Samara Vs Nosara, Costa Rica

Nosara and Samara are two fantastic beach towns in Costa Rica. Samara is smaller than Nosara but has a more authentic feel for Costa Rican culture. On the other hand, Nosara has a more dynamic community that is more into yoga, veganism, and surfing. However, when traveling with kids, Samara might be a better choice. 

I have had the honor of visiting both beach towns. In Samara, I found a lot of kid-friendly activities, unlike Nosara. However, we decided to make another trip with my husband to Nosara without the kids, which turned out well. Hence, I explain the differences between Nosara and Samara in this article. 

Key Takeaways From This Article

  • Nosara is more expensive than Samara and may not be the best option if you’re on a tight budget. 
  • Surfing is a widespread activity in both towns. However, Samara is more suitable for beginner surfers. Nosara has wilder waves, which are more suited for expert surfers. 
  • Nosara is in the Blue Zone, one of the five places globally where its citizens have lived for a long time. 
  • Samara has a more family-friendly atmosphere and budget-friendly accommodation options. 

The location of Samara vs. Nosara

Samara is on the west side of San Jose, the capital of Costa Rica. It is one of the numerous beach towns in Guanacaste province. Samara has a smaller size than Nosara. 

Nosara is a beach town in Guanacaste province, though it is more on the western edge of the Nicoya Peninsula. The town is southwest of Samara. Nosara, also known as Playa Guiones, borders the Pacific coast. Because Nosara is in Nicoya, it falls under the Blue Zone, which describes areas where people live exceptionally long. 

How to Get to Samara and Nosara

Samara is on the south side of Nosara. The drive to Samara is approximately two hours from Liberia International Airport and five from San Jose International Airport. It is, however, more accessible with well-paved roads. Several buses from Liberia go to Samara. 

Nosara is three hours from Liberia International Airport and five hours from San Jose International Airport. It is more remote and difficult to access. I recommend you download one of the map apps for directions. However, you can catch a domestic flight from San Jose Airport to Nosara. 

Tourist Attractions in Samara vs. Nosara

Both towns have a lot to offer in terms of tourist attractions. Each town has several beaches, national parks, and waterfalls you can visit on your tour. In the table below, I highlight the various tourist attractions. 

Tourist Attraction Samara Nosara
National Park/reserves Werner Sauter biological reserve Nosara Biological Reserve
National Wildlife Refuge Sibu Sanctuary
Barra Honda National Park Nosara wildlife rescue
Beach Playa Samara Playa Nosara
Playa Carrillo Playa Pelada
Playa Barrigona Playa Guiones
Playa Rosada
Waterfalls La Roca Mala Noche
Tobacco Pila Blancas

Things to do in Samara vs. Nosara

Despite Samara being smaller, I was surprised to find out that there are many things to do. My kids especially loved horseback riding, and my son took some surfing lessons. 


At Playa Samara in Samara, you can surf. Its waters are calmer, and you can get a trainer if you’re a beginner at surfing. The Playa Samara seabed and reef have been lifted by several earthquakes, reducing the severity of the waves. The waters are shallow and the bottom is sandy, so there are no dangerous currents. 

I recommend the Nosara beaches to more experienced surfers, as their waves are rougher. Playa Guiones is the best surfing beach in the Ostional National Wildlife Refuge. Playa Pelada has stronger waves, making it ideal for expert surfers or locals who are more familiar with the wave tide. 

Playa Nosara, named after Nosara town, has brown sand but is not as popular with surfers as Pelada and Guiones. Only a few people go surfing in Playa Rosada, which is inaccessible. 


Isla Chora is a wildlife reserve near Samara, where you can snorkel by renting a local boat. Alternatively, if you have the experience, you can use a kayak. The best place to snorkel is Cangrejal, at the end of Samara Bay. 

Use the kayak on the Nosara River and practice stand-up paddling. Alternatively, you can snorkel in San Juanillo, which has crystal-clear waters and a reef near the coast. Isla Rosada is an excellent spot to snorkel with its pink sand, but only when the tide is low. 

Horseback Riding

Samara is a small town; you can cover most of it on horseback. You can ride along the tobacco waterfalls and see their three beautiful cascades, which form natural swimming pools. The Barrigona 3-hour horseback riding tour is a way to explore the Playa Barrigona beach and see the towering cliffs and trees that grow at odd angles.

The best way to get the most out of horseback riding is to hire a guide. A local guide knows the best wildlife spots and can explain more about the local plants. Many tour companies in the area have horseback riding packages that include holistic yoga retreats as well as moon and sunset rides. 

