Playa Samara

Is Samara the black hole of happiness? That’s what more than one expat has said after stopping here on vacation and never leaving. And perhaps it is more than the sum of its parts? Because on the surface it’s just an easy-to-navigate beach town with barefoot, three-star appeal and a crescent shaped strip of pale-gray sand spanning two rocky headlands, where the sea is calm and beautiful. Not spectacular, just safe, mellow, reasonably developed, easily navigable on foot and accessible by public transportation. Not surprisingly, you’ll find it’s popular with vacationing Tico and foreign families and backpackers, who enjoy Samara’s palpable ease and tranquility. But be careful, the longer you stay the less you’ll want to leave.

If you’ve got some extra time and a 4WD, explore the hidden beaches north of Samara, such as Playa Barrigona, equally famous for its pristine beach as for its celebrity resident, Mel Gibson.


Experienced surfers will probably be bored with Samara’s inconsistent waves, though beginners will have a blast.

Pato Surf School Surfing ( Tel: 8761-4738;; board rental per day US$15, lessons US$25-35) Set right on the beach, Pato offers inexpensive and quality board rental, and beginner surf instruction. Pay for a lesson and get free board rental for five days! Also on offer: stand-up paddle-board rental and lessons; kayak rental and tours; and snorkel gear. Plus, massage on the beach and occasional beach yoga. What else do you want?

C&C Surf School Surfing (Tel: 5006-0369;; board rentals per day US$16, lessons semiprivate/ private US$30/40; h 8am-8pm) A great choice, offering private and semiprivate lessons. The school donates 10Tel: from every surf lesson to a local children’s school and a turtle conservation project. C&C also organizes surf tours up and down the peninsula.

Wing Nuts Canopy Tour (Tel: 2656-0153;; adult/ child US$60/40; h tours 8am, 9am, noon & 1pm) One entrepreneurial family found a way to preserve their beautiful, wild patch of dry tropical forest: by setting up a small-scale canopy tour. Family-owned and professionally run, this 10-platform operation is unique for its personal approach, as groups max out at 10 people. The price includes transportation from your hotel in Samara.

Flying Crocodile Scenic Flights (Tel: 2656-8048;; flights 20/30/60min US$110/150/230, lessons per hour US$230) About 6km north of Samara in Playa Buenavista, the Flying Crocodile offers ultra light flights and lessons.


As a general guideline, budget options have cold-water showers, while midrange and top-end facilities have hot water.

Entre Dos Aguas Guesthouse $ (Tel: 2656-0998;; d US$4752, tr/q US$60/70, ste US$90-105; p i s ) This fantastic little inn offers the charming personality and artistic atmosphere of a boutique hotel at the price of a roadside motel. Seven brightly colored rooms have private stone showers, vibrant woven linens and many homey touches – all with access to an inviting common courtyard and lush gardens. It’s just north of the main intersection on the road to Nicoya.

El Cactus Hostel Hostel $ (Tel: 2656-3224;; dm/d US$16/38; W s ) Brightly painted in citrus colors, El Cactus is a great new addition for Samara’s backpacker set. All rooms are brand new, with wooden furniture, fresh paint jobs, clean linens and hot-water showers. Hammocks hang around a small pool, while a fully equipped kitchen is also available. Located on a side street in the center of town, 100m from the beach.

Hotel Matilori Hostel $ (Tel: 2656-0291; This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.; dm/s/d/ tw US$16/30/36/32; pW) A terrific-value hostel with private rooms (and shared bathrooms) in the main house and wooden dorm rooms that sleep six in the newer annex. All the rooms have fresh coats of jewel-toned paints, and guests have use of an updated kitchen. The ownership is quite endearing.

Hostel Mariposas Hostel $ (Tel: 2656-0314, 8703-3625; www.hostelmariposas. com; camp US$8, hammock US$8, dm US$16, d without bathroom US$36; W ) Down a dirt road (on the way to the language school) is a fun hostel that guarantees a good time, as long as you’re in the right frame of mind. It’s got wooden rooms and dorms, plenty of swaying hammocks, paper lantern lighting and a communal kitchen. It’s just 60m from the sand.

