What to do in Sámara, Costa Rica: Complete Travel Guide
What to do in Sámara, Costa Rica: Complete Travel Guide

What to do in Sámara, Costa Rica: Complete Travel Guide

Wondering what to do in Samara, Costa Rica? I spent a week there checking out its white sand beaches and put together this complete travel guide to help you answer that question.

The small, but quickly growing beach town has lots of fun activities for visitors to enjoy. Not only that, it’s a good option for those who want a coastal destination with no shortage of facilities.

Read on to find out all you need to know about Samara, Costa Rica, along with my top tips to ensure you have the best trip.

Where is Samara?

Samara lies within Guanacaste Province, Costa Rica. It sits on the pacific coast of the Nicoya Peninsula, roughly halfway between 2 other well-known beach towns, Tamarindo and Manzanillo.

San Jose, the capital city of Costa Rica, is a 5 h journey south. La Fortuna, arguably the country’s most popular tourist destination, is 4 h inland to the east.

Getting to Samara, Costa Rica

Bus

There are bus services to Samara from a number of major tourist destinations within Costa Rica, most notably, San Jose and La Fortuna.

San Jose to Samara

A direct bus runs between San Jose and Samara. The bus leaves San Jose from Terminal 710 at 9:00. If you’re doing the journey in the opposite direction, then the bus leaves Samara at 4:00. The journey takes 5-6 h and costs 4,650 CRC ($9.5 US).

La Fortuna to Samara

There are 2 options to get to Samara from La Fortuna by bus. Both are complicated requiring early starts and several changes. The journey takes roughly 6 h. 

Option 1

I took this bus route. Although more buses, it’s slightly less complicated than the other option and you don’t have to get up as early.  

  1. La Fortuna to Tilaran leaving at 8:00 3,300 CRC ($6.5 US)
  2. Tilaran to Cañas (510 CRC)
  3. Canas to Liberia (1,800 CRC)
  4. Liberia to Nicoya (1,900 CRC)
  5. Nicoya to Samara. In Nicoya you need to leave the small arrival bus terminal and walk 3 minutes to the main bus terminal. From here you take the bus to Samara. The ticket costs 1,550 CRC and buses leave at 6:30, 16:30 and 20:30

Option 2

  1. La Fortuna to San Ramon leaving at either 4:30 or 5:30
  2. San Ramon to Nicoya (the bus leaves from the Autopista General Cañas)
  3. Nicoya to Samara

Bus schedules in Costa Rica are frequently incorrect. While I always try to share accurate information in my guides, I highly recommend that you contact the bus line, speak with locals or try to buy your ticket in person beforehand at a terminal. This way you’ll find out the latest information.

A bird sits on a branch.

Flying

I do not recommend flying if you can take a bus, but my guide wouldn’t be complete without this information.  

Liberia international airport (Daniel Oduber Quirós International Airport) is just a 2 h drive from Samara. From the airport head to Nicoya on Route 21 and then to Samara on Route 150. This is the best option as the roads are completely paved.

If you’re not driving, then you can take a shuttle bus or public buses. A spot in a shared shuttle bus from Liberia airport to Samara will cost at least $50 US. There are several companies offering this service, so check online for the option that works best for you.  

Getting to Samara from Liberia airport with public buses requires a few changes. The journey is Liberia – Nicoya – Samara. I recommend asking someone working at the airport about bus times.

What to do in Samara, Costa Rica

Playa Samara

The best way to enjoy Samara is to chill out at its main beach, Playa Samara (Sámara beach).

No matter where you are in the town, you’ll never be more than a couple of minutes walking to its white sands and clear waters.

sunset picture at a beach. Water climbs the beach.

Playa Samara is a picturesque cove. It stretches from small cliffs on the right-hand side to large hills on the left. Sunrise and sunset are hazy and full of colour.

Take a surf lesson

You’ll find plenty of surf schools at Playa Samara including Pato’s and Choco’s. The waves at Samara’s main beach are good for beginners making it an ideal spot for a lesson. It can get crowded though, so you’ll have to keep an eye for swimmers and other surfers.

A man surfing. There are large hills in the background.

