Last updated: 11:00 PM ET, Wed July 15 2015

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  • Shannon Wolf | July 15, 2015 11:00 PM ET

    Samara, Costa Rica: I Feel So Alive

    Samara, Costa Rica: I Feel So Alive

    Is this real life? My first views of Playa Samara and Playa Carrillo!

    It’s nearing 6 a.m. Me and my new friend Rachel (whom I had met the night before) are in Costa Rica, en route to Samara from the sleepy town of Montezuma in the back of a pickup truck. The wind is blowing our hair around wildly and all we can do is laugh with excitement.

    There is something so freeing about being in the back of a pickup in the warm summer breeze and it takes everything you have not to stand up with your arms stretched out towards the sky with your head up high to scream at the top of your lungs because your happiness is too grand to keep in (or maybe that’s just me … all I know is there is nothing that feels quite as free).

    An hour into our journey, we were dropped off in a small town and were soon picked up by a group of garbage men heading to Playa Naranjo. It took a few laughable minutes to figure out how to strategically fit two girls, three bags and three guys in a single cab but as we’ve come to learn, persistence overcomes resistance (and I’m pretty good at Tetris). So, we fit ... and I sat practically in a fetal position for two hours, partially on one of the guys’ laps, on the backpacks and the on dashboard of the truck the whole way there. Seven hours and four vehicles later, I said farewell to Rachel in Nicoya and arrived in Samara just as the sun was about to set.

    Hitchhiking selfies on the way to Playa Naranjo

    The roads were dusty, the sunlight poked through the palm trees and surfers walked by smiling and greeting me saying “Pura Vida!” I knew then that it was all worth the journey. That night, I lay in my hammock surrounded by a jungle, the beach and new friends fast asleep across from me. It’s a minute to twelve, my eyes are towards the nights sky staring at the stars as I sway back and forth and I can’t help but smile while “Brothers” by Penny and Sparrow sings me to sleep.

    I feel so alive, for no particular reason at all tonight. Just happy to be alive.

    From Spanish schools, to yoga, outdoor sports and incredible food — Samara has something for everyone. It offers relaxation yet gets lively on the weekends and tends to draw in a younger crowd but offers it all. Samara can be expensive but luxury for little cost is possible, you just need to know where to look.

    Getting there: Daily buses run from Nicoya, Liberia and San Jose.

    Hitching from Montezuma to Samara:

    Time needed: 8 to 10 hours

    1. Montezuma > Paquera

    2. Hitchhike to Playa Naranjo (hardest part but doable with patience)

    3. Hitchhike to Nicoya (you will pass Lepanto and Jicaral on the way)

    4. Hitchhike to Samara

    Best Hostel: Las Mariposas ($15/dorm, $10/tent, $8/hammock)

    One of my favorite hostels in Costa Rica besides Pura Vida in Montezuma. I met some of the best people here and stayed both times I came to Samara!

    Note: Bring mosquito repellant for the evenings if you intend on staying in a hammock.


    • Chilled out vibe with great travelers and staff
    • Steps to the beach
    • Lots of hammocks/outdoor couch and communal style seating
    • Free (good) coffee in the morning
    • Mango tree you can pick fresh fruit off of
    • Shared bathroom with hot shower
    • Fast internet
    • Fully equipped kitchen
    • Lockers
    • 24-hour security

    Hidden Gems:

    • Playa Carrillo: 2.5 miles southeast from Samara, this stunning white sand beach is untouched with crystal clear water, seashells for miles and a stunning cliff face on either side backed by a scenic jungle.

    • Spend the day in luxury at Barracuda Hotel swimming in their beautiful pool overlooking all of Samara. Just show up, the owner will want money, you pay, the end. This place is always empty because no one knows about it … so keep it to yourselves.

    A day in luxury swimming at Barracuda Hotel

    • Rent a kayak and paddle over to Isla Chora for great snorkeling and relaxation.

    Must Do's: 

    • Swim in Samara's calm, warm waters at sunset.

    • Eat the best fish tacos/burritos of your life at Lo Que Hay. (They have special deals for “Taco Tuesdays” along with live music at night!)

    • Get some much needed R&R under the picturesque palm trees.

    • Treat yourself to a pool day for $6 at Barracuda Hotel. 

    • Attend an early morning yoga class on the beach at sunrise.

    • Do a day trip down to Nosara, Garza, Playa Carrillo or Camaraonal for great surf.

    • Dance the night away at one of two discos on Saturdays (Reggae on the beach and salsa on the main drag).

    • Eat an organic/vegan meal at One Love Burger.

More Costa Rica


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Shannon Wolf Tales From the Leap

Shannon Wolf Shannon Wolf is a freelance photographer and writer, traveling across the globe with an open itinerary and no intent of stopping. Originally from Toronto, Canada, she left behind a fast paced life to truly live and not just exist in an attempt to inspire others to follow their bliss. At age 26, Shannon has visited 20+ countries on four continents around the world. She has travelled overland by chicken-bus and tuk-tuks, hitchhiked by fruit trucks and through islands on horse and buggy. She has slept in the jungles of Nicaragua, on benches in London, secluded hidden beaches and she’s only getting started.
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