In the beginning, it was a small fishing village called Malpaís. There was only one place to find "cabinas" to lodge the few surfers who ventured there, attracted by those white beaches stretching as far as the eye could see, bathed by regular and splendid waves. Today, Santa Teresa has taken over and has become THE most famous beach for surfing and yoga in Costa Rica. Its hippie-hipster-cool atmosphere has a charm that will undoubtedly make it hard to leave this place. In fact, most of the residents of Malpais, Playa del Carmen, Santa Teresa, Playa Hermosa and Manzanillo are backpackers or surfers who have taken up residence there after a vacation.
Whether you are a surfer or not, this is a spot that you should not miss under any circumstances.
1. Surf in Playa Santa Teresa
Santa Teresa is the star of Surfing in Costa Rica. This water sport is an essential part of your stay in Costa Rica, whether you've been on a board or not.
In Santa Teresa, there are strong currents and great waves always well formed: they will not disappoint you, Promise! You don't have your equipment? Don't panic, many stores in Santa Teresa village rent you surfboards or paddleboards for the day. For lessons, you'll find all the clubs on the main street from Playa del Carmen to Santa Teresa. The beaches are so extensive that even if it's very crowded you'll have plenty of room! One of the most famous breaks is the "Suck Rock" in front of the Red Palm Villas Resort. Next to it is the spot "La Lora" which takes its name from the local nightclub located opposite.
For the less experienced, we recommend you to go to Playa Hermosa where the waves are more adapted and regular.
Our advice: If you stay more than a month, we advise you to buy a second hand surfboard. It will pay for itself in no time.
2. Doing yoga
It is impossible to go to Santa Teresa and not take a yoga class. It is one of the high places of this practice. Beginners, intermediates or advanced, you will get your money's worth. In the area you have teachers from all over the world who practice all kinds of yoga: Ashtanga, Kundali, etc... Go to Casa Zen for cheap classes or to Pranamar for a session in a beautiful Zen resort
3. Natural Pools of the Mal Pais
When the tide is low, go quickly to the natural pools of Mal Pais south of Playa Santa Teresa. The further south you go, the more rocky the beach becomes. It is thus in Mal Pais that you will have the pretty spectacle of the waves which crash with fracas on the rocks but not only... Dozens of swimming pools dug by nature in the rocks invite you to a small calm bath with a unique and impregnable sight.
The water heated by the sun when the tide is going out is very pleasant. You will splash around with the few fish that are trapped there and will be freed at the next high tide. Nature is well done!
4. Enjoy The Beach
There is more than just surfing to do on the beach. You can simply enjoy its beautiful white sand bank and splash around no matter what without going too far. Lazing around is great too! Take the time to bubble on the beach with your family and make sandcastles with your kids. You will have time for the best hikes later (or earlier?).
One of Santa Teresa's great classics is the magnificent sunsets. No one misses it. The beach is so big that even in high season, you'll get the impression that there are few people there. The sun sets around 5:30-5:45 pm and people go there at 5:00 pm with their friends to watch the show. In some places (ask the locals) there is entertainment on the beach (music, DJ, jugglers, dancers, acrobats and giant fire!
If you are on vacation in Costa Rica with your children, you can also go to Montezuma, much more family friendly than its neighbor Santa Teresa. The beaches are numerous and very pretty. If you plan to swim with your children, avoid the beach of Montezuma where there are rocks and a little current. The surrounding beaches are quieter. Besides, the landcsapes are breathtaking, you will love it, at least as much as we do.
5. Horseback Riding
As in many places in Costa Rica, companies offer horseback riding. This is the case on many of the most beautiful beaches in the country.
The walk usually starts in the heart of the rainforest in the heights of Mal Pais. You will have the chance to see many animals and climb the hills overlooking Santa Teresa. The viewpoints are all more beautiful than the others.
The walk continues at the end of the day on the beach where you will trot along the water's edge with a view of the setting sun. A fresh fruit juice break will be offered before returning to the lodge. A program that seduces every time. We would come with you !
6. Curù National Wildlife Refuge
In terms of Natural Reserve, Costa Rica will delight you. Are you probably planning to go to the famous Monteverde Natural Reserve? If not, you must. But there are others. Want to see animals up close? You should definitely go to Curú, especially if you have children. This paradise located 1 hour from Santa Teresa covers about 1,496 hectares of forests, mangroves, beaches and marine habitats. With its high biodiversity, you are guaranteed to see monkeys, coatis, scarlet macaws, white-tailed deer and hundreds of other species of tropical and migratory birds native to this area.
