Besides the fact that there aren't many worth the money this side of Costa Rica, the villas at stef surf offer a private oasis that you could never get at an all inclusive. All 4 units were occupied (coincidentally by all Canadians) while we were staying in the Pelicano suite and the neighbours were great but it still felt quiet and private with the plush garden that Francisco diligently maintains. Greg and Gladys (one of the owners) were there and were great guides for restaurants and excursions.
We didn't rent a car but found the transportation fairly good. I think we spent about $170 in transportation the whole week and saw many places. It was $70 return trip to tamarindo beach which was great for shopping and souvenirs, but not for much else... A little too crowded and "spring break" for our taste.
We walked mostly everywhere... Typically on the beach. Playa Potrero is a 3 minute walk down the road from Stef Surf and we almost always had it to ourselves :) but of course there are about 3 or 4 beach resorts/restaurants that you can eat at and use there chairs/facilities on the beach.
We walked about 40 mins to Playa Flamingo along the beach and over the bridge. Made a great day of it and ate at coco locos (awesome food and service on the beach).
I think kids would like Stef Surf too. Great pool on premises and a beach for sand castles near by. We recommend Point Break for surf lessons and the Panache catamaran snorkelling tour. Karaoke at Maxwells, band night at The Shack and great ceviche and pizza at Casa Celeste. Thanks Francisco, Marling, Greg and Gladys for being great hosts!