The Ultimate Guide to Santa Teresa, Costa Rica
Ah Santa Teresa, Costa Rica… where to begin. When I think of what Tulum must have been like 10 years ago, Santa Teresa is how I picture it to be. It’s not just the picture perfect beaches filled with surfers and cute dogs, or the countless trendy cafes and beach bars, it’s something about the pace of ‘pura vida’ life there that just pulls you in. Mornings are filled with surfing, yoga classes or leisurely avocado toast/coffee runs, while evenings are all about gathering with friends on the beach for drinks or a game of spike-ball before sunset. And if you’re thinking, “hmm I won’t have any friends with me there”, think again! You’re bound to meet plenty of amazing people that you somehow run into over and over again in this small little dream world.
The best part about Santa Teresa is that it feels like it still isn’t as “discovered” as Tulum is now. But it could very well be on it’s way to being that way. Santa Teresa isn’t as “sceney” as Tulum. The low-key “anything goes” vibes of Santa Teresa make things feel more friendly and welcoming, while the nightlife and restaurants are just as fabulous!
If you’re looking for a large all-inclusive resort style vacation that we all need sometimes, Santa Teresa might not be the best choice. However, if you’re into small boutique yoga and surf hotels, you’re about to be in heaven!!
There are multiple ways to get to Santa Teresa, none of which are quick and easy. I think one reason Santa Teresa Beach isn’t too overrun with tourists is because it is somewhat hard to get to. The cheapest way to get there is typically to fly into Juan Santa María International Airport in San Jose (SJO) and either rent a car, get a driver, or take the public bus. From San Jose there are two direct public buses that run twice daily, 6 am and 2 pm. The price is approximately $12 USD per person and takes around 6 hours total for the journey. The price includes the cost of the ferry to the Nicoya peninsula. If you’re flying into the Liberia Airport, which tends to be somewhat pricier, the drive down to Santa Teresa will be around 4 hours and a ferry is not required.
For the fastest way to get there and if budget isn’t a problem, fly from San Jose to Tambor. This small airport is only 30 minutes from Santa Teresa. The flights run daily and are only 25 minutes, not to mention have gorgeous views. There are two airlines, Sansa & Nature Air. There currently aren’t direct flights from Liberia to Tabor, so you have to connect in San Jose either way.
Having a car in Santa Teresa is not necessary, however if you plan on exploring more than just the Santa teresa area while you’re in Costa Rica, it might be a good idea. Once in Santa Teresa, it is better to get around via ATV or motorbike due to the rugged dirt roads. If you do rent a car like we did, make sure it’s a 4-wheel drive SUV, the roads can get bumpy and you’ll never take paved roads for granted again!
How Much Time Do You Need in Costa Rica?
When planning a trip to Costa Rica, don’t make the mistake I did and try to fit in too much, because you’ll spend your whole vacation driving. The roads in Costa Rica are small and windy, and I can guarantee that trips will always take at least a couple hours longer than the GPS says they will. If you’re looking for a tropical beach getaway and only have 1 week or less, pick one region of Costa Rica and stick to it. If yoga, surfing, beaches and trendy cafes is your scene, head straight for Santa Teresa and do a few days trips to surrounding waterfalls. If you have 2 weeks to work with, you’ll have time to fit in the rainforest and volcano areas as well, or the Papagayo Peninsula – or maybe head to the infamous Manuel Antonia National Park in the south.
The Best Time of Year to Go to Costa Rica
You’ll probably want to avoid the rainy season to get the most sunshine out of your vacation, so plan your trip ideally between December and mid April! The rainy season is at its worst between September and October.
Where To Stay in Santa Teresa
There aren’t many huge resorts yet in this area of Costa Rica. But there are some pretty spectacular small boutique hotels and airbnb’s/VRBO’s to choose from.
The Best Luxury Hotels in Santa Teresa
Defined by its one-with-nature feeling and its warm, neutral, welcoming design, Auberge’s Hacienda AltaGracia is an unreal secluded eco lodge in Costa Rica. Guests are tended to by a dedicated Compa, their personal “experience designer”, and the holistic rate of the hotel makes the stay effortless. All bookings include meals and non-alcoholic beverages, daily adventure and wellness programming, land transfers between Pérez Zeledón Airport and Hacienda AltaGracia, and your compa.
