Santa Teresa is the chill upcoming, hip surf town along the Pacific coast of Costa Rica. This laidback beach town has grown rapidly thanks to the perfect waves, wild beaches and lively yoga scene. Despite Santa Teresa becoming some of the more popular beach town in Costa Rica amongst the younger generation, Digital Nomads, yoga & surf lovers, it still is a bit underdeveloped with dirt roads and not too much facilities. But if you love to hang by the beautiful white sand beaches, watch a colourful sunset almost every evening and eat your heart out with smoothiebowls, guacamole and much more, then Santa Teresa is a great place to spend a few days, or maybe even weeks. In this complete guide you’ll find everything you need to know about Santa Teresa Costa Rica!
How to get to Santa Teresa Costa Rica
There are a few different options to get to Santa Teresa which is located at the tip of the remote Nicoya Peninsula. The most important thing to know is that you will be safest with a 4×4 if you decide on driving here yourself. However, you can choose different routes to get to Santa Teresa. The more adventurous one crossing rivers, or a detour which is mostly on a paved road with only a dirt road once you get closer to Santa Teresa. If it’s really hard to get a 4×4 car which can be the case in high season, then you can still make it without a 4×4 to Santa Teresa. But always make sure to check the route your navigation chooses so you know if it sends you through a river or via the ‘normal’ road.
Getting to Santa Teresa by car
The best way to get to Santa Teresa is by car. Coming from San Jose the fastest way to get to Santa Teresa is with the ferry from Puntarenas to Paquera. From San Jose to Puntarenas is a 2 hour drive via the highway. The ferry crossing over the Gulf of Nicoya takes about 1.5 hours and then the last part from Paquera to Santa Teresa is about 1 hour. Once you get closer to Santa Teresa the road becomes dirt, but nothing too exciting.
If you are coming from Tamarindo, you can follow the paved road via the east coast which takes about 3,5 – 4 hours to get to Santa Teresa. But if you’re in for an off road adventure and you have a 4×4, then route 162 is a lot of fun. You’ll have to cross a few rivers here, so don’t go in rainy season or after heavy spontaneous rainfall. The rivers might be too deep to cross.
The ferry schedule from Puntarenas to Paquera is as following.
Puntarenas – Paquera: 7 AM, 10 AM, 12:30 PM, 3 PM and 6 PM.
Paquera – Puntarenas: 6 AM, 10 AM, 12:30 PM, 3 PM and 5 PM.
You can purchase tickets via this website. The site is in Spanish but you can easily translate, or ask someone of your accommodation to help you. You can also purchase the ferry ticket on site. But keep in mind that in high season they sell out quickly. So make sure to arrive at least one hour before departure. The ticket office is across the street from the ferry dock with a large blue sign that says “Boleteria”.
Getting to Santa Teresa by airplane
Tambor is the closest airport to Santa Teresa. You can take a 30 minute domestic flight from San Jose, but then it is another 40 minute drive to Santa Teresa.
Getting to Santa Teresa by public transport
A budget option to get to Santa Teresa is by bus. From San Jose there is a direct bus going to Santa Teresa that leaves Ave 7, Calle 10 Terminal 7-10 every day at 6.30 AM and 3 PM. A ticket costs around 8000 colones per person and the total trip takes about 6 hours. The ferry ticket is included and the other stops of the bus are in Paquera, Tambor, Cobano and Montezuma, with Santa Teresa as final destination.
Shuttle services are also available to Santa Teresa. From San Jose a shared shuttle costs around $65 USD per adult with Interbus.
Best time to visit Santa Teresa Costa Rica
Santa Teresa is located in the Southern tip of the Nicoya Peninsula and has year round great temperatures. However there are two months that can be best avoided. The heavy rain months are September and October when it is sometimes difficult to get around because of rivers that are too high to cross. Many hotels and other tourist businesses are also closed during that time. During the high-season months from January to April, sunshine is guaranteed and accommodations are sold our quickly.
How to get around in Santa Teresa
Santa Teresa is not a big, it is basically just a dirt road with accommodations and cafes along it. The area from Mal Pais to Playa Hermosa stretches over 12 kilometres but the centre of Santa Teresa is mostly from Earth Cafe until Cafe Social. You can easily get around by foot, but the road in Santa Teresa is unpaved so there is a lot of dust. And if you want to visit some of the places outside of Santa Teresa, it is fun to do this on an ATV or of course with a rental car. There are plenty of companies renting ATV’s and the Alamo office is located near Playa Carmen.
The best place to book your rental car in Costa Rica is on Discover Cars where you can compare different car models, prices, companies and terms and conditions. Make sure to secure the booking of your rental car as soon as possible to have the lowest price possible. Prices go up the closer you get to the pick up date.
Best places to eat in Santa Teresa Costa Rica
Santa Teresa is an upcoming foodie paradise with plenty of healthy options. Wether you’re vegan or you love a good burger or steak, there are great options along the street of Santa Teresa. Below some of our favourite places to eat in Santa Teresa. Eat Street was definitely our go to for dinner with great choices and cosy vibes.
