Samara Beach, Costa Rica: The Best Overlooked Beach Town

Costa Rica is a well-known tourist destination. Yet the Nicoya Peninsula is an outsider. Despite good facilities, Samara Beach, Costa Rica, still maintains a small-town atmosphere. This overlooked beach town is ideal for travelers keen to have an authentic experience. In our ultimate guide, you’ll find all the inspiration you need to visit this charming place in the Nicoya Peninsula.

The Nicoya Peninsula Blue Zone

Overview of Nicoya Peninsula, Costa Rica

The Nicoya Peninsula is one of five Blue Zones in the world. 

A Blue Zone is an area where people live longer than the expected average. It’s a perfect combination of a happy life with a healthy lifestyle that makes these five destinations so unique. 

Many people come to Samara for that lifestyle. 

There is an abundance of all things healthy—think yoga, surfing, and vegan and vegetarian food. The quality of life is so high that many expats have moved to this area.

It’s also popular among families because it has small surf, a positive vibe, and some laid-back nightlife.

The Town of Samara

path to Samara Beach Costa Rica

Samara Beach, Guanacaste Province, Costa Rica, is a tiny town amid verdant jungle and impressive cliffs. ATV, car, and golf cart rentals are available, as are taxis. But the best way to get around this three-mile stretch (five kilometers) of coastline is on foot. 

The town is surrounded by nature and a dense tropical forest. 

Roaming monkeys and iguanas aren’t shy to visit hotel grounds. And exotic birds pipe up from the nearby trees. 

There are no fast-food restaurants or chain hotels. But you can find all the accommodations, restaurants, grocery stores, and banks you need on vacation. 

Things to do in Samara Beach, Costa Rica

Hit the Beaches

Surfing in Samara Costa Rica

As there are not one, not two, but five beaches within a two-mile radius (3.2km), hitting the beaches is a must on your activities plan. These are the five beaches from east to west:

  • Playa Carrillo
  • Samara Beach
  • Playa Izquierda
  • Playa Buena Vista
  • Playa Barrigona

Playa Carrillo

Playa Carrillo Costa Rica

Playa Carrillo is Playa Samara’s peaceful neighbor. 

The wide crescent-shaped Carrillo Bay is still undeveloped and features only palms. The palm-fringed beach has soft sand and calm waves that are ideal for swimming. Its backdrop is a pristine jungle—the ideal escape from busy Samara. 

And it’s only five kilometers from town.

It is popular among locals and can be busy on weekends and holidays. 

Be prepared to bring everything you need for the day because it lacks the amenities of other Samara Costa Rica beaches, like restaurants or tour operators.

Samara Beach, Costa Rica

Samara beach Costa Rica

Samara is a stunner. 

It’s one of the most tranquil beaches. Think endless beach walks on light brown sand. And a background of swaying palms. There is unlimited space for a run and water activities galore. 

You can find plenty of restaurants and anything else you might expect on a popular beach.

Due to a coral reef offshore, it offers rather calm waters. This makes it an excellent swimming location and very suitable for families.

Playa Izquierda and Playa Buena Vista

These two lovely sister beaches are ideal for lounging and surfing. 

They have a remote atmosphere making them feel even more local and authentic. In addition, they’re just 15 minutes away from Samara Beach—well worth the short hike. 

On the way, you’ll see colorful butterflies and, perhaps, the odd, curious monkey.

Playa Barrigona

Playa Barrigona in Costa Rica

You’ll find Playa Barrigona a little further west on the map. 

Nevertheless, it’s a scenic spot worth visiting. Mel Gibson must agree because his coastal mansion is located here. 

Many think of it as the most picturesque beach in the area. It boasts brilliant sand and blue-tinted waters and feels far away from society.

You’ll need to have a rental car, and because it’s a winding dirt road, a 4×4 is a good idea, especially during the rainy season. Bring everything you need for the day, as there’s nothing nearby. But don’t leave any valuables in the car.

