The quiet waters and energetic nightlife of Playa Samara attract thousands of sun worshippers and world travelers to this Costa Rica paradise year after year. Located halfway between Tamarindo and Malpais on Costa Rica’s wildly popular Guanacaste coast, Playa Samara nestles into a scenic hillside on a quiet bay. A small island protects the beach from large breakers, making Playa Samara one of the calmest, most enjoyable swimming beaches on Costa Rica’s Pacific side.
Playa Samara is both affordable and calm, but the flashy nightlife and general noise level of the place makes it more of an attraction for backpackers, newlyweds, and adults than for families.
Escape is easy, however.
Playa Carillo, located just five miles south of Playa Samara, offers soft white sand and solitude for those seeking quiet or a romantic break. Playa Carillo is almost always deserted, and the hidden gems of Playa Buena Vista and Playa Barrigona, just five miles north of Playa Samara, are well worth exploring too.
Things to do in and around Playa Samara include horseback riding, sport fishing, snorkeling, and nearby canopy and zip line tours, all of which can be arranged through almost any local hotel. Trips to nearby Playa Ostinal to watch the annual nesting activities of the rare Ridley sea turtles are very popular, as are tours of the extensive network of natural caves at Barra Honda National Park.
Finding a place to stay in Playa Samara is easy.
The Costa Rica hotels in the Playa Samara area range from the most basic budget hostel accommodations to the posh world famous Hotel Punta Islita—possibly the most famous luxury resort in all of Costa Rica. Basic hostel accommodations can cost as little as $30 USD, or you can pitch your own tent right on the beach for a few dollars at Camping Coco’s. A top-of-the-line suite at Hotel Punta Islita can run as much as $700 USD per unforgettable night.
Between these two Costa Rica hotel extremes, visitors to Playa Samara can choose from lots of more moderate options. The local Hotel Giada, for example, is Italian-owned and offers breakfast on site and clean, comfortable rooms with charming small balconies.
Las Brisas del Pacifico Hotel is set into a steep, sandy hillside and features the best views of the ocean of any of the moderately priced Playa Samara accommodations. The rooms at Las Brisas have unique glass walls facing the water and generous private balconies for lounging.
Casa Valeria is a fantastic Playa Samara budget option. The rooms are not fancy, but the individual bungalows here are literally just steps away from the beach, and the Cara Valeria restaurant serves satisfying tico fare at good prices.
For Playa Samara nightlife, check out the La Gondola Bar, which also has a pool tables, board games, and a dartboard. Or, hop on down to Fandango Club Max in nearby Playa Carillo—a stylish new club and bar which has become a hangout for local and international sport fishermen. Las Brasas serves traditional Spanish cuisine and a wide selection of indigenous Spanish wines, as well as fresh seafood and paella.
Buses leave San Jose daily for Playa Samara. The fare one-way will set you back only about $6 USD for the five-hour trip. A round trip Gray Line bus ticket runs closer to $30, but will pick you up and drop you off at any major San Jose hotel—a convenient perk.
What to See on Isla del Coco Costa Rica