- Ani’s Bowls and Salads
- Cafe Social
- Eat Street
- Earth cafe
- The Bakery
- The Roastery coffee
Best things to do in Santa Teresa Costa Rica
Santa Teresa is a place where you will easily forget the time and do things a bit slower than normally. Although it is not located on an island, but peninsula, you can really feel the island vibes here. Besides surfing and sunbathing on the beaches in Santa Teresa you can also explore a National Park and waterfall close to Santa Teresa.
Watch the sunset at Santa Teresa beach
If you’re coming to Santa Teresa then spending time at the beach is a must. Playa Santa Teresa is a beautiful beach lined with palm trees where surfers hit the waves from early morning until sunset. In the afternoon it almost seems as if the whole town comes to the beach to watch the sunset and gather together with a beer or coconut. The sunsets in Santa Teresa have been some of the best, if not THE best, we have seen in Costa Rica during our 3 months traveling through the country.
Hike through Cabo Blanco Nature Reserve
Cabo Blanco Nature Reserve is a beautiful park that sits at the very southern tip of the Nicoya Peninsula. In this tropical rainforest live many different species of wildlife so if you’re looking for an active day trip from Santa Teresa then head out to Cabo Blanco to explore the trails. The reserve has two trail with one main trail, Sueco Trail, that leads to the beach where you can cool off in the ocean after the hike. Visiting Cabo Blanco Nature Reserve is a great activity if you’re looking for an off the beaten path destination in Costa Rica to visit. The entrance fee for the park is $12 per person for adults and $5 for children from 6-12 years. The entrance is free for children under 5 years old.
Cool off at Montezuma Waterfall
Montezuma Waterfall is located near Montezuma town and is about 30 minutes driving from Santa Teresa. This collection of three waterfalls are perfect for a little adventure including hiking, swimming and exploring the nearby nature of Santa Teresa. The highest waterfall of all three Montezuma Waterfalls is 24 meters tall. This waterfall is also easiest to access as you just follow the riverbed trail. To visit the upper falls you will have to hike some steep stairs. Those two waterfalls are only 5 and 12 meters high and aren’t as pretty as the first and lowest waterfall.
Take a day trip to Tortuga Island
Tortuga island is located on the eastern tip of the Nicoya Peninsula and is only an hour and a half away by boat. Isla Tortuga is ideal for a day trip to explore the perfect white sandy beaches lined with palm trees and perfect turquoise clear waters. Turtle Island is the perfect place for snorkeling and scuba diving. But if you’re not into water activities you can also hike, take a canopy tour or just relax on the beaches.
Surf the waves at Santa Teresa
Santa Teresa is a very popular destination in Costa Rica for surfing. With consistent waves all year round, you can go to this surf town whenever you want. However, keep in mind that during rainy season the waves can be a bit choppy. The two most heavy rain months are September and October. You can basically surf anywhere along the coast of Santa Teresa, but there are a few favourite spots amongst surfers.
Playa Santa Teresa
This is one of the most popular surf spots with easy access from the town. Via a few sandy paths that branch off from the main road you will get to the beach. Then it’s easy to see the other surfers in the ocean to spot the best surf spot.
On only a 10 minute drive outside of Santa Teresa town you will find Playa Hermosa which is a great surf spot for those looking for something quieter than Santa Teresa. Here you will find consistent waves with a sandy break which is why most surf camps and teachers bring their beginner surfers here to learn surfing with confidence.
Another great spot for surfing in Santa Teresa is along Playa Carmen. Located on the southern end of Santa Teresa, Playa Carmen stretches for about 1.5 kilometres starting from Banana Beach. It’s about 10-15 minutes walking from the centre of Santa Teresa. Playa Carmen is also a great spot to have a sunset drink at some of the beach bars.
Live the Pura Vida life!
Life in Santa Teresa is all about enjoying the moment. As the Costa Rican locals say, Pura Vida! If you’re coming to Santa Teresa it is either to surf or to relax on the beach at an off the beaten path destination. So take it slow and remember what life really is about. Enjoying the moment! Pura Vida! Order a cocktail and some food, watch the sun going down and the surfers catching their last waves, paradise found! Banana beach is one of the cool beach bars to have a drink, but there are a few more options the more south you go on Santa Teresa beach.
Horse riding in Santa Teresa is a fun way to explore the beautiful beaches, valleys and forests from the back of a horse. You don’t need experience to ride a horse and you can choose to go in a group or by private tour. The costs are $65 per person for the group tour and $80 per person for the private tour.
