I’m the first to admit, I love a good festival, especially while I’m traveling. It’s a great way to meet people, experience a location through a unique lens and see amazing DJs I might not have the opportunity to see anywhere else. When I found out the first-ever edition of BPM Festival Costa Rica would take place a week after I was due to arrive in the country, it was a no-brainer to shift my itinerary and add the chill surf town of Tamarindo to my schedule!
After all, how often do you get to attend an epic festival in Costa Rica?!
A mix of parties, chill jungle vibes, beats from world-renowned DJs and breathtaking sunsets, BPM turned out to be an epic 5-day long experience I won't soon forget! I was gifted a media pass for the event which allowed me to take my camera in for the purposes of this post.
I put this guide together to give you all the information you need for attending future BPM Costa Rica events, where to stay while there, what you need to bring, what to do in Tamarindo, and making the most of your time in Costa Rica. Hope you enjoy it!
Here’s everything you need to know about attending the BPM Festival in Tamarindo, Costa Rica!
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About the BPM Festival
An acronym for “Bartenders, Promoters, and Musicians” (not “Beats Per Minute” as one could assume, though that would also be appropriate!), BPM grew from a small industry networking event to a global phenomenon reaching as far as Portugal, Israel, the USA, Mexico, and now Costa Rica!
The festival also left its mark with one-off events in epic music capitals around the world, including in Toronto, Barcelona, Ibiza, Mykonos, Brazil, Dubai and more. It's easily become a bucket list festival you have to travel to at least once in your life to experience!
Having made a reputation for itself in Playa del Carmen, Mexico, with legendary 10-day parties between 2008 and 2017, BPM Festival made a splash this year with its inaugural edition in the beautiful beach town of Tamarindo, Costa Rica.
Overview of BPM Festival Costa Rica: EDC Meets Jungle & Beach
In keeping with the essence of what BPM, the Tamarindo chapter had daytime club and beach parties, nighttime jungle parties, sunset beats, and everything in between!
5,600+ people attended the festival in total, though I can't say I ever felt like there were that many people roaming around. It's amazing how the event still managed to feel small and intimate while bringing that many people together. I definitely felt the Pura Vida* that flows so freely throughout every fibre of Costa Rican culture.
Of the total attendees, only 10% of attendees were Costa Rican, with 90% coming from all over the world. I met so many people from Latin America, naturally, but there were also a ton of people travelling from North America, Europe, and Asia. It was one of the most international festivals I've ever attended which speaks volumes about BPM's reputation around the world!
*As an aside: “Pura Vida” means “Pure Life” and the expression can be used in every aspect of conversations, from saying ‘hi' to someone, to ‘thank you' or ‘you're welcome' or even as a response when someone asks how you are doing or how your vacation was. You can get far in Costa Rica with this expression alone. Of course, Pura Vida is much more than just an expression, it's a way of life and you can feel it everywhere throughout Costa Rica. And, something about electronic music meeting the Costa Rican Pura Vida is some kind of magic.
I've felt a personal connection with BPM since the two co-founders are fellow Torontonians. In fact, there was a strong Toronto presence throughout the entire 5 days of BPM Costa Rica.
The Saturday of the festival even saw an entire evening of Toronto DJs bring down the house at El Garito during the 4×2 TORONTO set, including DJ/Producer Addy, Flipside, Mili & Mo, Manzone & Strongs, B2B, Miz Megs, Jayforce and Randomdoub.
I managed to meet more Torontonians on any given BPM night than I would during a night out back at home, but then again, people tend to socialize with more strangers while they're traveling.
We got to Tamarindo a couple of days before the festival started to have a chance to experience the beach town outside the energy of the event. This was an awesome decision since we had a chance to get familiar with Tamarindo before thousands of people descended upon it. By the time the festival came around, we were practically locals!
We spent the day before the festival taking it easy around Tamarindo, checking out the amazing beach, catching an awesome sunset and picking up our wristbands.
I have to say, Tamarindo was a brilliant location for the festival. Perched on the Pacific coastline in Costa Rica, Tamarindo boasts pristine beaches, a bustling town, lush parks and great wildlife. It actually has all my favorite things, so of course, I loved every minute I spent here, before, during, and after BPM. Though I'm not a surfer, Tamarindo is also a surfers' paradise, a sort of “Gold Coast” of Costa Rica.
