The small village of Samara, Costa Rica in the Guanacaste province has been a long time favorite vacation spot for tourists, attracting visitors looking for a family friendly, fun and mellow beach town.
In this guide, we will help you plan your trip to Samara.
The town of Samara is quite small and you can easily walk to get around. Driving in Samara is not too bad but parking is very limited on the main street.
The roads are paved and you can find hotels, hostels, restaurants, shops, banks and everything in Samara.
How to Get Around Samara
You will find bike and ATV rentals, car rentals and golf cart rentals in Samara and it’s easy to get around the area.
There are many hotels and rentals right in town, a 5-10 minute walk to the beach.
Samara Vibe and Demographic
Samara is a popular expat and immigrant beach town in Guanacaste and you can find people from all over the world. Many people who move to Samara are into yoga, surfing and vegan/vegetarianism. Samara has fun nightlife but it has a very healthy vibe, making it a favorite for families.
The Intercultura Spanish School and Costa Rica TEFL have a branch in Samara. Many tourists go there to get there TEFL.
There are also a few digital nomads and expats in Samara. The digital nomad scene is growing a lot and some hotels are adapting their accommodations to host short term and long term digital nomads.
Samara beach is perfect for a leisurely stroll, relaxing and swimming. There are also surf schools around as waves are good for beginners and lessons.
At the main beach entrance, they made a very nice platform to walk down to the beach. There are some beachfronts bars and souvenir stores around there.
The beach is undeniably beautiful and I witnessed one of the most beautiful sunsets here!
Supermarkets and Services
For supermarkets, there are a few small grocery stores in town like Super Samara, Pali, Super China and Fruteria Pura Vida (fruits and vegetable store).
There are also banks, ATMs, pharmacies, laundromats, tour centers, car rentals, the bus station and clinics right in town.
Samara, Costa Rica Weather
Samara has great weather with nearly year round sun experiencing typical tropical weather with a distinct dry and rainy season. Dry season is from beginning of December – end of April and rainy is beginning of May to end of November approximately. The average temperature in Samara is around low 90s F (32-35 C) during the day and mid to high 70s F (24 C) at night.
The rainiest month are generally September and October and the typical rainy day is that it will be sunny and hot in the mornings, cloudy in the afternoon and then off and on rains in the late afternoon/evenings.
There are many hotels and different types of lodging available in Samara. There are also lots of vacation rentals outside of Samara. For long term rentals, Beach House Apartments are highly recommended with AC and a little outside town.
Hideaway Hotel Samara: This is a cute boutique hotel with a pool near Carrillo. It’s in a very quiet area of the beach. They have 12 spacious rooms and a penthouse. Check Hideaway Hotel rates here.
Tico Adventure Lodge: A cute little hotel about a 10-15 minute walk to the beach. Has fiber optic internet, a nice garden and various rooms (single/doubles). Good option for those who need good internet to work. Check Tico Adventure Lodge rates here.
Hotel Samara Beach: Only 50 meters from the beach and right in town with standard hotel rooms. Check Samara Beach Hotels here.
Villas Kalimba: This hotel has 6 independent villas. The property has a garden and large pool with a waterfall and Jacuzzi. Check Kalimba rates here.
Hotel Sol: This hotel is near the east end of the beach and has 11 standard hotel rooms and a family suite. In a quieter area of Samara. Check Hotel Sol rates here.
Hotel Villas Playa Samara: A family friendly beachfront all inclusive resort with a spa, restaurant, pool and bungalows and villas. Check Villas Playa Samara rates here.
Hotel Azura: Adult only, luxury beachfront all inclusive resort. Check rates here.
For a unique experience, check out Kintiri Glamping. It’s 40 minutes outside of Samara up in the mountains (4wd/4×4 car) with a beautiful view, amazing sunsets and glamping dome tents.
Samara is a great place if you’re gluten free, vegan or vegetarian traveling in Costa Rica. Here are our recommended restaurants.
- Falafel Cafe: Decent place for Mediterranean and Lebanese food.
- Roots Bakery: Great coffee, lots of different pastries like empanadas, scones and croissants. Also has breakfast.