Eat at all the amazing restaurants in Santa Teresa
If you’re a foodie you can eat your heart out in Santa Teresa. With the huge influence of expats, there are plenty of great cafes that offer smoothie bowls, healthy salads, burgers and much more. You can eat something different every day of the week. Although Santa Teresa doesn’t have much similarities with Bali, the food did come pretty close in terms of variety. Our favourite places to eat in Santa Teresa were:
- Ani’s Bowls and Salads
- Cafe Social
- Eat Street
- Earth cafe
- The Bakery
- The Roastery coffee
Best tours in Costa Rica
If you want to explore the best of what Guanacaste Costa Rica has to offer, then it is highly recommended to book a tour. During most of these tours you will combine a few locations on one day so you can see the diversity that the Guanacaste region has to offer. Because of Costa Rica’s popularity it is highly recommended to book your tours in advance as it is likely that tours sell out. So don’t wait with booking until you get to Costa Rica. Choose your favorite tours here and secure your booking! All of these tours include air conditioned transport with hotel pick up and drop off, certified guides and sometimes also lunch and the entrance fees. You can reserve now and pay later, with cancellation up to 24 hours in advance to receive a full refund.
- Sunset and snorkeling cruise from Tamarindo. Sail from Playa Tamarindo and cruise along the Costa Rican coast to see the sunset. You might have the chance of spotting, dolphins, whales, turtles and more. Snorkel in a tranquil bay or walk along a deserted white sand beach.
- Llanos de Cortez Waterfall and Rio Celeste waterfall hike from Tamarindo. Hike through Tenorio Volcano National Park and visit the beautiful blue river. Discover the rainforest and swim at Llanos de Cortez waterfalls while observing sloths, red-eyed leaf frogs, toucans, and butterflies.
- Zip-line and rafting full day adventure tour from Tamarindo. Let your inner adventurer out by zip-lining, horse riding, canyoning, rafting, rock climbing, and more at the foothills of the Rincón de la Vieja volcano.
- ATV Quad Bike Adventure Tour from Tamarindo. Enjoy nature from a unique perspective with the help of your local guide. Experience a fun-filled ride through pastures and rivers, up mountains with breathtaking views of the valley.
- Rincon de la Vieja National Park: 1-Day Pass, Lunch, & Tour from Tamarindo. Experience the best of Costa Rica during this outdoor adventure to Rincón de la Vieja National Park. The tour includes pickup, lunch and drinks, horseback riding, ziplining, waterfall visit and unwinding in the hot springs.
- Boat safari to Las Baulas National Park from Tamarindo. Sail up the waters of Las Baulas National Park and spot crocodiles, green parrots, howler monkeys, and many other species during this 2-hour tour.
- Horseback Riding on Playa Conchal and Brasilito. Experience the joy of a horseback ride across the stunning Costa Rican beach Playa Conchal. Take a relaxing ride across the beautiful sands of Playa Brasilito and Playa Conchal while enjoying the area.
- Blue River Resort & Hot Springs: Full-Day Adventure from Playa Conchal. Enjoy hikes through the lush tropical rainforest, tour through the lush botanical garden and butterfly park and end with a relaxing dip in the natural green mineral hot spring pools.
Other Costa Rica Tours
- Cahuita National Park and Tortuguero Canal boat tour. Explore Costa Rica’s Caribbean side with this wildlife-rich shore excursion to Cahuita National Park. Admire the biodiversity of the Tortuguero Canals, hike across Cahuita and enjoy Puerto Limon’s city highlights.
- 3-Day Tortuguero National Park Excursion from San Jose. Visit one of the most important destinations in Costa Rica on a guided tour. Explore a beautiful natural paradise, tour the famous Tortuguero Canal and see diverse flora and fauna during this 3 day tour.
- Manuel Antonio National Park combo tour from San Jose. Explore the world-famous Manuel Antonio National Park and its beautiful white-sand beaches. Discover the abundant wildlife on the park’s rainforest trails. Enjoy included breakfast and lunch, and make stops to see crocodiles.
- Poas volcano, Coffee plantation tour and La Paz waterfall gardens. Visit 3 destinations in one day on this guided tour from San José. Learn about coffee production, visit the Poas Volcano Crater, and experience the incredible nature around La Paz Waterfall Garden.
- Irazú and Turrialba Volcanoes Guayabo Tour. Visit Irazu volcano and the “Central Town” at the foothills of the active Turrialba Volcano. Experience a unique history and culture, shaped by the tallest and most active volcanoes in Costa Rica.
- Tortuguero Park Day Tour with Breakfast & Lunch from San Jose. Spend the day discovering the luscious landscapes of Tortuguero National Park. Explore this vibrant rainforest, see native wildlife in its natural habitat, learn about the local ecosystem and enjoy a delicious Costa Rican breakfast and lunch.
- La Fortuna 4 activities on 1 day; base hike Arenal volcano, hanging bridges, La Fortuna waterfall and hotsprings
More Costa Rica travel inspiration
I hope you enjoyed this blog post about Santa Teresa Costa Rica and the best things to do.
For more Costa Rica travel inspiration, head over to our other travel guides.