January is the perfect time to party in Tamarindo since the weather is absolutely perfect. After spending a few days in San Jose and rainy (and cold) Monteverde, not to mention months of horrible winter in Toronto before that, getting off the bus in Tamarindo and being hit in the face with humidity was amazing. I've never been more grateful for heat and humidity!
Every one of the 5 days was exciting in its own way. I've added the official recap videos of each day below, partly because I love reliving them, and partly because they're a great way to sense the amazing energy while you're planning your trip to BPM Festival Costa Rica 2021!
Venues & Stages
There were 4 venues and 6 stages in total, which definitely kept things fun and exciting over 5 days! Two of the venues were open to everyone, and the rest were by admission ticket only.
The daytime events weren’t as well attended as the nighttime events (a few hundred attendees vs. thousands), for obvious reasons. Daytime events peaked around 5pm whereas nighttime events peaked around 1-2am. However, they're great options for sneaking in some daytime dancing or to checking out a specific DJ.
Here's everything you need to know about each venue.
Located in Tamarindo town, Casa Aura was an awesome daytime venue for those looking for a warm-up party between 12pm and 7pm daily. It was conveniently located close to the beach and near a ton of restaurants. It was free for everyone to enter without a BPM ticket.
Photo credit: Sarah Heaton (@hisarahnoelle)
Treehouse at Canopy
The Canopy stage was a 5-10 minute walk from the Jungle stages and was open every day from 12pm to 10pm. You needed a ticket to attend, though there were special passes just for this. It never felt too busy (especially early in the day) because it’s so huge, but it was a good warm-up for the rest of the night and it conveniently closed when the 3 jungle stages opened. It was also right next to the food station!
Photo credit: Elena Yec (@yeeccc)
The Jungle – Pod Stage
One of the three Jungle stages, the Pod was only a few minutes away from the other 2, and about a 5-10 minute walk from the Canopy. It opened daily at 10pm and closed when the party died down, typically around 3am but on some nights it was much later. It required a festival ticket. I loved this one because they kept projecting images and words on the top of the stage, which kept it interesting and cool.
Photo credit: Menbar Photos (@menbarphotos)
The Jungle -Dreamcatcher
Another one of the three Jungle stages, the Dreamcatcher was my favorite stage! It had these huge dreamcatchers that made it feel magical. It opened daily at 10pm and closed when the party died down, sometimes at 3am and sometimes at 6am. It required a festival ticket.
Photo credit: Alive Coverage (@alivecoverage)
The Jungle – Howling Monkey
The last of the Jungle stages, the Howling Monkey was my least favorite and smallest, but it was still a lot of fun and had some great acts! The best part of this stage was walking through all the lit-up trees in the jungle to get to it. It opened daily at 10pm and closed when the party died down like the rest of the jungle stages. It also required a festival ticket.
Photo credit: Alive Coverage (@alivecoverage)
El Garito was a bar in the heart of Tamarindo town and the other venue beside Casa Aura that was free and open to everyone. It opened at 9pm and closed at 3am every day, though it only got busy later in the night. It was very close to Selina Tamarindo, where we were staying, so it was convenient to stop by, especially on Saturday for the 4×2 Toronto set!
Photo credit: Sarah Heaton (@hisarahnoelle)
This year the lineup was absolutely insane and legendary, and I have no doubt that it'll be even better next year! I found that there was a great mix of international talent and local artists.
The inaugural chapter of BPM Costa Rica pulled out all the stops in stacking the lineup, bringing 140 artists from all over the world and staging some epic team-ups and sets.
My friend Laura introduced me to the BPM Costa Rica playlist on Spotify which I used to get familiar with more of the acts at the festival. It's a great playlist and I highly recommend it! You can also find artist sets from all BPM Festivals on SoundCloud.
Here is the full lineup:
Day 1 Highlights
We took advantage of the free shuttles to go back to the town center for dinner and a break, then took a quick taxi back ($10 split between us & quicker than waiting for a shuttle) and spent the rest of the night bouncing between the Jungle stages.
We also caught the Detroit Love set at the Dream Catcher featuring Carl Craig, Kenny Larkin, Stacey Pullen and Waajeed. Between them, we went over to the Howling Monkey stage quite a bit for the Visionquest set featuring Lee Curtiss, Ryan Crosson, Shaun Reeves and more. It was a very successful first night!
