software design

Costa Rica: Sámara
07 Dec 2013

After a week in the mainland, it’s back to the coast for us. This time, though, we’re on the Pacific coast in a sleepy little beach town named Sámara.

Sámara is an adorable little beach town with beautiful beaches and friendly people who you’ll get to know within hours of arriving. Within a day we were already running in to the same people over and over. It’s a very small community and the locals definitely notice when new people show up (which it doesn’t seem like many do given that it’s off the beaten path).

The food overall is average, with Cafe Carola notably standing out, and the tourism here is practically non-existent. People don’t obsessively lock their bikes up, something I simply can’t comprehend after a few years in San Francisco.

Our favorite place to stay was Hostel El Cactus due to its cleanliness and stocked kitchen. It’s also near the main street and the beach, making it a good starting point for daily adventures. Hostel Matilori is slightly cheaper and a little cooler during the day, but they tended to be booked up.

The weather here was bordering on 32-33 every day with very little rain (first week of December).


Dec 07, 2013

from Monteverde, Costa Rica


Dec 12, 2013

to Cartagena, Colombia

Weather (Celcius)

Elevation (m)

Planning Notes: Samara, Costa Rica

Friday, December 06, 2013 10:49


  • Wear shoes at all times.


Hostel Matilori

  • $12 dorm beds.
  • Downtown and 150m from the beach.

Las Mariposas

Las Mariposas is a charming hostel in the beautiful beach town of Sámara, Costa Rica. If you are looking for an inexpensive place with lots of extra services…. this is the place to be! For only $15 a night you will have your home right in the town center of Sámara, only 100m from the beach and close to all the popular restaurants & bars that Sámara has to offer. The hostel has a uniquely welcome family feel to it and is perfect for the lonely traveller. Delicious full breakfast is available, wireless internet, hot shower and plenty of nice areas to relax. $15.

El Cactus Samara Backpacker

  • samarabackpacker.com
  • $48/night for double private bathroom
  • $18/night for dorm
  • 95% hostel world
  • 5/5 tripadvisor, #2 specialty lodging


Samara Trails

Samara Beach

  • Travelers’ Choice® 2013 Winner Beaches

Horse Jungle

Bussing from Monteverde to Samara

Saturday, December 07, 2013 06:02

The bus from Monteverde was quite a bit longer than we expected.

We caught the bus out front of Cabanas Eddys and rode it through some absolutely stunning scenery before we got dropped off on the side of a highway with a large group of other backpackers. Here, we waited for about a half hour, thinking that we were going to catch a bus to Sámara from here.

When a bus finally pulled over the sign on the front said Liberia, but the driver assured us we could get to Sámara on this bus. So we hopped on.

After about an hour or so I realized that we had passed what I thought was the turnoff to Sámara but after asking the bus driver he, again, assured us that we had to stay on this bus to get to Sámara.

So it was that we went to Liberia, then Nicoya, until finally arriving in Sámara after touring the entire northwestern area of Costa Rica. The total trip time was 9 hours, four more than what we’d originally expected.

The pic attached to this entry is what you see as you leave Monteverde. It legit felt like were on a cloud city.

6:02AMWaiting for the bus in Monteverde.
6:10AMBoarded for $3.
7:50AMBus dropped us off on the highway. I think we’re in Guanacaste.
8:23AMBoarded a bus to Liberia for $4.60.
10:35AMArrived in Liberia for some reason. $2.60 to Nicoya from here. $5.20 for lunch to go at a nearby soda.
11:00AMOn our way to Nicoya. Drinking jugo from a bag.
11:15AMA truck hit the side of our bus!
11:19AMAaand moving again.
1:14PMArrived in Nicoya.
2:02PMBoarded the bus to Samara for $2.60.
2:06PMOn our way to Samara! Holy cow air conditioning!
3:08PMArrived in Samara!
Total cost$12.80
Total travel time9:02
Total bus time6:08

Las Mariposas Hostel

Saturday, December 07, 2013 17:17
  • $35/night for a private room. Apparently the rooms are normally $38 though.
  • Ants all around our room.
  • Bed is crazy uncomfortable.
  • No safe.
  • They start running a lawn-mower at 8am.
  • A few blocks from the main street.

