Playa Sámara, about 15 kilometers south of Garza, is a popular budget destination for Ticos, surfers, and travelers in search of the offbeat.
The lure is its relative accessibility and attractive horseshoe-shaped bay with a light-gray beach. For some reason, German and Swiss expats have settled here, forming their own community as hoteliers.
The village is in the center of the beach. A cattle finca divides it from Cangrejal, a funky hamlet at the north end of the beach. Playa Sámara extends south about two kilometers to the small ramshackle fishing community of Matapalo.
The hottest nighttime venue is Tabanuco (tel. 506/2656-0156, www.tabanuco.com ), which cranks up around 11 P.M. It has reggae and hip-hop nights, plus ladies’ night with free drinks for the ladies. A tree trunk grows up through the dance floor.
A more mellow spot favored for cocktails, the rustic yet always packed Bar Arriba (tel. 506/2656-0487, www.bar-arriba.com , 5 P.M.–1 A.M. daily) is the bar of choice in town. Tired of cosmos? Try a passion-fruit caipirinha. It also serves tapas and plays eclectic but always cool music.
The open-air La Vela Latina (tel. 506/2656-2286, 11 A.M.–midnight daily) video-music bar shows big games on a big screen and plays cool music. Kids can spend rainy days at Froggie’s Video Lounge (tel. 506/8353-8864, 10 A.M.–10 P.M. Mon.–Sat.), which has PlayStations and Xbox, plus games and movies.
Jesse’s Surf School (tel. 506/8373-3006, www.samarasurfschool.com ) rents surfboards and offers lessons, as does C&C Surf School (tel. 506/2656-0628). Pura Vida Dive (tel. 506/2656-0643, www.puravidadive.com ) offers dive trips.
Samara Tours (tel. 506/2656-0920, www.samara-tours.com ) can arrange sea kayaking, horseback rides, a dolphin-spotting tour, and more.
Wingnuts (tel. 506/2656-0153, www.samarabeach.com/wingnuts , $55 adults, $35 children) has a 12-platform canopy tour.
You can rejuvenate at Natural Center Gym Spa (tel. 506/2656-2360, www.naturalcentersamara.com ), which has a gym, bamboo massage hut, whirlpool, and classes from aerobics to tae kwon do, plus a great café.
SANSA and Nature Air fly daily to Playa Carrillo . Alfaro buses (tel. 506/2222-2666 in San José and 506/2685-0261 in Sámara) depart San José  for Sámara from Avenida 5, Calles 14/16, daily at noon and 6:30 P.M. ($6.50, five hours). Empresa Rojas buses (tel. 506/2685-5352) depart Nicoya  for Sámara three blocks east of the park 13 times daily 5 A.M.–9:45 P.M. ($1.75).
Buses depart Sámara for San José at 5:15 A.M. and 9:15 A.M. daily.