Surf, Swim & Sunsets at Santa Teresa Beach, Costa Rica

While looking for the best places to surf in the world, you probably came across Santa Teresa Beach, Costa Rica. It’s no surprise since it’s a top-rated surf beach with excellent waves year round. 

But that’s not all this lively coastal town offers. 

From the laidback lifestyle to the active yoga scene, wild beaches and abundance of restaurants and cafes, there is something for everyone.

Below we will unpack everything you need to know about this cool surf town in the Puntarenas province in Costa Rica’s Nicoya Peninsula.  

Santa Teresa Beach

Santa Teresa beach Costa Rica

Santa Teresa Beach is the most popular beach in the area. You’ll see people taking surf lessons, families strolling along the long stretch of white sand, and, of course, people sunbaking and relaxing. 

There are a few cafes and restaurants on the beachfront. But they don’t disturb the five km (3.1 miles) expanse of beach surrounded by unspoiled jungle, palm trees and coconut groves. 

Surfing 

four surfers sitting on their boards underwater

The real draw of Santa Teresa Beach, Puntarenas, Costa Rica, is the year-round swell that attracts surfers from every corner of the globe. It’s what originally put this coastal town on the map.

While the waves are best suited to advanced surfers, there are surf spots at Santa Teresa for all abilities. If this is the first time you’ve surfed, make sure you take a lesson or join a surf camp.

If you are tossing up whether you should bring your own surfboard, don’t fret, as there are plenty of shops in town to rent them. 

The locals can also give you tips for the best surf breaks. One of the most popular is La Lora, which can get crowded as the waves are consistent. You also have Suck Rock with fast, hollow and heavy waves.  

Pro tip: It’s best to surf at high tide as there are rocks to be careful of during low tide.

Things to do beyond the beach in Santa Teresa 

Stroll through Santa Teresa Town 

motorcycle on dirt path

As with any new destination, it’s always best to get your bearings by exploring your home base.

Forget the maps. Santa Teresa has only one main road that runs for four km (2.5 miles) parallel to the beach. It’s an easy town to wander through. You can even rent a bike from one of the many rental shops.

Santa Teresa is by no means a buzzing metropolis like San Jose. However, the town offers a great selection of amenities and services, including everything from convenience stores to supermarkets.

You will find an array of restaurants and cafes serving international cuisines such as Italian, Japanese and Israeli, as well as local Costa Rican sodas

In particular, there is a strong focus on healthy and eco-minded cuisine like natural smoothies, fresh catch-of-the-day seafood and locally grown vegetables.

Are you into yoga? Then be sure to check out the yoga studios throughout the town.

Or perhaps you need some new swimwear? There are many cute clothing shops to browse.

Just be cautious. The main road is not entirely paved and can get quite dusty during the dry season.

Watch the sunset over Santa Teresa 

sunset on Santa Teresa  beach in Costa Rica

Who doesn’t love watching the sunset while on vacation? Especially when the views are to die for.

For a cool experience, head to the infinity pool at Vista de Olas Hotel in the hills of Mal Pais, 10 minutes from Santa Teresa. They allow non-guests to visit and enjoy the pool if you buy a few drinks. From there, you will have uninterrupted views of the coast. 

It’s a popular place, so there is always a great atmosphere.

Spend the morning practicing yoga 

yoga overlooking the ocean

Do you practice yoga, or would you like to? There is no better way to ease your mind and relax, particularly when on vacation.

Many hotels and hostels have yoga classes on-site, which might be included in your stay. You will find everything from beginner classes to acro-yoga and couples yoga.

If you prefer to book outside of a hotel, check out the yoga studios hosting classes overlooking the ocean or jungle.

Head out for a night of socializing at the beach bars 

friends having a bonfire

Some of the best travel memories are from the people you meet along the way. Don’t come to Santa Teresa expecting to find nightclubs, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a party scene.

On different evenings throughout the week, parties and campfires on the beach go late into the evening. If you like reasonably priced drinks and music, head to Banana Beach Club.

Where to head for an adventure outside of Santa Teresa 

Head to the nearby beaches 

Santa Teresa and Playa Carmen beach Costa Rica

Three beaches. Three different vibes.

