Santa Teresa is a new and upcoming travel attraction in Costa Rica, attracting beach bums and surfers to its broad, white-sand beaches with world-class surfing conditions. Since the jungle hugs the shore, you find lots of breezy, shady hideaways on the beach. Fortunately there aren’t yet high-rise buildings in Santa Teresa so that views of the coast are undisturbed until the wooded hills of Mal Pais and Cabo Blanco. Not long ago, Santa Teresa was a small community settlement that has now burgeoned into a lively town. Many who had only planned a surf vacation in Costa Rica go wobbly in the knees after witnessing with Santa Teresa’s old-worldly charms. The constant influx of tourists and immigrants from all parts of the world has spawned a variety of restaurants and bars, along with hotels and vacation rentals to match every taste and budget.
Santa Teresa Beaches, Attractions and Activities
For their main tourist clientele Santa Teresa offers surfer-oriented hotels, surf camps, plus numerous surf schools and shops that cater to all ages and levels of surf experience. The breaks of Playa Carmen and Playa Santa Teresa are also excellent for beginners learning to surf. It’s not all about surfing here though. Mal Pais and Santa Teresa rank among the most beautiful beaches of Costa Rica and on a walk to the north or south of Santa Teresa you can explore miles of idyllic, undisturbed and picture-perfect coastline. To visit more remote beaches and villages you can rent a bicycle or an ATV in Santa Teresa.
Other activities offered in Santa Teresa and Mal Pais are tours by boat around the tip of the peninsula, fishing, snorkeling, kite surfing, SUP, horseback riding, or a canopy tour on the edge of the Cabo Blanco Nature Reserve. A much sought after wellness activity here is yoga, which is offered in several hotels in Santa Teresa, some of them also specializing in yoga, surf and health retreats.
Another popular attraction here is the breathtaking sunset. When it comes time for Santa Teresa’s spectacular sunsets over the Pacific Ocean, everyone seems to converge at the beach to enjoy the shady breezes, while enthusiastically watching the surfers and making plans for the sundown party.
Santa Teresa offers a rather colourful nightlife, especially during peak season and even more so over the Christmas holidays. Drop in to the unique atmosphere of a “Baile” in the dancehall of “La Lora”, or hit Santa Teresa’s other nightspots on the beach where international DJ’s spin electronic dance music. Extremely sought after in Santa Teresa are the reggae nights, music that is so perfectly in tune with the tropical lifestyle.
Santa Teresa Surfing Beaches
Santa Teresa – Usually bigger and more hollow than Playa Carmen, Playa Santa Teresa presents a variety of beach breaks, point breaks and high swells for the more experienced surfers. The surf is better at low tide when waves tend to be faster.
Playa Hermosa – A long sandy beach with easy going beach breaks, both lefts and rights, well suited for surf beginners. Also popular with kite surfers.
Manzanillo – The reef is offshore at the north end of the beach. The waves are known to be very fickle and hence need a lot of swell to work.
In Mal Pais you don’t find lively or blatantly touristy scenery. Instead there are many activities and adventures. From the small fishermen’s port you can take boat and fishing tours around the tip of the Nicoya Peninsula. The maritime sanctuary of Cabo Blanco protects many aquatic species, and from your boat you might even spot dolphins, manta rays, sea turtles or whales. Tours can be arranged for you. Although Malpais directly hems the Cabo Blanco Nature Reserve, there is no entrance to the park from this side of the peninsula.
To explore the neighborhood of Cabo Blanco take a canopy tour on the edge of the nature reserve, or go on a horse tour. Located within the national park but still accessible from Mal Pais is one of the area’s most scenic beaches – Playa Cuevas is also called “playa los suecos” or “the secret beach” although it isn’t a secret anymore. The small white-sand cove is surrounded by a rocky outcrop and is also one of the best snorkelling spots in Mal Pais.
Santa Teresa Restaurants
font color=”gold”>Kika – Your stay in Santa Teresa is not complete until you have eaten at Kika. Do not skip the house specialty of Grandma’s Pork. The lean, tender pork shoulder is slow cooked then grilled to perfection with spices till it’s sweetly caramelized. The dish is served with your choice of rice or potatoes and salad. Delicious is the word.
Nona Teresa – Nona Teresa whips up some truly authentic Italian meals. Nona Teresa’s menu consists mainly of Mediterranean Seafood delights as well as homemade pastas and a great filet of beef. Travellers can enjoy a refreshing beverage in the resorts elegantly designed infinity view pool.
Ritmo Tropical – Ritmo Tropical is a family owned Italian restaurant that serves delicious homemade style pizzas and seafood preparations.
Las Brisas – Las Brisas is a slightly upmarket eatery that serves great food and some inspired concoctions amidst stunning views of the Pacific Ocean. Sip on their signature cocktails as you watch the picturesque sunset and experience their impeccable service. Keep an eye out for the daily drink specials.
Chicken Joe’s – With a name as attractive and comforting as this, you’re bound to have lured the crowd anyway. But Chicken’s Joe’s is certainly not piggybacking on a delicious sounding name. Their chicken is indeed one of the best you’ll sample in the region. It is scrumptious. Juicy and comes in a variety of preparations. You can gorge on anything from roast chicken to chicken/fish/veggie tacos to the heavenly fruit cheesecake. Don’t leave the place without buying bottles of their fresh, homemade piquant sauce. A no-fuss place on the side of the road to grab a quick bite on the go.
Koji’s – Located at about 20 minutes to the north of Santa Teresa, Koji’s is your go-to-place for anything remotely Japanese. Enjoy their delicious sushi (prepared from the fresh catch of the day) in the idyllic candle lit patio ambiance or sample some bolder dishes from their inventive menu. The chicken teriyaki and rolls are all good. Make sure to make reservations in advance or you will be politely turned away here. Kids will enjoy the Japanese style chicken nuggets and an inspired array of desserts. Also worth sampling is the salad here, complete with fresh veggies and a nice homemade dressing. All in all, a reasonably priced family restaurant featuring an authentic Japanese menu, great service and a relaxed atmosphere.
Burger Rancho – If you are true blooded burger lover, Burger Rancho’s sinful burgers, hummus and pita breads beckon you. The tuna burger is superlative and so is wasabi sauce. An eatery with loads of character, Burger Rancho scores for its huge portions, delicious preparations and great service. Try their fresh fruit smoothies or get brilliant recommendations from the friendly Argentinean owner Carlos. And it’s not just about burgers here. You can tuck into some other mean favourites like shrimp in cream with mashed potatoes or the crazily good tortillas and beans.
Olam – Olam is an organic food lover’s hotspot in Santa Teresa. They serve fresh and healthy food items and juices. The atmosphere is warm, welcoming and friendly (what with tourists and locals freely mingling to swap interesting anecdotes) and the service courteous. Try the creamy pasta made from coconut milk or sip on a ‘can’t go wrong smoothie’. It’s all good and fresh here. You will also find a delightful array of vegan salads, sandwiches and entrees along with a lip smacking breakfast menu with the likes of freshly baked fruit and nut pancakes. Olam also serves delicious middle eastern vegan fare like hummus.