Why is Samara Costa Rica so different from other beach towns?
Samara Costa Rica is a special place. I first went to Samara Beach in 1994 and fell in love with it. I found it to be a friendly, charming little town with a beautiful beach protected by a coral reef. It truly had a nice welcoming, hometown feeling. I spent a several wonderful days there. Over the next few years I visited most of the beaches in the provinces of Guanacaste and Puntarenas and saw incredible growth and expansion in most. Unfortunately much of it was not too pretty and environmentally disastrous. The developing that I witnessed in areas like Jaco and Tamarindo, seemed like poor models of “development” in these gorgeous beach areas, and in many cases came at the cost of the the towns’ culture and identity.
In 2004, an old friend from Montana came down and asked if I knew a responsible realtor as he was interested in buying some ocean view land to develop. He said he had done much research and had zero’d in on Samara Beach, Costa Rica. He asked me to visit the property and give my opinion on the feasibility of what he wanted to do, and if he was getting a good deal. Remembering the lovely town of Samara, and after years of having wanted to go back, I gladly said yes.
Expecting the worst, as we came down the mountain and pulled into town, I was amazed! This little beach paradise seemed exactly like I had left it years earlier. Noticeably, there were a few more nice restaurants, but no unsightly high rises and realtor signs everywhere. There were still horses grazing along the streets and a few street vendors selling souvenirs, hammocks, and fruit. There was a new hardware store and pharmacy, so it had gone through some growth, though there were still lots of locals on bicycles and casually walking around town. You could still hear the monkeys in the mango trees communicating back and forth.
Always the eco-concious type, my friend decided on pursuing the sustainable development model. Between that and my old time love affair with Samara, I enthusiastically accepted when asked to get involved. I ended up spending quite a bit of time in Samara. I found it very curious why this town didn’t take off like Nosara, just 45 minutes north on one of the worst roads in Costa Rica. I soon started to see why.
The friendliness, I figured out, was not solely because of the Costa Rican’s general culture of warmth and friendliness. A contributing factor is that for years there had been a couple of Spanish schools and a private spa and massage school in Samara. Most of the students were obviously foreigners and did “home stays” with Costa Rican families for a total immersion learning experience. This built bonds, communications, and understanding between these different cultures that created respect and friendships that carry on still today. Most of the students still return to visit their host families and enjoy this lovely beach town year after year. This makes for a melding between the expats that move here and the locals. The normal culture barriers were already down.
Another interesting thing about Samara is that much of the ocean view land is owned by a few entities that were not development oriented. The general understanding is that Samara will make a stand to hold its low density development and natural setting. One large property (hundreds of acres) overlooking Samara is owned still by a local family that will not sell their “family history and heritage”. Another few hundred acres above the gorgeous nearby Carrillo beach, is owned by Mr.Hitachi, the owner of Hitachi Ltd. and I have been told he loves it as is and will not sell nor develop it.
Surely, there will be more development. Luckily the government has seen the potential damage and loss of charm and characteristics that uncontrolled development can cause Samara. They are carefully scrutinizing the pace and scale of current and future development. Costa Rica has come a long way in better understanding sustainable development and the cost to its national heritage if not.
People are discovering this little paradise at the end of the road and are loving the more comfortable prices and the weather. Samara gets 56 inches of rain a year, which seems perfect to me. Down south it rains so much you have to pull over and let it slack off so you can see the road well enough to drive. There is so much humidity that mold is always an issue. In Samara there is a lovely rainy season with sunny mornings, afternoon showers, and often clear evenings. Everything is green and growing. This starts in May and goes until about the middle of November. March and April things are getting dry and warmer then again come the May rains. There is no water rationing like in many beach areas north of Samara.
There is so much to do here, and its not hard to find people with common interests to do it with. The fishing is spectacular. The annual world sail fishing tournament is often held in Samara. There is excellent snorkeling, diving, surfing, kayaking and other water sports. One can go hiking swimming in pools below water falls, horseback riding, and quadracycle excursions.
Samara Costa Rica is definitely a treasure worth checking out.