Surfing in Samara

Trip Start Nov 06, 2009
Trip End Nov 15, 2009

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Flag of Costa Rica  , Guanacaste,
Sunday, November 15, 2009

To get to Samara we had 2 connections, although the total travel time was only 2 hours.  These flights were with Nature Air, an excellent regional airline that is advertised as being the first "carbon neutral" airline in the world.  We flew into Punta Islita and then I had planned on taking a taxi to Samara.  I had assumed that the airport would have at least one taxi when we landed but this couldn't have been further from the truth.  The "airport" was nothing more than a hut with a few swinging chairs.  The plane dropped us off and there was just a lone attendant there who did not speak a word of English.  I tried to communicate that we needed a taxi to Samara but after some frustration I just called the hotel on my cell phone and asked them to send a taxi.  I am not sure what we would have done if I did not have any cell reception.  When you draw a direct line on a map Samara is only about 15-20 km away from Punta Islita.  However, the taxi took an hour to pick us up since the roads are not a direct line and most are in terrible condition.  Finally the taxi picked us up and after another hour we arrived at our hotel.

That night we ate at the hotel and passed out after a long day of traveling.  We had tried to walk to the beach but it was near impossible since it was already dark and there are nearly no streetlights.  The dirt road to the beach is flanked on either side by cow pastures and open fields.

The next day we walked into town and down to the beach.  This area in Costa Rica is famous for its surfing conditions and there are numerous places offering lessons.  I decided to go for one since I had never tried it before.  The instructor was very good and I had a private lesson for about an hour.  I was able to stand up numerous times but the waves were not very big at all.  It was very tiring but also very fun.  It is a very triumphant moment when you stand up for the first time. After this Michelle rented a boogie board and we played on the waves for a few hours.

Since our hotel was a 20 minute walk from town we decided to rent a scooter.  It was great fun to ride and anytime I went too fast Michelle would let me know by digging her nails into my ribs.  This was certainly the best way to get around since it is quick and we could park it most anywhere.  Samara itself has just one main road with a few shops, some restaurants, 1 ATM and police station.  It is a tiny town but has lots of character from the surf crowd and the local Costa Ricans.

The next day we went to the beach again and I tried some more surfing since the school said I could use their boards free for a week after taking a lesson. I was on my own this time and still had some success but had more difficulty picking the good waves without the instructor.  In the afternoon we had reserved a sea kayak trip to the small island of off Playa Samara.  Michelle and I were in a 2-person kayak and our guide was in his own.  The trip to the island was not more than half an hour since we started further down the beach on the closer end.  After arriving we walked around the island for a while and then tried some snorkeling.  The visibilty was very poor and we only saw 1 fish the whole time.  After 20 minutes we decided it was a futile effort.  On the island's beach there were thousands of hermit crabs, so many that at times it seemed like the whole beach was moving.  On the way back we took the long way which was probably about an hour of strenuous paddling.  When we got to shore a strong wave tipped us over right when we were about to get out.

On our second to last day we went to an animal sanctuary that is about 20 minutes by scooter from Samara.  They rehabilitate animals that were kept as pets or hurt in the wild.  They release them into the wild when they are healthy enough.  Some of the highlights were a 6 foot crocodile, a peccary, an ant-eater, a kinkajou, and 2 cats that are called a jaguarundi and a margay.  Michelle also held a baby boa constrictor.  There were also a lot of house cats that would wander around the property interacting with the animals there.

That night we had signed up for a trip to see nesting sea turtles.  A van picked us up at 6:30 and we drove about an hour on winding dirt roads to another beach that is a refuge for nesting turtles.  There is a group there that helps control any elements that are detrimental to the turtles nesting habits, such as people poaching (no pun intended) the eggs or bright lights that can confuse them on their way back to the water.  Since they find their way back to ocean by heading towards the brightest light, we had to use flashlights with red light, invisible to turtles.  The first one that our guide found had already laid its eggs and was in the process of covering them up.  The turtles that we saw were leatherback turtles which are about 3-4 feet long.  It was amazing to see how they can dig these large holes, cover them up and still have enough energy to make it back to the ocean.  The second one we found was making its way out of the water so we got to see the entire process, even when it laid its eggs.  The whole process lasted about 1 hour from the time it left the ocean to the time it went back in.  The pictures didn't turn out too well because we couldn't use the flash but you can still make out what it is.  Our guide said that there is another beach near there where there are 500,000 turtles that nest within just a few days.

On our final day we went to Playa Carillo about 15 minutes south of Samara.  This beach has less people, which is probably a difference of 20 people at Samara versus 10 people at Carillo.  The beach is a little nicer as well with less drift wood since it is a little more sheltered from the general coastline.  After returning the scooter we ate for a second time at our favorite restaurant, Al Manglar.  It serves excellent Italian food for very good prices.  We then went to bed early for a 7:00 AM departure time that would not find us back in Cleveland until 11:30 that night. 

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