Surf Guide: Surfing Samara And Buena Vista Costa Rica
The Basics: Surfing Samara And Buena Vista Costa Rica
This place will have a special place in my heart forever (and yours) when you arrive. I’ve had some of the craziest nights of my life in Samara and hope to continue to surf this town until the day I die.
The entire town is full of beach bums, surf nuts, and party animals, which makes it one of the best destinations for surfers, backpackers, and anyone who wants to weave in a little rowdiness to their surf trip. There’s a ton of hostels, beach rentals, and hotels—finding hotel accommodations is super easy and affordable.
Though the main beach break normally doesn’t reel overhead waves, if you walk down the dirt road north of town, you’ll find Buena Vista, the semi-secret beach break that the locals call home.
Whether you’re traveling with your family, girlfriend, or the boys, a visit to Samara is completely worth your time.
Samara has one of the rowdiest nightlifes in Costa Rica and when the waves hit, provides a dirty beach break that you’ll find yourself reminiscing about as you sit in your cubicle back in the USA while ordering office supplies. One of my favorite parts about Samara (and also Nosara) is the idea how everyone seems to know each other.
It’s got the surf vibe of places like California/Hawaii, but without the overabundance of people.
Anyone surfed Trestles lately?—take a number!
As opposed to visiting a place like say, Southern California, you actually get to dominate the lineup with your buds. There’s no fifty person lineup, no dickhead locals trying to maintain a dick-tatorship (hehe), no crusty comments—the atmosphere is 100% pura vida!
Though you can find this friendly, Hakuna Matata vibe in many parts of Costa Rica, Samara is one of the few places where everyone is like that. From the OG long boarding Expats to the barrel hunting local Ticos, every surfer in Samara is out for one thing: fun.
You’ll hear the locals whistling, hollering, and making all sorts of strange sounds. This is the surfing I love, when you get a crew of different cultures all doing their thing, it truly creates a vibe that is unexplainable.
If you’re trying to plan a Costa Rica or Central America surf trip, Samara is a great one to add to the list. You can get stoked all day at Buena Vista, grab a great fish taco, and hit the night with a bottle of rum and a clear head.
The Wave: Surfing Samara And Buena Vista Costa Rica
Surfing Playa Samara
Surfing Playa Samara
Alright, so there’s two beaches that you’ll want to surf while you’re here. The first time I came, we just surfed in front of Lo Que Hay, where Playa Samara is located.
Depending on the swell, this wave is either going to be fun, or incredibly flat. The majority of experienced surfers aren’t going to hang out here, unless there's a fat southern swell, in which case, it’s a great wave.
You get the convenience of being right in front of town, it’s a calm beach breaking wave, and you may just be able to catch a few airs. I’d recommend Playa Samara for beginners, or low-intermediate surfers that want to practice their surfing abilities.
The wave is going to work much better at high tide as it comes in, which provides decent waves for long boarders, or beginner short boarders.
Unfortunately for experienced surfers, there’s some offshore rocks that block a lot of the swell, so you might want to head to Buena Vista. Let's take a quick break and check the surf . . . Surfline Surf Forecasts
Surfing Buena Vista
Buena Vista is a much better beach for surfers that actually want to get pitted before they hit the town. This beach is located just north of town and can easily be reached by a 30 minute walk, or 5 minute car ride.
Though the wave isn’t going to barrel, most local Ticos find that there’s a ton of moderate sized waves here and you can definitely have a little fun with the wave lips. Lying at the north end of the estuary, near a river mouth, Buena Vista’s waves are normally pretty good.
There’s going to be two points here, one is sketchy, the other is mellow. There’s a huge rock formation at the south end of the beach, which provides a pretty sizable left, but there’s definitely a ton of rocks below.
If you’re comfortable and it looks rip-able, then send it, but if you want a mellow day, then I’d stick to the other point.
Surfing Buena Vista
Locals call this wave, Punta Tortuga, meaning turtle point, as it’s located in front of a small Turtle sanctuary. I’ve had great days riding here and it’s awesome because Buena Vista is very lush with vegetation.
After you rip and earn some local respect, the Ticos will treat you to an after session coconut. They will literally shimmy up the coco trees, kick down a few dozen fresh cocos and teach you how to open them without a machete.
Due to Buena Vista’s remoteness, there aren’t any places to buy water or refreshments, so my advice, bring a water bottle. The waves at Buena Vista break moderately slow, so you’ll forfeit power for length with a lot of these waves.
For surfers that want to party in Samara, but really want to get out of their mind pitted, should head to a little Tico town called Marbella. Marbella use to be one of Costa Rica’s best kept secrets, but like most epic surf towns, it has been developed.
It’s not as crazy developed as Samara or Tamarindo, but compared to what it used to be, it’s not the same. This is a reef/rock break, dishes out epic left and rights, and should only be surfed by experienced surfers.
There’s rarely a lineup, with a ton of power, and you don’t have to surf with Chads from New Jersey.
This is a very hard beach to find, but if you really want to access it, it’s very possible. It’s going to be on the way to a town called Junquiyal, where you would normally stop, but if you keep on the road and ask a few locals, they’ll guide you in the right direction.