- Ahora Si Restaurant: Good Italian restaurant, also has a cooking school.
- El Lagarto: Beach bar and very good barbecue
- Soda Marisqueria Colochos: Good place for Costa Rican food and seafood.
- Di Mare Di Vino: Typical Italian with pastas, pizza and seafood. Part of the Hotel Giada.
- El Ancla: Very nice beachfront seafood restaurant, great ceviche. Also dog friendly.
- Gusto Beach: Another Italian restaurant and pizzeria. Beachfront.
- La Aldrea: Great spot for smoothies, juices, veg food and drinks. They also have a little store and a hostel.
- La Catrina: Really good barbecue and smoothies
- Restaurant Casa Esmeralda: Good seafood
Things to do in Samara, Costa Rica
There are a lot of fun things to do in Samara. Here are some recommendations.
- Horseback riding: Take a horseback ride around Samara and go up the mountains or ride on the beach.
- ATV Tours: Go on an ATV tour to ride around the mountains of Samara up to beautiful viewpoints.
- Surfing and SUP: Take a surf lesson or rent a SUP board. Samara is a great beach to learn how to surf.
- La Roca Waterfall: Just a 20 minute drive from Samara is the La Roca Waterfall. They are 3 waterfalls total and takes about 15 minutes walking down a trail. Not huge waterfalls but very nice and refreshing.
- Fishing: Go off shore or inshore fishing from Samara. It’s a great place to go fishing in Costa Rica.
- Kayaking Isla Chorro: This island is fun for snorkeling. You can take a boat ride out there but we recommend kayaking. We kayaked to and snorkeled at Isla Chorro.
- Snorkeling: The best place for snorkeling in Samara is Isla Chorro or the Cangrejal, which is at the western end of Samara. The coral reef there is home to many tropical fish and other creatures.
- Sunset Catamaran: Go on a catamaran cruise in the afternoon to snorkel and sail back under the sunset.
- Ziplining: Go on a beginner zipline with Wingnuts in Samara.
- Camaronal Wildlife Refuge: This wildlife refuge was created to protect Camaronal beach, where many turtles in Costa Rica nest. The best time to visit is rainy season and you can take a night time turtle watching tour.
- Gyrocopter Flight: See Samara from a birds eye view on a gyrocopter flight!
Day Trips from Samara
You can use Samara as a home base for your Costa Rica beach vacation. However, if you want to see something else besides the beach, we recommend to stay a few nights in Samara and then stay a few nights somewhere else like La Fortuna or Monteverde.
Carrillo Beach: Playa Carrillo is a stunning beach right next to Samara so it’s is easily accessible via car or biking.
Playa Barrigona is another beautiful beach about 30 minutes away. It has been host to surf competitions but it’s very much a local beach. High clearance car recommended.
Ostional Wildlife Refuge: Ostional is one of two places in the world where an arribada (mass gathering of turtles) occur. If you are there the right time of year, you can see tens of thousands of turtles on the beach at one time! It is a 1 hour drive.
Barra Honda National Park: This national park is a 1 hour drive. Go for a hike or take the cave exploring tour. Beautiful views of the landscapes from the viewpoints and in rainy season, there is a waterfall. Hike is moderate to difficult.
Palo Verde National Park: Take a boat ride down the Rio Tempisque to see caimans, monkeys, iguanas and other wildlife in Palo Verde National Park. The river houses the rare dry tropical forest, therefore it is one of the most important reserves in Costa Rica. It is a 2.5 hour drive one way from Samara.
Lo Que Hay is great for happy hour and Bar Arriba turns into a night club at night with music and dancing. Frank’s is another bar for sports games.
From Nosara, you must take the bus from Nosara – Nicoya – Samara.
How to Get to Samara
First, the best airport to fly into for Samara is Liberia International Airport (Guanacaste Airport)
Driving to Samara
Liberia International Airport is a 2 hour drive to Samara.
From Liberia, Tamarindo, Playas del Coco or anywhere from North Guanacaste, the road you should take is to Nicoya on Route 21 and then to Samara on Route 150. This is a completely paved road and very easy to drive.