If you’re wanting the luxe experience, whether it’s a romantic getaway, a Costa Rica honeymoon, or you’re traveling with a group, the villas at Selva Resort won’t disappoint. From treehouses to jungle villas with infinity pools overlooking the ocean, you’ll never want to leave. Prices start at $279/night for their smallest villas during high season.
Nantipa is an ocean-front hotel offering only 15 unique guest bungalows on their exclusive property. Their Ninta beachfront villa is perfect for a Costa Rica honeymoon! Prices start at $375/night during high season.
If you’re looking for a rejuvenating getaway where you don’t have to think about a thing-opt for Florblanca. This boutique hotel offers a variety of villa options and is located right on the beach. They offer daily yoga, surf lessons, pilates, and many other excursions they can set up for you like zipline tours. Prices start at $500/night in high season.
A beautiful surf and yoga escape near Playa Hermosa (the northern end of Santa Teresa). They offer well equipped bungalows nestled in the jungle that fit from 1-7 people. Prices start $265/night in high season.
Budget Friendly Places to Stay in Santa Teresa
This hotel/hostel is tucked away in the jungle but is walking distance to the beach! They offer several different yoga classes each day and even have all inclusive packages for meals, surf and yoga! From shared hostel style dorm rooms to beautiful private lofts or villas! There is something for every budget here!
Where To Eat in Santa Teresa
One of my favorite parts of traveling is trying out the local cafes, and thankfully Santa Teresa has some of the best in the world. From hole in the wall “soda shops” where you can grab cheap local Gallo Pinto or Casado for cheap, to trendy cafes that make you think you’re in LA, they’ve got it all and more.
The best french style pastries you’ll find in Costa Rica hands down. Grab yourself an almond croissant and an americano or sit down for avocado toast with sun-dried tomato pesto and a fried egg. We also ate lunch here several times, they do great burritos, salads and sandwiches on their homemade and freshly-baked breads!
Great for a quick and delicious coffee (they have almond and coconut milk!!!) along with gluten free pastries!
A shipping container food epicenter. With amazing healthy breakfasts at Sunrise Cafe, worldly and delicious “buddah bowls” at Happy Bowls, tacos at Nomad Tex Mex and don’t forget craft cocktails at Boule (happy hour from 5-7pm daily). We loved to gather here for dinner and drinks and play jenga.
Banging spring rolls and sushi with a vibey atmosphere.
Splurge worthy sushi, perfect for a date night where Tom Brady is often spotted enjoying a roll or two.
Healthy greek inspired fare with an art gallery attached. Plenty of vegetarian and vegan dishes! Try the yucca brownie.
A (mostly) vegan cafe with smoothies, wraps and salads.
A beach front establishment right on Playa Carmen that is a great place to take a pina colada break to get out of the sweltering mid-day sun. Grab a smoothie or stick around for a burger.
What To Do in Santa Teresa
It is an absolute blast to take a surfing lesson here! The waves are smaller during mid-day, which is perfect for beginner lessons with the sweetest teachers I’ve ever met-The Tico Brother’s. They will make you feel SO safe in the water and will have you up riding waves in NO time they are seriously magic!
There are several places to rent ATV’s in Santa Teresa, which makes it fun and easy to navigate the dirt roads. However, if you’re like a day tour into the rainforest or to a more secluded beach, head on over to Pacific Dirty Road ATV tours for a safe guided day excursion!
Relax on the Beach
From Playa Carmen, Santa Teresa Beach and Playa Hermosa, you really can’t go wrong. Unless of course you underestimate the strength of the sun and don’t re-apply that sunscreen!!
Take A Yoga Class
Starting or ending your day with a local yoga class is a great way to reconnect and recenter yourself while on vacation. The open air yoga shalas with ocean views really take things to a whole new level of relaxation. You’ll leave feeling rejuvenated but also tapped back into the bigger picture. The yoga teachers in this area also happen to be some of the best in the world. I enjoyed classes at Believe Yoga and Surf Resort as well at Horizon Hotel and Yoga Center.
Horseback riding is a great way to cover a wider area in less time if you’re looking to explore the surrounding nature. Get the best of beach, jungle and mountains with Ollies Adventure tours (where the horses are treated incredibly well and have plenty of pasture).
Day Trip To Montezuma
About 45 minutes from Santa Teresa by 4×4 car or ATV, is one of the Peninsula’s most popular attractions, the Montezuma Waterfall. If you’re feeling extra adventurous, opt for a jungle canopy zip-line tour as well!