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Fabulous Samara Beach – Costa Rica

Playa Samara - Costa RicaFabulous Samara Beach – Costa Rica

Three days after arriving in Costa Rica for the first time, I landed at Playa (beach) Samara and caught my first glimpses of the country’s fabled beaches. Truth be told, out of all Costa Rica’s numerous beaches, I ended up first at Playa Samara purely by chance…

I was assigned to review 80 luxury & boutique hotels/resorts in Costa Rica. It took me a couple days of research and planning to figure out where 30 of those hotels are situated along Costa Rica’s northwestern Pacific coast on Nicoya Peninsula and then to make myself a travel route to visit them all.

It made most sense to start at Playa Samara. So I caught a local bus from Liberia town and off I went. I had planned on visiting Playa Samara at some point anyhow after reading about it’s bohemian bent – a haven for yoga, massage, organic foods and so on.

En route I found out that Samara is often called Costa Rica’s most beautiful beach. After arriving, I quickly discovered that Playa Samara is exactly my kind of place! It was just ironic – and lucky – that I landed there so quickly.

I even found a lovely open-air hostel situated just 2-minute’s walk along a sand road to the beach. Hostel Mariposa features two wood houses set up on stilts, a large kitchen, lots of attractive outdoor sitting spaces set in gardens, and two resident dogs.

Playa Samara - view of bay from north end

Playa Samara – view of bay from north end

Samara beach is set in a wide curving bay. The fine powdered, pale gray sand beach is exceptionally wide, particularly at low tides (say 300 Meters/yards) and several kilometers long. From end to end, it takes about 45-60 minutes to walk one way.

The beach is so huge that even in peak high season and on weekends, when every hotel, hostel and campground is completely full, even then the beach seems practically empty. Everyone can spread out and have their own private beach area, should they so like.

Even better, Playa Samara is backed entirely by coconut palms, huge deciduous native trees, flowering bushes and other vegetation. No matter where you stand on the beach, when you gaze back, you pretty much can only see trees and nature.

restaurants on the sand at Playa Samara

restaurants on the sand at Playa Samara

Truth be told, there are actually many little open-air restaurants, bars, boutique hotels and private houses right there on the beach! But they are all tucked down under the trees, camouflaged under vegetation. Most are just one-story places, a few with two stories, And most are constructed of natural materials – wood and thatched roofs.

At Samara Beach there is no road. No traffic. No high-rise hotels or cement. No excess development in sight or sound. Just sand, sea, sky, sun, clouds and vegetation. Perfect!

At sunset time, when the broiling heat cools down, people gather on the vast beach to stroll, play volleyball and frisbee, play music, chat with friends and enjoy the evening’s natural color display. After dark, a few beach-side restaurants feature live jazz and blues music, lending Samara a very hip, cool vibe.

small boutique resort at Playa Samara

small boutique resort at Playa Samara

Back behind the dense swath of vegetation and discreet restaurants & hotels, Samara ‘town’, as such, consists of a whopping three roads with a collection of boutique shops, groceries, restaurants and bars. The shops mostly sell hip, bohemian style clothing, jewelry and sarongs.

And there’s a huge organic/holistic center – a collection of healthy shops and restaurants selling organic food and skin products, fresh smoothies and fruit juices. There’s a falafel shop, an organic food restaurant, a yoga studio/gym and other health-oriented businesses.

After exploring Samara for a few days I realized it’s exactly my kind of place! I was rather amazed that I landed there first, of all the dozens and dozens of beaches in Costa Rica!

Playa Samara quickly put me in mind of several of my other favorite beaches in the world. It reminded me of Bali’s fabulous Seminyak Beach back in the early 2000s, where I used to hang for months at a time, enjoying the super wide, super long beach inhabited by a huge international hip, bohemian crowd.

boutique resort at Samara BeachIt also reminded me of my beloved Railay/Tonsai Beach in Thailand where I spent several years teaching scuba diving and later opened my own cafe/bakery/restaurant for one season. Like Samara, Tonsai & Railay are ‘au naturale’, backed solely by dense jungle with a collection of wood & thatch open air restaurants and bars tucked under the vegetation. And, again, inhabited by a more bohemian crowd – mostly rock climbers, in that case.

Much to my surprise I suddenly found myself in another amazing bohemian beach – on the other side of the world, in Costa Rica.

While at Samara I visited a couple beaches to the north and south. Just two km south is equally beautiful Playa Carrillo. It looks almost exactly like Playa Samara – an exceedingly wide and long curve of pale gray sand arching inside a wide bay, all backed solely by trees.

Quite unfortunately, a road runs right along the back of the beach. Carrillo looked like a very popular day trip beach – packed with cars full of local families, couples and western tourists. That ruined Carrillo for me! I most definitely do not want to listen to cars while I’m at a beach!

surf boards for rent

surf boards for rent

Then I ventured northward to Wonderful Guiones Beach. Although it’s only about 20 km / 12 miles north of Samara, it takes 45-60 minutes by car to get there due to the poor condition of the road, which is mostly compacted dirt and stone.

Guiones Beach is also almost exactly like Samara, but even bigger! It’s considerably longer and situated in an even bigger bay. I learned that Guiones Beach is located within Refugio Nacional de Vida Silvestre Ostional. Therefore, the sprawling beach is completely undeveloped and ‘au naturale’. Unlike Samara, there are zero bars or restaurants or shops at the beach. Just nature! Guiones is famous among surfers for its consistent and rather large waves.

I’ve since visited several other beaches north of Samara, along the Nicoya Peninsula. They are also surprisingly similar – wide, long pale gray sand beaches set in large shallow coves and backed mostly by trees and vegetation. So, it seems Costa Rica has a lot of beautiful beaches!

Trees backing Playa Samara

Trees backing Playa Samara

They do, of course, each have a slightly – or radically – different vibe to them. Different types of hotels, restaurants, towns and visitors makes a big difference in the whole beach experience at each. And some are backed by roads like at Carrillo, either paved or sandy. That, of course makes a big difference.

So far Playa Samara is, by far, the best Costa Rican beach I’ve visited due to its bohemian streak, cute little boutique-hotels and organic-health-oriented visitors and residents. I hope I have time to return and hang out a while when I don’t have hotel work keep me busy.

I’ll be writing much more about Costa Rican destinations, my impressions and experiences here. So stay tuned!

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