We do not recommend taking Route 160 from Nosara because you have to cross a very big river (Rio Buena Vista). This route is not fully paved and has lots of pot holes. In rainy season, not even with a 4wd/4×4 we recommend to cross the river because the embankment is very muddy and slippery.
From San Jose International Airport, it is about a 4 hour drive. The route is via Route 27, 1, 18, 21 and 150. Make sure you go through Nicoya and then take Route 150 to Samara.
Get our Costa Rica car rental discount and extra freebies here to save money on your trip!
There are private and shared shuttles to Samara. From Liberia Airport, a private shuttle is around $160 USD total for 1-8 people. From San Jose, a private shuttle is around $295 USD for 1-8 people one way. Please contact us if you’re interested in a private shutle.
A shared with Interbus is around $59 USD per adult.
There is a public bus from San Jose to Samara at 12 PM every day that takes 5 hours. During high season (December – April), there is a second bus at 5 PM.
From Liberia, you will first need to take a bus to Nicoya (3:30 AM – 7 PM every 30 minutes, 8:30 PM and 9 PM) which takes 2 hours. Then take the bus from Nicoya to Samara (5 AM, 5:45, 8, 10, 11, 12, 1 PM, 2 PM, 3 PM, 4:30 PM, 6:30 PM, 8 PM and 9:45 PM). This bus costs 1250 colones one way, is in service Monday to Saturday and takes about 1 hour.
Samara is located in the South Pacific coast of Guanacaste, 105 kilometers (65 miles) from the Liberia International Airport and 225 kilometers (140 miles) from San Jose International Airport.
Plan Your Trip to Samara, Costa Rica
Thanks to its laid back vibe, beautiful beach and healthy atmosphere, Samara is an excellent destination for families. If you want to visit Samara for your vacation, check out our Costa Rica itinerary for families that include Samara.
Read about other beach towns in Costa Rica below!
Uvita: Small coastal village in the South Pacific, ~3 hours from San Jose International Airport
Cahuita: Small beach town on the Caribbean coast, home to a beautiful national park
Flamingo: Luxury beach community in Northern Guanacaste with a fancy marina
Ashish Keshwani says
First things first – amazing blog and details about Costa Rica. I planned almost my entire trip based on your recommendations, so THANK YOU!
Now the question – we are in Samara just for a day and half, 2 families traveling with 4 kids age 5 through 15. Should we plan a tour to Isla Tortuga or do we spend time in Samara? What would be the recommendation? If we do spend time in Samara, any recommendations on the beaches with some activities for families or where we can get a snorkel tour for the slightly grown up kids?
Thank you in advance.
For just a day and a half in Samara, I recommend just to enjoy the beach and town. The beach is beautiful and the town vibe is really nice. You can take a surf lesson right on the beach or if you want to snorkel, you can do a kayak to Isla Chorro and snorkel tour.
Ashish Keshwani says
Thank you so much!
Sara K says
We will be coming in to Samara (Azura Beach Resort) early December, 2022 for our 30th wedding anniversary. We have some slight physical limitations but are determined! (My husband has broken his back twice and I just had foot surgery). What are some of the better tours we can go on? Also, it gets dark at around 5pm. Is it safe to walk around, maybe into town or on the beach? I am very “street wise” as we travel a lot. I just want to be safe. Since we are at an all inclusive that was pricey I want to keep to eating at the hotel as much as possible, but don’t want to lock myself in there.
I would love to do a Costa Rican cooking experience of some sort, meet the locals, etc.
A more intimate coffee plantation tour would be great! We just aren’t sure how to get to places safely and not costing us an arm and leg.
Where is the best place to buy coffee/cocoa near us?
Thank you so much!
I’d check with the resort to see what excursions they offer – Samara is not near any coffee or chocolate plantations (wrong climate for it)
Love reading your information. We have been to CR many times and are considering going to Samara this time. Some of the beach areas we loved were Tamarindo and Uvita, but did not like Dominical for many reasons.
Samara seems like a scaled down version of Tamarindo. Am I correct?
