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Explore the Mountains, Forests and Birds of Samara

By Arianna McKinney
photos by adam dietrich

While tourism in Samara generally centers around the beach, the surrounding mountains also offer an immense beauty and variety to enrich the vacation experience. 

As the natural attraction diminishes for areas like Arenal, where the volcano has been inactive for about two years now, Franz Werkstetter, owner of Finca Tarantela, believes that more tourists could enjoy a complete vacation experience in the Samara area, combining relaxation at the beach with exploration of the mountains and forests inland. “Samara has more mountains than other areas of the coast of Guanacaste,” Werkstetter affirmed. 

In the past year, he has begun to offer tours of the 45 hectares of Finca Tarantela, allowing visitors to explore the forest and wade through the Tarantela creek, perhaps taking a swim, sitting under a small waterfall or stopping for a picnic, all while listening to the chorus of birds in the canopy above, such as the series of whistles that distinguishes the rufous-and-white wren.

Ornithologist Elidier Vargas Castro, from San Jose, spotted 58 different species of birds during his first day conducting a study at the finca and estimated that about 200 bird species might be in the area. The variety of birds increases when migratory birds arrive from the north beginning in September, he explained.

Werkstetter began reforesting the property when he bought it in 1989, endeavoring to plant the most endangered species native to Guanacaste, such as the roble coral (bullywood), guayabón (white nargusta) and cachimbo (coyote). Another tree that catches the attention of visitors is the Ayua amarilla, known as “el lagartillo” (the little crocodile), whose trunk is loaded with spikes that break off easily, are as light as cork and resemble crocodile teeth. 

The best time to visit is up for debate.  On the one hand, during dry season, more flowers are in bloom such as orchids and lilies, as well as foliage on the abundant vines. On the other hand, during the height of rainy season, waterfalls cascade down rocky surfaces that are otherwise dry.

Werkstetter described the forest as intermediate—not rainforest, but not completely dry tropical forest either, as it receives about 300cm of precipitation annually. 

Franz Werkstetter crosses the Tarantela creek.
A tree which has grown around the outside of a rock, "hugging" it.

People generally spend 3 to 5 hours at the finca, trekking a circuit of about 5 kilometers, although many other trails crisscross the property, including a rugged hike up to the highest point in the finca for those in good physical condition. Tours generally cost $25 per person with a minimum of two people, including hotel pickup and drop-off. Children 14 and under are free. 

For more information, contact [email protected] or 2656-1334.


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