Santa Teresa Costa Rica: The Ultimate Guide

Explore the Remote Surf Village of Santa Teresa

Surfers, yogis, backpackers, families and couples mix in this remote eccentric beach destination.

Located in the northern portion of the Puntarenas province in the Central Pacific area, on the western edge of Costa Rica’s Nicoya Peninsula, sits a cool little surf village and famous beach town known as Santa Teresa.

This particular area of the Puntarenas region boasts access to some of Costa Rica’s most beautiful jungle backed beaches and is a perfect surf spot for surfers of any level.

The swells are consistent and will put a smile on every surfers' face year-round.

Santa Teresa hammock & surf
Santa Teresa hammock & surf

The laid-back town of Santa Teresa has blossomed into a booming travel destination and is recognized as a world-class surfing spot, yet many people just come to enjoy Playa Santa Teresa. They love the beautiful white sand which is perfect for sunbathing, long walks, catching a sunset and time with family.

Beyond the surfing, there are many other things to do in the hotspot travel destination of Santa Teresa that will surely make your trip to the area a success!

You can enjoy hiking, horseback riding, swimming, paragliding, dipping your taste buds into the flavorful Costa Rican cuisine at a local restaurant, and much more!

Costa Rica is one of several countries with one of the highest biodiversity worldwide, and much of this biodiversity overflows into Santa Teresa. So, there are plenty of opportunities to see the variety of wildlife as you explore the greater Puntarenas area, especially if you take a day trip to the Cabo Blanco Nature Reserve, a conservation area home to over 240 bird species!

But, before you enter the reserve, you can check out Canopy Mal Pais Del Pacifico, which is located right at the entrance to the conservation area. Here, you can zipline through the trees of the jungle and experience a once-in-a-lifetime view of Costa Rica.

One great part of visiting the village is that there are plenty of places to stay so that you can fully immerse yourself in the Costa Rica experience. Whether you choose to stay in a hotel or a vacation rental is entirely up to you and there are plenty of options for all types of travelers.

Not only will you find great adventures in Santa Teresa, but the journey to get there is an adventure within itself. This is a great little surf village, and getting here is a bit tough, but it is well worth the effort!

Whether you're a surfer looking for that perfect swell to surf or a foodie who loves to check out every restaurant they come by, the Santa Teresa area of Costa Rica is a place you don't want to miss!

Best Things to Do in Santa Teresa, Costa Rica

The Santa Teresa area offers many different things to do, from enjoying the white sands at a local pristine beach such as Playa Carmen and Playa Malpaís to the south, Playa Hermosa and Playa Manzanillo to the north or Santa Teresa Beach itself to exploring the lush landscapes with a nearby canopy tour.

From the jungles and hiking of the Montezuma Waterfall, often ranked one of the best waterfalls in all of Costa Rica, to surfing and the beauty at many of the gorgeous beaches, you're guaranteed to find something that interests you in Santa Teresa!

Explore the Area on Land

While many people may think of Santa Teresa as a location for water sports such as swimming and surfing, it’s also a great place to use as your home base to explore the lush jungles and activities offered shoreside.

Some visitors rent a bicycle or ATV in town to explore the area's more tucked-away beaches and villages.

Santa Teresa has many options for land activities for all types of travelers.

Riding Horses on Santa Teresa Beach
Riding Horses on Santa Teresa Beach

Go Horseback Riding

Just to the main road at Playa Carmen, you'll find Ollie's Adventures where you will discover a humane horseback riding adventure perfect for all types of travelers.

In total, 26 horses work on a rotational basis, where select horses work for one month and rest for one month. When they're not trekking on the beach and through the Costa Rican jungle, they're able to enjoy a beautiful, large, lush green pasture at home.

You can choose your adventure, ranging from one hour to over four hours, depending on what you want to do. This is a fantastic way to experience Costa Rica, and it's nearby, just 2.6km (1.6 miles) south of Playa Santa Teresa.

Montezuma Waterfall on the Nicoya Peninsula near Santa Teresa
Montezuma Waterfall on the Nicoya Peninsula near Santa Teresa

Visit One of the Most Iconic Waterfalls in Costa Rica

While you're in Santa Teresa, make sure you stop to see one of the most iconic waterfalls in the country, the Montezuma Waterfalls. This is the perfect place to cool down on a hot day and take in a Costa Rican treasure.

