The swampy Bar Aloha Camping (tel. 506/2656-0028, $5 pp) and Camping Los Cocos (tel. 506/2656-0496, $5 pp) both play second fiddle to the more appealing Camping and Bar Olas (tel. 506/2656-0187, $5 pp camping, $15 s or $25 d huts), with a lively beachside bar and restaurant with shaded campsites with lockers. It also has basic palm-thatch A-frame huts with loft bedrooms.
The Italian-run Cabinas Paraíso (tel./fax 506/2656-0741, $40 s/d low season, $50 s/d high season) has seven clean, simply furnished rooms with king-size beds, fans, verandas, WiFi, and private baths with hot water. There’s also a large unit that accommodates four people. It rents snorkeling gear and mountain bikes and has a delightful open-air vegetarian restaurant.
I like the bargain-priced Tico Adventure Lodge (tel. 506/2656-0628, www.ticoadventurelodge.com , from $20 s or $30 d low season, from $30 s or $50 d high season), made entirely of teak and offering nine rooms in a handsome sepia-toned two-story unit with glazed rough-hewn timbers. It also has efficiency apartments, a treetop apartment, and a villa for rent. The C&C Surf Camp is here.
A good bargain, the German-run Hotel Belvedere (tel./fax 506/2656-0213, www.belvederesamara.net , $40–50 s or $50–60 d low season, $50–55 s or $60–80 d high season) has 12 pretty Swiss-style chalets (ranging from doubles to two apartments with kitchens) with attractive bamboo furnishings, mosquito nets, whitewashed walls, fans, and private baths with hot water. Some rooms have king-size beds; some have air-conditioning. A stone-walled whirlpool tub sits amid lush gardens and a pool. Rates include breakfast and tax.
Another value-priced winner is the German-run Bed & Breakfast Entre Dos Aguas (tel. 506/2656-0998, www.hoteldosaguas.com , from $42 s/d low season; prices vary monthly), a charming tropical take on a stone-and-timber Swiss chalet set in a groomed hillside garden, 400 meters inland. It has seven pleasing rooms with rustic wooden furnishings, tile floors, fans, WiFi, and circular private bathrooms with walls of river stones and hot water. There’s a stone bar and a shaded patio. Rates include breakfast and tax. No credit cards.
Also German-Swiss run, the Sámara Palm Lodge (tel. 506/2656-1159, www.samarapalmlodge.com , $45–60 s/d low season, $60–75 s/d standard high season) fits right into the Sámara mold, with tree-trunk supports and a lovely tropical aesthetic that includes sienna walls, natural timbers, and wicker chairs. Its nine spacious rooms get oodles of light, feature bamboo-frame king beds and batik prints, and overlook a swimming pool—a major plus. Some rooms have cable TV and are air-conditioned. Brigitte (Swiss) and Lothar (German) are friendly hosts at their thatch-fringed, wooden-decked poolside lounge-bar. Nearby, Sámara Inn Hotel (tel. 506/2656-0482, www.hotelsamarainn.com ) is a similarly priced option.
The Hotel Casa del Mar (tel. 506/2656-0264, www.casadelmarsamara.com , $30 s or $40 d shared bath year-round, $55 s/d private bath low season, $75 s or $85 d private bath high season), run by French-Canadians, is a relaxing and well-run bed-and-breakfast with 17 modestly furnished rooms with attractive decor, fans, private baths, hot water, and heaps of light through louvered windows (two rooms have a kitchenette). There’s a whirlpool tub. Rates include breakfast and tax.
Charm and character pervade Hotel Giada (tel. 506/2656-0132, www.hotelgiada.net , $55 s or $65 d low season, $65 s or $80 d high season), with 24 rooms with faux terra-cotta tile floors, sponge-washed walls, ceiling fans, bamboo beds (some are king-size), and wide balconies. There’s a teardrop-shaped pool and a pizzeria. Rates include breakfast and tax.
