Perhaps you remember or have read about the heady days of the late 60’s or early 70’s, when hordes of North American and European youth bought cheap airline tickets and backpacks, and took off somewhere, anywhere!
These thoughts and others crossed our minds, as the four of us, two couples in our 60’s, grabbed a cab in Liberia, Costa Rica and headed for the bus station. Our destination was Samara, a small beach town on the Pacific Ocean, two or three hours by bus from Liberia depending on the number of stops.
From Liberia to Samara for $4 Each
If time is on your side, then bus travel can be an interesting way to travel in Costa Rica, and is certainly the cheapest way to go. Also, hitting the road and mixing it up with the locals, gives you a real sense of what life is like in Costa Rica. It’s a rejuvenating way to spend a day.
The country is very close in size to our Canadian province of Nova Scotia, so distances are not far, but travel times are much longer than we are used to. All the roads are two-lane but are much improved over the last 5 years.
We arrived at the Liberia bus station about 7:40 am, ready to board the 8:00 am bus. It’s always a good idea to get to the bus station early. Otherwise you can end up standing in a crowded bus. The other bonus is that you can look for a seat on the side of the bus away from the sun, which is a good thing to do in a country where the average daily temperature is 31˚C.
We got to see quite a few Costa Ricans, or “Ticos” on our bus route through the countryside and the numerous towns. Outside of Liberia, there is plenty of irrigated land, producing crops of tropical fruit such as pineapple, papaya, mango, banana, oranges, lemons and limes. One of the benefits of living in the tropics is that fresh fruit is never far from your plate, and everyone takes it for granted.
We could see that the bus filled quickly with many regulars, school aged children, vendors and other people going to work. The people looked relaxed, did not rush getting on and off the bus, and paid attention to one another. A young boy of perhaps 8 years got on by himself, traveled a short distance and got off. There didn’t seem to be able security worries. Several young women, some holding young babies in tow, and some elderly passengers were offered seats by younger people who immediately stood in the aisle when these passengers got on the bus.
The bus stopped just about anywhere on the highway to pick up passengers, as we passed through Filadelphia, Belen, Santa Cruz, and later, Nicoya where we had to change buses. We waited in a second bus station for the 10:00 am bus to take us to Samara, about one hour away. We were surprised to see a brand new, air conditioned bus pull in to the station, equivalent to any deluxe tour bus we have been on.
The road to Samara was steep and winding, with slopes almost perpendicular to the road. This road would easily wash out during the rainy season. The vegetation became lush, and more jungle-like as we drove through the ring of mountains separating the coast from the interior.
Our arrival in Samara was a blast from the past. This small, retro beach town, with its shops and restaurants has been mostly unchanged for years, with the exception of perhaps cell phones and computer screens. The heat of the day hit us with full force, so we ducked in to a side street bar for a cold beer and some lunch. A short walk from the bar put us right on Samara Beach, a beautiful, largely uninhabited stretch of white sand forming about a three mile semicircle in the bay.
This place would be our home for the next 7 days.