There’s no escaping it: Costa Rica is an extremely touristy place. Even off-the-beaten-path towns have a healthy dose of intrepid travelers and worldly expats, at least one pizza shop, and a few stalls selling the same knock-off souvenirs. But despite the prevalence of tourism throughout the country, there remain a few sleepy towns that offer a more authentic experience.
Samara is the perfect example. A small town on the Nicoya Peninsula, Samara is no more than a few blocks of hotels and restaurants, and a stunning white sand beach. It’s impossible to get lost here, and it won’t be long until you start recognizing the same faces of the locals you pass. And though there is a distinct influence from foreigners, it’s not overdone like some of Samara’s neighbors.
If you’re headed to discover Samara for yourself, we recommend staying at hotel Casa Esmeralda. It won’t be hard to find; you need only follow your nose to the most delicious Italian cuisine in town (and maybe all of Costa Rica).
The first floor of Casa Esmeralda is a fantastic restaurant. They feature a variety of Tico and Italian cuisine, though the homemade Gnocchi is easily the best choice. They also serve some of the strongest, tastiest margaritas around. Really, you can’t go wrong here. We ate almost all of our meals at Casa Esmeralda, as there was just no reason to venture elsewhere. The fact that we were sleeping on the second floor made life that much better.
Casa Esmeralda is a restaurant first and foremost, though the accommodation on the second floor is quaint and cozy. The rooms are small, but they are equipped with a comfortable bed, writing desk, TV, A/C, Wi-Fi, and personal bathroom. A standard Tico breakfast of gallo pinto, eggs, fruit, and coffee is included with the room. The entire facility is kept immaculately, with daily housekeeping service. We found the feel of the architecture to be distinctly Mediterranean, a nice touch that kept in theme with the cuisine downstairs. Casa Esmeralda is just a block away from the beach, and because of the small size of the town, a five-minute walk from just about anything.
There are lots of hotels to choose from in Samara. While there aren’t any five star resorts, there also aren’t a lot of budget options. Casa Esmeralda is in the lower price bracket at $40 a night. Judging from the signs we saw in and around Samara, this is about as cheap as it gets. If you’re looking for something with frills, then we won’t lie—Casa Esmeralda is probably not what you are looking for. But if you prefer a basic but comfortable place to sleep that has a convenient location and exceptional food, then this is the place for you.
Overall, Casa Esmeralda is the perfect place for budget travelers to lay their head in comfort. Just be prepared to gain a few pounds in the process. I’m telling you, the Gnocchi is to die for.
We were guests of Casa Esmeralda. All thoughts and opinions remain our own.