This place was over-priced given what it was and compared to similar places in Costa Rica, but the other hostels were full so we camped here for one night.

The staff and people here were incredibly friendly backpackers and we ran into many of them throughout our entire stay in Sámara. Can’t recommend sleeping here due to the cost but it’s a great place to meet people!


Saturday, December 07, 2013 20:46

Had a tasty mahi mahi plate for $12. Wasn’t full from it though sadly.

Cafe Carola

Sunday, December 08, 2013 12:44

Holy cats, mind blown. We started late today after a crappy sleep at Mariposa’s made us quicken the process of finding a new place to stay. By the time we left to find breakfast it was 11am and we were famished.

It took about an hour to make our way to Cafe Carola after meandering across the beach, up a trail, through a small neighborhood, back down the trail and finally across a dirt path to the correct location. (Pro tip: don’t try to shortcut along the beach!) We were hungry, tired, and generally not content.

But the day was about to take a radical turn for the better.

Immediately after sitting down, we were given menus and the German breakfast jumped out: meat, cheese, eggs, homemade bread, homemade jam, and butter. There was also a champagne version which I couldn’t resist (tip of the hat to many San Francisco mornings).

Our blended juices were quickly brought out, followed by a plate of fresh, cold fruit. As soon as we finished the fruit we were given orange juice and my champagne arrived; this lady knows how to kick off breakfast! When the meat, cheese, eggs, jam and bread arrived only a few minutes later we had built a solid momentum and devoured the food.

The breads were delicious and allowed us to blend the four different types of home-made jam (banana, pineapple, and two other flavors I didn’t know) with different meats and cheeses, making for an amazing collection of flavors compared to the simple sodas we’d been eating for weeks now.

Our plates clean, we still had half of the bread left over when they took it away. Hugely to our surprise, they brought the bread back in a bag so that we could take it away! Many delicious peanut butter and banana sandwiches were to be had because of this.

We were blown away, stuffed, and delighted with that familiar mimosa fuzz, ready for the rest of the day :)


Sunday, December 08, 2013 20:46

Tasty $5 burgers and $3.50 cocktails here! Loved the banana colada :)

They had a 2x1 burger night on Sunday here and the burgers were really tasty and came with ok fries. They’re right on the beach so you can enjoy the sounds of the waves while you lap up some drinks.

El Cactus

Sunday, December 08, 2013 22:44

We stayed here for the rest of our time in Samara and really enjoyed it.


Monday, December 09, 2013 11:34

A solid session of yoga today next to our hostel :) It was $10/person at Casa Coba. We had a solid 1.5 hour session and felt nicely relaxed for the rest of the day.

Delicious Kombucha

Monday, December 09, 2013 12:33

They make dynamite kombucha here, my favorite being the pineapple mint. For $3 a bottle it’s a pricey treat but so worth it :)

Samará Organics

Monday, December 09, 2013 12:48

Tiny portions and not particularly good. For $4 we got two eggs, a slice of toast and a quarter of a tomato.

Sand Snail Art

Monday, December 09, 2013 14:39

These intricate patterns in the sand are created, as best we can tell, from dozens of snails searching for food noms!

Geocaching the Pacific Beaches

Monday, December 09, 2013 15:43

We were excited to find that there were two geocaches near Sámara and both of them take you to incredible beaches!

After yoga in the morning we rented bikes from downtown for only $5 each because it was a half day. After our experience in Puerto Viejo we were relieved to see that the bikes were in really good shape.

The bike ride to our first geocache (GC2C53E) took us across Sámara’s beach on our cruisers. We were easily entertained as we rode our bikes on the beach with perfect sunny weather, watched crabs shuffle side to side and stopped to watch snails carve intricate patterns in the sand.

Once we clambered over the rocks and short road leading to the cache we were rewarded with another massive beach with long stretches of sand in every direction. To be honest, this beach was similar to Sámara’s so it wasn’t as shocking as when we first saw Sámara’s.

The cache was incredibly well hidden and we might not have found it were it not for a nearby coconut lady who knew what we were doing and gleefully came over to expose the cache.

The second cache (GC4N7GD) was a whole other adventure. It was on the other side of Sámara so we biked back, this time along the road. This involved some huffing as we pushed our bikes up some of the steeper hills.