Bird Watching

The Isla Charo, near Samara, offers a bird-watching opportunity. You can spot many migratory birds from North America. Herons, kingfishers, egrets, parrots, and motmots are some of the most common species around Samara. You can see more bird species when visiting Samara’s various forests and mangroves. 

Visit the Rio Nosara River mouth for bird-watching. Nosara has more than 270 bird species, most of which you’ll see on your walk on the Nosara Civic Association trails. Waking up as early as 5.30 a.m. allows you to spot some motmots, herons, trogons, kingfishers, parrots, and egrets. 

Marine Life 

Playa Samara is a beautiful coral reef with abundant marine life. You can take a tour boat to watch the dolphins. In the process, you see some sea turtles, manta rays, crabs, lobsters, eels, angelfish, and octopus. 

A trip to San Juanillo, which has clear water with a visibility of up to 100 feet, is a must. You will see colorful coral, sea urchins, flying fish, turtles, breaching whales, and dolphins. 

Accommodation Options in Samara vs. Nosara

Samara has more family-oriented accommodation options that are budget-friendly. You can get a hotel, Airbnb, and bed and breakfast, most of which are cheaper than you would get at Nosara. Some of the best accommodation options in Samara include:. 

  • Hotel Azura is an adult-only, luxurious hotel in the south of Samara. It has over 75 rooms overlooking the beach. The hotel is 44 minutes from Nosara Airport. 
  • Samara Palm Lodge: Five minutes from the beach, it is one of the best places to stay. The lodge has eight beautiful rooms and is popular with couples. 
  • Villas Kalimba is at the center of Playa Samara, with six independent villas. However, another luxury house has five bedrooms, private parking, and a swimming pool. 
  • Giada Hotel: It’s a good hotel, 300 meters from Samara Beach. Among the hotel’s amenities is a hot tub. All rooms have a balcony. 
  • The only family resort on Samara Beach is Villas Playa Samara. The hotel offers luxurious rooms and bungalows with terraces overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Each bungalow has a dining area and a kitchen. 

Accommodation options in Nosara are more on the higher end, including eco-friendly lodges, resorts, and wellness retreats. 

  • Olas Verde is a private, exclusive hotel 600 meters from Playa Guinoes. Olas Verde provides luxury and pool sites, as well as two beach apartments. The hotel is near the Ostional Wildlife Reserve in Guiones. 
  • Lagarta Lodge is a private property in a nature reserve. It is situated on the edge of a cliff overlooking Playa Nosara, surrounded by two rivers and forests. The hotel has an art gallery exhibiting Maleku tribe artifacts. 
  • Harmony Hotel: You’ll find the hotel more suitable if traveling with kids as it offers bungalows. Sibu Sanctuary is within a 10-minute drive, and you can walk to Playa Guiones, five minutes away. 

Restaurants in Samara VS Nosara

Samara has an exciting mix of restaurants and eateries. You can get almost all types of food in Samara: American, Italian, Costa Rican, French, and European cuisine. Check out Malehu Coffee, which is open as early as 7.00 am. Apart from their coffee, they serve delicious pastries. 

I mentioned that Nosara is remote and off the beaten track. However, you can still get good restaurants in Nosara. My personal favorite was Harmony Hotel Restaurant, mainly for the seafood variety. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Is Samara Costa Rica worth it?

Despite being a laid-back beach town, Samara is worth a visit, whether alone or with your family. It’s a small town, and you have easy access to clean beaches. The waters are calmer, and your kids can swim on the shores. 

There are many other activities, such as surfing, horseback riding, snorkeling, and wildlife watching. Samara has good restaurants, shops, and hotels. 

Why is Nosara so popular?

Nosara is popular with surfing, yoga, and nature enthusiasts. The town has several surf schools. 

Nosara has several beaches, such as Rosada, Pelada, Nosara, and Guinoes, where surfers spend most of their time. 

Is Nosara, Costa Rica, worth it?

Apart from several beautiful and clean beaches, Nosara has a lot to offer. Most locals live within Nosara, as it is not along the coast, and you get to learn more about the Costa Rican culture. 

The nearby wildlife refuge is famous for turtle nesting. Restaurants in Nosara serve various cuisines from all over the world, despite the town being more remote than Samara. 


The choice between Samara and Nosara will mainly depend on your personal preferences. If you want a laid-back, family-friendly atmosphere, visit Samara. However, Nosara is a better option if you wish for a hyper-adventurous trip. 

Which of the two beach towns have you visited? Please share your experience with us. 

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Born in California, Michelle traveled extensively through the USA and Europe before moving to South Florida during the pandemic. Her career in Marketing has taken her all across the world. Her favorite country is France but she'll never turn down a beach vacation!

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