There’s been a lot of buzz about Costa Rica these last few years. To check out if it really was as beautiful as people were saying, if the locals really were that friendly, the food and coffee that good, and the surfing and yoga as excellent as the hype promised, I spent a couple of weeks along the pristine coast of Playa Santa Teresa.
First of all, let me get this out of the way: The beach at Santa Teresa is nothing less than stunningly beautiful. If you’ve ever envisioned what a paradise beach should look like, I’m confident this will be pretty close to those thoughts. When the day was about to break with the sun’s first stream of luminous rays rising just above the palm trees, hitting the slightly damp sand, I was in total awe. Most mornings, I only had to share the beach with a few other early birds – and a small flock of fish diving pelicans.
Costa Rica is known for a slew of interesting facts: a very well-educated population with a life expectancy rate that’s higher than the US, they’re one of only 23 nations in the world that don’t have a military and possibly most famous of all, over a quarter of the country is preserved for conservation and home to 5% of the world’s biodiversity. Oh, yeah, and they have lots of cute sloths, too.
While the coastal region that surrounds Playa Santa Teresa doesn’t qualify as a rainforest per ce, as soon as you arrive at the local Tambor Airport (it’s more of an airstrip or landing field than an airport) or take a 5-6 hour bumpy and curvy drive there from the capital, San José, you’ll soon be impressed with how gifted Costa Rica is with so much lush jungle and dense forests. The abundant foliage literally envelops the country’s amazing geography – which includes everything from active volcanoes, sprawling valleys and a seemingly endless lineup of mostly untouched beaches.
Despite it being high season (December 2017 – January 2018), there’s surprisingly few people in Santa Teresa. It’s not by any means empty, just not as crowded as I had expected. Then again, this part of Costa Rica isn’t focused on the kind of mass tourism you’ll find in places like Tamarindo Beach further up the coast. On the contrary, Santa Teresa has only a half dozen larger hotels and handfull of cheaper, backpacker-friendly hostels to choose from. Which makes it the ideal destination when you want to feel immersed in the picturesque landscape without having to share it with jet skis, speedboats and more or less well-behaved charter folks.
Though a small village, you will still find plenty of really good restaurants and cafés to choose from in Santa Teresa and the neighboring villages of Playa Hermosa and Playa Carmen. Especially along the dusty and busy village road, just above the Santa Teresa’s beach, where there are a plethora of shops, small markets and places to eat Mediterranean, Asian, Italian as well as local specialities. Most foreign owned restaurants (the majority are) can be a bit on the pricey side, but though the local eateries, called Sodas, are less fancy, they are more affordable and usually serve equally tasty food.
There’s a really rare vibe in Santa Teresa that in essence reminded me of my backpacker days around South East Asia. People are genuinely friendly, unobtrusive and casual all at once. It’s not the optimal destination if you’re on a shoestring budget, but if your needs are reasonable and you just want to surf, practice yoga and meditation on a gorgeous, mostly untouched environment, then this is the place for you.
There’s was certainly much more I could of done during my stay on Playa Santa Teresa than just go for hour long beach walks each day, enjoy great meals, surf the waves in the early mornings and improve on my yoga poses. But for my very first visit to the Costa Rica, this turned out to be the perfect chill out combo.
Things to do
Obviously, you can enjoy yoga on your own, but if you choose to join a class, one of the best places along the beach is a resort called Tropical Latino. They have a small spa and two outdoor yoga dojos where they offer two classes per day (9am/4pm) during high season. The fee depends on how many classes you purchase at once, but single classes were $14 during my visit (January 2018).
Surf the Pacific
So you want to surf while in Costa Rica? Well, there’s no shortage of surf shops in Playa Santa Teresa. Most have a decent selection of both shortboards and longboards to choose from if you want to rent for a week or two. Prices vary, so shop around. I paid $70 for a week for a 7’2’’ longboard. Keep in mind that most shops will charge you a small fortune for nicks, cracks, busted fins or broken leashes. There are also several shops that offer or at least mediate surf instructors and surf schools, including the popular Surf Academy.
There are literally miles of beach to walk here. Put on sunscreen, wear a hat and bring a pair of sandals or thongs as there are a few places that can get a bit rocky. Don’t go for long walks at night, though. Santa Teresa and the neighboring beach villages are safe during the day, but be cautious after nightfall.