So on the last morning in Tamarindo, Priscila and I had decided that we would take a private taxi over to Nosara. (Yes, a taxi. She was, off and on, not feeling great so the taxi option easily beat out the bus option.) After one final breakfast at Hotel Luamey, we packed our bags and walked out to meet Cesar Manzanares, Jr., referred to us by the hotel owners. Awesome guy, super friendly and with great taste in music which we would learn over the next two and one-half hours on our trip through the central region of Guanacaste in his four-door Hyundai sedan.
Somewhere during our travels, we had picked up a map of the Guanacaste province which conveniently identified the roads by type (highway, paved, gravel, dirt, “4WD required”, and “No, just no”). As we passed through Nicoya, we looked at the roads on our map and decided to change our plans. Nosara was going to be a little bit more bumpy to get to than Sámara and a little bit was enough to bypass it and head straight to Sámara.
The entire trip, with Cesar at the helm, was awesome fun.
To mix things up, I’m going to ask that you read the next block in Morgan Freeman‘s voice. I realize how lazy this is of me and I kind of feel bad for bringing him in on this. But this is kind of a crappy paragraph and that voice of his makes everything better. Ladies and gentlemen, Morgan Freeman:
And so it was on a Wednesday afternoon that we arrived in Sámara, a town which we knew nothing of. And we didn’t even know where we would stay. As we peered out the windows of our taxi – Priscila to her right, me to my left – and the shops and businesses slowly passed by on this gently sloped street, our eyes filled with wonder at the quaintness of this quiet little town. “We will have to explore this place thoroughly,” I told myself. And soon we would. But for now, a hotel was in order.
We found a place quickly, actually. A beachy little bed and breakfast, Casa del Mar. I’ve written a review about it separately for The Costa Rica News here. To summarize our experience at Casa del Mar: it was perfectly located, perfectly comfortable. A perfect choice for our perfect stay.
Priscila and I were in Sámara for three nights and four days. I’m not going to lie: a lot of it was a blur, much like this photo.
It probably didn’t help that directly across the street from us was the bar and taquería, Lo Que Hay. We spent some time there. Not that we were drinking the entire time. But with Priscila’s naturally outgoing personality and the fact that a popular low-season activity is lounging in bars, we quickly found and made friends there. Lo Que Hay is definitely one of the hangout spots for locals. And with everywhere we traveled, it was the locals we were turning to for insight. We weren’t looking for glossy brochure information; we wanted the inside poop from people in the know both on the town and what life could be like, living there.
As for the people in Sámara, they were sooooo very kind. Everyone. More than any place I’ve been to yet, there’s a goodness there. But something more. Something you can’t quite put your finger on. I remember the first night meeting a guy at the bar and him saying, “I came here for a four-week vacation. That was ten years ago; I never left.” That statement pretty much typifies the instant effect the town has on you with its appeal. Kind of like Hotel California except without the weirdness.*
After getting a drink or two at Lo Que Hay, we headed out to the beach for a quick look. Really just magnificent. Somewhat sadly, the battery on my camera was dying and my cards were pretty full so I only took a few quick snaps before going to drop the camera off in the room. I would take more pictures of the beach on the second and third day.
So we made some friends at Lo Que Hay, had a few drinks, and then decided to go out to dinner. Walked over to the main drag coming into town and had a relatively quick dinner at Coco’s Mexican Restaurant. (The town is small; you can easily walk everywhere.)
Post-Coco’s, we meandered around, watched some guys playing fútbol on a small lit field…
…walked into the very, very cool Zen Den for a drink…
…and finished out our evening with some live music at Rancho de la Playa.
All of this was within two blocks of the hotel and the beach itself. The funniest thing to me about this particular night (and it speaks about the size of the town): we ran into the same people all night long. At each place we went, “Oh hey there!” And with that size comes a little something special. In much the same way we learned from locals the alternate name for Tamarindo (TamaGringo), the locals here were quick to offer up the familiar name for Sámara: DRAMAra. Because the town is so small, everyone knows everyone and in turn, everyone knows everyone’s business. And in turn, it will sometimes happen that someone is all up in someone else’s business. Which is awesome!
I love drama!!! I just hope, should I ever actually move there, that there’s a solid popcorn supply in town to snack on while I listen to gossip and watch it unfold before my eyes!!!! You can only stand in awe of a sunset so many times. It’s like those chemical butterflies you get when you meet someone special. After a while, they eventually fly away and then you’re left with whatever the hell is left. But small town drama?! Storytime all the time! Woohoo!! Seriously, though, I thought it was such a great name they had for the town. All small towns are like that, regardless of what country.
Much later in the evening, after having a grand time with some of the locals (and tourists), we stumbled back to the hotel and passed out for the night. By this time, we had walked on basically every major street in Sámara. But getting a good night’s sleep was imperative because the next day, we were going to do stuff! Adventure stuff! Like go to a wildlife refuge! I was kind of bummed out that Priscila hadn’t seen any monkeys yet but at least she’d see them the next day, even if they weren’t in the wild.
And out we went like lights.
I really can’t properly express how taken I was with Sámara. It’s simply amazing. So amazing that when our stay was over, I seriously debated moving there, even contacting a local I had met to inquire about rentals in the area. I didn’t move. I really do want to move there (in keeping with my plan to live in various areas of Costa Rica). But not now. It’s just not the time for me.
Honestly, I kind of don’t even want to tell you about Sámara because it’s just about perfect. And it´s a small, teeny-tiny town. (Did I mention it was a small town? I forget.) And even though it feels relatively undisturbed, in speaking with locals, it has already changed significantly over the past few years. And it will likely continue to do so. I feel badly even writing about it. Telling you about it. But it IS a place where tourism drives the economy so….. sigh, it’s really just wonderful.