Day 2 Highlights
I spent a better part of this night at the Pod stage for the Luciano and Friends set featuring Audiofly, Knowhat, Luciano, Miky J and Vanjee.
One of my favorite parts of BPM Festival was the electric energy of the crowd, and the El Garito crowd was no exception. I admit I'm an extrovert and nothing electrifies me more than a great crowd.
Day 3 Highlights
Felix Da Housecat at the Canopy
Daytime parties weren't as well attended as their nighttime counterparts, obviously, but we were still surprised to see how many people were there dancing and having a good time.
We took an afternoon break and returned in the evening to the Canopy to check out Masters at Work and the legendary Nicole Moudaber at the Pod.
Day 4 Highlights
Saturday also brought a bigger crowd, with people that had 3-day festival passes and those who can only attend during the weekend days showing up on Friday.
Day 5 Highlights
Tickets & Wristbands
Tickets to BPM are released in stages and each wave has a different price point, as is the case with most other festivals. The cheapest ticket you can purchase is obviously a phase one ticket. This requires planning ahead and getting your tickets as soon as they're released. They can be almost 50% off if you get it early versus waiting until the last minute.
You can purchase the tickets online through the BPM Festival website.
There are a number of ticket options. The 5-Day Pass will give you complete access to the festival and all its stages and events throughout the week. You can also get a 3-Day Pass that's a great option if you can only make it to the weekend events. The weekend is the busiest time of the 5 days since so many more people can attend starting on Friday night.
There are also free events that anyone can attend, and those will take place at Casa Aura beach bar during the day and at El Garito bar in the heart of Tamarindo town during the night (see details above).
As far as last-minute tickets go, you can save some money if you utilize the BPM Costa Rica Facebook group to get tickets the week of the event. This is a hit or miss, but something worth exploring if you're left without a ticket and are dying to go (hello, FOMO!).
To book a VIP bed or table, contact email@example.com.
Pro Tip: Utilize the Facebook group as much as you can, it's easy to meet up with people from there and make friends if you're traveling to Tamarindo solo, get tips about the festival, and much more. Plus, people are hilarious and very active, making it super entertaining! There's also a general BPM Festival Facebook group to help you keep up with events and lineups.
Wristbands can be picked up as early as the day before the event starts. I highly recommend you get it if you're in town earlier rather than once the event starts. There are barely any lineups and it'll take a few minutes.
We got ours before heading to a local Soda restaurant in the area for dinner. You'll need a valid photo ID to pick up your wristband but then you can leave it at home so you don't have to worry about keeping it safe in the hustle and bustle.
Topping Up Your Wristband
BPM partnered with Billfold POS to provide cashless payments and it was one of the most seamless payment options I've ever seen at a festival (including Ultra Croatia and Untold Romania). The wristband is RFID-based and lets you link your debit or credit card to your wristband with so much ease. I absolutely loved the convenience of this and definitely left all my cards at home so I don't lose them.
You have a couple of options — you can either link your card to your wristband so every time you make a purchase, a seamless transaction is made to your card (which I did), or you can pre-load cash credits. The cash credits are a great way to budget your spending, but you'll need to remember to get the credit back if you have any left before the festival ends.
I recommend linking your credit card to your wristband when you pick up your ticket before the festival starts, to save yourself some time. It'll also save you having to carry your credit cards around while partying.
Food & Drinks
There's a food truck area near the Canopy stage that's open late into the night for when you get hungry and need a dancing break. The prices are higher than eating in town, which is to be expected. You pay for convenience! You have a few choices to pick from, including dessert.
Personally, I mostly ate in Tamarindo town and I timed my meal breaks with my breaks from the festival. The free shuttle makes it easy to go back to town for dinner and come back when you're ready.
A few good restaurants I recommend in town: Longboard BBQ, Noi Bistro, Waffle Monkey (for breakfast & awesome coffee!), La Pachanga, Falafel Bar, and Bamboo Sushi Club.
Tax and tips are included in the prices so you don’t have to worry about tipping extra, though you are more than welcome to if you love the service and feeling generous! You also don't have to feel bad about adding a $0 tip.
If you prefer to add a tip, it's best to carry cash or coins and add them in the tip jars on the bars that are set up by the local bartenders.
