Ocaso Brings 5 Days of Techno to Tamarindo, Costa Rica

Written and all photos by Rebecca Hollman

Ocaso is a small techno festival located in the jungle, about 30 minutes outside of Tamarindo, Costa Rica. This grass roots Costa Rican run festival brings pretty mega techno names and also local talent to the forefront during this popular weekend in January. This year brought ARTBAT, Maceo Plex, Âme, Seth Troxler, Shiba San and Justin Martin to the jungles of Tamarindo.

Lineup and Events

Ocaso split itself into two different events everyday, the day and the night parties. All the day parties took place in town, at a venue called Crazy Monkey’s Bar. This was a small venue with a pool, a dance floor and a bar. The day party went from around 1 PM to 6 PM everyday, with epic views of the sunset. The pool and dance floor were located up on a hill and so you could see the bay of Tamarindo Beach and Playa Grande from the venue. This also gave some pretty awesome sunset views as the sun went down around 5:30 PM. After the day party, buses shuttled attendees out to La Senda, the jungle area that was the host for the night time events. The night party went from “7 PM to close.” Closing hours changed everyday, sometimes being 3 AM and sometimes being 7 or 8 AM. Nobody really knew. On Monday, they actually changed the night party to also be at Crazy Monkey Bar so there was no event at La Senda on Monday.

Thursday saw Acid Mondays and the Lisbona Sisters during the day and Smalltown DJs, Shiba San and Justin Martin at night. Friday saw Jon Lee and Sluam during the day and Maceo Plex and Âme at night. Saturday saw Driss Skali and Crocodile Time during the day and Seth Troxler, Maetrik and Doc Martin at night. Sunday saw David Scuba and Paulo Aravda during the day and Denis Horvat, Themba and Magdalena at night. Monday saw D’Jul2 and Tekes and ARTBAT and Papa Lu at night.

The Venues

Ocaso was split across two venues – The Crazy Monkey and La Senda. Both venues are technically in Tamarindo, although the La Senda location was about a 20-30 minute drive out of town. There were shuttles that took attendees from the front of the Crazy Monkey to La Senda every half hour. Although realistically, it was more like every hour or just whenever there were some people ready for the bus. The shuttle was also supposed to cost $5 USD per way but after the first day, they gave up enforcing this and just let everyone use it for free.

The Crazy Monkey is a bar in the town of Tamarindo. It has a pool, a bar and a small area as a dance floor. The pool was awesome to chill in during the heat of the day. Tamarindo runs a solid 95 degrees most days in January. It was a pretty small venue that held around 200-300 people. It was a good amount of people in there just vibing out during the day, some people dancing but most sitting around the pool or in the sun. The Crazy Monkey is about a 10 minute walk from the center of downtown Tamarindo, so it was very conveniently located to most people’s accommodation. You could walk back and forth and go in and out as much as you wanted, so people could leave for food or drinks or to rest and then come back. The day party went until 6 PM, so right after the sunset. The Crazy Monkey was a great venue to watch the sunset over the ocean because of it’s high vantage point. After the day party ended, most people went back into town to eat and nap before going out again at night.

La Senda was the night time venue, and it was located a solid 20-30 minute drive outside of Tamarindo. Shuttles were running back and forth all night from Crazy Monkey to La Senda. If there hadn’t been shuttles, getting to the festival would have been extremely complicated. It was still quite logistically complicated even with the shuttles, as you couldn’t hop back and forth from the festival to town to chill out. It also added another 30 minutes on to your time after you left before you could sleep. The road out to the festival was also a terrible, pot-hole ridden, bumpy road so it made for a slow-going and bouncy ride. Originally the shuttles were supposed to cost $5 USD each way, but after Thursday they gave up on enforcing this and let everyone take it for free.

The venue was essentially a big field that was it’s own natural amphitheater. The ground created a sloping bowl that they tiered to make concentric rings of dancing space around the stage. There was only one stage but the projection mapping on the stage and the laser production was actually much more involved than I expected. The light production blew me away, however the sound quality was slightly lacking. At the top of the amphitheater there were a few drink stands, a food tent, a chill out tent with pillows and tea, and a few art installations.

Logistics

As mentioned earlier, the logistics of getting the shuttle was slightly complicated but overall not terrible. The only downside to the shuttle was that it was not easy to go back and forth. The Crazy Monkey was nice because you could walk back into town to eat food or take a nap. It was also kind of chaos trying to get my wristband the first night. There was one booth by the entrance where people were supposed to get wristbands, but there was no lines and people had just created a mob around it. Also, people were fucked up and just shoving and pushing in front of people. I got cut by probably 5 people before I was able to try to get my wristband – and then they still couldn’t find my name on the list. It took about an hour overall for me to get my wristband on.

Ocaso is a small grassroots Costa Rican run festival, and this is part of it’s appeal but you can also see it in some of the logistical issues. There were no set times released ever, which is apparently just a Costa Rican thing, and you just had to guess about what time you thought artists would be playing. Also the event ended at “close”, which could mean 3 AM one night, 7 AM the next night or 10 AM the next. So you really never had any idea when to be there or when people were playing.

Staying in Tamarindo

Tamarindo is a pretty popular beach town in Costa Rica and January is peak season. Because of the back to back festivals, Ocaso and BPM, and also it being January, Tamarindo was packed. This made almost all of the hotels and hostels in town double or triple priced. If you could find a place to stay, then you were definitely paying a premium for being in Tamarindo at this time. Other than that, Tamarindo is a cool beach town with tons of restaurants, cafes, bars, hotels/hostels and a nice beach to surf at or watch the sunset on. However, Tamarindo is a developed town and you will be paying American prices here, so don’t expect to be saving money in Costa Rica.

Competition with BPM

This is the first year that the BPM Festival moved to Costa Rica. Conveniently, or rudely, they brought the festival to the same town as Ocaso just the weekend after. BPM used to take place in Playa del Carmen, Mexico until the unfortunate shooting incident. Since then, they’ve been looking for a new home and landed in Tamarindo in 2020. However, the presence of BPM has distracted somewhat from Ocaso. People that would have originally gone to Ocaso may have decided to save their money and energy to go to BPM the next weekend instead. BPM also is a legit, long-running festival that knows what they are doing in terms of logistics and professionalism, leaving people thinking poorly about their experience at Ocaso. BPM’s choice of Tamarindo and the weekend after Ocaso was kind of a slap in the face to Ocaso and their team. We will see what happens in the future years with these back to back festivals.

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