Tackle the hilly pathways surrounding Samara and Carrillo on an unstoppable four-wheeler. Half or full-day rentals normally include one tank of gas. Be sure to stick to the back roads, as it is illegal to take these machines on the beach.
Bird & Wildlife Watching
Large families of howler monkeys like to socialize in the trees by the beach. Squirrels, kinkajous, coatimundis and iguanas can be spotted in and around downtown Samara, along with a wide variety of hummingbirds. Various species of fish, sharks, manta rays, and marine turtles dwell under the sea at Isla Chora, while dolphins and humpback whales often appear in the colder waters offshore. .
La Selva Wildlife Refuge in Carrillo helps rehabilitate wounded and abandoned creatures to be released into the wild. Animal lovers can visit with margays, jaguarundis, toucans, crocodiles, skunks, armadillos, coatimundis, and even a baby howler monkey at the rescue center. Sanctuaries such as these rarely receive government funding in Costa Rica, and largely depend on the donations and entrance fees paid by visitors.
Samara's canopy tour has 12 platforms up to 65 feet high, and 10 cables stretching up to 400 feet long. Truly ecologically friendly, nothing is bolted or nailed to the trees – all platforms are hanging from or strapped to branches. Watermelon, pineapple and organic cookies are served at platform five, which offers a stunning panoramic vista of the beach. Tours usually last from one and a half to three and a half hours, depending on group size.
Dolphin & Whale Watching
Embark on an exciting ocean tour with the chance to spot humpback whales, bottlenose dolphins, Central American spinner dolphins, blue whales, and spotted dolphins in their natural habitat. Depending on the time of year, adventurers may also spot sea turtles – four of the world's seven species live and mate in the region.
One of the most beautiful hotels in Carrillo boasts a casino with a wide range of games and slot machines. Step outside every once in a while for a fantastic view of the Pacific Ocean.
Horseback riding along Playa Samara during sunset is one of the most unique experiences the area has to offer. Local ranchers offer a fantastic journey from the north to south end of the beach at affordable rates. Watch the sky illuminate with shades of pink, purple, and orange with one of these gentle horses as a companion.
Kayak to the tranquil Chora Island, known as Isla Chora, for a magnificent snorkeling opportunity, or simply to enjoy its soft pink sands. Accessible land disappears at high tide and during thunderstorms, so adventurers should leave early in the morning – and alert someone of when to expect their return. The Buena Vista River and surrounding mangrove forest are also ripe for kayak explorations. Paddle along the gentle river, where roseate spoonbills and blue herons reside, and then head into scenic, canopied mangrove tunnels. Most tours are in one-person kayaks, so moderate physical fitness is required.
Spanish courses are offered for those interested in honing their foreign language skills, and also for college or university students seeking credits. Family homestays, where students live with a Costa Rican family for a short time, are available but optional for total immersion. Scholars should be prepared to muster all self control available not to skip class in favor of hanging out at the beach.
Massages are high quality and reasonably priced at Playa Samara. A massage school right on the beach offers training programs that prepare students for U.S. national board certification. Apprentices learn on the job, providing sore and tired vacationers with plenty of therapists eager to practice their trade.
Samara's mountain bike tours combine challenging trails with awesome nature, creating an unforgettable outdoor experience. Pedal along rugged coastline, through terrain that only mountain bikes can tackle, and discover tropical dry forest and rich habitats home to anteaters, howler monkeys, coatimundis, and ctenosaurs – the world's closest living relative to ancient dinosaurs.
Snorkeling & Diving
Isla Chora is undoubtedly the best snorkeling spot in the Samara area. It is about a mile offshore and can be reached by kayak or by boat, although some locals boast to have swum there in the past. Fish, rays, marine turtles, and sharks can be found swimming among the live coral surrounding this tranquil island.
Visitors can fish both inshore and offshore with knowledgeable captains familiar with the best spots for big game fish. Common catches include mahi mahi, marlin, sailfish, yellowfin tuna, grouper, snapper, rooster fish, and snook. Both half and full-day excursions are available.
Waves at Playa Samara are wonderfully suited to beginners, but may not challenge the advanced. The majority of experienced enthusiasts visit nearby Playa Camaronal for more dependable breaks, leaving Samara to those who are just picking up the sport. Three similarly priced surf schools are located at the northern end of Playa Samara. Stand-up paddle surfing (SUP) lessons and board rentals are also available.
Ultra Light Flight
Soar through the air on an impossibly small autogiro, piloted by the most experienced aviators in the country. Flights typically depart from the Carrillo airstrip, and can last up to four hours between fuel-ups. Capable of flying 40-120 miles per hour and up to 5,000 feet in altitude, the aircraft can fly from Nicaragua to Panama in a matter of hours. Flights rise above winding rivers, cow pastures, dramatic bays, and lush countryside. Gain an entirely new understanding of the phrase "bird’s eye view" on one of these spectacular trips.
Turtle nesting tours visit both Camaronal Wildlife Refuge, seven miles south of Samara, and Ostional Wildlife Refuge, near Playa Nosara. The beaches of Camaronal host endangered Olive Ridleys, Atlantic leatherbacks, hawksbills, and black sea turtles; peak nesting season is from May-November. Ostional is famous for its mass Olive Ridley turtle nesting that takes place in waves according to the cycle of the moon; peak nesting season is from June-December. Turtle tours for both refuges depart nightly during peak season.
Do your sunrise salutations with the best view in town. Yoga is taught on Samara's gleaming white sands and classes will leave partakers relaxed and limber. The cost is $10 per 90-minute class.