Playa Barrigona is one kilometer off the main road that leads to Nosara. It’ll only take you 15 to 20 minutes in the dry season from Samara. Just take the riverbed shortcut. Otherwise, in the rainy season, it’ll take a little longer to travel inland along Route 160 and across the Buena Vista River Bridge.

Have fun surfing

couple walking into surf with boards

Do you feel like catching some waves? 

Guanacaste is a surfer’s paradise. 

Are you a beginner? No worries. You can find several surfing schools in Samara Beach, Costa Rica. 

If you’re an experienced surfer who seeks adventure, Playa Izquierda, Playa Barrigona, and Playa Guiones in Nosara are fantastic locations.

Go snorkeling or diving

manta ray with scuba divers above

Samara is a fantastic diving location. 

Shipwrecks off nearby beaches are home to white-tip reef sharks, snapper, hammerheads, and bull sharks. You may also dive with manta rays, turtles, and dolphins all year round!

However, conditions are better in the rainy season when the water is colder.

You can also find a staggering coral reef in Samara. It is alive with plenty of fish that make it even more colorful.

If you’re not a diver, you can also go snorkeling. Head to Isla Chora, a tiny island that faces Samara Beach. You won’t be the only one snorkeling its crystal waters. 

Kayaking and paddling around Isla Chora

kayaks on the beach in Costa Rica

You can kayak and paddleboard all throughout the Samara area. But Isla Chora is the way to go. Depending on the tide, it’ll take you between 25 and 45 minutes to kayak to the island.

You’ll be rewarded with epic views of the mountains that surround Samara Beach. You can even swim to the island at low tide. But you should be a good swimmer and be brave.

Join a dolphin-watching tour

A boat tour is a fantastic way to discover Samara’s beautiful coastline. 

These excursions get you out on the water so you can spot dolphins in the area year-round. Picture bottlenose dolphins catching waves and swimming beneath the boat. 

Seasonal whale sightings are also possible, especially during January, February, and July through September. 

Go horseback riding

horses on Samara Beach Costa Rica

Riding a horse is a beautiful way to take in Samara’s spectacular surroundings. 

Most tour companies include a trip through the jungle to go wildlife spotting. 

Are you looking for a romantic finale to the day? Choose a package that includes a ride along the beach at sunset. 

Don’t be surprised if, later that night, you run into your horse on the streets of Samara! The tour horses usually roam the streets and far ends of the beaches after hours.

Book an ATV tour

Dare to get a little grubby on your vacation? Get off the beaten path. Book an ATV trip and discover the mountains and the beach on a thrilling adventure. 

Visit a Macaw Center

2 macaws
Pair of big Scarlet Macaws, Ara macao, two birds sitting on the branch, Brazil. Wildlife love scene from tropical forest nature. Two beautiful parrots in green habitat.

Your plan of things to do near Samara Beach, Costa Rica, should include visiting a macaw center.

The Macaw Recovery Network is only a 40-minute drive southeast of Samara. 

Because the Great Green and Scarlet Macaw Parrots are endangered in Costa Rica, they are attempting to boost the population through selective breeding.

It’s not a facility for the recovery of wild animals. Instead, they breed the parrots before releasing them into the wild. While there, you’ll observe hundreds returning to the center to eat.

Swim beneath the Belen Waterfall

Belen waterfall outside of Samara Costa Rica

Framed by rocks, Belen Waterfall is a peaceful place to swim and relax. It’s popular with locals. However, tourists rarely come here even though it’s only a 20-minute drive away.

You can take the bus. But inform the driver that you want to get off at Catarata Belen. Then you’ll have to hike about a mile (1.6 km) to the falls. Alternatively, you can hail a cab. Or use a rental vehicle.

Hike through the Werner-Sauter Biological Reserve

green hilly landscape Costa Rica

The Werner-Sauter Biological Reserve is a 140-hectare (346-acre) private reserve outside Samara Beach, Costa Rica. 

You’ll need to hire an expert guide to show you around the park. It’s a good thing because there are so many creatures hidden you need a trained eye to see it all. 

You’ll climb to a lookout for endless views of the beach and forest while spotting the reserve’s abundant monkeys, porcupines, and owls.