Santa Teresa offers a lively atmosphere. 

Playa Hermosa is the place to come for relaxation and beginner surfers. 

Playa Carmen is for those who prefer picturesque scenery.

Playa Hermosa

Playa Hermosa is situated at the northern end of Santa Teresa, only a 10-minute drive north (depending on where you are staying). The swells are smaller, and there are fewer rocks, making it the perfect place for families to come for relaxation and to swim.

This is an excellent place for beginner surfers to have a lesson, as it’s quieter than Santa Teresa.

Stick around for the afternoon, and you’ll see people playing beach volleyball and other sports on the grayish-colored flat sand.

Playa Carmen

While Playa Carmen is one of the most scenic beaches in the area, it’s important to note that the currents can sometimes be powerful. 

That doesn’t mean it isn’t suitable for beginner surfers. Just come during low to medium tide when there are some long and gentle left and right breaks. The waves are also fairly consistent.

If you are not a surfer, relax on this pristine white sandy beach—it’s less crowded and more chill than Santa Teresa.

There are also a handful of great restaurants to choose from. 

The plus side is that it’s super easy to get from Santa Teresa to Playa Carmen. Depending on where you are staying, it’s approximately a 25-30 minute walk or an eight-minute drive. 

Experience the peace and quiet at Mal Pais

birds in tidal pools Mal Pais

If you want to get away from the hustle and bustle, Mal Pais is south of Santa Teresa by about 15 minutes—depending on where you are staying. 

In comparison, Mal Pais has fewer amenities than Santa Teresa. It’s a small fishing village, so you’ll see plenty of people with bait and tackle boxes heading out on fishing trips. The beach is also less crowded for those looking for some zen time. 

A visit to this area isn’t complete without enjoying the tide pools. They vary in shape and size, some as large as a hot tub! Keep in mind it’s best to come at low tide as they are covered during high tide. You may even spot tropical fish and crabs but be careful of those sea urchins.  

Pro tip: If you have water shoes, it’s recommended to bring them when exploring the tidal pools. 

Take a day trip to Tortuga Island 

Tortuga Island Costa Rica

Tortuga Island is part of the Islas Negritos Biological Reserve and is home to world-class snorkeling and scuba diving. If you love snorkeling and boat days, this is one activity you must include as part of your Santa Teresa Beach, Puntarenas Province, Costa Rica itinerary.

Tours pick you up from Santa Teresa and drive you to the small town of Montezuma, which is a 40-minute journey. From there, the boat trip is approximately 45 minutes.

Wondering what to expect? 

You’ll have the opportunity to snorkel at a few incredible spots off the coastline where it’s not uncommon to spot turtles, sharks and a lot of fish. 

After all the excitement in the water, you will head to Tortuga Island with stunning white sandy beaches and sparkling clear water. After a delicious lunch and some fresh coconuts, you will have time to kayak, explore the trails on the island and relax in the sun.

Go horseback riding for the ultimate adventure 

horseback riding through jungle Costa Rica

What better way to feel ultimate freedom than horseback riding on the beaches and through the jungles of Costa Rica? It’s a fun experience and a great way to take in the scenery around Santa Teresa.

Not only will you be able to ride along quiet, deserted beaches, but you’ll also pass through farms and grasslands and cross high rivers. Rest assured, your local guide will be with you every step of the way.

Pro tip: There are many companies offering horseback riding tours, but choosing a company that takes care of their horses is essential. Do your research.

Take a day trip to Montezuma 

Montezuma Waterfall Costa Rica

About 30 minutes from Santa Teresa is the bohemian coastal town of Montezuma. There is an incredibly picturesque beach with some of the whitest sand in the area, but the real highlight is Montezuma Waterfalls.

Allow a few hours. There are three waterfalls to see, which all involve a short hike. The best part is you can swim in the refreshing pools or jump if you are feeling adventurous. Look out for a rope swing which is located at the top waterfall.

There are locals who can guide you for a small fee if you aren’t confident exploring on your own.  

For those who love an adrenaline rush, check out the canopy zip line tour through the mountains of Montezuma. 

Weather in Santa Teresa Beach 

Person sitting on beach at sunset in Santa Teresa Costa Rica

Santa Teresa is the ideal vacation as the sun shines for the majority of the year, and the water remains warm. 

