Advertisers and tour companies promote Guanacaste beach towns heavily to US tourists. I am often asked by friends who are planning a first trip to Costa Rica what one town or another is like. When I answer their questions I try to compare each location to a place the visitors are familiar with. Tamarindo? Ft Lauderdale, Florida at Spring Break . Nosara? Sedona, Arizona with surfing. And Samara? Samara is Paris disguised as a sleepy beach town.
Samara is not the modern Paris of diplomats, social unrest and intrigue, but more like the Paris in Hemingway’s “A Moveable Feast”. A place where starving artists and writers come to mingle with people from all walks of life, to have experiences that, in the right hands, become inspirations, that become something wonderful… we hope.
Ernest Hemingway would have been right at home here, probably hanging at the beach bars and running in the bullring when the rodeo is in town. I wonder if he would have surfed?
Little Samara has spawned three writers groups in three different languages. English speakers come together to write and share work at Luv Burger in Patio Colonial. The French gather at Bohemia Cafe, and the Spanish speakers are at the Natural Center once a week. Published authors come here to write and rewrite. Journalists come to take a break from the everyday and write fiction. Memoirs are flowing all over town.
Murry Taylor has worked on three books in Samara. His first, “Jumping Fire” was the story of his life as a smokejumper who parachuted into forest fires in Alaska and other remote places over a 27 year career. The second, “The Rhythm of Leaves”, is a gut wrenching work of fiction that depicts the effects of the current political divide in the US on one family in a small community. One character in Leaves, the most intelligent character, of course, has spent a little time in Samara, Costa Rica. Murry’s third book, “More or Less Crazy, the Smokejumpers” is a humorous look at what happens when a bunch of crazy guys and gals devote their lives to a profession that requires teamwork, endurance and a somewhat twisted sense of fun.
Matisse resides in Samara too, in the person of Jaime Koss. Jaime has a gallery and studio on the beach half way between Samara Center and Matapalo. He is a great fan of Picasso, but he has the soul and the passion for color of Matisse. His garden has long been a place for people seeking intellectual conversation over a cup of coffee and, if you are lucky, a slice of his chocolate rum cake.
What is Paris without fashion? Tabanuco Restaurant was recently converted into a Fashion Week style runway for a show of local clothing and jewelry featuring Milan style glass work. Several dress makers design and make clothing sold in small shops along the beach road. Instead of Cartier, we have Cocotales where Carlos designs and makes beautiful beach chic jewelry.
Students gather here from all over the world to study the language and culture, to have an adventure, to find love or at least a little romance. Dreamers come and open little cafes where they can paint or compose during slow times, or discuss great ideas with friends and visitors. Expats from everywhere come to hide, or to find themselves.
If you are in Samara and don’t see Paris, stop for a minute and listen and watch what is happening around you and let it carry you away. Early in the morning you will see cyclists peddling home with fresh baguettes still warm from the oven. You will hear French and probably a half dozen other languages being spoken. And if you look up in the center of town next to the elementary school you will see the Eiffel tower…. if you squint…..and use your imagination. If you have no imagination it will look like a cell phone tower, but come on now. Squint. Let yourself see it. Paris on the beach.