I wasn’t holding out any hopes for Costa Rica. All my research led 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 travel costs and experience the culture and vibe of the place I was in. Samara was my last trip stop; it was a unique experience!
This little Tamarindo-Esque surfing town is packed with life and still boasts a few off-the-beaten-path spots to check out! Lots of people who visit the Nicoya Peninsula overlook Samara on the way to other places, but if you’re looking to get away from the crowds or you’ve been to Costa Rica before, it should be at the top of your list.
Here are some of the amazing hidden gems I found while visiting Samara, Costa Rica!
Where is Samara?
Many people opt to visit the nearby coastal surf town of Tamarindo. Samara is its sleepy sister, located 94km south of Tamarindo. Arguably Samara is much more challenging to get to. There are fewer local buses that run here, and the ones that do are expensive.
Why go to Samara?
Although Samara is sleepy, it’s a nice break from the touristy locations in Costa Rica, like La Fortuna, Tamarindo, Jaco, and Manuel Antonio. Samara is a nice escape for 3-4 days to feel like you have a little piece of Costa Rica all to yourself. I found it to be one of the least touristy places in all of Costa Rica, and it stood out because of it.
There are many hotels and hostel options for every kind of traveler and plenty of restaurants and bars. I stayed at Hostel Las Mariposas and loved every minute of it.
What can you do in Samara?
There are plenty of activities in Samara, including surfing lessons, swimming, snorkeling, hiking, and watching the horses trot down the coast. If you’re looking for more things to do and want to stay within your budget, check out my favorite hidden gems in Samara!
Ever wanted to have the whole beach to yourself? 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 offshoot trails to see the steep cliffs.
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! Remember to pack water and snacks!
Spend the day relaxing and swimming at Playa Carillo. Although I wasn’t the only person visiting, it was significantly less busy 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 get to 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!
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 for a cheap lunch and less busy beaches! Just remember not to cross at high tide.
This stunning beach looks like it jumped out of a magazine into real life! It is the perfect place to swim, with tropical mountains and landscape in the background. Pack a picnic and spend the day swimming, snorkeling, or walking along the beach. There are no facilities at this beach, so make sure to pack out what you pack in!
Getting to Playa Barrigona requires a 4×4 car due to the rough roads and the possibility of a washout from the river. It’s not advised to go at high tide or stay overnight.
La Roca Waterfall
La Roca waterfall is just up the highway from Samara. It’s a wonderful place to visit and go for a jungle swim! You can take the bus from Samara to Belen or drive. Park or get off the bus near La Roca restaurant. Look down the hill, and you will see a path. In 5-10 minutes, you’ll find yourself at the first of the series of waterfalls.
Remember, when visiting and swimming in waterfalls, use your best judgment. Some waterfalls have a strong pull and can be risky to swim in.
Come and enjoy the peaceful sights and sounds in Samara and relax on its spacious sandy beaches. Samara is a beautiful little town that should be explored for a few days if you’re looking for an off-the-beaten-path experience in Costa Rica!