Live The Pura Vida Life
Life in Santa Teresa is all about enjoying the moment. As the Costa Rican locals say, Pura Vida! If youre coming to Santa Teresa it is either to surf or to relax on the beach at an off the beaten path destination. So take it slow and remember what life really is about. Enjoying the moment! Pura Vida! Order a cocktail and some food, watch the sun going down and the surfers catching their last waves, paradise found! Banana beach is one of the cool beach bars to have a drink, but there are a few more options the more south you go on Santa Teresa beach.
Visit The Outdoor Food Court At Eat Street
Traveling with friends or family can mean finding a place to eat that satisfies everyone can be hard. Luckily, Santa Teresa has its own upscale food court called Eat Street!
Eat Street is home to four restaurants and one bar that serves everything from sweets, smoothie bowls, poke bowls, burgers, burritos, snacks, and cocktails. Its your one-stop shop for the whole group, and the best part is, you can eat together!
I highly recommend the Poke bowls made with fresh tuna from the local fisherman. Or, if you love Asian cuisine, the prawn noodle bowl is so tasty!
Watch The Gorgeous Sunset On Santa Teresa Beach
Im going to put it out there, this is like, the best thing to do whilst youre in Santa Teresa. The sunsets here are just ridiculous. Even when you dont think its going to be a good one, it usually is.
If youre not surfing sunset, grab your friends, some beverages and head down to watch the sky light up
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Sunset At An Infinity Pool
For an epic sunset at an infinity pool, go to Vista de Olas, located in the hills of Mal Pais. The pool overlooks the valley, the town of Santa Teresa, Playa Carmen, and everything after that. Its a fantastic thing to do in Santa Teresa, and we recommend visiting quite a bit before sunset! Vista de Olas is a hotel, but youre welcome to spend an evening here for a minimum spend . Expect to make new friends because more travelers will enjoy their time here.
Relax On A Santa Teresa Beach
The beaches of Santa Teresa, including Playa Santa Teresa itself and Playa Carmen, are considered to be among the most beautiful anywhere in Costa Rica, and these beautiful stretches of pristine coast offer ample opportunity for sunbathing, reading beneath the shade of a palm tree, or even bathing in a tidal pool.
For a secluded spot head north from Playa Santa Teresa. Here, buildings along the shore and the road parallel become sparser, and the rockpools add a further area of interest. Its around here youll also find the sugarloaf-shaped rock battered by waves known as el Peñon, and a large rocky tide-pool big enough for a spot of snorkeling as well as bathing.
Continuing further north youll soon come to Playa Hermosa, whose name aptly translates as Beautiful Beach. A large expanse of sand, Playa Hermosa provides just the right level of popularity to give it ambience without it feeling claustrophobic, while Playa Carmen is a little busier still.
Insiders tip: Ocean currents can be strong, so swimming is best kept to tidal pools and inlets. Always ask someone in the know if youre unsure.
Discover Costa Rica with this 8-day tour and enjoy beach time in Santa Teresa.
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Our Favorite Way To Get Here
We always suggest renting a car and driving to Santa Teresa on your own. The best way to do this is by going on the Puntarenas ferry to Paquera. In total this trip will take about five to six hours.
However, about two of those hours will be spent on the ferry/ getting off the ferry. So, in actuality, it is not too much driving.
Check out our ferry guide for more on that.
We like to rent a car because Santa Teresa is remote. If you plan on taking day trips you will likely want a car and there are not many car rental places in the Santa Teresa area.
You do not necessarily need a 4×4 for the drive, but an SUV with decent clearance is suggested because the roads near Santa Teresa are not paved.
Pro Tip: Rent a car with our favorite Costa Rican rental car company and save 10% plus other great perks!
Surf The Waves At Santa Teresa
Santa Teresa is a very popular destination in Costa Rica for surfing. With consistent waves all year round, you can go to this surf town whenever you want. However, keep in mind that during rainy season the waves can be a bit choppy. The two most heavy rain months are September and October. You can basically surf anywhere along the coast of Santa Teresa, but there are a few favourite spots amongst surfers.
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Hotel Nantipa A Tico Beach Experience
For a luxury experience, we recommend Hotel Nantipa. This boutique hotel is right on the beach on the northern end of Playa Carmen. Although this part of town can be busy, the property is spacious and far removed from the hustle and bustle. Hotel Nantipa has 15 suites and bungalows, many with ocean views. Their onsite restaurant is right on the sand. Also has a large pool with a lovely garden. $350-600/night. Check Rates and Availability Here.
Eat Amazing Italian Food At Restaurante Al Chile Viola
Photo credit: Al Chile Viola
If you ask anyone who lives in Santa Teresa where to get the best Italian food in town, theyll most likely say Restaurante Al Chile Viola. I actually found this place thanks to a friend who had lived in Santa Teresa for two years before my first visit, and what a great recommendation.
