On a recent trip with a friend traveling along the Pacific coast of Costa Rica, we decided to stop in , Guanacaste, a place neither of us had previously visited. As we rode over the last of the mountains before the highway leveled itself out into this small beach town, my curiosity was piqued. How had this cozy beach-side hamlet slipped under the radar of places to see in Costa Rica? That answer would come soon enough.
Less than a minute into driving through town, we reached the end of the road, the shimmering ocean in front of us. We veered left and one block later parked outside of the very casual and beachy bed and breakfast Casa Del Mar, a perfect spot for our simple exploratory needs: we were in the heart of the town and right next to the beach.
The staff warmly welcomed us as we walked into this cute beach hotel with its vintage feel, and Carolina, the delightful receptionist, answered a wide array of questions about the town while handling getting us into our room for the next three nights. Our second-floor room was modestly appointed yet spacious and amply lit with a skylight overhead adding to the natural light coming in through the windows. Handcrafted art adorns the walls inside the rooms and throughout the bed and breakfast, adding to its tropical theme. Most important to us, though, our travel criteria for comfort was met: the shower was hot, the A/C was cool, and the bed was comfy.
Like a lot of businesses in coastal beach towns in Costa Rica (whether a hotel, restaurant, or shop), the layout of Casa del Mar is very open. A continual soft breeze blows off the ocean through the dining room/lounge and into the courtyard. The courtyard itself remains awash in sunlight throughout the day, shaded somewhat by an enormous tree in its center. This space is also where Bella, the hotel’s very friendly red-lored Amazon, spends her time either happily talking to a guest or contentedly to herself. The small pool in the courtyard, by the way, is great for a quick dip after spending a few hours at the beach.
In the mornings, breakfast is made to order and ranges from standard Costa Rica fare such as gallo pinto to all-American eggs and sausage. The coffee pot is never-ending and I spent a good bit of time in the early mornings in the dining area, working online through their free wi-fi connection, available throughout the hotel. The area is quiet so you can comfortably ease into your day before heading out for whatever adventure awaits.
Exiting the hotel, the beach is steps away and you can get to it either through walking through the hotel’s private gated parking lot across the street or by detouring through the very cool low-key bar Lo Que Hay right next door to it. And by detouring through the bar I mean sitting down and enjoying a beverage or two and the company of locals and tourists alike.
Once you make it to the beach, it’s a picture-perfect view; exactly what you would expect a Costa Rican beach to look like. Stretching roughly three to four kilometers from mountainous end to end, the beach is simply gorgeous. Being both wide and deep, Playa Sámara provides ample room for you to bathe under the sun as if it was your own private beach. To appreciate all of its beauty, though, it is definitely worth walking to either end of the beach which can best be described as primordial. Once there, you’ll feel as though you’ve stepped into a prehistoric land and that you may, at any given moment, see some life form previously undiscovered or unclassified crawling out of the water. It’s truly breathtaking.
While we were visiting the waves weren’t enormous but there’s definitely a surf scene in Sámara. Naturally, there are numerous places along the beach that offer surf lessons including Casa del Mar which has a surf instructor onsite. In addition to surfing, there’s a long list of activities to do in the area including snorkeling, canopy tours, horseback riding, and so forth. Also, there are wildlife refuges in both neighboring Playa Carillo and Nosara.
The town offers a number of shops selling artisan goods, locally made, as well as a nice selection of restaurants and bars. Healthy living is big in Sámara, also, so there is plenty available for the body and soul. As for the people, they are as big a selling point to the town as much as anything else. You’ll find the locals to be incredibly friendly and in talking to them we learned somewhat why Sámara had stayed off of our radar of places to explore: the locals, as much as they want the tourism, appreciate the relatively undisturbed beauty of the place. They know what they’ve got and they want to protect it. Both my travel partner and I were struck with that same feeling on the first day: we didn’t want to tell anyone.
When our nights would come to an end in Sámara, we would walk back to Casa del Mar where a security guard sits each night watching over the property, adding extra safety to the hotel. Not that it’s an unsafe area. Speaking with locals at the bar one night, they laughed at my concern of walking to a close by ATM just after dark. And certainly, the town is friendly. And you feel comfortable walking around at night. That said, you should always use caution and common sense when traveling to a new area.
Sámara is a jewel of a town and Casa del Mar, with its comfort, convenience and cost ($65 a night), was the perfect choice for our stay.
From the Daniel Oduber International Airport in Liberia, take Route 21 south toward Nicoya. In Nicoya, take Route 150 west toward the coast which will take you straight into Sámara. Take a left at the end of the road and Casa Del Mar will be on the lefthand corner, one block down.
By Scott Alexander