Laid-back Costa Rica Beach Vacations – Spotlight on Playa Samara
If you’re looking for a blissfully laid-back beach destination to add to your Costa Rica adventure vacation itinerary, Playa Samara might just fit the bill. Stunning and uncrowded, with waves gentle enough to entice families, Playa Samara is one of the top choices along the western coast of the Nicoya Peninsula. It’s perfect if you’re craving a low-key stint of R&R way off the beaten path, but offers plenty of options for when your energy levels spring back up.
Revered as a beginner surfer mecca and home to a plethora of surfing camps, Samara is one of our favorite family beaches in the whole country. A nearby river, where you can kayak and paddle, makes for even more relaxing fun-in-the-sun adventures.
Here’s all you need to know about beautiful Playa Samara – the Guanacaste gem that’ll steal your heart with its gentle waves, wonderful warm seas and sensational sunsets.
Where is Playa Samara?
The beach stands at the epicenter of the half-moon-shaped Samara Bay, half-way between Cangrejal and Torito on the western coast of the Nicoya Peninsula. You can reach the beach directly from the Liberia Airport (about a 2hr drive) or, if you’re flying into San Jose, expect a leisurely 4hr drive.
Most adventure seekers exploring Nicoya will simply add a few days at Playa Samara at the end of their itinerary, after a week of adrenalin-packed activities. If you like rustic, off the-beaten-path adventures, this unassuming town with a stunning beach is absolutely ideal.
What’s so special about Samara?
If you’ve ever met anyone who visited Costa Rica, fell in love with a ridiculously beautiful beach, and decided to move there permanently, it’s highly likely that beach was Samara. This is the tropical Costa Rica of postcards and one of the most highly-coveted spots in the entire country. Although the town does have a taste of the ‘Americana’, it isn’t overdone at all.
This side of Costa Rica, the wild west of the Nicoya, is outstandingly dramatic which means it’s also a hard place in which to build exorbitant resorts and hotels. Plus, the country’s commitment to preserving its wilderness means that commercialization is kept away from pristine forests and jungles.
In Samara, you get great food, services and activities (which are only found in well-touristed places) yet the place isn’t overrun with foreigners (expats and tourists alike) the way other places are. This perfect balance is what gifts Samara its authenticity and enticement: enough tourism and expat-living to make it comfortable and enjoyable but not so much that it makes you forget you’re Costa Rica.
Just a tranquil beach beauty that’s somehow remained true to its essence.
That’s the Costa Rica we love!
What’s there to do on Playa Samara?
Get to know the town – Samara is totally walkable and it won’t take you long to get a gist of the place and the sweet little shops, cafes and restaurants.
Channel your inner beach-bum – Between Samara, Carillo and Buena Vista, your beach-bumming choices are extensive. This is the best place to perfect the art of doing ‘sweet, sweet nothing’, except you can do in a palm-fringed beach with cocktail in hand. If you choose Carillo, just a few miles out of town, do bring your day’s supplies with you as the beach is devoid of infrastructure. Heavenly!
Learn how to surf – Surfing is Samara’s most iconic activity and if you don’t think you could ever learn to stand on a board and catch a wave, you NEED to take a lesson (or 5) here. The local schools and guides are outstanding and this is, by far, one of the best learning beaches so give it a go!
Never miss a single sunset – Unless an asteroid is about to crash into our planet and you have something urgent to do, you’ll want to be ON the beach, cold drink in hand, to see the sunset in Samara every single day. Actually, scrap that: if an asteroid is coming, a Samara sunset is definitely the last thing you’ll want to see. Pure magic.
Explore the Werner-Sauter Bio Reserve – This was once a cattle farm and the family who owned it was so inspired by the government’s environmental protection plan that they set aside a large swath of their property so it could revert back to wilderness. Wildly successful, the reserve is now home to a host of amazing wildlife. Take a guided tour and enjoy the stunning experience.
Catch turtles nesting (seasonal) – Just half an hour out of Samara is where you’ll find Ostional, home to a dozen miles of protected beachfront. The beaches here are favored by nesting Olive Ridley, leatherback and other sea turtles and they head here to nest, all year long. From August to December, however, Ostional hosts mass nesting events (called arribadas) that sees turtles arrive in their thousands, every single night. Visit in October and November for the best chances to catch glimpses of jaw-dropping arribadas.
Yoga – Samara is a yoga-haven and here you can indulge in week-long dedicated retreats or simply take occasional classes when you get in the mood for a stretch.
Nourish your body and soul – Samara’s yoga, surf and chillax crowd has helped create a very organic vibe in town. Here, you’ll find vegan and vegetarian cafés, lost of juice bars and a local cuisine that’s all about wholesome, delicious, locally-sourced food.
Enjoy quiet and restorative nights – Samara is not a party town and although a few bars are open a little later, this is not THAT kind of beach town. It’s the other kind: the kind where you sip a sundowner on the beach, have a gorgeous dinner at a local joint and then retire early to read, chat or enjoy a glorious rest.
Where can I stay in Playa Samara?
Samara town offers plenty of budget and mid-range options although all around Samara you’ll find stunning eco-lodges that are perfect for honeymooning couples. Hacienda Barrigona is one of our favorite remote lodges to visit in Costa Rica.
We can help you find your ideal accommodation place in Samara: just tell us your budget and desires and we’ll send you a list of suitable options.
Best time to visit Playa Samara
Given most people only want to visit Samara Beach when blue skies are guaranteed 100%, the ‘best time’ to visit is during the dry season, between December and May. If you ask us, however, we think the shoulder season is ideal – you feel like you have the place to yourself and, at most, you can enjoy a refreshing downpour after lunch. And what’s not to love about that?
Plus, the second half of the year sees Samara enjoy much cooler temperatures. If you’re in the habit of getting up early and filling your morning with activities, the wet season will suit you just fine.
Learn more about Costa Rica’s best beaches way off the tourist radar.
Contact us to know how we can incorporate a visit to Playa Samara into your Costa Rica Adventure Vacation tour.