What to Bring to BPM Festival
There are no lockers, so only bring what you need. You're allowed to take in a single-compartment small bag (12in x 12in / 30cm x 30cm max) which will be inspected each time you enter the venue(s). Though Canopy and the Jungle are close by, they have different entrances and you'll go through inspection twice. A fanny pack or small purse will be easier to carry.
You can bring sunscreen with you if you head to any of the daytime events, and especially if you are going to Casa Aura and the nearby beach. You're allowed a small towel as well.
Professional cameras and removable lenses are only allowed with a media pass, though you can bring a non-professional film or digital camera. I recommend bringing a GoPro – I had my 8 Black on hand and used it quite a bit because it's so small and convenient.
You can bring your cellphone and an external battery – I don't leave the hostel without one — it comes in handy since you're bound to take a lot of pictures and record, especially if you're out all day.
If you're a smoker, you can bring your cigarettes and a lighter.
Since your credit card will be connected to your wrist band, I don't recommend bringing a lot of cash. You may need some for taxis if you don't take the shuttle, extra tips or food in town, but otherwise you can just tap your wrist. Likewise, leave your IDs at home where they're safer (assuming you already picked up your wristband).
BPM has a complete list of what is and is not allowed inside the festival if you're looking for more details.
Wear anything that makes you feel like a badass and you can be comfortable dancing in for an extended period of time. Outfits varied greatly, and it was awesome to see everyone's personality shine through!
Jeans and a t-shirt will do, but if you dress like your inner superhero you'll also fit right in! The most important thing is footwear — flats only, even if they're heeled flats! Your feet will thank you.
It's also important to consider that anything you wear will get super Jungle-dirty. You'll be peeling it off of you at the end of each night/morning, so bring a number of outfits you don't mind throwing directly in your laundry bag after wearing them.
Photo Credit: Alive Coverage, Menbar Photos, Sarah Heaton, and Ioana Stoica
Make-up and accessories are what really count here, so don't be afraid to bring anything that will sass out your outfit. Sunglasses, hats, beads, feathers, sequins, flags, umbrellas (though they must be less than 12in/30cm collapsed), etc.
I regretted not bringing more accessories with me (at least a flag!) but being at the beginning of a 4-month backpacking trip, my luggage space was limited.
Getting to Tamarindo
The closest airport to Tamarindo is Daniel Oduber Quiros International Airport (LIR) in Liberia, only an hour and a half away from Tamarindo.
You can also fly into Juan Santamaría International Airport (SJO) in San Jose, though you'll have to travel 4 hours to get to Tamarindo. Personally, I landed in San Jose and headed to the Cloud Forest in Monteverde for a few days before making my way to Tamarindo.
From the airport, the best way to get to Tamarindo is by shuttle, local bus or by renting a car (see below).
Taking a Shuttle
There are a number of shuttles you can take, though they will cost you a pretty penny. The steep price ($60+ USD one way) ensures that you get to your destination quickly, safely, and in an airconditioned environment.
You'll also get door-to-door service so you don't have to worry about taking taxis from bus terminals, etc. I took Interbus Costa Rica a number of times across the country, including to Tamarindo, and it was pretty painless (aside from the hit to my budget). You can get tickets online or at your hotel.
There's another shuttle company you can take – Gray Line Costa Rica. I didn't take them but I heard good reviews.
Jumping on the Local Bus
The cheapest option is to take a local bus for $3.50 USD. I took the bus from Tamarindo to Liberia and it took about 3 hours, which is longer than it would've had I chosen any other option. The bus stops at local communities along the way and it's a sure way to zigzag along the route.
That being said, I felt safe and comfortable and had all the time in the world, so I didn't mind the extra time for a total of what a latte would cost at home.
If you're going to San Jose by bus, it'll cost $10 USD and should take about 6-7 hours, though it could (and probably will) take longer.
Renting a Car
Getting a car at the airport comes in handy if you are spending some time in Costa Rica before or after BPM. You can easily get one at either airport, though I recommend booking it in advance and showing up on time for your reservation. With 5,600+ extra people coming to Costa Rica for the festival, you might miss out on getting one or end up paying a lot more than you should.
If you're coming specifically for BPM Costa Rica, you can also reach out to the official travel company that BPM works with to arrange transportation from the airport, accommodation and tours.