Hello, we are debating on whether or not to rent a home in town (5 mins walk to the beach) or a little outside of town but will need to drive 10 minutes to the beach. If we rent the home in town, we will only rent a car during some weekend excursions. If we rent the home outside of town then our plan would be to rent the car for everyday use. What do you think is better? We have a 10 and 12 year old boys. There is four of us total. We plan to stay in Samara for a month.
You really could do either… there are a couple of car rental agencies in Samara so you could arrange transportation from airport/previous destination to Samara (like private transportation) and then rent a car for when you are in town. However I would say it depends on your budget because a full one month rental will not be cheap compared to renting a couple days at a time. Then on the other hand, depending on your family, they may want to be super close to the beach to have easy access so the boys can just walk to the beach whereas always having to drive to town and parking in town is kind of annoying to always have to worry about your car and parking. But being in town may be more nosy.
From our personal experiences, many people who stay in Costa Rica for a month or a few weeks, they want to be as close to the beach as possible, be able to easily walk everywhere and not have to worry about having a car every single day.
I will have a 3 year old with me. I plan to take a shuttle from Liberia airport to Samara. Are kids allowed on the shuttle ? Not sure if they would have a car seat or can he ride without.
You will need to check with the shuttle company you’re booking with
Thank you so much for a great blog and very helpful info. Do you know if small dogs in a pet carrier would be allowed on the bus from San Jose to Samara?
Legally buses don’t accept pets except services animals … it is kind of at the discretion of the driver since we’ve seen people with pets in carriers but legally the driver can perfectly say no even if the dog is in a carrier
Paul Gunder says
I am planning a trip to Samara. If I take the shuttle to Samara Airport, are rental cars available at the airport, or in Samara?
I believe there is a National/Alamo Car Rental in Samara if you prefer to rent when you are in Samara. I believe the Carrillo is permanently closed from last I checked so I’m not sure which Samara Airport you’re flying into but make sure to double check just in case
I’ll be in Samara in early December. Can you recommend “Tropical Tours Shuttles” for transport from the Liberia airport to Samara? Perhaps there is a better alternative?
Thank you for the blog, it’s been a very helpful resource overall!
Yes they are a big shared shuttle company
I will be leaving Ostional late January headed towards Samara in a Toyota Prado; you did not recommend Route 160 due to the potholes and river crossing ( Rio Buena Vista ); does this advice hold for the dry season as well? Thank you
late January should be fine and you should be fine in a Toyota Prado, the river gets its biggest usually in Sept/October/November, by end of January it’s already stopped raining hard for a couple of months
Thank you for writing this blog
Will visit Sumara end of zNov for 1st time!
We hope you have a good time!
Andrea Campo says
FYI, LUV burger is permanently closed
Las Olas Beach bar is now an excellent spot, renovated with cabins/room rentals, GREAT food, and a 2nd location for Samara sushi- all on the beach
Arriba (the same owners as Las Olas) is not currently open. It may reopen
Franks has a new owner and the food is much better and has craft draft beer from 2 gringos
Fox45 Bus has excellent food, a great bar with wonderful infusions (on the road near the International school) awesome vibe- the owner Luis is always happy to meet new friends.
Mama Gui is now located in the renovated restaurant space of Hotel Giada
The Natural Center also has yummy food
The Farmers market (Samara Farmers Market Feria de Samara) is ever Saturday from 7am to 2pm in the park, on the road near Falafel Cafe
People in Samara are amazing! Kind, considerate, helpful and HAPPY
Love the blog! Just wanted to add some new info
Hello, I will be flying into Liberia Airport in early March, arriving at around 9pm. I plan to rent a car and drive to Samara. How is the night driving along that route?
It’s all on paved roads and a 2 hour drive. Make sure if you do this drive to use a GPS like Google Maps/Waze or GPS device and to get a prepaid SIM card so you can have a local phone number in case you run into any emergencies. Just a note that nothing will be open after 9 PM (no supermarket, restaurant, etc.) so keep that in mind.
Great, thank you!
What is the bus company that you use to travel from Samara to San Jose?
It is called Empresa Alfaro leaving from the 7-10 terminal in San Jose.