Things to do, tips, safety and more:
The golden rays of the setting sun fell on my face and a gentle breeze blew through my hair. I was sitting on Santa Teresa beach watching the sunset. Hypnotized and amazed, I looked around, only to find the beach full of people. It was as if the whole town had gathered to watch the sunset.
Santa Teresa is not just sunsets. With incredible surf spots, palm-fringed beaches, white waves and a vibrant yoga culture, this former small fishing village has grown in popularity among surfers (experienced and beginners), yoga practitioners and lovers of yoga. the beach of Costa Rica and all over the world. .
Located on the southern tip of the Nicoya Peninsula in Puntarenas, Santa Teresa is a small town that runs along a 4 km long street, with green hills on one side and a white sand beach on the other.
Visit Santa Teresa: How to get there
From San Jose
By car: Take Route 1, Route 18 and then Route 21. It is a 6 hour drive from San Jose Airport to Santa Teresa.
By car and ferry: Drive to Puntarenas which is a 2 hour drive from the San Jose airport. Once there, buy the ferry tickets to Paquera. You can also book tickets online at https://www.quickpaycr.com/.
Please note that you must purchase a ticket for your car and separate tickets for all passengers. It costs 12,882 colones for the car, and 800 colones per person (plus tax).
It is a 1.5 hour ferry ride between Puntarenas and Paquera. After disembarking from the ferry, continue driving from Paquera to Santa Teresa, a 1 hour drive.
By bus: There is a direct bus from San Jose to Santa Teresa by Transportes Cobano at 6am daily. Please note that from September 2022 the bus stops after reaching Cobano and does not leave for Santa Teresa until 2:30 p.m.
By shuttle: You can also take a shuttle to Santa Teresa from San Jose. A shared shuttle from San Jose costs approximately $65 per adult and a private shuttle costs approximately $260 one way for up to 8 people.
Per flight: Take a domestic flight from San Jose Airport to Tambor Airport, then hire a taxi or rent a car to Santa Teresa.
By car: Walk down Ruta 21 (make sure you stay on this route, not other routes often shown by Google Maps and Waze. The journey usually takes around 4 hours.
Per flight: Take a domestic flight from Liberia Airport to Tambor Airport, then hire a taxi or rent a car to Santa Teresa. It is a 40-minute drive from Tambor.
Activities: Things to do in Santa Teresa
Activities abound in and around Santa Teresa. Whether you prefer relaxing on the beach or indulging in outdoor activities, Santa Teresa has something for everyone.
Here’s what you can do while visiting Santa Teresa!
Wherever you go in Santa Teresa, you’ll find surfboards! Whether it’s outside the shops, riding an ATV, people walking with it in their hands or hanging out on the beaches.
But there is a reason for that! Santa Teresa is well known among the surfer community for its amazing surf breaks and numerous surf spots. So whether you are a beginner or an experienced surfer, Santa Teresa is a place with consistent swell all year round and can provide you with an amazing surfing experience. You can either bring your surfboard with you or rent one while you’re in town.
Explore nearby beaches
Santa Teresa is a small beach in itself. What makes the experience great is the club visits to other beaches with this one. Playa Carmen, Playa Hermosa and Playa Manzanillo are 3 other must-see beaches nearby. From Carmen to Manzanillo it is an 11 km stretch and can be covered easily by car or mountain bike.
Yoga & Wellness
Like many other beach towns in Costa Rica, Santa Teresa is also popular for its yoga classes, programs, and wellness retreats. Many hotels and hostels offer yoga classes and wellness experiences for their guests (free or paid). There are also many yoga studios facing the beach.
One thing you’ll notice instantly upon arriving in Santa Teresa is the ubiquitous presence of ATVs. Due to the narrow, unpaved roads and rugged terrain, travelers like to rent ATVs to explore the town and nearby beaches. It’s the most convenient option for getting around, even more convenient than your personal car!
You can rent an ATV for the experience or to explore Santa Teresa and nearby beaches.
Mal Pais is a small fishing village south of Santa Teresa. A 15 minute drive away, Mal Pais is ideal for watching the sunsets and relaxing on the quiet, less crowded beach.
