole golf course and the only airport on the Southern Nicoya Peninsula. » Flights to Tambor are available several times per day and whisk you in 20-min from San Jose to Tambor.

Fisherman in Tambor
In Tambor you can buy fresh fish

On the southern side of the bay is a small fishermen community and a landing pier for boats. The largest bay on the south eastern Nicoya Peninsula offers one of the few safe anchor places for boats on the pacific side of Costa Rica. The local cooperative of fishermen has a selling point near the pier where you can buy fresh fish. Open hours are Mon – Fri from 6am – 6pm.

From the pier a road continues to the tip of the Tambor bay. It peters out to become a trail that alternates between the beach and a path behind the rocks. After a 4 km hike along gorgeous, lonesome beaches you reach El Chorro on Playa Cocalitos, where waterfall tumbles down into the ocean and has formed a rocky pool where you can bathe.

Tours and Activities in Tambor

Activities in Tambor
Snorkeling at Tortuga Islands

Snorkeling and Diving

With its immaculate white sand beaches and tall arching coconut palms, the Islas Tortuga is everything imagined in a tropical island. The islands also provide the best diving and snorkeling in all of southern Nicoya Peninsula. Plunge into the turquoise clear water and admire swarms of colorful fish and the underwater fauna. You can also hike to a view point on Tortuga island or just loll on the paradise beach and relax.

Horseback Riding

On a guided tour on horseback you can ride to viewpoints in the hills of Tambor from where you can gaze down to the islands in the gulf and look as far as to Montezuma. Other tours go to the upper Panica river to a gorgeous waterfall with a large natural swimming pool.


Tambor boasts 2 different 9-hole golf courses nearby: one is located at Tango Mar Beach resort at the north of Tambor, the other one at Los Delfines, near the Playa Tambor resort.

Sport Fishing

Fishing buffs enjoy world class sport fishing in Tambor. Professional operators take you to the best fishing sites in the Pacific ocean or in the Gulf of Nicoya. You can haul in game fish like marlin, sailfish, giant tuna, roosterfish and wahoo. On a lower budget you can go on a fishing tour with a panga, a small traditional fishing boat.


Tambor Pochote
Rio Pochote river mouth

At the northern end of the Tambor bay the small fishing village of Pochote is tucked into the estuary of a river with a large mangrove forest. You can rent kayaks to silently slip through the intricate habitat of a mangrove swamp. You will see many » water birds like herons, ibises, egrets, roseate spoonbills among others.

At low tide you can cross the Rio Pochote by foot to get to the secluded northern end of the Tambor bay. You will walk along lonely beaches, passing by secluded coves, and small rivers. The beach is backed by a steep and densely forested hill which borders the » Curu Wildlife Reserve.