Santa Teresa, Costa Rica is paradise lost
Like any magical place, getting to Santa Teresa is an adventurous trek and therein lays its charm. The beach is beautiful, unspoiled and very nearly empty most of the time; the surf is world famous for the quality and consistency of its breaks, and the vibe is eclectic, bohemian and laid-back. Santa Teresa is one of the top 10 beach destinations in Central and South America because of the international, hip flavor that surfers, artists, and celebrities bring to the once sleepy little fisherman’s town.
To be sure, Santa Teresa is still a place apart—off the beaten track—on the southern tip of the Nicoya Peninsula, where the road ends at the nearby hamlet, Mal Pais, whose literal English translation is “Bad Country.” Santa Teresa is not a place that is casually stumbled upon; only some of the road is paved and all of it is rough. Yet, to be “lost in Santa” (a local catch phrase) is to be lost in a tropical paradise at a remove from the wider world.
Nowhere in Santa Teresa epitomizes that local catchphrase like Flor Blanca, an intimate beachfront luxury eco-resort hotel, where each of the 11 villas snuggle into the jungle foliage in an atmosphere e of quiet elegance. Each villa features an elegant, open-air living area that complements the local arts and crafts that comprise the décor. The open-air bathrooms incorporate a tropical garden setting that brings the jungle right into the room.
With live music nightly, beach bonfires, great surf, and radiant sunsets, locals, ex-pats and visitors mix and mingle in paradise lost.
Fishing charters out of nearby Malpais will get you out on the water for a chance to catch tuna, mahi mahi, snapper, grouper or roosterfish for dinner; your restaurant chef at Flor Blanca will be happy to create something lovely for you with your catch! Another fun option is to pick up a small grill from any one of the little local grocery stores and barbecue on the beach.
Santa Teresa is a place where a hippy’s new age outlook blends seamlessly with a tropical beach groove to capture the true meaning of the Tico motto, “Pura Vida.”
Naturally, as a surfer’s paradise, the waves are good for all levels; however, during green season (May through October) the waves are very strong, which may be riskier for beginners. Those who are just learning should stick with the gentler surf at Playa Carmen, the beach that resides at the junction between Malpais and Santa Teresa. More experienced surfers will enjoy the waves further down in Santa Teresa and beyond.
And, while the surf may be up year-round, surfing is not Santa Teresa’s only attraction. Beachcombing and yoga classes, art galleries, live music, fine dining and spa therapies compete with miles of hiking, biking and riding trails through the jungle and Cabo Blanco Nature Reserve. Add in ATVs, canopy tours and horseback riding, and you’ve got plenty of ways to explore wildlife in and around the area.
Not far from Flor Blanca, Curu National Wildlife Refuge offers a place on its nearly deserted beach for wildlife watching. Isla Cabo Blanco and Tortuga Island have spectacular snorkeling, sailing and fishing opportunities.
Cabo Blanco Nature Reserve, just over 2 miles away is an important seabird sanctuary of 1,270 hectares of mixed forest, with brown pelicans, laughing gulls, ospreys and brown boobies.
In addition, the forest trails and stunning ocean views make it the perfect setting for a day out watching wildlife. Enjoy one of Santa Teresa’s vivid sunsets from horseback, as you ride the high pastures that overlook the ocean and forest vistas. Riding is a great way to spot birds, monkeys, and other wildlife at a leisurely pace.
Mostly though, despite all that’s going on around the village, Santa Teresa is all about a leisurely pace that allows you to turn off, tune in and restore your spirits in comfort.