There are three separate falls in the Montezuma area, about 15.9 km (just under 10 miles) east of Santa Teresa. Here, you can hike through the beautiful rainforest and jump in the water from the cliffside or from a rope swing. Beware of the water depth as the water may be shallow, so use caution.

Brown Booby in Cabo Blanco National Park in Costa Rica
Brown Booby in Cabo Blanco National Park in Costa Rica

View Costa Rican Wildlife at Cabo Blanco Nature Reserve

If you’re looking for a little adventure, be sure to take a day trip to the Cabo Blanco Nature Reserve, which is part of the Tempisque Conservation Area in the Puntarenas Province. At just 5 kilometers away, approximately 15 minutes southeast of Santa Teresa, the reserve is Costa Rica’s first protected area.

The park encompasses 1,270 hectares of mixed forest filled with 150 species of birds, including brown pelicans, laughing gulls, ospreys and brown boobies. The tip of the peninsula is an important seabird sanctuary as well!

With high biodiversity, you are sure to spot everything from howler monkeys to white face capuchin monkeys, armadillos, anteaters, and whitetail deer. Not to mention, you can also take in the 200 species of trees that call the jungle home.

Rest assured, there are forest trails and stunning ocean views awaiting your visit.

Empanadas at a local bakery in Santa Teresa
Empanadas at a local bakery in Santa Teresa

Get A Taste Of Santa Teresa

Spanning from French foods to the famous American burger, Thai, and local Costa Rican specialties, you'll indeed have plenty to choose from if you decide to give your palette a tour of Santa Teresa.

You'll be able to eat beachside, or in town, your choice! So, if you're enjoying a day at the beach, there's no need to leave the scenery to fill your belly with some goodness as options are plenty.

Sunset swimming at Playa Santa Teresa
Sunset swimming at Playa Santa Teresa

Enjoy The Water

Costa Rican weather varies throughout the year but is generally very tropical with most months featuring warm temperatures. Luckily, there are many things to do that involve taking a dip in the water.

Everything from surfing to swimming is available for your enjoyment in Santa Teresa and the Central Pacific area. Family-friendly activities such as sportfishing, scuba diving and kite surfing can all be found in the area as well!

Surfers walking back from great surf in Santa Teresa
Surfers walking back from great surf in Santa Teresa

Go Surfing

With consistent off-shore winds, Santa Teresa boasts swells that have been known to attract surfers from all over the globe making it a great place to ride the waves of the Pacific Coast. The best part? Santa Teresa welcomes all types of surfers, from beginners to professionals.

While surfing conditions are always great in this part of Costa Rica, the best time to visit is between May and December, when the rainy season is in full swing. During this time known as the ‘green season’, peak waves bring in the best barrels for experienced surfers.

While beautiful to watch, these waves can be dangerous for beginners so know your abilities before heading out.

Can't surf? No problem. Consider hiring a surf instructor and taking a surf lesson! Visiting Costa Rica to surf? Consider a Lucero Surf Retreat with packages covering everything you will need to make for the perfect Costa Rica surf vacation!

Palm thatched roof in front of the surf break at Santa Teresa
Palm thatched roof in front of the surf break at Santa Teresa

Spend a Day Relaxing at the Beach

If surfing isn't your thing, that's okay! There are plenty of beaches to enjoy. You can dip your toes in the water at Playa Santa Teresa or travel just 10 minutes south to one of the beautiful beaches of the Malpaís region.

White Water Rafting

If you like adventure, you won’t want to miss white water rafting, especially during the rainy season!

Some of the best white water rafting is in the Central Valley near San José, about a five-hour trip to the east. So, you will need to wake up extra early to catch the ferry or a flight to San José if you want to try it for yourself.

How To Get To Santa Teresa

Santa Teresa can be a bit challenging to get to but is well worth the effort! Celebrities including Mel Gibson, Tom Brady and Gisele Bündchen own or have owned homes in the area and that is likely due to its remoteness and privacy.

There are several travel options such as a car, plane, and even a shared shuttle or private shuttle to get to your destination.

Transportation can be a concern for tourists, especially when traveling to a foreign country. Below are a variety of transportation options that will help you safely find and arrive in Santa Teresa.