However, there are two main seasons to be aware of. The dry season and the rainy season.

December through April is the dry season. Expect days full of sunshine and little to no rain. It is generally the most popular time to visit, so you’ll pay more for flights, accommodation, etc. The average temperature is 95°F (35°C).

The rainy season runs from the end of April to the end of November. 

That doesn’t mean a visit during these months will see endless rainfall. In fact, surfers actually prefer May to August when there are fewer people and days are typically sunny with a short afternoon storm. The surrounding jungle and palm trees look particularly green during the rainy season. Expect pleasant temperatures in the mid-80s°F (29°C).

Packing list essentials for Santa Teresa

palms and beach in Santa Teresa Costa Rica

You have booked your flights and are almost ready to head to Santa Teresa Beach. Of course, it’s normal to wonder whether you have forgotten to pack something, so below are a few items that may not have come to mind. 

  • Dry bag – it will protect your valuables from getting wet during a boat trip, a day at the beach, or a trip to the Montezuma waterfalls. 
  • Lightweight travel towel – not all hostels/hotels allow you to take their towels outside the property, so pack a lightweight towel that won’t take up much room. 
  • Motion sickness tablets – if you’re planning to catch the ferry across the Gulf of Nicoya and you typically get seasick, these will be a lifesaver. 
  • International adapter – some hotels/hostels have international adapters in the room now, but it’s best to come prepared. 
  • Hand sanitizer – during the dry season, there can be quite a lot of dust in Santa Teresa town, so having hand sanitizer on you at all times will come in handy. 

Don’t forget the basics, such as breathable clothing and a few swimsuits. In addition, sunscreen and a hat are essential whichever month you visit, as temperatures are hot year round. 

How to get to Santa Teresa Beach 

person standing on beach with surf board

Okay, let’s start with the bad news. Compared to other beach towns, Santa Teresa isn’t the easiest to travel to, but don’t let that deter you. It’s worth your time! 

San Jose to Santa Teresa

The easiest way to get to Santa Teresa Beach from San Jose, Costa Rica, is by taking a standard bus and ferry. This route involves a 3.5-hour drive and a 1.5-hour ferry across the Gulf of Nicoya. The total travel time is five hours.

Otherwise, you can drive in a standard minivan which takes about six hours.

Pro tip: If you are driving yourself, part of the road closer to Santa Teresa is unpaved. While you don’t require a 4 x 4, renting a car with higher clearance is best. 

Liberia to Santa Teresa

Liberia International Airport is another major arrival port for travelers. You can jump in a shared or private minivan from Liberia to Santa Teresa. The journey takes approximately 4 to 5 hours. 

Tambor to Santa Teresa 

If you are already at San Jose Airport, the most convenient option is to take a 30-minute domestic flight to Tambor—the closest airport to Santa Teresa. 

From there, it will be a 45-minute journey in a taxi. 

Getting around Santa Teresa

As the entire town runs parallel to the beach, it’s easy enough to walk to nearby amenities. But in the heat of the dry season, walking may not sound appealing. Your best options are to rent a bike or an ATV. This is also safer as there are no sidewalks in sections along the main road.

Map

Take a moment, and check out Santa Teresa Beach and its surroundings

FAQ 

What is the closest airport to Santa Teresa Beach?

The closest domestic airport is Tambor, a 45-minute drive from Santa Teresa. Otherwise, if arriving internationally, you can fly into San Jose or Liberia, which is slightly closer.

What is the closest town to Santa Teresa Beach?

Santa Teresa town, which has a large selection of amenities, including convenience stores, supermarkets, and clothing stores, as well as restaurants and cafes.

Is Santa Teresa, Costa Rica safe?

Being a popular tourist spot, Santa Teresa is generally pretty safe. Just be cautious of leaving valuable items in a hire car or unattended in a hostel or hotel. If you are heading out at night, it’s always safer to be in a group when heading home from the bars.

Can you swim at Santa Teresa Beach?

Yes! With a 5 km beachfront, it’s a beautiful beach for swimming. Just be wary of the rocks and the waves, which can be a bit rough at times

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