Samara travel guide

One of the Nicoya Peninsula’s more peaceful coastal villages, Sámara is a great place to relax, and its distance from the capital makes it much quieter than the more accessible Pacific beaches. Even at the busiest times, there’s little action other than weekenders tottering by on stout criollo horses and the occasional dune buggy racing up the sand. Plan your trip to Sámara with our guide to Sámara — based on the The Rough Guide to Costa Rica, your travel guide for Costa Rica.

The best travel tips for visiting Sámara

Located in Guanacaste province at the north end of the Nicoya Peninsula, Sámara is home to one of the Pacific coast’s finest beaches. It offers excellent swimming, spectacular sunsets and good waves for beginner surfers.

On Sundays, the town turns out in force to watch the local football teams who play on the village field as if they’re Brazil and Argentina battling it out for the World Cup. Even weekending Ticos shun the beach for the sidelines.

Sámara also boasts some of the area's calmest waters. The long, gorgeous stretch of sand is protected by a reef about a kilometre out. This takes the brunt of the Pacific’s power out of the waves.

The effect also makes the beach one of the best spots on the Pacific coast to learn to surf. The waves are strong enough without being too unforgiving on beginners.

The Friendship Bridge

Opened in 2003, the 780m Puente Tempisque connects the mainland with the Nicoya Peninsula. It spans from near Puerto Moreno on the peninsula to a point 25km west of the Interamericana on the mainland.

The bridge replaced a time-consuming ferry connection, and saves at least two hours on the journey between San José and Sámara. It’s partly held up by suspension cables connected to towers that, at 80m, make it the tallest structure in Costa Rica.


Sámara is located at the north end of the Nicoya Peninsula, Costa Rica © Shutterstock

Best things to do in Samara, Costa Rica

Sámara is famous for its beautiful and pristine beaches, where you can engage in a variety of water-based activities, including swimming, snorkeling, kayaking, and surfing. Sámara also has a vibrant nightlife scene, with numerous bars, restaurants, and cafes serving delicious local cuisine and refreshing cocktails.

These are the best things to do.

#1 Bliss out on Playa Sámara

Apart from being beautiful and retaining a laidback vibe, one of Playa Sámara’s key characteristics is the variety of visitors you’ll find here. It’s a place where younger indie travellers rub shoulders with families, honeymooning couples, and retirees.  

Thanks to the reef that lies just offshore, Playa Sámara boasts calm waters that make it perfect for families with children, and for beginner surfers. You can also kayak, paddle-board and snorkel here. 

While being well-served by facilities — including having plenty of places to eat and drink — Playa Sámara manages to feel lowkey in a lovely way.

If beaches are your bag, read up on the best beaches in Costa Rica.

#2 Enjoy adventure excursions

Sámara Adventures, located in the middle of the beach, offer all manner of land and water based activities, and know the best places to do them.

As such, their excursions are the perfect way to soak up Sámara while satisfying your impulse for adventure.

Water-sports offerings include bay-to-bay paddle-boarding, snorkelling, sea and river kayaking, and fishing.

Back on land, take your pick from horse-riding (beach and mountains) and trail walking. You can also book full-day trips that combine an "ocean seafari" (dolphin and whale-watching, plus snorkelling) with zip-lining.

#3 Take a kayaking-and-snorkelling tour to scenic Isla Chora

One of the most enjoyable excursions is taking a kayaking-and-snorkelling tour to scenic Isla Chora.

This tiny island south of the village is surrounded by crystal-clear water that affords snorkellers excellent views of marine-life and coral. Expect to see hundreds of tropical fish, plus star fish, octopus, eels and turtles.

There's a lovely little sandy beach to enjoy a picnic on before kayaking back to the mainland.

You can book this through Sámara Adventures, though other operators in town also offer the same.

#4 Relax with yoga classes and massage treatments

Based at Tico Adventure Lodge, this acupuncture and yoga centre offers group classes, as well as more focused one-to-one private classes. And all this on a covered deck offering stunning views.

The on-site spa also offers massages. These include a general relaxation massages, Swedish massage, reflexology, deep tissue, aromatherapy, myofascial release, and Thai massage.

The personable owner is a great source of local information, and staff can arrange surfing lessons

Playa Carrillo, Costa Rico © Shutterstock

Playa Carrillo, Costa Rico © Shutterstock

#5 See sensational sunsets at Playa Carrillo

Aficionados of Pacific sunsets will want to head 6km east of Sámara Playa Carrillo, a ninety-minute walk along flat sands.

Known for its spectacular evening light and colours, beautiful palm-fringed Carrillo is also safe for swimming, with a reef to snorkel. When the tide is high, pools form at the southern end of the beach.

Though the beach no longer has the sleepy, end-of-the-line feel it once had — more and more people are setting up hotels and restaurants here — it remains an undeniable beauty.    

Swimming, chilling and sunset-watching aside, you can kayak, jet ski and water ski here, with beach yoga and horse-riding also available.

Best areas to stay in Sámara

Sámara boasts a somewhat surprising diversity of places to stay, from relaxed hotels with family-friendly facilities, to beachfront bungalows, to hostels and camp sites. 