Where to Stay in Tamarindo
There are a number of accommodation options in Tamarindo, seeing how it's a fairly touristy place. I ended up switching a couple of times because I booked everything last minute and most places were sold out.
My favorite place in town was Selina Tamarindo, and I highly recommend staying here. It has such a chill vibe thanks to an awesome pool and great restaurant. I met so many fellow BPM attendees in this courtyard alone!
Every time we would take a break from the festival, we would come back and eat at Selina before heading back. Easily one of the best restaurants in town. It's also located right next to the beach, so it was easy to catch those amazing sunsets.
Definitely book in advance so you don't have to jump around like me!
It's easy to book directly through the Selina website and you'll get the best price.
There are also plenty of Instagrammable spots (see below!) around the property. The sunburn is all my doing, ha! Thank you to Laura and Bradley for being great Insta-photographers.
Getting Around Tamarindo
Tamarindo town is very walkable and you can get everywhere in less than 10-15 minutes. The town runs parallel to Playa Tamarindo and is very functional. You can also take a taxi if needed, but I didn't find like I required one. It'll run you about $10 USD to get to the Jungle venues from the center of town.
I was also pleasantly surprised to find out that BPM arranged FREE shuttles to and from venues! As a solo female traveller, this wasn't something I took for granted! Seeing how most of the night stages were in the jungle and about a 15-20 minute walk from the main town, I used these so often to get back at night.
The shuttles ran around the clock, though they were very frequent at night (every 15-20 minutes or so) and less frequent during the day.
Other Things To Do in Tamarindo
Relax at Playa Tamarindo
If you plan on taking a break from partying, you'll have plenty of things to do in Tamarindo! The most obvious of the list is spending time on the beach. Tamarindo is a long and beautiful beach where you can easily find a spot you can enjoy.
If you manage to wake up earlier (than most other BPM-goers), you'll find the beach fairly empty!
The Tamarindo sunsets are some of the best I've seen in Costa Rica, and I don't say that lightly! Take a break from the festival, grab a couple of beers at the supermarket and head to the beach to watch the sunset. If you're partying at Casa Aura, you are steps away from the beach.
Seek Solitude and See Wildlife at Playa Grande
Head to Playa Grande if you crave even more solitude (or want to sleep those hangovers on the beach!). You can cross from Playa Tamarindo to Playa Grande by walking to the end of the former and taking a quick boat shuttle for $0.50 USD to the other side — you can swim, but there are crocodiles!
You can actually see leatherback turtles on Playa Grande at night (when it's turtle season) but I recommend getting a tour because they'll know where to take you!
You can also get a tour of the Mangrove to see crocodiles and howler monkeys. If you walk along the beach, you can negotiate tours with people that are peddling the beach selling tours. They drop the price faster if you have 2-3 people going. I was quoted $40 USD per person and $60 USD for two without negotiating very hard.
Selina has all the tours and the front desk can help you set it all up easily.
Surf (or Take Surfing Lessons!)
Tamarindo is a surfer's paradise and a perfect place to learn how to surf! The surf shops are a dime a dozen so you can get lessons from anywhere, including the hotel. You can also negotiate a tour while you're on the beach and the mood strikes you.
Stay tuned for my comprehensive Tamarindo Guide for all the extra tips of things to do around town. Coming soon!
Other BPM Festivals Around the World
There are a number of BPM events taking place around the year in various corners of the world. Here's a list of the ones to keep an eye for as their 2020 chapters start getting announced in the coming months:
- The BPM Festival: Miami – The one-day Miami chapter took place in February 2020 during Miami Music Week.
- The BPM Festival: Portugal – Taking place in the beautiful town of Portimao in the Algarve region, BPM has held three annual events here with the last one in September 2019. Stay tuned for BPM Portugal 2020!
- The BPM Festival: Israel – The inaugural one-day Israel chapter brought the BPM Fam to Tel Aviv in September 2019. The 2020 chapter is yet to be announced.
- The BPM Festival: Costa Rica – It's definitely coming back in 2021, so keep an eye out for tickets so you can grab them cheap and get the best bang for your buck! It'll likely take place in January 2021.
Cover image credit: Alive Coverage (@alivecoverage)
A huge thank you to The BPM Festival and Plexi PR for the opportunity to attend as Media and share this event with you. It goes without saying that experiences and opinions are my own.