Casa Paraiso Guesthouse $ (Tel 2656-0741; This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.; d US$45; W) There’s a lovely little guesthouse tucked in behind Ahora Sí. Eight simple rooms are brushed in deep blues and inviting pastels, with thematic murals, high ceilings and comfy beds. Ceiling fans keep you cool while hot-water showers will warm you up.

La Mansion B&B B&B $ (Tel: 2265-0165;; s/d/ste US$40/60/120; a W ) This whitewashed concrete hacienda is on a quiet street, twirling with fans and bursting with colorful knickknacks. There’s loads of charm: rooms are spacious and bright, plus the breakfast is huge. Bathrooms are shared.

Hotel Casa Valeria Hotel $ (Tel: 2656-0511; This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.; r with bathroom US$50-70, s/d without bathroom US$25/30; p a ) A cheery guesthouse with hammocks in the garden and comfy public spaces, located on a sweet slice of beach. Some rooms are bigger than others, and those with private bathroom that sleep up to four are a steal. It’s about 100m east of the main road. It only accepts cash.

Tico Adventure Lodge $$ (Tel: 2656-0628;; tw/ d/q US$57/68/84; p a W s ) The US owners are proud of the fact that they built this lodge without cutting down a single tree, and they have every reason to be – it’s stunning. Nine double rooms and several larger apartments are surrounded by lush vegetation and old growth trees. There’s an outdoor kitchen and cookout area for communal use, as well as an onsite massage studio.

Samara Palm Lodge Guesthouse $$ (Tel: 2656-1169;; d US$60-80; p a W s ) An inviting little lodge on the edge of town. Eight spotless rooms feature a tropical decor, with natural wood furniture, tile floors and colorful artwork. They face a lush garden and enticing swimming pool. Hosts Brigitte and Lothar are delightful.

Hotel Casa del Mar Hotel $$ (Tel: 2656-0264;; d with/without bathroom incl breakfast US$85/45; p a W s ) S Surrounding a big mango tree and a tiny swimming pool are 17 rooms with whitewashed stucco walls and tile floors. The rooms that share a bathroom are a steal (and you can still use the Jacuzzi).

Hotel Giada Hotel $$ (Tel: 2656-0132;; s/d/q incl breakfast US$70/90/110; p a W s ) A pleasant place with sponge painted rooms, located in a hacienda huddled between two pools. It’s in the center of town so it ain’t quiet, but new double-plated windows cut back the street noise. Colorful African art and a leafy landscape offer plenty of charm.

Rancho de la Playa Hotel $$ (Tel: 2656-0573;; dm US$20, r with bathroom US$60-70, r without bathroom US$40-50; p a i W s ) Now under new management, this sprawling place has a wide variety of rooms and apartments with widely varying standards. In the best of them, look for mango-painted walls, high wood ceilings, tile floors and wood furniture. The onsite bar-restaurant is fun, often hosting live music, although it can be loud if you’re trying to sleep.

El Pequeño Gecko Verde Bungalow $$$ (Tel 2656-1176;; r US$95105, bungalows US$100-175; p a W s ) A hidden slice of heaven. Contemporary and beautifully decorated bungalows have beds dressed in plush linens, artisanal carvings on the walls, private terraces with hammocks and outdoor dining areas, plus our favorite feature – outdoor stone showers. Onsite amenities include a saltwater swimming pool with waterfall, lush gardens and a fabulous open-air restaurant and bar.

Behind the property, a 400m jungle trail and steep cement staircase lead to a secret beach that doesn’t appear on any map – Playa Izquierda, a stunning cove backed by high cliffs with amazing sunset views. Located several kilometers west on the road to Nosara.

Las Ranas lodge $$$ (Tel: 2656-0609;; d/tr US$118/135; p a W s ) A sharp stucco lodge with a king’s location. We’re talking nearly 180 degrees of ocean vistas from the restaurant, pool and upper rooms. And those rooms are gorgeous, with canopy beds, granite tile floors, balconies and soaring beamed ceilings. It’s a few kilometers west of town, so you’ll need wheels.

But it’s worth the trip, as the leafy grounds are alive with birdlife and other animals. Spotted here: a stunning pair of western tanagers.