The Town: Surfing Samara And Buena Vista Costa Rica
There’s a ton of bars, restaurants, and funky eateries in Samara, which makes a post Samara surf session one of the best. If you want a taste of natural Costa Rica, but want a twist of rage, then Samara Beach is without a doubt the best place to go.
The Ticos of Samara have all had their fare share of all nighters, so don’t feel bad if you can’t keep up, because these guys are pros in-and-out of the water.
Though there’s tons of different places to start the night, a beach front eatery called, “Lo Que Hay” is of my favorites. The name which literally means “It is what it is”, delivers a heavy dosage of strong drinks, cool people, and music that will get those bones a’shaking.
Maybe it’s because I’ve started so many nights at Lo Que Hay that I’m prejudice to start every night here, but you really can’t go wrong with cheap fish tacos and cheaper beer.
One of the other places where you’ll find just about everyone everyone in town is a swanky joint called Sports Bar Arriba. Located on the second floor of a shopping complex, it feels almost as if you’re walking into a high class Tico nightclub, but trust me, you aren’t.
This sports bar/surf hideout is a local favorite and the bartenders mix up some of the tastiest drinks in the area. Whether you’re looking for shots of whisky, piña coladas, beers, or anything in between, this bar most likely has it.
The entire staff at this restaurant bar is incredibly friendly, everyone speaks english and I promise you will have the time of your life. Last time I was at Arriba the bartender and I were inventing new shots; ask for the Guanacaste or the Shooter McGavin (Happy Gilmore, come on!), maybe they’ll remember.
Aside from the endless party scene in Samara, you can actually find a great bite to eat and meet some of the badass Expats that have migrated to this slice of absolute paradise. As you enter town (from the north), there’s a joint called “LuvBurger” that offers amazing organic and vegan options for those health-nut surfers out there.
You’ll find your surf munchie style tacos at El Taco Volador.
Personally I’m a Lo Que Hay kind of guy, but it’s always worth a little variation when you’re visiting a foreign place.
Also, Il Vino has arguably the best pizza I’ve ever had in the land of Pura Vida. Thin crust or deep dish, I’m not sure who the chef is, but he deserves a high five for sure. If you’re looking for something quick before heading out on the waves, I’d recommend a stop at the town’s Panaderia y Heladeria.
You can scarf down a quick croissant (or 5) for some quick surf energy, for this place is on the road which leads to Buena Vista surf break.
Playa Samara is one of the most organized towns in the entire country of Costa Rica and you’ll be able to find everything you need for a kickass surf trip.
There’s two or three grocery stores, two ATMs (which are normally hard to come by), a few rental car places, a ton of hotels, and plentiful surf schools for the beginners. As a family friendly, surf friendly, party friendly town, Samara Beach is a place you’ll want to stay at forever.
And feel free to, there’s plenty of work and there’s even a hippie commune outside of town if you’re looking for a free place to crash.
Where You Should Stay Samara And Buena Vista Costa Rica
La Mariposa: This is a great hostel for backpackers and surfers, because it’s cheap, clean, and fun. Though I normally stay with friends in Samara, this is a great alternative option for people that are traveling on a budget.
I’ve stayed here multiple times and have absolutely no complaints. You can rent hammock rooms for like 8$/night, or dorm rooms for 12$/night.
Samara Tree House Inn: This is a more luxurious option, which offers five or six treehouse style apartments in the heart of Samara Village. You get your own apartment, making it a great option for surf crews that want to ball-out a little bit while they party and surf in Samara.
The rooms include top of the line beach furniture, a pool, WiFi, free breakfast, and a much better standard of living than any other hostel. Apartments are only 35$ per night (for 2 people). Find more info at www.samaratreehouse.com.
Hotel Samara Beach: If you want to be located super close to the beach, then this is probably one of the best options as far as accommodation goes. This place has an awesome tropical beach vibe and offers guests clean and comfortable rooms.
I’m not sure what pricing for rooms are, but you can find what you need at: www.hotelsamarabeach.com.
Cabinas Nayuribe: Renting a cabina is always a great idea when you visit any surf destination. Though when I say “cabina” I don’t mean the epic luxurious one’s you find in Hawaii, but rather the Tico style of Cabina.
Sometimes they are nice, sometimes they are gnarly. I’ve never personally stayed at these cabins but I know people who have and they’ve said positive things. Cabins can be anywhere between 25-60$ per night, depending on size, comfort, etc.
To Sum it Up
Samara Beach is definitely on my list of favorite destinations in Costa Rica, mainly because there’s so much to do. I wouldn’t say it’s the most epic location for surfing, but I would recommend it as a pit-stop along the way.
Every legendary surf trip needs a few nights of hardcore partying and you’ll definitely get your fair share of late nights if you stay in Samara.
Samara is a semi-popular vacation destination, but doesn’t have the overabundance of obese North Americans crowding the beach.
There’s a ton of beautiful people, tasty food, funky bars, and ways to spend your day. The waves aren’t going to be up to par for the barrel hunters out there, but I would totally recommend at least a few nights in this surf party town.
Also, if you happen to be traveling with your family, there’s a ton to do as far as tours and all that jazz. Although you’ll always find me cruising waves over at Buena Vista, every part of Samara is worth a visit. Happy shredding.