Climbing into the taxi to head back to the mainland after a week in Santa Teresa, I recognized a familiar feeling that has only crept into my consciousness after a select few travel experiences. Sihanoukville, Cambodia, Maui, Hawaii, El Nido, Philippines, Barcelona, Spain, + pretty much every time I go to Palm Springs, California.
As we began driving away, I had this irrepressible urge to scream “turn around!” circa Cameron Diaz in The Holiday. Santa Teresa, Costa Rica had earned it’s ranking on a short list of places special enough to absolutely steal my heart and soul, prompting me to consider kidnapping and transporting my loved ones to this surfers nirvana.
Celebrities, Surfers, Yogi’s, Oh my!
Good enough for the likes of the Tom Brady + Gisele clan, Lady Gaga, and Mel Gibson (if he counts?), Santa Teresa is not your typical paradise. Beautiful beaches sprawl for miles without a single incessant vendor in sight. Surfers, both rookies + regulars alike, hurriedly carry their boards into the clear, salted waters of the pacific to catch wave after wave. The area is filled with the friendliest locals you’ll find + is crawling with inspired expats “trapped” in this surfers paradise.
Those brave enough to listen to the screaming voice telling them to stay, much to their families dismay, never seem to bat an eye at their decision. Not hard to see why.
It becomes clear very quickly that the Santa Teresa community is one big Pura Vida fuelled family (and not the Fast and Furious version of family, a real tight knit group of humans living the good life kind of family). As you walk the streets, swallowing the dust kicked up by quads & transport trucks, you can see locals wave and honk to friends as they pass shops and wanderers on the street. You can feel the energy and the support the people bring to each other, and it shows in the effortless way they float through life.
Surf + Turf
Surf shops and sushi restaurants line the towns that spill into each other naturally. From Mal Pais to Playa Hermosa and beyond, the culture never recedes. Latino beats and genuine laughter fill the streets and the town has such a light airiness to it, you cant help but relax instantly (the jalapeño margaritas help with that as well).
Is it the place for you?
If you aren’t into surfing, yoga, or a more laid back vibe, I’d opt for Manuel Antonio or Jaco. There you’ll find a more industry giant atmosphere versus the ma and pop tenor. You ain’t finding big Hilton’s and Westin’s in Santa Teresa, but you’ll get them in Jaco and Manuel Antonio.
Jaco is a great place to go for more nightlife and a faster pace. Keep in mind that beaches are crowded, clubs are busy and you’ll get the plethora of souvenir shops and beach vendors convincing you to buy a hammock or two after too many daiquiris.
The only thing bugging you on a beach in Santa Teresa is a friendly stray dog, a hippie trying to sell you homemade hash brownies, or the bartender you’ve summoned for your next cervesa.
Santa Teresa is more difficult to get to than the Jaco’s and Manuel Antonio’s of the country. This weeds out certain families or travellers that don’t want to bother with the commute. If you have the time to make it to Santa Teresa, you will be rewarded for your efforts. Check out my in-depth post on getting there.
Convinced you want to take a trip to Santa Teresa?
Good, we could be friends. I can’t wait to get back there, and not just for Tom Brady and Gisele stocking purposes.
Your trip won’t be complete without a day trip to Montezuma on ATV’s. Seriously one of the best travel experiences I’ve had so far.
I’d love to hear about your adventures! Comment below with any questions or tell me all about your experiences.