Book with Maria

his has been said many times before by anyone who’s seen this little gem of a nature reserve, but I’ll re-iterate it again, the Werner Sauter Biological Nature reserve is stupendous. What makes it even more of a gem is the fact that it is part of one of the world’s five only Blue Zones: places of health, happiness, and long life expectancy. And this 2 to 3-hour hike through the bountiful biodiversity of the Guanacaste dry forest will tell you why. First of all, the Samara area means waking up to breathtaking sunsets over the Pacific, crooning howler monkeys, and iguanas basking in the early morning glow chomping on hibiscus flowers and mangos. If you’re into any of this nature stuff or, equally importantly, any of your family or loved ones are, this hike will be unforgettable.

Ok, so first let’s get to the tactical details and then we’ll get to the natural splendor. Right now we’re living in a time of global crisis due to the pandemic but, the Samara area is not only classified as part of one of the world’s five only Blue Zones but Costa Rica has also proved to be, in my humble opinion, a “safe zone” (I mean, as far as any phrase that weighty can go during a pandemic). The Costa Rican government has handled the crisis incredibly well and, although I’ve only lived in this country for 2 years, I feel blessed to be able to go out into nature and breathe when many of my loved ones in other countries are quarantined to their apartments. As with everything in this changing world, I like to do my research first before I take my 10-year-old son out for a walkabout. Because, let’s face it, some of us tourists have been left on bus corners for hours because we didn’t suss out the right information. Or, worse, we were given faulty info. 

So, my trusted go-to is the aptly named, Book with Maria from a local Booking and Information Center, run by Maria, of course , a phenomenal powerhouse of beauty, fun, sass and intelligence who I will still argue is missing her second calling as a lawyer. She will not let your tour get messed up. So, if, like me, you just blatantly and foolishly trust any run-of-the-mill tourist agent because you are so excited about getting out to see the monkeys and morpho butterflies, look no further. I have stumbled all over the worst tourist agents and finally found Maria, who is courteous, informed and on-point. She will actually keep you safe, from the pick up to the end of the tour, to everything else involved. You’re in safe hands.

Now, back to the tour (sorry for the tangent, you know, world tipped on its head, but!) Nature is always there for us. Which is where we begin this SamaraTrails hike. First, since my son and I have done the morning hike, this is our experience, you wake up to a Samara beach sunrise and then you get into an open air taxi, which is lovely.  Five minutes later you are dropped off at the start of the walk. The guide we had was named Marlon and he was terrific, funny, cool, and well-informed. We started with the proffered up platter of succulent fruit: sliced pineapple, mango, and papaya (and cookies and water for the kids, however, on our tour day, it was just my son and me, so the tour seemed private, and we ate a whole pineapple to ourselves. Oops). I’m also pretty sure my son stuck two or three packets of oatmeal-raisin cookies into his pockets, perhaps fearing being lost on the trail. No worries, the guide was incredibly kind and we were again in safe hands as we wended our way through the forest (which is an uphill and downhill climb but not at all strenuous). We saw morpho butterflies, parakeets, howler monkeys, and a stunning red-crested woodpecker (the guide hefts a huge star-gazing telescope along so that you can see the birds more clearly). Oh, and a red macaw, which must have flown its way over from the macaw sanctuary and reintroduction breeding program in Punta Islita (another great tour to book with Maria!)

An hour into the hike we had reached the peak of the climb. As my son was warning me not to eat strange fruit I tend to taste-test, Marlon, our guide said, “Don’t worry, it’s not poisonous, now let’s look at this view.” The view was stunning, the entire bay of Samara, Isla Chora, the sun hanging low over the Pacific in its early morning grandeur. Marlon said we could walk higher or we could walk down into the old sugarcane and mango plantation. We went down and learned more about native cultures (of which there are many, Costa Rica is an anthropological wellspring). And we finished (at base camp 😉 with more fruit and beverages as we waited for our ride back to town and watched a Resplendant Quezle (think, Woah, that bird just stole the whole rainbow and feathered it up). 

Well, to sum it up, this hike is amazing: Turn off your cell phones, breathe in the air. Remember why we’re all here. And enjoy it. and protect these remarkable birds. This is truly Costa Rica at its best.