Restaurante Al Chile Viola serves up authentic Italian cuisine using fresh local ingredients. Chef Emiliano and his lovely wife Luz do a fantastic job, and all their pasta, bread, and sauces are homemade.
They are well known for their pizza, and I personally love the Santa Teresa that comes with fresh octopus, prawns, cherry tomatoes, and olives. If you love seafood, be sure to try the grilled octopus with a pumpkin sauce its mind-blowingly tasty! All of their pasta is also delicious so you cant go wrong at Al Chile Viola.
Restaurante Al Chile Viola also runs a cooking class for those interested. I believe its on Saturdays, but this can change, so its best to reach out prior to your visit.
Trust me this will be one of your favorite restaurants in Santa Teresa!
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Cabuya Island Montezuma Costa Rica
The south side of Cabuya Island has a great surf spot an open secret called The Secret Reef. Because of the long hot hike to get out there, few tourists ever head to this spot because there are so many easier surfing opportunities in Santa Teresa. But locals go there from time to time, since during the right swell conditions, it can form a large heavy wave that thrills adrenaline junkies.
Hermosa Tidepool Montezuma Costa Rica
Its a great place for them to learn to swim, or learn to snorkel. They can also experience the sea-life close up. We have seen TWO types of nudibranch here very rare and amazing species unlike any others in the ocean.
Keep in mind that theres no shade here the tropical sun reflecting off the water will fry your tender white gringo skin in double-time, so wear a hat and slather on a thick layer of sunblock.
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The Ultimate Eco Hotel In Santa Teresa
We stayed at Latitude 10 just a few miles from the Santa Teresa town center. We were blown away by their great customer service, and 5 acres of lush land right on the beach. Unfortunately, the resort has now closed its doors and is no longer offering accommodation. Below you will find a few other options we would recommend.
- Canaima Chill House: The Canaima Chill House is an eco-chic hotel nestled in the jungle oasis, just 500 meters from the beach. It combines rustic charm, eco-design, and luxury with spacious suites, an outdoor hot tub, swimming pool, bamboo hanging beds, massage services, and a sun terrace.
- Ecopacific Lodge Santa Teresa: Located just off Santa Teresa Beach is the Ecopacific Lodge Santa Teresa. Its a holiday apartment, fairly basic in terms of decor but it has everything you need and the location is perfect. Its just 300 meters from the beach and located in a quiet section off the main road.
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Day Trip To Montezuma Waterfalls
The Montezuma Waterfalls are incredible, and if you have a day to spare, you should 100% take a day trip there.
Montezuma is a hip little beach town about 30 minutes south of Santa Teresa, with colorful buildings, rugged beaches and of course- the waterfalls!
The Montezuma Waterfalls are totally free to visit . Once you park, its a short walk/ hike to the falls, where you can swim around, take pictures, and hang out.
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What To Know Before Visiting Santa Teresa Costa Rica
*This post contains affiliate links which means at no extra cost to you, I may make a commission if you choose to click and book.
Getting to Santa Teresa, Costa Rica
The best way to get to Santa Teresa is by rental car, transfer, or plane. Transfers can be organized from many other tourism-focused places in Costa Rica such as Tamarindo, San Jose airport, Manuel Antonio, etc, and prices vary depending on the distance covered.
If you have a rental car, which I highly recommend, you can easily drive to Santa Teresa. Just note that the road here is not paved and its potholed and dusty or muddy so a 4×4 or SUV is recommended.
You can also fly into Tambor Airport which is the closest airport to Santa Teresa. This is the most popular domestic route from San Jose.
Currency & Money
Costa Rican Colones are the official country of Costa Rica but most official businesses will take USD, just note that you wont be getting the best exchange rate so always try to pay in colones if possible. For tours and excursions, you can pay in dollars.
Many places in Santa Teresa and Costa Rica take debit and credit cards but its always good to have some cash on you. While there are a few ATMs in Santa Teresa note that they arent that reliable so bring some cash with you just in case.
Transportation in Santa Teresa, Costa Rica
Visit The Mariposario Butterfly Garden
In this beautiful park, you can see up to 1500 butterflies of 150 different species. You should know that the life expectancy of a butterfly is 2 to 3 weeks. As a result, if you return several times, you will see different species than the previous time.
The park also shows you all the stages of life and development of this fascinating insect. From the egg to the caterpillar, you will learn more about their behavior, such as courtship or mating. In all modesty.
You will probably also have the chance to observe a hatching. Butterflies are born almost every day at the maryposium! In a nutshell, an amazing, one-of-a-kind, and exciting maternity!
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Hike Through Cabo Blanco Nature Reserve
Cabo Blanco Nature Reserve is a beautiful park that sits at the very southern tip of the Nicoya Peninsula. In this tropical rainforest live many different species of wildlife so if youre looking for an active day trip from Santa Teresa then head out to Cabo Blanco to explore the trails. The reserve has two trail with one main trail, Sueco Trail, that leads to the beach where you can cool off in the ocean after the hike. Visiting Cabo Blanco Nature Reserve is a great activity if youre looking for an off the beaten path destination in Costa Rica to visit. The entrance fee for the park is $12 per person for adults and $5 for children from 6-12 years. The entrance is free for children under 5 years old.
