Costa Rica has always been on my bucket list of places to travel to so when I saw that British Airways had started flying direct from London to San Jose back in April ’15, I booked a flight immediately.
Originally I was going to do the usual tourist trip to Costa Rica visiting a number of attractions but the cost began to overwhelm my limited budget.
Then a close friend of mine who works on luxury yachts said she spent some time in Santa Teresa, Costa Rica during one of her breaks and she really liked it for it’s peaceful laid back surfer vibe.
I decided I would go there for the full three weeks of my trip in order to unplug, brush up on my surfing and see what adventure had in store for me. If you’re a regular reader you will already know what effect Santa Teresa had on me, soothing my soul and giving me perspective.
Three weeks is a long enough time to spend in a place and get to know it well enough to know where the good and the bad is and even to get to know some locals and learn some necessary and basic language terms to get by on.
Most people who visit Santa Teresa are on a longer trip around Costa Rica but I can tell you, if you only go to Santa Teresa and nowhere else, you will not be disappointed!
Where To Stay In Santa Teresa, Costa Rica
I stayed in two different places in Santa Teresa, a cheap hostel and a mid-range villa as part of a surf and yoga package.
I spent one night at the well-known Hostel Dos Monos which is right on the main road and a 3 minute walk from the beach. It’s a great place for the young backpacker or budget traveller and they offer both dorm rooms and affordable private rooms.
I spent two weeks staying at Hostel La Posada which is up the hill off the main road and therefor a lot quieter except for the music the staff plays in the communal area. The private rooms are huge with your own bathroom, aircon and hammock out the front. There is a lovely pool which I spent hours wading in when I wasn’t looking for iguanas and birds in the surrounding trees from my hammock. There is a good supermarket around the corner from the hostel and across the road a great soda where you can eat very well for very little, saving you a lot of money!
For one week, I signed up with Believe Surf and Yoga on one of their surf and yoga retreats because they have a five star rating on TripAdvisor. I was picked up by Lucho who was all smiles and happy energy and who was one of the most amazing, helpful and friendly hosts I’ve ever had. Their property is further down the main road and then up the hill from the main road and is absolutely beautiful.
They have four villas on the property and the one I stayed in was adjoined to the other one by a small shared kitchen and dining area. Both villas had a front deck with deck chairs and hammocks overlooking the beautiful gardens where we could enjoy watching the humming birds and butterflies feeding.
When it got too hot, we took dips in the stunning pool and jacuzzi, even when it rained and were even spied on by a couple monkeys one afternoon. If you keep very still you can watch the birds take baths on the top step of the pool too. Nature is all around you in Santa Teresa!
Every day we took a walk to our yoga classes or were picked up for our morning surf lessons. I cannot wait to return! It was one of the best experiences of my life, not least because the bed was so amazingly comfortable!
There are hundreds of places to choose from to stay at in Santa Teresa that meet every kind of budget. I made friends with another traveler from Canada who stayed at the Funky Monkey Lodge which was also a cool place to meet other travellers.
Where To Eat In Santa Teresa
You are really spoiled for choice with places to eat in Santa Teresa, Costa Rica and also quite spoiled at those places, but nowhere more spoiled than at the incredible The Bakery! The beautiful, smiling and friendly staff knew me quite well within my first week as I was an immediate addict of this place!
Excellent air-con and wifi are just perks that pail in the light of their amazing food, ranging from pastries to breads and extending to fantastic salads and sandwiches. However, it was their banana, date and lemon smoothie that had me returning daily for my energy boost! I really wished I could put them in my pocket and take them home with me.
We tried a number of places but found ourselves returning to just a few, Burger Rancho, Zwart Cafe, Taco Corner and Olam Pure Food the cafe beneath our daily yoga classes. Depending on your budget, Olam Pure Food and Zwart Cafe may seem a little pricey, however Burger Rancho and the Taco Corner place are super affordable. I did find however that eating out daily started to cost about 3x as much as I would spend on weekly groceries at home, so eating at the local soda‘s is a much more affordable, and filling, option.
What To Do In Santa Teresa
Santa Teresa, Costa Rica may be an out of the way, less touristy place to visit, but there is still plenty to do!
If you’re not constantly distracted by the abundance of wildlife all around you, from howler monkeys to iguanas and an amazing array of bird life, or the utter, soul soothing peace of being along on a deserted beach wading in your own private tide pool, there are plenty activities to keep you busy.