Once we got to roughly where the geocache was located we had to identify the correct “private property” trail that would lead us to the beach.

The first trail we took brought us along a rocky path with monkeys jumping overhead to a family’s driveway just as they were leaving. “Daddy look at their horsies!” Kids are adorbs.

The second trail was a solid adrenaline rush. About halfway up the trail we passed a driveway. Suddenly, I hear growling and snarling as a massive guard dog (and side-kick, tiny dog) bounded toward me, spit flying in every direction. Attempting to keep calm I dismounted my bike and stared the dogs down. There was a pretty decent chance they’d take a solid chunk out of my like so it was a bit of a gamble, but much safer odds than trying to run.

The owner slowly ambled along, clad only in his underwear and a wife-beater, and called the dogs off. Thankfully it seemed these dogs were more bark than bite.

Back-tracking to the main road we decided to try the next private property: a resort in the middle of the jungle. After biking past one, two, three “Private property: no entry!” signs, we finally saw a sign that was quite a bit more welcoming: “playa, this way”.

A short hike through the forest later, we found the cache! We had never found a travel bug before, but this cache had two! We took both of them and plan to bring them to South America with us. We proceeded onwards to a winding stone staircase that descended to the beach.

The beach was completely deserted and the sand was rocky, making the water much clearer than the previous beaches. There were also hundreds of hermit crabs running along the beach! We stayed for just long enough to watch the sun set and then made our way back home.

All-in-all ‘twas a great day of yoga, biking, and treasure-hunting.

La Vela

Monday, December 09, 2013 19:25

Sushi dinner! It was 2x1 sushi and drinks here tonight so we decided to splurge a bit again and get our wasabi on. The sushi was just ok but we had some interesting flavors (plantains and mango).

Unknown Soda

Tuesday, December 10, 2013 20:31

Solid casado plates with the standard beans, rice, salad, and meat. $6.60 per plate. Had olive oil and vinegar for the salad, nom!

Soda la Perla

Wednesday, December 11, 2013 12:36
  • $5 for a casado.
  • Asked us if we wanted sugar in our drinks.
  • Asked if we wanted onions or tomatoes in our bistek.

Bussing from Sámara to San Jose Airport and flying to Cartagena

Thursday, December 12, 2013 08:12

Bus tickets cost us $9 each to get from Sámara to Bogota.

While we were planning our travel from Costa Rica to Colombia we found Spirit Airlines on hipmunk offering incredibly cheap flights at ~$200/person compared to about $500-600/person for direct flights. The Spirit flight took us through Fort Lauderdale (FLL) before going onward to Cartagena, but at almost half the price it was an easy choice.

Spirit is apparently the most profitable airline in the US and for good reason. They charge for practically everything. To check our backpacks, for example, we had to pay $30 per leg of the trip, not for the overall trip. This meant we ended up paying $60 each to be able to check our bags, but the tickets were still only $272.99/person in the end.

The flights themselves were totally fine and the staff were really pleasant. We didn’t have any issue checking in and our bags arrived in Colombia safely. The toughest part of the trip was waiting until 2AM for our flight from San Jose, but another small price to pay for saving $200-300 each.

7:30AMWoke up.
8:59AMBoarded the bus.
9:05AMOn our way!
9:49AMQuick stop in Nicoya.
11:56AMBathroom break in Espíritu Santo.
12:20PMMoving again.
1:20PMArrived at SJO.
2:17PMDeparture tax ($29) paid and now sitting at a cafe, waiting for Spirit airlines to open.
9:14PMStill waiting at the airport. Flight leaves in 5 hours…
11:15PMThe check-in counter finally opened!
11:35PMThrough security.
11:45PMSecurity came by and asked us why we were here. They thought we had snuck in to the terminal.
4:50AMLanded in FLL.
4:57AMWaiting in line for US customs.
5:40AMThrough customs.
5:57AMBags rechecked.
9:29AMWaiting for flight to Cartagena.
11:42AMBoarded the delayed flight to Cartagena.
2:35PMLanded in Cartagena!
2:56PMThrough customs, waiting for bags.
3:31PMIn a taxi to Hostel Mamallena.
Total bus time4:15


Dec 07, 2013

from Monteverde, Costa Rica


Dec 12, 2013

to Cartagena, Colombia