Visiting Sámara, Costa Rica

If Sámara and its neighboring beach town, Nosara, were siblings, Nosara would be the organic, vegan yogi-surfer and Sámara would be the surfer gone wild. While spirituality and health consciousness have recently infiltrated Sámara in the form of weekly organic markets, vegetarian restaurants, health shops and yoga and massage schools, this beach town, which is brimming with budget accommodation, cheap eats and bars, definitely retains the vibe of a bustling party town. Its magnificent waves, paradisiacal neighboring beaches, budget prices and embodiment of “pura vida” are guilty of luring many a tourist to stay, so don’t be surprised if you end up a member of Sámara’s large and colorful expat community!

Sámara is located about a one-and-a-half-hour drive on smooth roads from the city of Nicoya, a one-hour drive from the luxurious beach destination of Punta Islita, and 45 minutes from Nosara, mainly due to poor road conditions. The closest airports are in Nosara and Punta Islita.

Sámara: Surrounded by Natural Beauty

Playa Sámara is a stunning long and wide beach, with beautiful waves for beginner to advanced surfers yet its waters are often calm enough for swimming, relaxing on floating loungers and family fun.

When you visit Sámara, make sure to soak in the breathtaking ocean views from uphill, particularly on the road from Sámara to Playa Carrillo, a magnificent beach for swimming and snorkeling.

Apart from offering magnificent panoramic views, Sámara is in the vicinity of some desolate, “secret” beaches of outstanding beauty. Playa Barrigona, between the village of Barco Quebrado and Sámara, is one of them, and can be reached on a 4×4, and even by bicycle or walking. It is the perfect beach to catch some amazing waves and enjoy a romantic and adventurous escapade with your partner.

Playa Buenavista, next to Barrigona and just north of Sámara, is similar, and surfers, families and backpackers looking for some quiet time often choose to stay here and avoid the hustle and bustle of Sámara. Beware, as these beaches are recommended for advanced surfers and swimmers and can have enormous waves and strong currents.

The Sámara area is also the perfect destination for a day trip from destinations that are a bit further off, such as the tiny and picturesque beach town of Punta Islita, also in Guanacaste.

What the Weather is Like in Sámara

Like the rest of the country, Sámara has two main seasons, the rainy or green season – from May to November – and the dry season, from December to April. Like most beach destinations on Costa Rica’s Gold Coast of Guanacaste, Sámara is jam packed full of backpackers, surfers and tourists, Ticos and foreigners from all corners of the Earth during the dry season, which is equivalent to the tourism high season.

A popular destination among Ticos eager for Imperiales (a popular and delicious local beer) on the beach, Sámara is often booked solid during national holidays and festive times such as New Year’s and Easter, when the beach can get crowded.

The hottest months in Sámara are March and April, when temperatures rise to approximately 95 degrees Fahrenheit or 35 Celsius and spending the day in your swimsuit is not a bad idea.

The green season, when torrential downpours are common, results in muddy roads, less crowded beaches and accommodation and amazing green season deals. This season usually peaks in September and October, the months that get the most rain in this part of the country.

Each season has its pros and cons and it’s important to note that the wet season gets significant amounts of daily sunshine and cooler overall temperatures than the dry season.

Surf and Party: Activities & Things to Do in Sámara

Most visitors to the Sámara area come with the intention of taking a surf lesson, testing their luck on the swell, or polishing advanced skills. It’s easy to find rental boards or surf instructors around town or on the beach. Make sure to keep an eye on your belongings if you leave them on the beach while you go out to play in the waves, you can never be too vigilant.

Apart from surfing, playing in the waves and working on your tan, Sámara offers lots to do at all hours!

Bar Hopping

There are plenty of bars to choose from on Sámara’s main strip and all around town, so take a pick and go get your “zarpe”, which is Tico slang for the last drink of the night (often enjoyed several times). Some of the local faves include Las Olas, a beach bar popular among backpackers where Latin rhythms blare into the night, Tabanuco Dance Club, which offers live music, reggae nights and Ladies’ nights right on the beach, and La Vela Latina Beach Bar, a popular spot for sunset beach views and happy hour. Zen Den is a cozy cocktail bar where you can lounge and watch the passers-by.

Adventure Sports and Tours

Those who would like a break from surfing will be happy to hear that other adventure sports are available here! Some of these include windsurfing, kitesurfing, ziplining, kayaking, scuba diving and snorkeling, and ATV tours. River rafting and tubing can also be arranged in Sámara, as well as fishing charters, boat tours and dolphin and whale watching.

Massage, Yoga and Spanish Schools

The Costa Rica School of Massage Therapy is a world-renowned institute that offers 600-hour massage certification programs, weekend workshops and yoga trainings based in Sámara.

This beach town is also well known for its Spanish language schools, you will find several schools in town but Intercultura is probably the biggest, and it is advertised as Costa Rica’s only Spanish school right on the beach.

In town you will find several different yoga studios offering a variety of different yoga modalities.

Eating Out

In recent years, health-conscious eateries have sprouted around Sámara, where you will find no shortage of vegetarian restaurants and healthy food. The Luv Burger is a must for vegan, vegetarian and any and all visitors interested in delighting at the taste of coconut “bacon” and other magnificent creations.

Of course, you will also find excellent meat and seafood places, Mexican, Italian, Mediterranean and local cuisine served at traditional “sodas” or small restaurants on plastic tables and tablecloths. For a sweet fix, don’t miss the Roots Bakery and the many gelato spots around town.