I highly recommend hiring a quad bike, known as an ATV, while you’re staying in Santa Teresa. There really is just one long, dusty (and super muddy when it rains), main road that runs parallel to the beach from Mal Pais to the end of Santa Teresa (about 4-6km). With an ATV you can get anywhere easily after it’s rained – so no slipping and sticking to the road in your muddy flip flops! – but most importantly, you can make the beautiful drive to Montezuma waterfalls. I am told there is an amazing tree to be seen on the trip there and a day trip to Montezuma town after cooling off in the waterfalls is well worth the visit.
If you’re a surfer, of course you will already know how good the surf is in Santa Teresa. You don’t even have any sharks to worry about and the water is warm! With so much coastline, the line ups are hardly ever crowded and the best time to catch a wave is in the evening.
Don’t worry about bringing your own board, although you can, there are plenty of boards to hire from the many surf shops along the main road and plenty of guys who will teach you how to surf if you are yet to learn.
If you’ve never surfed before but would like to, please do book a few lessons with a proper instructor. Surfing can be dangerous and requires a lot more physical strength than many realise. My holiday friend let go of her board (do not ever do this!) and it flipped up and hit her in the face, splitting her top lip and loosening her front tooth! Thankfully they have an amazing medical centre and dentists in Santa Teresa and she was stitched up and tended to in no time.
Side note: get travel insurance!
Aside from the risks of surfing, it is an amazing experience, nothing beats standing up on your first wave and sliding in towards the shore without falling, you will be immediately hooked!
Santa Teresa is yoga central. There are so many places to take yoga classes of all kinds – even some you’ve never heard of!
You can book a bunch of classes for a reduced fee, or pay-as-you-go and try out different styles of yoga at different times of the day.
My first class was at a hostel on an open-air platform above their reception. The class was in the dark and was one of the weirdest yoga experiences I have ever had! I can only describe it as “interpretive yoga in the dark to weird music”! Unfortunately I couldn’t handle the humidity, or the absurdity, and snuck away before the class finished.
Never fear, through my package with Believe Surf and Yoga I was able to try out some other amazing, and weird, yoga classes and yoga teachers during my time in Santa Teresa. I tried tantric yoga which was an experience let me tell you! I tried very slow, meditative yoga classes and very strenuous classes that left me sweating into my yoga mat! All were taken on an open-air platform where we were able to feel the breeze and watch the birds and squirrels in the surrounding trees.
Horse Riding On The Beach
Ok, I started riding when I was 9 and went on to compete as a Show Jumper. Later on in life I worked as sole groom to 7 competition horses as well as managed a guest farm that had 15 horses we took visitors on hours long rides in the mountains on. I know horses. I know how risky horses can be. Riding on the beach is taking a risk and there are no forms to sign before you do so. Get travel insurance.
With that out of the way, my friend who had never ridden before and myself had an absolutely, almost spiritual, experience riding on the beaches of Santa Teresa!!
We were picked up by our host and his three horses from her hostel and off we went down to the beach. It was coming on to dusk and the sunsets in Santa Teresa, Costa Rica are truly the most epic sunsets I have ever had the honour of experiencing! This particular evening it looked as if the heavens had opened and you could walk across the ocean right up to the gates of heaven! It was biblical!
I asked our host if it would be ok for me to gallop my horse and he agreed. I made sure he was holding my friend’s horse as horses like to take off after each other and I then I let loose!
Oh my gosh! It was exhilarating! I galloped my heart out! My eyes were streaming and I was screaming with joy! People watching the sunset on the beach whooped as I fled past them. I couldn’t thank our host enough for allowing me to gallop almost a kilometre along the beach.
However, I would not recommend doing this if you are a virgin or novice rider because we were not supplied with hard hats or any guidance of how to control a horse.
Regardless of my exhilarating galloping experience, a long ride along the beach as the sun sets is an unforgettable experience that can be arranged by whoever you are staying with.
You can take a boat out to a nearby island called Tortuga Island (Turtle Island) where apparently the snorkelling is a must do activity. I was unfortunately unable to do this myself but everyone I spoke to recommend it highly as a fantastic day trip. Shop around for prices as they do differ.
Visit A Nature Reserve
The very first national park of Costa Rica, Cabo Blanco Nature Reserve, is right on the point of the Nicoya Peninsula about a 30min taxi drive from Santa Teresa. There are two routes you can take in the park, one more strenuous and longer than the other, however I would highly recommend doing a day trip. Bring a great pair of binoculars (I bought these binoculars and they were fantastic) and pick up a wildlife guide pamphlet so you can learn about the many birds and animals you will spot. Honestly, it is impossible to go an hour without seeing wildlife in Costa Rica!
By now I am sure you are salivating at the idea of spending some time in this magical place! Before you hop on the plane, I have a guideline on what to pack for Santa Teresa, Costa Rica coming up so watch this space!
Have you been to Costa Rica?
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