The striking Mirador de Sámara (tel. 506/2656-0044, www.miradordesamara.com , $80–95 s/d low season, $90–105 s/d high season) commands the hill overlooking Sámara . Another German-owned hotel, it sets a high standard. Six large apartments each sleep five and have full kitchens, plus four new rooms. They’re clinically clean, with simple hardwood furnishings and floors, mosquito nets, and balconies. A beautiful pool fed by a water cascade is inset in a multitiered wooden sundeck. A tower contains an open-walled restaurant serving nouvelle cuisine. This property has lots of steps.
Never mind that it’s located upstairs in a small shopping complex: La Terraza B&B (tel. 506/2656-2234, $50–70 s/d low season, $60–80 s/d high season) opened in 2010 and is a delightful, intimate option; its namesake terrace is festooned with plants. It has just three air-conditioned bedrooms (two have king beds), each with ceiling fans and its own Italian-themed bathroom. Guests get use of a common kitchen and small TV lounge.
A modest beachfront property, Hotel Sámara Beach (tel. 506/2656-0218, www.hotelsamarabeach.com , $60 s or $72 d low season, $82 s or $95 d high season) is a two-story 20-room complex with spacious and bright, if slightly boring, air-conditioned rooms with king-size beds and patios. It has a small swimming pool, plus a bar-cum-restaurant under thatch. Rates include tax and breakfast. It competes in style and price with the 38-room German-run Hotel Las Brisas del Pacífico (tel. 506/2656-0250, www.brisas.net , $65–90 s/d low season, $80–115 s/d high season), about 600 meters south of Sámara. Facilities include an open-air restaurant facing the ocean, two swimming pools, and two whirlpool tubs. Separate bungalows sit on a hill, with ocean views.
For self-catering villas, consider Villas Kalimba (tel. 506/2656-0929, www.villaskalimba.com , $115 s/d low season, $150 s/d high season).
Sámara Treehouse Inn (tel. 506/2656-0733, www.samaratreehouse.com , $70–120 s/d low season, $85–135 s/d high season) is a thoughtful and irresistible addition, and the nicest place in town. Made entirely of glossy hardwoods, the four thatch-fringed tree-house units with open patios (with hammocks and lounge chairs) face the beach; each has a terra-cotta floor, bamboo bed, and lively fabrics, plus TV, ceiling fan, delightful modern bathroom faced with dark-blue tiles, and wall-of-glass oceanview windows. It offers secure parking and a lovely circular pool in the landscaped forecourt, plus a fully equipped wheelchair-accessible ground-floor apartment.
Lodge Las Ranas (tel. 506/2656-0609, www.lodgelasranas.com , $75–115 d), two kilometers east of town on the Terciopelo road, offers a lofty perch. Here, rustic furniture (including canopied log beds) and stylish contemporary elements combine. A serpentine pool studs a hillside terrace.
The largest of the resort-style properties is Villas Playa Sámara (tel. 506/2656-0104, www.villasplayasamara.com , $125–145 s/d low season, $155–185 s/d high season), at the southern end of Playa Sámara , two kilometers south of Matapalo. Sprawling across this huge tree-shaded estate, its revamped bungalows are now pleasantly furnished. Adjoining it, the Hotel Sol Sámara (tel. 506/2656-1400, www.hotelsolsamara.com , $80 s/d low season, $95 s/d high season) offers an escape-the-madding-crowd alternative for those who like resort-style properties. Rooms in motel-style two-story blocks are enlivened by tropical pastels.
The Hideaway (tel. 506/2656-1145, www.thehideawaycostarica.com , $89 s/d low season, $119 s/d high season), inland of the very southern end of Playa Sámara, impresses with its stylish, gleaming, white modern architecture. The 12 huge air-conditioned guest rooms are in irregular fourplex units and have equally huge bathrooms, pleasant furnishings, WiFi, and most other mod-cons. Meals are served, and there’s a scimitar-shaped pool. The delightful owner, Rosy Rios, is a perfect host.