Check out nearby beaches

While Playa Samara draws all the crowds, on either side of it you’ll find quieter escapes to enjoy the sea. The only thing to watch out for at these beaches are riptides. They are pretty strong and can make getting out of the water a battle. You’ll see warning signs at the beaches.

Playa Carrillo

Just a 1 h walk from Samara is Playa Carrillo. It’s a small beach lined with palm trees. You simply follow the main road from Samara to get there.                                    

Playa Buena Vista

This is a large virgin beach 30 minutes walking from Samara. You have to cross a murky shallow river to reach the sands, but it’s well worth it. Go during a week day and chances are you’ll have the whole beach to yourself.

A small bird walks along a any beach towards small cliffs.

Playa Barrigona

Another hour walking past Playa Buena Vista and you’ll come to Playa Barrigona. The dense forest and rugged cliffs are a beautiful backdrop.

Explore waterfalls

About a 20- and 30-minute bus ride respectively from Samara are 2 waterfalls: La Roca and Belen. To get to either you’ll need to take the bus towards Nicoya.

La Roca Waterfall

This is the closer of the 2 waterfalls. Get off the bus at La Roca Bar. From here it’s a short walk to La Roca waterfall, roughly 10 minutes.         

Belen waterfall

Get off the bus near to Las Cascadas restaurant. From here it’s roughly a 30-minute walk along a dirt road. 

Kayak to Isla Chora

Isla Chora is the speck of land topped with palm trees just off Playa Samara. It’s so close that you can rent a kayak and paddle to it either by yourself or with a guided tour. Paddling to Isla Chora takes about 1 h each way and a guided tour costs around $50 US per person. Isla Chora is also a good spot for snorkelling.

A small island just off a beach.

Rent a car for more activities and day trips

There are several car rentals in Samara. Having your own car for a day or two opens the door to many more activities in the surrounding area.

Ostional Wildlife Refuge

If you love sea turtles then you have to check out Ostional Wildlife Refuge. It’s located at Ostional beach, a 1 h drive from Samara.

The refuge was established in 1984 and acts as a year-round nesting haven for olive-ridley turtles. The turtles build their nests on a 1-mile stretch of the beach and the main nesting event (arribada) takes place once a month during the rainy season. During an arribada thousands and thousands of turtles come ashore to lay their eggs over a period of 3 to 4 days.

Large numbers of tourists have been an issue in the past disrupting the turtles. You need to book a tour with a guide in advance to see an arribada. You can find out more information on the Ostional Wildlife Refuge website.

Macaw Recovery Network

The Macaw Recovery Network is a group of conservation sites in the mid and northern regions of Costa Rica. Their aim is to protect and help species of parrots to flourish within the country.

The Punta Islita Macaw Recovery site is closest to Samara, about 1 h by car. It’s just off Playa Islita nestled in a dry tropical forest. Here’s the link to book a tour at the recovery network. On the tour you’ll be able to spot colourful parrots in their natural setting.

Barra Honda National Park

Barra Honda is a unique opportunity for a caving adventure in Costa Rica. There are dozens of caverns within the national park and you can explore them with a guided tour.

Along with caving, there are hiking trails to the top of Barra Honda Hill. The hill towers 300 m over the surrounding Tempisque valley.

You need to pay a park entrance fee on the SINAC website (currently $12 US for foreigners).

Samara town

Samara is no longer a sleepy beach town. The main roads are paved and lined with shops and restaurants. Fortunately, there aren’t too many tall buildings, so despite being relatively built-up, you still feel as though you’re in a small town.

A street lined with cars and shops.

You’ll find all the facilities you need for a comfortable stay in Samara. These include:

  • Supermarkets (Maxi Pali, Super China and Rindemas)
  • A bus stop
  • Plenty of smaller fruit and veg shops
  • Tons of restaurants
  • A police station
  • Lots of shops selling your typical tourist items

When to go to Samara

The best time to visit Samara is during the dry season (December – April). This is when the country is hot and, of course, dry! It’s perfect beach weather. Average temperatures in Guanacaste during the dry season are mid 30s°C (highs) and mid 20s°C (lows). It’s slightly cooler during the rainy season.