Another impressive feature of Mal Pais is its tidal pools. These are naturally sculpted pools that appear at low tide and can have hot or cold water. What is even more amazing is that you can find marine life like fish, sea urchins and crabs in these pools.
If you’re up for an adventure on your otherwise laid-back trip, hiking to Montezuma Waterfalls will awaken the outdoorsman in you.
There are 3 waterfalls in Montezuma – upper, middle and lower. The bottom one is the most attractive. The path is a mixture of walking, hiking and crossing suspension bridges.
Cabo Blanco Absolute Nature Reserve
Another outdoor activity you can indulge in is hiking in the Cabo Blanco Reserve. You can take the shorter trails or hike the full 10km circuit. It’s a great trail for wildlife viewing, and the trail leads to secluded Cabo Blanco beach where you can soak up the sun and wash away your fatigue.
Tortuga Island Tour
Tortuga Island is a 45 minute boat ride from the Santa Teresa area and is known for its snorkeling opportunities. There are many day trips from Montezuma Beach to Tortuga Island.
You can relax on the island, swim in the ocean, or take a guided snorkeling tour. Everything is taken care of by the travel agency.
Restaurants: Where to eat in Santa Teresa
There is a mix of restaurants serving local cuisine and international cuisine between Santa Teresa and Carmen. Here are some restaurants under different categories –
- Asian Cuisine – Katana Asian Cuisine
- Israeli cuisine – Restaurant Zula
- Latin and Caribbean cuisine – El Tercer Ojo
- Italian cuisine – Pronto Piccola Italia
- Breakfast & Bakery – The Bakery
- Beachfront Bars – El Carmen, Banana Beach
- Soda – Soda Pura Vida
- Burger – Burger Rancho
- Vegan & Vegetarian – Drift Bar
- Ice cream parlor – The art of Gelato
Accommodation: Where to Stay in Santa Teresa
It is important to understand the layout of Santa Teresa in order to choose a suitable accommodation. The area between Playa Santa Teresa and Playa Carmen is the main and busiest. Numerous hostels, hotels, Airbnbs, and resorts dot this stretch. You will be close to amenities and restaurants.
However, if you prefer a quieter, quieter stay, Mal Pais also offers a fair share of accommodation.
I stayed at Point Break Santa Teresa which is conveniently located close to Santa Teresa beach and 1.5 km from Carmen beach. The property has a garden, a shared kitchen, barbecue facilities, a terrace and rooms with a balcony.
Safety: Is Santa Teresa safe?
Many tourists wonder if Santa Teresa is safe! Notorious for thefts in recent years, tourists visiting Santa Teresa often fear for their safety. Although generally safe, you should apply general precautionary measures as you would in any other location. Don’t wear jewelry, avoid secluded areas, leave valuables at the hotel, park your car in a busy, well-lit area, and never leave the windows rolled down.
It’s definitely a bad idea to walk alone on the beach at night. If you’re coming back from a late night party and you’re not completely sober, make sure you’re in a group and don’t have any valuables. It’s best to take a hotel close to town in case you don’t have a rental car or mountain bike.
What to know about Santa Teresa
- The nearest train station is in Cobano, 30 minutes away by car.
- Although credit cards were not readily accepted before (it was cash only), they are now welcome.
- The main road is not well paved and not well lit. It is advisable not to venture on foot late at night.
- Prepare to brave lots of dust (from the road) and crowds (in high season).
- Accommodations are relatively more expensive than in other parts of Costa Rica. If you’re ok with hostels, they’re good for your pocket.
- It is not recommended to drink tap water here. You will need to check with your hotel/property for this.
In summary !
When visiting Santa Teresa, it is important to know that Santa Teresa is a developing town and the facilities are not that great! You can find construction everywhere and lots of dirt and dust on the roads.
But the raw beauty of Santa Teresa is what attracts travelers looking to relax, rejuvenate, and reconnect with nature. Some seek to find their life’s purpose while others seek to perfect their surfing skills. Whatever your reason for visiting, go with the right expectations and you won’t be disappointed. The beaches and sunsets are to die for!
I hope this travel guide has been useful to you and that you have a memorable stay in Santa Teresa. Cheers!