‘The place to be in Costa Rica’ was all I was told about Santa Teresa prior to pulling up on the main dusty street upon which this surf town sits.
If you’ve begun your travel research into Costa Rica, chances are you’ll have been told about Santa Teresa in amongst other best things to do in Costa Rica. It’s the destination most people come to soak up the surf, the yoga and the beach-bum Costa Rican dream. It’s one of the most touristy spots in Costa Rica and, granted if you’re looking for somewhere to connect with other travellers and bask in some of the best sunsets and surf breaks in Costa Rica – this is the perfect location.
I have to say, I did imagine Santa Teresa to be more ‘built up’ than it actually is. This isn’t a bad thing though of course as it’s still very rough and ready, just different from the picture I had in my mind. Santa Teresa reminds me of Bali 6/7 years ago, just as the Western entrepreneurs began catching on to the paradise, buying land and popping up modern infrastructure to lure in the new age traveller. Things are changing quickly here, even in the week that I’ve been here they have completed the tarmac on half of the main road (hallelujah). If you know, you know.
There are undeniably many comforts about having such western establishments somewhere so far from home. The high-speed WIFI, pastel-coloured everything and hand-woven bamboo lanterns always attract an international crowd. Digital nomads and forward-thinking creatives galore. There’s also a fast-growing healing and eco-conscious community here in Santa Teresa with many yoga studios, ceremonies and holistic offerings to choose from.
It’s certainly an exciting place to be, live or visit but at the same time it still has a beautifully raw edge to it and you only have to dip off the main stretch and you’re in the jungle. If you’re looking to invest somewhere, this is the place to buy land right now.
After spending 1 week in Santa Teresa, I am going to share with you the best things to do in Santa Teresa, my favourite finds in Santa Teresa, places to eat in Santa Teresa and top tips for your stay here in in Santa Teresa.
I hope you enjoy this Santa Teresa travel guide, let’s get stuck in…
Best things to do in Santa Teresa
1. Hire an ATV and explore the coastline
I’d say about half of the traffic on the roads is made up of ATV’s like the one pictured below. The other half? A mix of motorbikes (those with the surf racks on like in Bali), bicycles and cars too.
ATV’s 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 you’re 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. I’m writing this in May 2021 and actually, by the time I’d left they’d tarmacked the main road. Things should be on the up from here!
2. Hire a surf board / have a surf lesson!
Most people that head here are here for the surf as Santa Teresa provides some of the best and most consistent swell in all of Costa Rica.
There are plenty of surf shops that have a board for you to rent, some right on the beach. If you are staying in Santa Teresa, head down the walkway beside the Selina complex and you’ll see a board rental on the left-hand side, a 2-minute walk from the coastline.
Right beside the board hire, there is also a skate park for those of you that fancy practising your carving with a beer at sunset.
However, should the sunset be a beautiful one in Santa Teresa (they get some of the best here!) then be sure to snag yourself a sunset surf!
Tip: Be careful of the currents and rips here in the water, they can be very strong. The swell in Santa Teresa was big during my time here and it was hard work even without a surfboard.
3. Hang out at Eat Street post-surf and dine at one of the containers offering food
I loved this place so much. One of the best places to hang out in Santa Teresa – you won’t miss it.
There’s a variety of vendors to choose from with a communal eating area filled with tables, chairs and hammocks.
Grab a burrito, taco, vegan buddha bowl, coffee, coconut water, vegan treat or smoothie bowl and pitch up with your new friends!
Tip: This is a great place in Santa Teresa to hang out as a solo traveller. I spent many a morning here having a drink/smoothie bowl whilst reading my book and enjoying the energy of other travellers gathering around me.
4. Visit Montezuma Falls
About 16km of dusty off-road tracks away lies one of the Santa Teresas most popular day trips – Montezuma Falls. Hire an ATV and go explore this gorgeous beach town and waterfalls (there are 3 on different levels).
You can cool off after your hike in the cool waters of Montezuma Falls and even enjoy a picnic – if you manage to plan ahead!
If you’re driving, park in the main car park at the bottom of Montezuma town (₡1000) from which you can hike up (for free) and across to the bottom waterfall (pictured below and the most popular one) in around 20 minutes. If you have time, hike around the back of the waterfall up some steps to the other two.
Alternatively, you can park further up at Sun Trails lodge and explore the two upper waterfalls before making your way down to the bottom, third one. If you go with this option, be sure to have ₡1000 cash for the entry fee.
Tips for visiting Montezuma Falls:
- Wear shoes with some kind of grip. The rocks are rather slippy and the steps are sometimes steps and sometimes more like mudslides. Teva’s or a waterproof shoe with tread are an idea, in order to clamber through both the water and contrasting terrains.
- Remember your swimmers
- Bring your GoPro for photos
- If you come from the upper trails carry ₡1000 cash for entrance fee!
- Keep an eye out for boa constrictors, raccoons, white-faced monkeys, coatis and a variety of hawks that all reside here!
This is one of the best things to do whilst you’re in Santa Teresa, make sure you don’t miss it!