The rainy season runs from May – November. While the rains bring much needed hydration to the landscapes fuelling the lush green colours, you probably won’t want to be caught on the beach during a downpour.

A german shepherd dog panting while sitting in the back of a tuc tuc.

Where to stay in samara

There are quite a few affordable accommodations in Samara along with more expensive options for higher budgets.

Ultra-budget: La Aldea Hostel

From $10 US/night

This might be the cheapest accommodation in Samara. It’s got shared dorm rooms,  a communal kitchen and free WIFI. Playa Samara is a 2-minute walk away and 2 supermarkets are just a stone’s throw.

La Aldea doesn’t score top marks for cleanliness nor general aesthetics, but for the price you pay, you really can’t complain.

Budget: Hostel Mariposas

From $18 US/night

You’ll find Hostel Mariposas in a great location on one of the quieter streets leading to Playa Samara. The property boasts strong WIFI and has a shared kitchen. It scores really well on Booking.com with solo travelers.

Mid-range: Tico Adventure Lodge

From $35 US/night

Tico Adventure Lodge has good reviews on Booking.com scoring 8.7 overall. Rooms are private (including bathrooms) and have a balcony. The property has a nice swimming pool, free WIFI and a communal kitchen. For $35 US a night, it seems like a solid, yet affordable option if you don’t fancy staying in a hostel.

Where to eat in Samara

There’s no shortage of restaurants in Samara. The town is packed with places to eat, which can make finding a good spot tricky. I ate at a few restaurants and can personally recommend the following.

  • Kijongo Pub – tuck into a casado (traditional Costa Rican dish)
  • Punto a capo –fresh pizza made by an Italian owner
  • Falafel café – for your fix of Mediterranean and Lebanese food
  • Casa Maxou –homemade fast food. The burritos are decent
  • Soda Chandy – the best casado in Samara (my opinion). Great place to eat of you’re heading to/from Playa Buena Vista

The Samara information centre website has an events calendar highlighting plenty of food and drinks offers.  

Top tips for Samara

Be prepared for power outages

Power cuts are frequent in Samara and sometimes last hours. If you work remotely, then this will cause you a problem. I recommend having a decent power bank that will give you enough juice to last a full day if need be. Mobile data could be a work around if the WIFI drops out, but the signal isn’t great in Samara.

Have a water bottle

It gets hot in Samara (30°C +) during the dry season. Keep yourself hydrated with a reusable water bottle that you can take everywhere with you.

Use sunscreen

Unfortunately, Samara has been built without keeping nature in mind. The main streets in the town have been cleared of trees so there’s nowhere to shelter from the sun when walking around.

Is Samara worth visiting in Costa Rica?

Samara is worth visiting if you want to hang out at a beach town with a bustling atmosphere. The beautiful Playa Samara and range of restaurants, shops and activities means you get the best of both vibes.

While not as busy as more popular Guanacaste coastal towns, such as Tamarindo, Samara is quickly growing in size and popularity. This means it’s no longer the ideal place if you want to disconnect at a virgin beach far from the crowds.

How long should I stay in Samara, Costa Rica?

I recommend staying at least 2 days in Samara if your plan is just to just chill on the beach. 2 days will allow you to enjoy Playa Samara and one of the other beaches nearby.

If you want to do more of the activities mentioned in this guide, then I recommend spending at least 4 days in Samara.

A fire dancer performs a show. There are sparks creating a circular shape.
A fire performer on Playa Samara. These shows happen regularly

Is Samara, Costa Rica safe?

Samara is generally a safe area for tourists. That said petty crime does occur including theft. Keep your valuables close by and locked up whenever possible. The police station is at the main entrance to Playa Samara.

More Costa Rica travel advice on A World Over

So that’s my guide on what to do in Samara, Costa Rica. I hope it helps you to figure out the details of your stay and to have a great time.

When I was in Samara there was lots of construction work going on and it was clear that the town was growing. As a result, Samara is likely to change, and even more so as it becomes more popular with tourists.

If during your visit you notice things not included in this guide, or outdated information, feel free to drop a comment below.

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