There are a number of more luxurious options, too, among them the high-end Villas Playa Sámara resort. Popular with wealthy Costa Rican families, this offers all-inclusive and bed and breakfast-only tariffs. The villas (sleeping up to six) come with spacious kitchens and sitting rooms, plus outside terraces and hammocks.  

At the other end of the budget scale, Camp Supertramp, located a fifteen-minute walk from town, offers low-cost, well-kept dorms and camping spots (bring your own tent). It’s decidedly — and delightfully— eccentric, with and bird- and animal-filled gardens strung with hammocks.  

All of which means, travellers on all budgets will somewhere to suit them. 

Browse places to stay in Sámara, Costa Rica.                    

Best restaurants and bars in Sámara

In keeping with the diversity of travellers who visit Sámara, its food offerings are equally as broad.  

In general, there’s a strong focus on fresh organic produce, with plenty of places offering a good range of vegetarian and vegan dishes.

Self-catering? The Californian owners of Ámara Organics café in the centre of the village organise regular farmers’ markets — Tues 8–11am; Fri 2–5pm; Mon–Sat 8am–7pm.  

And, if you're after Costa Rican food, you’ll find several options, from fancier restaurants dishing-up well-prepared catches of the day, to basic sodas serving filling fish dishes, casados and arroz cons.

    Recommended restaurants in Sámara

  • El Ancla Cabinas: a bright waterside restaurant with an extensive fish menu. 
  • Luv Burger: this vegetarian, mostly organic joint delivers flavoursome, plant-based (often vegan) burgers.  
  • Sheriff Rustic: right on the sand, this no-frills soda delivers generous portions of comida típica.

Find out more about eating and drinking in Costa Rica.


Sámara, Costa Rica, isn't short of places to enjoy the likes of fresh ceviche © Shutterlstock

How to get around Sámara

Given that the entirety of downtown Sámara can be walked in fifteen minutes, the best way to get around is on foot. 

If you want to take it very, very easy, hourly buses will whisk you to Playa Carrillo. Public buses also run to the southern town of Estrada, and Nicoya. 

You can also rent ATVs by the hour, daily, or weekly. Note that these are not allowed on the beach. A few shops also hike bikes. 

If you need a taxi, head to Sámara’s soccer field to find one, and be sure to agree the price before you depart. 

How many days do you need in Sámara?

If you've come to Sámara to relax and recharge — the main reason most folks head here — you'll want to allow yourself time to slow down.

So, we recommend spending at least 4-5 days here to unwind and feel the benefits of Sámara's chilled vibe. For example, you could easily spend a few days just relaxing on pretty Playa Sámara, dipping in and out of those perfectly calm waters.

Talking of which, you'll want to allocate half a day to kayak to Isla Chora. Add to that strolling to Playa Carrillo for lunch (staying to see the legendary sunset), going on a trail-walking trip or ocean safari to see local wildlife, and you'll wonder where all the time went.

In addition, if you want to learn Spanish, Sámara is a great place to do exactly that. The excellent Intercultura Spanish language school (near the beach) offers week-long Spanish classes, and packages that include homestays.

Looking for inspiration for your trip? Check our Costa Rica itineraries, or talk to our Costa Rica experts

What is the best time to visit Sámara?

Predictably, Sámara’s tourist high season coincides with the December–April dry season, with January tending to attract the biggest number of visitors.

As such, January is best avoided if you’ve come for Sámara’s getting-away-from-it-all charm. Instead, consider visiting in November, or between February and April.

With September and October tending to be the rainiest months, you’ll avoid the heaviest downpours that might put paid to your dreams of blissing out on Playa Carrillo. And you’ll also avoid the biggest crowds.

For more on the best time to visit different destinations in Costa Rica, read our guide to when to go to Costa Rica.

Playa Samara, Nicoya, Costa Rica © Shutterstock

Playa Samara, Nicoya, Costa Rica © Shutterstock

How to get to Sámara

There are several ways to get to Sámara, Costa Rica. If you are coming from outside the country, you can fly into the Liberia International Airport, which is the closest major airport to Sámara. From there, you can rent a car, take a taxi, or use a shuttle service to get to Sámara, which is about a two-hour drive away.

By plane

Sansa planes from San José arrive at the airstrip 6km east of town at Carrillo, from where 4WD taxis make the trip to Sámara.

By bus

Buses stop at the village’s northern edge, where the roads to Nicoya and Nosara meet. You can buy tickets for some bus services from the Transporte Alfaro office (daily 7am–5pm) in the centre of the village.

Destinations: Nicoya (8–12 daily; 45min–1hr); Nosara (3 daily; 40min); San José (1–2 daily; 4hr 45min).

By car

Hwy-150 runs the 35km between Nicoya and the coast at Sámara.

For more transportation tips, read our guide to getting around Costa Rica.

Looking for more inspiration? Read up on the best things to do in Costa Rica, and get yourself a copy of The Rough Guide to Costa Rica.

Our Costa Rica travel tips will also help you plan your trip. Not keen on planning? You'll love our customisable Costa Rica itineraries.

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written by
Rough Guides Editors

updated 01.03.2023

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