Coldwell Banker Around the World: July 2024

Exploring Samara: A Conversation with the Owners of Coldwell Banker Samara

In our quest to uncover hidden gems, we stumbled upon Samara—a small, charming beach town nestled on the Pacific Ocean in Costa Rica’s southern Nicoya Peninsula. What makes this place truly enchanting? We sat down with Shannon Mika, Owner at Coldwell Banker Samara, to unravel her captivating journey. “We spent several years traveling in Costa Rica,” Shannon shares. “When we stumbled on Samara, we knew it was the place for us! We started looking for homes for sale, bought a place as a vacation home, and eventually bought a business and moved our family there. It was a dream come true!”

Samara has evolved substantially since Coldwell Banker Samara’s opening. We also spoke with Nick Ruhlow, Shannon’s Coldwell Banker Samara co-owner. Nick’s roots run deep—he grew up in Playa Samara and Playa Carrillo. “I’ve seen its incredible transformation over the years,” Nick reflects. “From a quiet, small, remote beach town to a vibrant multicultural community, it’s been amazing to see how Samara has evolved while maintaining its natural beauty and charm. I’m lucky to call this place home, and being part of its growth and evolution has been a truly rewarding experience.” While many parts of Costa Rica have experienced a surge in visitors since the Pandemic, Samara is rich in ecotourism and wellness experiences, with wildlife refuges and reserves nearby. Its a perfect place to explore the incredible biodiversity of Costa Rica. Read on to learn more and start planning your own visit to Samara.

Where do you live? We live in a small, charming beach town in Costa Rica. Samara is located on the Pacific Ocean in the southern part of the Nicoya Peninsula, in the northern part of the country.

What is the perfect weekend day like? Living at the beach, the perfect weekend day depends on the weather. Living just 9 degrees north of the equator, it’s generally hot, so getting out early to spend time in nature or enjoying water activities like surfing, snorkeling, or fishing is the perfect start. Then it’s on to the farmer’s market, followed by relaxing with friends and family for the afternoon or taking a little nap. It often ends with a sunset drink on the beach, followed by a delicious meal at a local restaurant – it doesn’t get much better than that!

What are the common modes of transportation there? Samara is less than two hours from the Guanacaste International Airport, and it’s paved the whole way! Once you arrive, the main roads are paved, but navigating the compact downtown area on foot or bicycle is easier. It’s not uncommon to see people on ATVs or golf carts in and around town.

Tell us about the foods your area is known for. Costa Rican staples include gallo pinto, a delicious combination of black beans, white rice, and seasoning, and casado, a traditional meal with rice, beans, plantains, salad, protein, and tropical fruits. In Samara, local favorites include fresh seafood, including ceviche – fresh fish “cooked” in citrus, grilled whole red snapper, or a seafood platter. 

What is your favourite meal, at home or at a restaurant? Hands down, fresh-caught tuna is my absolute favorite, best enjoyed at a local seafood restaurant.

Where do you recommend someone vacation in your region and why? Costa Rica is known for its stunning beaches, lush rainforests, its network of national parks, and amazing wildlife. In my eyes, the ideal vacation is renting a car and hitting a few of the country’s crown jewels – ziplining in Monteverde, visiting the hot springs outside of the Arenal Volcano before making your way to the Guanacaste Province, where you can visit national parks including Rincon de la Vieja – sometimes called “Little Yellowstone,” with geothermal characteristics and the caves at Parque Barra Honda. Once in Samara, its beautiful beaches and laid-back atmosphere make for a great vacation. It’s the perfect spot for relaxation. With Costa Rica being home to an estimated 5-6% of the world’s biodiversity, it only makes sense to explore the nearby wildlife refuges like the Camaronal Refugio where four of the seven sea turtles come to nest, the Macaw Recovery Network, or the Werner Sauter Biological Reserve, one of the few private reserves in Costa Rica, which protects local flora and fauna and offers guided tours.

What is your favourite recreational or leisure time activity? Anything on the water – while Samara’s surf is better geared for beginners, there is expert surf just 20 minutes away in both directions at Playa Barrigona and Playa Camaronal. There’s great swimming, kayaking, paddle boarding and snorkeling. Beach hopping is always a fun way to spend an afternoon.

Is there a specialty your area is known for? Costa Rica is known for its environmental commitment – it was the first country to run an entire day “off-grid!” The country produces and exports lots of coffee and bananas and the economy is supported by “Silicon Valley” of Central America, and of course, tourism. In Samara specifically, we’re known for eco-friendly tourism and wellness retreats. Yoga classes and wellness centers offering various therapies and treatments are growing in popularity.