The Road to Santa Teresa, Costa Rica
The Road to Santa Teresa, Costa Rica

Rent a Car

If you're landing at the San José Airport, then it's easy to get a rental car that you can drive over to Santa Teresa. You will need to take a ferry after arriving in Puntarenas, and you'll be able to purchase your ferry ticket at the terminal. The ferry will bring you to the town of Paquera.

After docking, follow the main road to Malpaís, where you will arrive in Playa Carmen at a crossroad. Head north to Santa Teresa.

Arrive by Plane

One of the quickest options to get to Santa Teresa is taking a domestic flight from the Juan Santa Maria International Airport near San José to the Tambor Domestic Airport. This flight is only 25 minutes, and it's a daily flight that's easy to catch. From Tambor, you can rent a car for the 35-minute drive to Santa Teresa or take a local taxi.

Take the Bus

Another option from the San José Airport is taking a bus, which can take about 6 hours. The price for this is around $12 USD per person, but the fee can change at any time, so make sure you check during your travel time.

Once you get to the Playa Carmen crossroads, you can then arrange for transportation to take you the rest of the way by way of a taxi or private shuttle.

Taxis are available to take you directly to your hotel or anywhere you want to go within the Santa Teresa area. You can even take the taxi straight to a beautiful pristine beach if you wish.

Where to Stay in Santa Teresa

No vacation itinerary is complete without knowing exactly where you're going to stay!

Luckily for you, there are several hotels in the area and options for all types of travelers, budgets and tastes! With plenty to choose from, no matter if you're family, a couple, or just a lone traveler, there's a perfect fit for you.

Beach access from Villa at Banana Beach Bungalows
Beach access from Villa at Banana Beach Bungalows

Banana Beach Bungalows

Banana Beach Bungalows is a beachfront hotel located near the center of Santa Teresa. It is located just next to the popular Banana Beach Restaurant.

There are 7 unique bungalows with capacities ranging from 3 to 7 people depending on the bungalow. There is also offer a very relaxing swimming pool and the hotel is right on the beach.

While staying at the bungalows in the middle of paradise they also offer easy access to a great surf break.

There are plenty of shops, grocery stores and restaurants within walking distance of the Banana Beach Bungalows. Montezuma, Malpaís and the Playa del Carmen beaches are a short drive away. And the Cabo Blanco Nature Reserve is just a 15-minute drive as well.

Esencia Hotel & Villas
Esencia Hotel & Villas

Esencia Hotel & Villas

If you're looking to stay on the beach, you can't get better than Esencia Hotel & Villas, which is about 350 feet away from Santa Teresa Beach!

Enjoy the spa, or bask in the sun on the sun terrace. Each room is air-conditioned so you can beat the Costa Rican heat.

The hotel is easily accessible from the San José International Airport with a 25-minute domestic flight and a 30-minute trip by car or taxi to the entrance of the hotel.

Relaxing at Selina Santa Teresa South
Relaxing at Selina Santa Teresa South

Selina Santa Teresa South

If you're looking to catch consistent surf, the best place for you to stay may be at Selina Santa Teresa South. Most famous for world-class surfing, you'll have access to the surf shop down the road, as well as be located between lush green forest and beautiful beach.

When staying here, you're only 6.8 km (a little less than 10 miles) from Montezuma, where you can enjoy the cascading waterfalls. This destination is also pet-friendly!

Pool at Fuego Lodge in Santa Teresa
Pool at Fuego Lodge in Santa Teresa

Fuego Lodge

Fuego Lodge is another destination with a beautiful outdoor garden and swimming pool. It's located about 300 meters from the beach. Take advantage of the concierge service, free onsite parking as well as free Wifi access throughout the complex.

The property offers studios and suites with private bathrooms, air conditioning, and furnishings to make you feel at home.

Use These Tips to Make Your Trip Even More Enjoyable

Bring Enough Water When You Venture Out

Due to Costa Rica's hot climate, dehydration is a real and severe threat. Therefore, make sure you bring enough water for your group when you venture out.

Have a Map on Hand

Even though Costa Rica is typically easy to navigate, it's always a good idea to have a map on hand. This way, you can stay on the right track while you're out exploring.

Do Not Disturb the Wildlife

Due to Costa Rica's conservation efforts, please avoid getting too close to any of the wildlife.

Also, keep an eye out where you step, especially on the beach, as there could be endangered sea turtle eggs beneath your feet.

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