I’m in Playa Samara, on Costa Rica’s Nicoya Peninsula.
I’m enjoying a beer by the pool with Bill Root, the owner of the small beachfront Fenix Hotel, as he tells me the history of the town.
He says it’s much more “crowded” since he and his wife, Phyllis, arrived here 14 years ago. But all I see is a laid-back beach town. His perspective is a bit different, I guess, as a long-time resident.
He’s even met locals who lived here before electricity was widely available. A generator kicked in a couple hours a day. And before the road came in—most travel to and from Samara was by boat. This was decades ago, but that lost-in-time vibe still permeates the town.
Playa Samara, Costa Rica: Small, bohemian beach town
Like most small beach towns, this is a place to relax and enjoy the sun, strolling on the palm-lined beach or enjoying the spectacular sunset each evening. It’s low-key. Bohemian.
Tank tops and board shorts are the preferred dress. There are plenty of surfers attracted by the steady waves. And for those who prefer to stay on shore and admire the clear blue waters, there are several on-the-beach, your-feet-in-the-sand bars and restaurants.
No multi-story hotel complexes here. Smaller hotels are the norm. But some good restaurants run by expats from all over the world have brought Mexican, Thai, Spanish, and other cuisines; you’ll even find vegetarian, vegan, and organic options.
And it’s still a working fishing town.
Getting to Playa Samara
A few houses down from the Fenix is the town’s fishing fleet, small open boats that head out into the bay and beyond—the day’s catch can be bought right off the boat each afternoon as the boats come in.
You can find this fishing village to the south of the main drag. It’s quickest to walk on the beach itself—about 15 minutes.
It still takes some effort to get to Playa Samara. The last hour is over winding—though paved—mountain roads. Stop at the overlooks to see the view of green-covered hills all around you.
If you’re visiting elsewhere on the Nicoya Peninsula, say Tamarindo (to the north) or Mal Pais (to the south), don’t bother with the unpaved coastal road. Instead use the inland highway until you hit the turn off for Samara.
From the Central Valley, cross over the Gulf of Nicoya at the Taiwanese Friendship Bridge at the north end of the waterway. Then head to the town of Nicoya and from there south to Samara. The route is well marked.
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