Samara Tree House Inn Bungalow $$$ (Tel: 2656-0733;; bungalows incl breakfast US$150; p a i W s ) These five stilted tree houses for grown-ups are so appealing that you might not want to leave. Fully equipped kitchens have pots and pans hanging from driftwood racks, huge windows welcome light and breezes, and hammocks are hung underneath the raised bungalows. Four of the units face the beach. You can’t get much closer than this.


Self-caterers can stock up on supplies at Super Samara Market, east of the main road, or the smaller Super La Amistad on the main road by the beach.

Ahora Sí 
(Tel: 2656-0741; www.
US$5-11; h noon-9pm;
owned vegetarian restaurant and all-natural cocktail bar. It does smoothies with coconut milk; gnocchi with nutmeg, sage and smoked cheese; soy burgers and yucca fries; wok stir-fries; and thin-crust pizzas. All served on a lovingly decorated tiled patio. Required eating.

Lo Que Hay

vegetarian $; mains p W v ) A Venetian

Mexican $ from US$6; h 7am-late) This rocking beachside taquería and pub offers six delectable taco fillings (fish, chorizo, chicken, beef, pork, veggie). The grilled avocados stuffed with pico de gallo are worth the money. Even sin tacos, it’s a good time, as the bar crowd sips into

the wee hours.

Luv Burger vegetarian $ (Tel: 2656-3348;; mains US$5-8; h 8am-5pm; v ) ‘Luv’ is the operative word here. Feel it, veggies. There are burgers, but they are not made of meat. Neither is the pizza, pasta or sandwiches. It’s all veggie, all the time, from vegan pancakes for breakfast to cashew no-goat-cheese pizza for lunch. Wash it down with a glass of organic wine or a microbrew beer.

Cafe Carola CAFE $ (Tel: 8994-9171; items US$4; h 7am-6:30pm daily, 7-10pm Wed & Fri; W ) Stop by this shady German bakery for breakfast, for sandwiches on homemade bread or for something to sate your sweet tooth. The book exchange, board games and strong espresso drinks complete the picture. This friendly place is also open for live music on Wednesday nights and Chinese food on Friday nights.

Al Manglar Italian $$ (Tel: 2656-0096; mains US$9-18; h 5-10pm; p v ) This thatched-roof, open-air restaurant serves excellent gnocchi and ravioli, and the pizzas are perfect. It’s tucked along a side street behind El Lagarto.

Casa Esmeralda Soda $$ (Tel: 2656-0489; mains US$9-17; h noon-9:30pm Mon-Sat) A favorite with locals, it’s a dressed up soda with tablecloths, faux-doe walls and tasty salads, pastas, meat, chicken and fish dishes. The arroz con camarones (rice and prawns) comes highly recommended.

Gusto Beach international $$ (Tel: 2656-0252; mains US$9-17; h 9am-11pm; p W ) Good food, great location. Enjoy pastas, salads and seafood, as well as phenomenal smoothies and creative cocktails, all while watching the action on the beach. If you care to linger, there are lounge chairs on the sand, lockers and beach volleyball.

El Lagarto Barbecue $$ (Tel: 2656-0750;; mains US$11-20; h 10am-11pm; W ) Grilled meats are the big draw at this beachfront alfresco restaurant, studded with old trees. Watching the chef’s work their magic on the giant wood-fired oven is part of the fun. Wash it all down with the biggest margaritas you’ve ever seen.

Drinking & Nightlife
 Lo Que Hay lures a gringo crowd and keeps it rocking deep into the night.

Zen Den Cocktail Bar (Tel: 8725-0611, 2656-2323; www.samarabeach/zen; h 6pm-2am) Samara’s most grownup nightspot is this romantic cocktail lounge, where you can hunker down on comfy couches or sit outside and watch the street action. The atmosphere is casual yet sophisticated, with occasional live music to keep you entertained.

La Vela Latina Bar (Tel: 2656-2286;; h 11am-midnight; W ) Settle into a comfy chair on the sand and order a bucket of icy beers or a perfectly blended cocktail at this beach bar. There’s also a menu of sophisticated bocas and American-style pub grub.

Bar Arriba Bar (Tel: 2656-1052; h 5:30pm-2am) Part sports bar, part dance club, total party place. The lighting is sufficiently dim, the flat screen strobes, the sound system thumps and they pour all your favorite kinds of rum. As the name suggests, it’s located on the second level of the Centro Comercial Shana.


