Indoor Climbing Comes to Tamarindo, Costa Rica

TamaRocks facility exterior
TamaRocks, Tamarindo’s premier climbing gym, recently opened in Costa Rica, featuring 4,000 square feet of climbing, a café, and amenities for new to experienced climbers. (All photos courtesy of TamaRocks)

Tamarindo, Costa Rica

Specs: TamaRocks, a climbing gym in Tamarindo, Costa Rica, opened mid-August this year. Jim Reilly, a Tamarindo resident of twenty years and the owner of TamaRocks, began climbing eight years ago and decided “Tamarindo [had] grown enough to support a facility like TamaRocks,” said Matthew Hulet, General Manager of the gym. “As Tamarindo has grown, with more families moving to the area, there has developed a need for additional activities outside of surfing and out of the sun,” Hulet continued. “His son also started to climb, and the idea to build a gym as a place for families to climb and hang out slowly turned into TamaRocks.”

Digital Climbing Holds

Reilly opted for a ground-up build for TamaRocks, in part out of necessity. According to Hulet, the available buildings in Tamarindo did not have ceilings that were high enough for the gym’s 4.5-meter boulder or 6-meter top rope walls. In addition to space for the gym’s climbing walls, a ground-up build came with HVAC benefits, enabling the owners to incorporate a foam core wall type that provides insulation from the heat and two roofs that block the sun and allow for solar in the future.

Fitness area at TamaRocks
TamaRocks was built to include a separate room for fitness and cardio overlooking the bouldering terrain.

The 14,000-square-foot facility is located next to an international school and across the street from another school, a spot the operators felt was ideal for a gym. “The international community here is hungry for activities,” said Hulet. TamaRocks features 4,000 square feet of climbing, a Grasshopper board, a weight room, and a cardio/fitness room for classes and training. The café—the result of a partnership with The Crag, a café owned by Sue Kooman, Reilly’s wife—provides a spot for climbers to relax before or after their session, or while kids are enrolled in after-school programs. Members at TamaRocks receive a discounted rate at the café, and the café works with families to provide food for parties and events. TamaRocks plans to hold clinics on routesetting and other climbing subjects, community events, and classes. “We are able to teach all the fundamentals for top roping and lead climbing,” Hulet added, “but bouldering is our bread and butter.”

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Reilly admitted that TamaRocks did experience some challenges within the construction process due to the city’s distance from indoor climbing industry brands. “As most of our climbing materials were imported, coordinating the timing of the international transport was a challenge,” he explained. “You are faced with either having more shipments (and cost) or waiting for everything to arrive at the freight forwarder and ship at one time.” And, because the team began construction during Costa Rica’s rainy season and lacked a place to store materials, the owners had to build their own temporary storage to keep things dry until the facility was ready. “We assembled our walls ourselves, with remote help from Walltopia, and there was a learning curve there,” Reilly added. “We opened a bit later than hoped and a bit over budget, but we stayed true to our vision and are pleased with the result.”

Bouldering at TamaRocks
The operations team at TamaRocks assembled the gym’s Walltopia walls themselves, with remote support from the Bulgarian company.

Other challenges the gym has faced are less related to constructing the TamaRocks facility itself and more to do with being the sole climbing gym in town. The North American Cup Series recently came to Eskalar in San Jose, the capital of Costa Rica—which is home to multiple climbing walls—in July, but the sport is still growing. “The biggest challenge is building a climbing community,” Reilly said. “Climbing is new to most people in the area. This requires us to introduce the sport and build a member base from the ground up.” As such, Hulet advises owners to “do [their] research and be flexible.”

Walls: Walltopia
Flooring: “Imported ballistic nylon from the U.S., manufactured in San Jose, Costa Rica.”
CRM Software: RGP
Instagram: @TamaRockCR

In Their Words: “Know your market. It is pretty easy to build a gym that passionate climbers will love. The challenge is building one that people new to climbing enjoy just as much as experienced climbers. We also knew the community wanted a safe, clean, light space to gather, and climbing fits the alternative surf/skate lifestyle many of our members enjoy. This was our vision and guided us in most of our decisions.” – Jim Reilly, TamaRocks owner

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