Embracing Local Life in Welcoming Sámara, Costa Rica

The fishing boats pulled up on the pebbles of Sámara Bay are about your only option if you want to head south from here. This Pacific beach town is at the end of the road, whether you’ve arrived from the north via Route 150, or from Nosara to the west. At Sámara, both routes grind to a happy halt on the palm-lined sands. The feeling of being at journey’s end extends to the town’s relaxed atmosphere. It’s a fine place to end up.

And if you enjoy meeting new people, you don’t need to look further than the friendly bars and restaurants on Sámara’s main street. You can eat inexpensive meals at local sodas (simple roadside restaurants) for $7 to $8 and snag a jumbo margarita at one of the beach bars during happy hour for around $5. I met local expat Louise Tangri in one such bar to chat about her life in Costa Rica.

Like all expats, Louise followed a meandering path to find her perfect version of pura vida in Costa Rica. A Canadian hailing from Montreal, she grew up with a passion for horses and travel, and she worked in the show-jumping business for 12 years in Calgary, Alberta. Combining that industry with her love of travel, Louise acquired her travel agent accreditation and found a niche in arranging specialist accommodation and transit for horse event participants.

She and her husband both dreamed of leaving the cold weather behind. After starting a family, they decided to make the big move. They knew they wanted to leave the “rat race” behind and enjoy the tropics. But where?

“We made a list of criteria covering what was important to us,” Louise says. “We wanted to be close to good schools, not far from an international airport, near a hospital, and close to nature. Oh, and the beach. We love the sound of the ocean.”

They explored Jacó, on Costa Rica’s central coast, and the small beach town of Montezuma, at the bottom of the Nicoya Peninsula. “Later, we met a guy from Sámara, who suggested we might like it here. So we made it our next stop and knew instantly this was where we wanted to live. What makes Sámara so special is that it is still a typical Costa Rican beach village. There are lots of ticos (Costa Ricans), and they are very friendly and welcoming. You will not find it overrun by North Americans.”

In November 2005, they made an offer on a piece of land with one of the best ocean views in town…and ended up owning almost two acres on top of a hill at the edge of Sámara. It’s distant enough to be away from the center of town, but just minutes to all the commerce. And although it’s not a large city, the town has a medical clinic with a full-time doctor. It’s also only a two-hour drive to the private hospitals in Liberia, so there are several options for those with any health issues.

Louise and her husband oversaw the home, guesthouse, and studio project, working with local Costa Rican contractors and Nicaraguan workers. “We hardly spoke Spanish initially, but they were great to work with. It turned out perfect and had an ocean view from every window. We lived there from 2008 to 2015. I love nature and freedom. This new life gave us exactly that.”

Louise, then in her mid-40s, was not ready to retire. So she put her travel talents to work and opened a successful vacation-rental company, which she owned and managed from 2009 to 2015.

Now, after selling the home and business, Louise takes it easy, enjoying her free time in Costa Rica. She found a two-bedroom, two-bathroom rental condo in town, with parking and a pool, for $1,200 a month. If you are willing to live just out of town, you can find places like this with modern amenities from $500 to $1,000 a month.

And Louise’s advice for anyone thinking of moving to Costa Rica? “Do your research. I recommend you don’t buy anything, but rent for a year to be sure you like it here. Install the pause button. Put your brain on pause. And never judge the local way of life. Embrace it, instead.”

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