Santa Teresa

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Friends of mine have been going to Costa Rica for years. Some particularly go to Santa Teresa, a surf destination on the west coast.  I’ve heard so many good things about this country, that it was a relief to finally step foot here and see what all the fuss was about.

I arrived rather late on my first evening in Santa Teresa, after a really intense journey.  But after finding some water, and eating a little bit, I realised it was going to be a bit different than all the other countries I had visited. It was much more expensive. Much more.

santa teresa

Just some horses chilling out in a field after running down the road all wild.

Santa Teresa is like an episode of Top Model. If you were wondering where the beautiful people are, they’re here. Maybe it’s because a lot of them are surfers. Maybe. But everyone is cut, and fit. And there’s this bohemian/surfer fashion thing going on that I doubt I could mimic, at least not with the clothes in my backpack.

The town consists of a main road two to three kilometres long and a few side roads. It’s a bit hippy, but not as hippy as Montezuma, a couple of beaches over, or so I heard. Apparently it bears the nickname Montefuma.

santa teresa

The best sunset activity.

What this town does have, however, apart from the tattoo shops, trendy eateries, and rather expensive grocery stores is the most spectacular sunsets. It seems about an hour before days-end the entire population heads to the beach to take in the final moments of daylight basked in yellow and orange ribbons of sky. 

It’s the swell, though, that keeps this place busy. Or not busy. The rip currents are strong, which doesn’t make it very suitable for families, and that might be great news for people trying to avoid the water playgrounds that attracts heaps of screaming children. 

santa teresa

Some of the wave breaks looked a little crowded, but maybe not like in California.

The surfers begin early in the morning and finish sometime after sunset, though it often depends on the tide. At sunset they’re still there, grabbing the last of the waves in the light while the rest of us watch, beers in hand. That the beach is not built up is the true charm of this place.

There are a few access points to get down to the water from the main road, so it’s important to take note of the one closest to your lodging, or you could be walking for a while. Trust me. 

This way to the beach.

The ATMs are near the main road, and I suggest using them to get Colones. The exchange rate shops give here on the US dollar is abysmal. Everyone says they accept it, but it’s not a fair rate. Besides that, things are grossly over-priced. A small bottle of shampoo is $10. Bottles of wine begin around $15. Even grocery products are similar in price to home. I saw a bottle of sunscreen for $18 US.

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Along the main road. Pretty standard stretch of pavement.

On my second day in Santa Teresa I booked a re-currency and two-dive trip with Iguana Divers. Juan, one of the owners, got me into the pool at 7 a.m. at a hotel where they store their gear, and put me through the drills I had to remember to get back in the water. By 8 a.m. we met the other two divers, the dive master and DM in training. The company doesn’t usually provide transport to the boat launch at fisherman’s beach, but today Juan was headed our way so he gladly dropped us off. The boat is a smaller one, but when you see the boat launch, you understand why. During low-tide it is nearly impossible to get boats in and out.

Iguana divers

Geared up and ready to go, but nothing could top that manta breaching the water.

The visibility wasn’t that amazing, but I’ve seen (haha) worse. On the first dive we had about 5m, but on the safety stop we saw a 4m manta go swimming past. It was unreal. We all piled into the boat super stoked about our luck when we got to see it fully breech the water. I’d never seen anything like it. On the second dive we didn’t see as much, even though visibility was a bit better. The issue for me, however, was the water was cold. About 21C, which, when you’re accustomed to diving in 27C, is like being in the arctic. We spent most of the dive shivering and grabbing our elbows, despite having shorties on.

santa teresa

If you want to learn to surf, here’s the place.

My time in Santa Teresa was leisurely, and lovely.

There’s a national park nearby, waterfalls, surf lessons, and other beaches. But I spent my days reading, lying in the sun, and getting to sunset early with a few beers in tow. That’s what beaches are for, aren’t they?

I spent four nights in Santa Teresa enjoying the beach, the sun, and the 30+C weather. But that feeling always creeps up, that it’s time to go. I booked myself a pricey shuttle to San Jose and decided to say good-bye to the $10 bottles of shampoo, $2 bottles of water and the horrendous exchange rate every shop gave on the US dollar here.

Santa Teresa is really nice. Definitely check it out before it gets ruined by mass commercialism.

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