This post was originally written in 2016, but was updated in 2019 to include the latest info and tips for those planning a visit to Playa Sámara, Costa Rica
There are some places in Costa Rica that are easy to figure out. You turn off the highway and within minutes you sense the vibe of the destination, you feel its spirit all around you. Samara, Costa Rica isn’t one of those places.
“Ah, we loved Sámara,” gushed Max’s grandma after spending a week in Samara, following our wedding. “It’s very quiet and lovely. But I don’t think it’s a place for young people,” she noted to us as we were researching Sámara beach for our upcoming trip.
“Ah, yes, I remember partying in Sámara in the 90s,” Max’s Mom reminisced in the meantime. “Fun little town”.
We were perplexed. So is it a party town? A sleepy village? Or something in between?
Planning a Visit to Sámara, Costa Rica
Sámara is not a town that often graces the pages of glossy magazines and travel sites. And it isn’t one frequently featured in typical Costa Rican travel itineraries. It is somewhat off-the-beaten-path, and as we soon found out, one that offers a laid-back vibe and beautiful beach setting appealing to just about anyone.
For us, Sámara was a perfect backdrop for an idyllic getaway. It wasn’t crowded, it wasn’t loud, it wasn’t in your face, but it had all the comforts that one might enjoy while on holidays.
There was a good selection of restaurants (albeit somewhat overpriced even for Costa Rica), cute boutiques, yoga retreats, and no shortage of tours and activities. Despite its compact size and lack of big hotel chains, the area of Playa Samara has been welcoming tourists and locals for what seemed like decades.
Essential Travel Info for Sámara Beach Costa Rica
Playa Sámara is located on the Nicoya Peninsula, in Guanacaste Province of Costa Rica. Sámara is located about 2-2.5 hours by car from Liberia Airport, which is the closest airport. Samara is located about 3.5 hours from the capital of San Jose by car.
A taxi from Liberia Airport to Sámara will cost no less than $115 and should take roughly 2-2.5 hours.
A twice-daily shuttle bus leaves Liberia Airport to Sámara every day at 8:30 am and 3 pm, which costs $45/pp. A private shuttle bus will cost $145 USD in total.
Those traveling on a budget can get to Playa Sámara Costa Rica by bus from Liberia via Nicoya (3 hr journey). Buses depart Liberia at 8:30 am and 2 pm. Bus schedules can be found here.
Sámara beach, Costa Rica is a small beach town, so the best way to get around is on foot. ATV rentals and taxi services are also available in town.
Things to do in Sámara, Costa Rica
Despite the abundance of activity options to fill our days, we really didn’t do much in Sámara. For once, we really took the time to relax and unwind, spending our waking hours soaking up the sun, lazing in the palm tree shades, and splashing in the waves on Playa Sámara, Playa Buena Vista, and Playa Carillo.
Enjoy Beaches in Sámara
This beautiful, sandy beach is the town’s main draw. Swaying coconut trees line the horseshoe-shaped bay, and the water is gentle and shallow which makes it suitable for swimmers or newbie surfers. Make some time to watch the sunset at Playa Samara with an ice-cold beer in hand.
Playa Buena Vista
Head to Playa Buena Vista for its moderate surf, or for a picturesque walk along the beach. It is located a short 5 minutes drive or 30-minute walk from Samara. There are 3 surf shops in town that offer board rentals, and lessons.
This gorgeous, empty beach is located 8 km (5 miles) south of Sámara. It makes for a great day of sunbathing and swimming. It has been awarded one of the cleanest beaches in Costa Rica and it is our absolute favourite but bring drinks, snacks, and a hammock as there is not much infrastructure around the beach.
READ NEXT: Best Beaches in Costa Rica
Visit the Werner-Sauter Biological Reserve
The Werner-Sauter Biological Reserve is one of the country’s few private reserves and blanketed in a rare, dry, tropical forest.