Am: Cruise Around Santa Teresa
Wake up early to lie and play in the lovely tide pools just north of Playa Hermosa they are great at low tide, around 9 a.m. Get in the car and go to Santa Teresa, which is in the middle of the strip. Its fun, and theres loads of hot, single people backpackers and surfers are all on bikes in bikinis, likely heading toward Selina, the surf beach. For lunch, just walk to Eat Street, a little area where there are lots of upscale food stands, or head to health-conscious spots like Ani and Earth Café. There are all these cute little boutiques around, too. I like to buy at least one long dress, and maybe a straw basket if mine falls apart by the time we land at the small clothing and jewelry boutique Pacific Wolf Factory. In pre-COVID times, there were always sunset bonfires at the beachfront restaurants in Santa Teresa, such as Banana Beach and Habanero . Not so much anymore. Its still worth sticking around until 6 p.m. or so, when you head back to the house for dinner. Cook at home. Ask the hotel to get you something from the fish market, and theyll set up their wood-fired BBQ. Its kind of incredible.
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Relax At Playa Hermosa Santa Teresa
I can not write a blog about all the best things to do in Santa Teresa without mentioning the beautiful beaches. With mile-long strips of white sands and blue waters, you can not go wrong with a day spent at the beach.
If you are a morning person and like to walk the beaches make sure to get up early! During the dry season, the sun starts to get strong at around 8 AM. If you are not a morning person, do not worry, there are several palms and lush green trees to seek shade under mid-day.
Playa Hermosa, a.k.a Beautiful Beach, is one of my favorites. This beach is more of a local beach and thus less crowded with tourists during the busy season. North of Playa Hermosa is Playa Manzanillo. Playa Manzanillo is far more secluded than the other beaches. With very calm waters, this beach is not your ideal surf spot. But it is an ideal place to get away from the craziness of downtown and play in the water for a bit. Playa Santa Teresa has some great tidepools. These pools are fun to sit and relax in if you can catch them at the right time of day !
Explore The Santa Teresa Nightlife
What was once a quiet, remote beach town is now a hot spot on the Costa Rica backpacking circuit- Yep, Santa Teresa has a decent amount of nightlife.
Whether its a big beach bonfire, or live music at the disco La Lora, there seems to be something going on almost every night of the week in Santa Teresa.
The easiest way to tell where the party is? Well, you can either ask your hostel staff, or just take a peek at the road- youll probably see hoards of people all walking one direction, and chances are thats where the party is.
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Breakfast In Santa Teresa
For breakfast, we opted to eat at a local soda, because no matter where in Costa Rica we are, we can never say no to a great traditional breakfast of Gallo Pinto, eggs, and fried plantains.
Hire An Atv And Explore The Coastline
Id say about half of the traffic on the roads is made up of ATVs like the one pictured below. The other half? A mix of motorbikes , bicycles and cars too.
ATVs are around 50-70$ USD a day to rent and make for a fun day out. They are also really handy to get around with if youre looking to explore more than one spot during your time in Santa Teresa.
- driving over to Monteverde for the day and hiking to the waterfalls for a dip!
- exploring the beaches north of Santa Teresa: Playa Hermosa, Playa Divina.
The bumpy, dusty roads in and around Santa Teresa are best driven with a 4X4 or ATV, hence why even the locals use these quads to zip around!
Top tip: Ensure you have sunglasses at the least, goggles preferably and a bandana or facemask the dust is REAL. Im writing this in May 2021 and actually, by the time Id left theyd tarmacked the main road. Things should be on the up from here!
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Best Way To Get To Isla De Tortuga
The best way is to rent a car and take the ferry. The best and fastest way is to follow Route 27 for about an hour and a half, which will take you to Puntarenas, where you will have to take the ferry across the gulf to the town of Paquera. Ferry schedules are seasonal, so be sure to confirm the times before planning your trip.
Once the ferry docks in Paquera, 70 minutes later, just follow the main road towards Mal Pais for about an hour, which will take you to the Playa Carmen junction. Be careful with the schedule of this one, because, especially in high season, there are few places and if you miss the ferry, you can easily wait 4 hours for the next one.
The roads of Costa Rica are not necessarily all well maintained. Furthermore, it is better to have a powerful rental car of type 4×4. You are on the Nicoya peninsula, but dont think you can go from Samara to Santa Teresa in 30 minutes No, you will need 4 hours! Study the itineraries well before leaving, and this is valid for most of the routes in the country. It is part of the charm of the place.
From San Jose to Isla Tortuga
From San José, the best and quickest way is to follow route 27 for about an hour and a half, which will take you to Puntarenas, where you will have to take the ferry to cross the gulf to the town of Paquera. Ferry schedules are seasonal, so be sure to confirm the times before planning your trip.