Cocotales Jewelry (Tel: 8807-7056; h 7:30am-7:30pm) Carlos travels around South America to procure gorgeous semiprecious stones, which he crafts into fine jewelry right here in the back of his shop. But his most unique and eye-catching pieces are crafted from coco beans (grown locally, of course).

Marea Surf Shop Sports (Tel: 2656-1181;; h 7am6pm) Part cafe, part downtown surf shop, it doesn’t rent gear but does have top-quality tees, hats, board shorts and boards for the buying. Bonus: the shopkeeper steams a fine espresso.


Surf the excellent to get the skinny on Samara.
Banco Costa Rica (h9am-4pm Mon-Fri) Just off the main road and across from the cell tower and soccer field, it changes foreign currency and has a 24-hour ATM.

Banco Nacional (Tel 2656-0086; h9am-5pm Mon-Fri) Change money at this bank next to the church; there’s also an ATM.
La Vida Verde (Green life; Tel 2656-1051; per kg US$3; h8am-6pm Mon-Sat) drop your dirty duds off at this Laundromat, 75m west of Banco Nacional. Or call ahead for pick-up and delivery. Post Office (h8am-noon & 1:15-5:30pm Mon-Fri) located in the same building as the police station, on the main road where it meets the beach.

Sky Net Tours (Samara Adventure Company; Tel 2656-0920;; internet per hour US$2; h9am-9pm) Formerly the Samara Travel Center, this extremely helpful place has an internet cafe, and can book flights and Interbus tickets and arrange tours. it also rents bicycles (per day US$10) and scooters/ motorcycles (per day US$30).


Sitting along the southern Pacific coast of the Nicoya Peninsula in the province of Guanacaste, Samara is small sunny town with pristine beaches and picture-perfect scenery. The town is both a popular beach resort community as well as a major component to the cattle and fishing industry in Costa Rica. Samara is considered to be one of the safest beaches, making it an ideal location for family getaways and low-key travel.

The town is a four hour drive from San Jose, but you can reach it much quicker if you arrive by plane at the Liberia International Airport and then drive out two hours south-west to Samara, via the town of Nicoya. Do keep in mind though that this tiny town also has its own airstrip for small planes but the nearest domestic airport is in Nosara about 20 minutes north of Samara. A quaint little town, Samara lies at the foot of a steep hill. The main road here leads straight into town and ends at the stunning Playa Samara or Samara Beach. This beach is a great getaway if you want a quiet holiday or if you want a fun family vacation.

If you take a left before the road along the beach, you will find many affordable hotels and restaurants located here. Plus, this road leads to the lovely Playa Carrillo and if you go further south to the beautiful and luxurious Hotel Punta Islita.

What To Do

Samara and its surrounding environment offer tourists an ideal place to relax and have a good time. Here, a variety of exotic plants and animals can be found along the five kilometer strip of Samara Beach, along with a stunning coral reef that lies just offshore. A short boat trip away is the gorgeous and remote Isla Chora. In town, you will find everything from a supermarket to a number of gift stores, bars and nightclubs as well. Samara is perfect for a quiet holiday or a night out on the town, and an excellent place to use as a stopover for the nearby national parks and reserves.

With its ideal location along the Pacific Ocean, Samara boasts countless aquatic and outdoor entertainment. Horseback riding, stand up paddle boarding, sport fishing, surfing, canopy tours, yoga and kayaking are just a few of the fun activities you can try out.

Where To Go

There are a number of exquisite hotels, cabanas, resorts, and bed and breakfasts in the Playa Samara area. One of the most popular and luxurious is Villas Playa Samara. The massive resort is surrounded by wildlife and an abundance of flora, so it's not even necessary to leave to experience everything Costa Rica has to offer. Adventure opportunities are also available, such as sport fishing, canopy tours, kayaking and more, all of which can be booked through the hotel.

Travelers seeking a quaint vacation may enjoy Casa Del Mar Hotel, a cozy B&B located on Samara Beach. Private access to the coast line and number of available amenities make this quiet hotel one of the areas finest.

This thriving farming and fishing village is unlike any other in Costa Rica, with some of the country's most prominent people having homes out here, such as president Oscar Arias Sanchez.

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