5. Get covered in dust
Oh are we doing the best things in Santa Teresa? Sorry sorry, ignore me.
No, but seriously, I may well have been one of the last to experience the extent of the dust here. By the time I left Santa Teresa, they had nearly completed tarmacking the entire stretch of road!
All hail the tarmac (or those with long hair anyway), it took 2-3 washes to get that dust out!
6. Take a yoga class
Santa Teresa is a haven for yoga classes, holistic offerings and more. If that’s your jam, be sure to sign up for one of the many options whilst you’re here.
- Horizon (nice rooftop yoga)
- Zeneidas Surf GARDEN
- Zen Den
- Funky Monkey (they do ariel silk too!)
P.s. I can actually recommend Indigo Yoga Resort if anyone is looking for a zen place to stay in Santa Teresa. It’s in Mal Pais, just outside of the madness of Santa Teresa, has a beautiful yoga shall to use and does a gorgeous breakfast included!
7. Vegan treats from Drift!
This was one of my favourite places to eat in the whole of Santa Teresa. Not only is the menu, cocktails, vegan deserts and outdoor ambience amazing but the service is 10/10. The guys here made me, as a solo traveller, feel so welcome. I came back 4 times!!
Drift is a great vegan/veggie restaurant option in Santa Teresa. Highly recommend their veggie burger with yukka fries and sun-dried tomato veganaise.
Oh and their vegan chocolate fudge balls for desert.
8. Relax under the palms on the beach
The days can get hot here in Santa Teresa. Take your book and relax in the shade under the palms and enjoy the view with a coconut!
I know, I know. You don’t need to be told twice.
9. Watch the gorgeous sunset on Santa Teresa Beach
I’m going to put it out there, this is like, the best thing to do whilst you’re in Santa Teresa. The sunsets here are just ridiculous. Even when you don’t think it’s going to be a good one, it usually is.
If you’re not surfing sunset, grab your friends, some beverages and head down to watch the sky light up…
10. Explore the little boutiques
Oooh these little shops make my heart sing.
If you’re into browsing an airconditioned, clean, boutique filled with floaty tropical garments and exotic jewellery with a splash of aromatherapy placed delicately around the room… you’re in luck. There are so many boutiques in Santa Teresa already and there was evidence of lots more being built.
If it’s a hot afternoon and you’ve had a morning on the beach, one of the best things to do whilst you’re in Santa Teresa is explore the shops!
11. Did someone say beach day in Santa Teresa?
I don’t think this one really needs an explanation, does it?
Look at it!
Wake early enough to witness the hazy mist that covers the oceanfront before Santa Teresa wakes for another day in paradise.
There’s so much beach. Grab your swimmers, something to lie on and your suncream. Oh and have a bit of cash, there are guys selling fresh fruit, coconut and bliss balls for you to enjoy!
Bliss balls, I know. Paradise.
12. Morning run / walk along the beach
Perhaps it’s because the main roads are so dusty or perhaps it’s because the beaches are just so gorgeous? Either way, having your daily exercise along the gorgeous sands is one of the best things to do whilst you’re in Santa Teresa.
Put on your runners, grab a morning smoothie and go enjoy the sound of the ocean first thing in the morning!
13. Spend a few hours painting at Zwart Cafe
Zwart cafe is generally a great place to get breakfast but get this… it’s an art studio too.
As I was waiting for my food I had a little wander through the back and checked out the art studio. There’s art for sale but there’s also an option to get stuck in and paint something for yourself!
Find yourself some driftwood on the beach/purchase one of their canvases and then pay 20 $USD to use their paints and brushes!
Such a fun afternoon activity in Santa Teresa!
14. Sunset at Banana Beach
Oooo yeah! Banana Beach in Santa Teresa!
This is one of the hottest spots in Santa Teresa and definitely one of the best things to experience here.
They’ve got a good thing going on here. Live music / entertainment every night and a prime beachfront location with loungers, hammocks and swings to admire the sunset from with a cocktail in hand.
Sold? Yeah me too.
15. Cocktails at Selina's
Okay so the sun goes down and you’re wondering where to go next. The night is only just getting started right?
Well, I figured most people headed straight to Selinas after sunset to enjoy cocktail happy hour and the ‘hang around the pool with your drink’ vibes that they have nailed here.
Selina’s is a famous chain of hostels and, not only is it in a prime location, but they’ve really nailed the aesthetic and it’s a wonderful place to hang out and meet new friends.
Oh and top tip, this is the best place to get WIFI in Santa Teresa. Digital nomads where you at!
16. Acai bowl at Eat Street
You can rely on me to hunt down the acai bowls.
I found them. In that spot I mentioned earlier – Eat Street.
Grab your book or your travel buddy and head down for a morning smoothie bowl. They have 4/5 to choose from and… get this… you can add peanut butter as a topping. I know. It;’s the little things.
In my opinion, up there with the best things to do in Santa Teresa.
What were the best things to do in Santa Teresa for you?
Anything you’d add? We’d love to know!
Love as always and happy adventuring,
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