Share a little known but interesting fact about the area/region: Costa Rica is home to one of the world’s blue zones – five communities scattered across the world where the residents live to 100+ at a much higher incidence than the rest of the world. In Costa Rica, this community is Nicoya, and our charming little beach town is smack dab in the middle of it! The characteristics that all blue zones share, like minimizing stress, moving regularly throughout the day, having a clear sense of purpose, and eating a mostly plant-based diet are all hallmarks of the typical Costa Rican lifestyle.

If you were to live in any other region where we have a Coldwell Banker presence, where would it be and why? If I were to choose another area within Costa Rica to live in, it would be Puerto Viejo on the Caribbean side of the country. This area has a unique blend of Caribbean culture, lush rainforest, and pristine beaches with access to excellent outdoor activities like surfing, snorkeling, and hiking.

If considering an international location, I would choose Ericeira in Portugal. Ericeira is a picturesque coastal town known for its world-class surfing spots and charming historic center. The town has a relaxed and welcoming atmosphere, making it a great place for those who appreciate a laid-back lifestyle, very much like Costa Rica

Territory Summary:

Costa Rica is a country rich in diversity on many levels. The people of Costa Rica can trace their ancestry to the Indigenous people of Central America and the Spanish settlers and Jamaican immigrants who descended many years later. Having gained independence in 1821, Costa Rica’s economic roots are in agriculture, primarily coffee. As the country has grown, strong tourism and technology sectors have developed. This diversification has contributed to a solid economy throughout the years, which has attracted investors from around the world.

In 1948, Costa Rica dismantled the military and invested in education, health, and social infrastructure. Today, Costa Rica is recognized as one of the best in the Americas in terms of literacy rates, educational coverage, and public spending on education. This focus on social infrastructure has led to ongoing peace and a mature democratic system.

Costa Rica has been at the forefront of conservation and has made significant efforts to protect its rainforest and wildlife. The country boasts one of the highest percentages of protected land globally and is home to an estimated 5-6% of the world’s biodiversity. Remarkably, in 2019, Costa Rica generated 99% of its electricity from renewable sources due to significant investments in geothermal and wind energy.

With two gorgeous coasts (the Pacific and Caribbean) and the Cordillera Volcánica and Cordillera de Talamanca mountains splitting the country, Costa Rica has incredibly diverse geography and communities. What started as a small fishing village and vacation town for Costa Ricans, Samara has grown into a popular tourist destination while maintaining its charm and community spirit. Tourism primarily drives the economy, with many businesses catering to visitors. Like Costa Rica as a whole, Samara has become a popular destination for tourists and investors alike.

Key Facts:

  • Population: Costa Rica: 5MM, Samara: 3,000
  • Language(s) Spoken: Spanish, English in tourist areas
  • Climate: Tropical climate, dry season: December – April, wet season: May – November
  • Currency: Costa Rican Colones

Industry Facts:

Types of Architecture: Until the past few years, the architecture in Samara has been very much inspired by the local culture – lots of outdoor space, high ceilings, and the incorporation of local hardwoods. We’ve seen a shift to more modern architecture and eco-friendly designs in recent years.

Price per square foot: Prices depend on location and property type but generally range from $100 – $300 per square foot

Average Sales Price: The average sale price of a single-family home in 2023 in Samara was $420,000 which is lower than many of the competing markets in Costa Rica and significantly lower than comparable beach locations worldwide.

Interesting fact: Foreigners have the same property ownership rights as Costa Ricans, with one exception—beachfront property, which must be owned, in part, by a Costa Rican citizen. The majority of property in Samara is owned under “fee simple,” giving the owner complete ownership rights.

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Kaitlin McMurdo has served as the Director of Global Service for Coldwell Banker since January 2020. Through her tenure, the existing global network has doubled in office and agent footprint and expanded into Chile, Paraguay and Saudi Arabia. She has also supported the global networks for Better Homes & Gardens, Corcoran, and ERA Real Estate. Prior to her current role, McMurdo worked for the premiere New York City New Development sales and marketing firm, Corcoran Sunshine, which sold over $20 billion of real estate during her time. At Corcoran Sunshine, she managed new business, cross-portfolio initiatives and creative sales initiatives for the top-selling developments in Manhattan and Brooklyn. Before joining the real estate industry, McMurdo worked primarily in corporate event planning and hospitality, combining her love of working with people and the food and beverage industry. She received her BA from American University in International Business with a minor in French language. She is very proud Philadelphia-area native (Go Birds) who has resided in New York City for 15 years, predominantly in “the World’s Borough”, Queens. In her free time she loves to cook, explore NYC, and of course, travel the world.

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