So I have to say I wasn’t holding out any hopes for Costa Rica. All the research I did lead me to believe that it was overcrowded, expensive and touristy (three things I try to avoid like the plague).
As a result, I planned on staying longer in three locations to cut costs on travel and really experience the town I was in. Samara was the last stop on my trip and what an experience it was!
This little Tamarindo-Esque surfing town is packed with life and still boasts a few off the beaten path spots to check out! In the spirit of budget travel, I’m going to mention the free stuff and cheap eats instead!
Here are the best free things to do in Costa Rica and some cool budget-friendly restaurants, bars and shops!
- Izquierda beach and cliffs
This hidden location makes it to the top of my list because there was literally not a soul around the entire time! Just me, myself, a coati and some freaky monkeys. To get to this secluded beach you have to walk west out of the town of Samara towards the hotel Pacific lodge. Across the street, you will see a white sign that faintly reads Izquierda beach. Follow the main trail (right side) up the hill. You can go down a few of the offshoots to look over some cool cliffs (just for the love of God be careful!).
One of these offshoots will lead to a set of slippery and mossy stairs. Follow those down to the beach! Keep in mind the tide but you can practically spend all day there! Don’t forget to pack water and snacks!
- Playa Carillo
This is the most chill beach I’ve ever been to! We weren’t the only people visiting but it was 87.5% less packed than the neighboring Playa Samara. The inviting water and waves are super smooth for swimming and the coconut trees that line the shore make a great photo op! The best time to go would be a weekday during the day, on weekends the beach is full of local families!
Follow Playa Samara until you reach near the end of the beach, there will be a trail that leads to the main road. Carefully walk alongside the main road until you reach Playa Carillo!
- Playa Samara
Spend some time on the western half of Playa Samara and fully soak in the surfer beach bar vibe! Definitely, something that shouldn’t be missed!
Cross the small river at the far west side and discover some local sodas and less busy beach! (Don’t cross at high tide!)
Some other cool free (or nearly free) attractions I didn’t get to check out were
- Barrigona beach
- Belen waterfall
- Playa Buenavista
Restaurants, Bars and Cafes
- Flying taco
This is one of the greatest divey bars in Samara! They have reasonable daily specials to save you some money!
- Pico Feliz vegan ice cream
We discovered this ice cream spot by accident but it was definitely a happy accident! The staff were so friendly and the vegan ice cream was tasty and a much-needed break from the heat!
- Roots Bakery and Cafe
I stopped by here for a coffee and a snack before leaving Samara (as per recommendation from the owner of my hostel) and it was the best decision I made all day! Not the most budget-friendly place (prices are similar to Canada. But the coffee and croissant were divine!
and last but not least, my MISSED Instagram photo op with this cool door! It had rained the night before so the road was too muddy to set up the tripod. But maybe you can catch that gram-worthy photo! The door is on the same road as Las Mariposas hostel!
Samara is a wonderful little town that should be explored for a few days if you’re looking for an off the beaten path experience in Costa Rica!