The area was used as a farm until the 1990’s when the family who owned the farm decided to revert it back to its natural state. They were inspired by the governmental protection of other precious ecosystems like the cloud-forest during this time. Today, the natural terrain has rebounded impressively and become a refuge for wildlife.
The grandson of the founder of the reserve created Sámara Trails. He takes groups on informative tours to the Werner-Sauter Bio Reserve twice daily. The tour starts at the farm’s former cattle pasture, weaves through an active mango plantation and then onto the reserve.
Morning tours start at 6:30 am, and the afternoon tour starts at 2:30 pm every day. Both tours are 2.5 hours, and cost $39 USD/pp.
Take Part in a Turtle Tour
Playa Camaronal and Playa Ostional are both popular sites for turtle hatching and nesting tours about a half hour from Samara.
At Camaronal beach, endangered turtles can be seen nesting all year round with increased numbers from June- January. While, at Ostional you might be lucky enough to be in town for an “Arribada”- a rare occasion when hundreds of turtles come to nest from July to December.
Snorkel around Isla Chora
Located a hop, skip, and a jump from Samara beach, this secluded island is great for snorkeling, and exploring. Colourful fish, octopus, eels and more teem just below the water’s surface.
Snorkeling on Isla Chora is a popular stop-off for many ocean kayaking, and dolphin watching tours offered in town.
Where to Eat in Sámara, Costa Rica
We enjoyed delicious smoothies from Sámara’s pop up organic farmer’s market, which takes place every Tuesday morning and Friday afternoon. We stuffed ourselves with falafel wraps from the Falafel Cafe, and yummy organic burgers alongside a delicious yogi bowl from Luv Burger.
Ahori Si was Sámara’s first all-vegetarian restaurant and has lots of yummy vegan options. So we recommend you give it a try too.
But the highlight of our food escapades in Sámara was the dinners we had at Lo Que Hay, a Mexican-inspired beach-side restaurant with killer cocktails (ask them for their Guaro special), great food, and a great atmosphere. We loved it there so much, we ate there more than once.
On our last night in Sámara, instead of going out and having yet another meal at Lo Que Hay (because let’s be serious we couldn’t get enough of the delicious food there), we decided to stay in and spend an evening with our Airbnb hosts at Villa Mariola. We were treated to a delicious home-cooked meal and great company of fellow Canadian travelers and our lovely French hosts, Michele and Carine.
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Nightlife in Sámra
Nightlife in Sámara is hit and miss. Sámara was never bumping at night when we were there, but between night-time entertainment at Lo Que Hay, a few other bars along the beach, and Microbar Samara, there was enough to keep us entertained.
If your keen to hit the dance floor, check out Club Arriba on weekends.
How Long Should I stay in Sámara?
We planned on spending just 2 days in Sámara but after getting a feel for the vibe of this laid-back town, we decided to extend our stay for another few days. And we were so happy that we did!
Stay as long as you feel like relaxing, and soaking in the laid-back Tico lifestyle.
Where to Stay in Sámara, Costa Rica
There is not a ton of accommodation options in town, so book in advance if you are traveling in high season.
Eco Hotels in Sámara
Hotel Giada is a moderately priced, fully carbon-neutral hotel. They are located just 200 meters from the Sámara beach.
Hotel Punta Islita’s gorgeous, luxury beachfront accommodation is located just down the road from Sámara. They are committed to becoming one of the most eco-friendly beachfront hotels in Costa Rica.
Planning to travel around Costa Rica by car? We recommend renting your car from Hertz. CLICK HERE and use our promo code DTT-HERTZ to get 20% off your Hertz Car Rental!
BEFORE YOU GO: DON’T FORGET TRAVEL INSURANCE
We can’t stress enough the importance of travel insurance, especially in a country like Costa Rica. Whether you plan to enjoy the beaches, do a little bit of hiking, or go extreme (think surfing or scuba diving) being protected on your travels is an irreplaceable peace of mind. We learned about the importance of travel insurance the hard way and now we never travel without coverage.