But the main mission of the Curú refuge is to safeguard the endangered species of spider monkeys that live in semi-freedom in an enclosure, go and see them, they are adorable.
Several paths are to be crossed. We are far from the ascent of the Arenal volcano and other more sportive hikes of Costa Rica, but among all the natural reserves of the country, this one is the least marked and therefore the wildest, that's why we recommend it to you.
Finally, if you are already in need of the sea, there is a very beautiful beach in the shape of a shell, where it is good to swim because there are few waves. A heavenly place.
7. Montezuma Waterfall
Credit : Stephen Ross – @scubagooding.photo
Only 45 minutes from Santa Teresa is the village of Montezuma. Quieter and more familial than its neighbor, you will enjoy visiting the surroundings. After strolling through the streets of the village, go and see the Montezuma waterfall which is only 10 minutes walk from the village.
There are three to visit:
- The upper falls
- Intermediate falls
- The lower falls.
The upper falls are actually the smallest, making them a good option for those with children. The middle falls are about 12 meters high and are fairly hidden between the upper and lower falls. The lower waterfall is the largest and most popular, with its 25 meter drop and a nice pool suitable for a refreshing swim.
8. Cabo Blanco National Park
Credit : @timouroundtheworld
If you've had your fill of surfing and yoga, you can take a trip to Cabo Blanco. This nature reserve is a short drive from Santa Teresa, and offers some great hiking trails. The reserve encompasses 1,172 hectares of tropical rainforest. Only a few hundred hectares are open to the public. The rest is reserved for wildlife protection and only scientists have access.
The reserve is home to many seabirds, among others. If you are lucky, you may also see some wildlife, such as deer, armadillos, anteaters, howler monkeys, capuchin monkeys and coatis... If you visit with a guide, you will have more chances to see them!
The park is open from Wednesday to Sunday. The entrance fee is $10 per person. The ranger will show you the different trails that exist. It's your choice!
9. The Cabuya Phenomenon
In front of Montezuma is the cemetery island of Cabuya. Creepy you say? Not at all! It is a cemetery that dates back to the pre-Columbian indigenous period. This island is accessible only 2 times a day when the sea withdraws. Indeed, it is with low tide that the way which leads there is discovered and thus accessible on foot from the coast.
Beyond the cemetery, the island is pretty to visit. It is covered with vegetation that must resist the local climate. You will see several species of Yucca and other succulent plants. Enjoy the beautiful views of the ocean or the coast. This island is particularly easy to reach, it would be a shame to miss out on it!
10. Visit the Butterfly Garden of the Mariposario
Credit : @lindsagee
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. So if you visit it several times you will be able to see other species than the previous time.
The park also presents 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 short, an amazing, unique and exciting maternity!
How to get there?
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 the ferry, 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, moreover better to rent a powerful car of type 4x4. You are on the Nicoya Peninsula, but don't 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's part of the charm of the place ;-)
From San Jose, the best and fastest way is to follow Highway 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, about 1 hour and 15 minutes later, just follow the main road towards Mal Pais for about an hour, which will bring you to the junction of Playa Carmen.
Be careful with the ferry schedules! In high season, there are few places and if you miss the ferry you can easily wait 4 hours for the next one.
Same idea for Montezuma. Count 3h15 of road from Samara. From San José, you will also have to take the ferry and then you will have to drive 1h30 to reach the village.
Where to stay?
Lodging in Santa Teresa
Located in the south of the Nicoya peninsula, Santa Teresa is quite far from everything, so you have no choice but to sleep there. It is more reasonable. After all, you are on vacation in the land of Pura Vida. Above all, don't hurry! You will see what you have to see in due time.
There are many hotels or guest houses in Santa Teresa. You will easily find something to stay but if you can anticipate, it's always better! Airbnb offers you a wide choice for all budgets. Treat yourself!
Lodging in Montezuma
If you are not in a festive mood, or rather an early bird with your children, sleeping in Montezuma is an excellent idea. Life there is calm and relaxing. La Pura Vida!
You will easily find hotels, hostels or guesthouses for all budgets. If you come in high season, try to book in advance, although it is not the most popular city... wrongly, but good for you.
After visiting Santa Teresa Beach, you can continue your trip south and go to the Manuel Antonio National Park, for example, before visiting a volcano like Cerro Chirripo. The distances are long, but if you rent a comfortable car, you will only have to enjoy the scenery as it passes by. Enjoy your trip!