The guide will explain why the tropical dry forest is an essential but underrated ecosystem. Then, you’ll taste fresh mangos right from the trees at the plantations. And learn how to differentiate between herbs and plants. 

Additionally, you will learn what makes the Nicoya Peninsula a Blue Zone, both naturally and culturally.

You’re not done yet. 

Take this opportunity to plant a tree. That way, you can support the reserve’s remarkable efforts. And it will be your chance to make a difference on your travels.

Enjoy Samara’s nightlife

drink signs on a tree in Costa Rica

Samara’s nightlife is sporadic at best. 

Even though Samara isn’t exactly vibrant, there’s still plenty to keep you entertained. There’s Microbar Samara, Lo Que Hay, and a few other pubs near the shore. 

Check out Bar Arriba on the weekend if you’re itching to dance the night away. Bar Arriba transforms into a nightclub with music and dancing at night. 

And an excellent bar for sports events is Frank’s. 

Where to eat in Samara Beach, Costa Rica

There are many reasonably priced local restaurants, or sodas, in town. And being part of the Blue Zone means healthy meal options are everywhere. 

Modest eateries provide casado, Costa Rica’s national meal. Casado consists of rice and beans, salad, a vegetable side dish, fried plantains, and your choice of beef, chicken, pork, or fish. Vegetarians can choose fresh cheese or eggs. 

Samara is a terrific place for vegetarians, vegans, and those allergic to gluten.

Where to stay in Samara

You can find budget, value for money, and splurge options. There are hostels right on the beach and adults-only luxury bungalows, and everything in between. 

Samara Beach, Costa Rica weather

view of Samara beach in Costa Rica

Samara welcomes people year-round. However, it has a distinct dry and rainy season with typical tropical weather. 

Dry weather lasts from early December to the end of April. Visit between January and March, and you will get plenty of sunshine. 

You can expect wet weather from the beginning of May until the end of November. The rainiest months are typically September and October. But even then, a rainy day may start out sunny and hot, turn cloudy in the afternoon, and then rain intermittently in the late afternoon or evening.

Temperature-wise, Samara experiences daytime highs of low 90s°F (32–35°C) and mid to high 70s°F (24°C) overnight.

Packing list essentials for Samara

Samara Beach sand in Costa Rica

Waterproof beach shoes are essential if you intend to take long walks along Samara Beach. The beach is made up of sand close to the town. But as you travel outward, you will come across more rocks and uneven terrain.

Here are other packing list essentials:

  • Bug spray
  • Day Bag
  • Insulated Water Bottle
  • Light clothing
  • First aid kit (you can never be too safe)
  • Rain jacket
  • Hiking Shoes
  • Sunscreen

How to Get to Samara Beach, Costa Rica 

Central America map with Costa Rica flag

If you can, fly into Liberia, it’s the closest international airport to the Nicoya Peninsula. Then you can hop on a quick two-hour drive from Liberia International Airport to Samara

You could also fly into the capital and travel from San Jose to Samara by bus or minivan. However, that will take four and a half hours.

Drive to Samara Beach by Car

Both San Jose and Liberia airports provide car rentals—Costa Rican roads are safe for driving. You can also rent a car in Samara to explore the Nicoya Peninsula.

You’ll love Samara Beach, Costa Rica if you’re looking for a casual beach getaway. Even though this small village is only a few blocks long, it has everything you could possibly need for a fantastic trip.

Not sure where to go after Samara Beach? Here are all the places Bookaway can take you in Costa Rica.

Map

Explore the map below and check out Samara Beach and its surroundings.

FAQ

What is the closest airport to Samara? 

Liberia Airport is a two-hour car ride away.

What is the closest town to Samara? 

Puerto Carrillo, a very chill beach town, is about three miles (5 kilometers) away.

Is Samara, Costa Rica, safe?

Yes, it’s one of the safest beaches in Costa Rica, making it a great place for family vacations and low-key travel.

Can you swim at Samara?

Yes, it’s a wide cove with relatively calm water because of an offshore coral reef. 

Want to travel across the land and sea?

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