A Photographer's Guide to Santa Teresa, Costa Rica
Photographer Gina Spinelli shares her tips on where to explore, eat, drink, and shop in Santa Teresa.
January 14, 2020
There are few places in the world that encapsulate the idea of paradise quite like the small beach town of Santa Teresa. With its world class waves, coastal charm, laid back lifestyle, and impossibly delicious food, it’s the perfect recipe for a dream destination. Up until very recently, Santa Teresa has managed to stay out of the spotlight, preserving its raw and authentic appeal. However, even with its recent rise in tourism, Santa Teresa remains a wild and free spirited destination.
Tips for Traveling to Santa Teresa
- Santa Teresa is a small village located on the western edge of Costa Rica’s Nicoya Peninsula.
- What was once a sleepy fishing village, is now well on its way to becoming a top tourist destination. Earning the title “The Next Tulum”, Santa Teresa is known for its world class surfing, and bohemian spirit with no shortage of yoga studios in sight.
- The easiest and most efficient way to get to Santa Teresa is by taking a domestic flight from San Jose. Upon arrival at SJO, you'll make your way to a domestic airport (about a 5 minute walk) where you’ll fly directly to Tambor with either Sansa or Nature Air. From Tambor, it’s about a 45 minute drive to Santa Teresa. Consider reserving a cab ride in advance.
- A more affordable (albeit, less efficient) option is to take The Direct Bus Service bus from downtown San Jose to the Puntarenas ferry. Tickets from the San Carlos (Atlantic Station in downtown San Jose are $15, and will take you directly to the ferry. The bus leaves San Jose twice a day (6am and 2pm), coinciding with the ferry schedule.
- The town’s main road is unpaved, dusty and long. If you’re not renting a car, consider renting an ATV. Check out Pacific Dirt Road Rentals and Tours for a good deal - they’ll come to you to drop the ATV off, and meet you to pick it up. Hot tip: Whichever way you’re getting from A to B on the main road, you’ll want sunglasses or a helmet visor over your eyes - the dust is brutal.
- The one and only ATM in town is located at the beginning of the main road. While many restaurants are starting to accept cards, there are still a few that are cash only. Most adventure tours and the like are also cash-only.
See & Do
- Curú Wildlife Refuge - Located about an hour drive from Santa Teresa, is Curú Wildlife Reserve. The reserve is part of a large farm and serves as well protected sanctuary for species of all kinds (think: so many monkeys, scarlet macaws, raccoons and more) Within the reserve is also a beautiful pristine beach. It’s open most days from 7 AM to 3 PM.
- Pranamar Village & Yoga Retreat - Magical feels like an appropriate word to describe this boutique hotel. Pranamar is nestled in the jungle, just steps from the beach. The hotel features daily yoga classes in their open air yoga shala ($15 to drop in), a spa and a restaurant.
- Situated just off the southern tip of the peninsula is Tortuga Island, a beautiful island with a white sand beach, turquoise water, and pineapple drinks for purchase. It’s one of the best scuba and snorkel destinations around. To book the trip, reach out to Andreas (Outsite Santa Teresa’s community manager) and he’ll get you all set up through Ollie’s Adventures.
- Horseback Ride into the Sunset - Ollie’s adventures offers a variety of outdoor trips and tours, and this one is worth noting. Sunsets here are unbelievable, and there are few better ways to enjoy them.
- Go Surfing: There are a few stand-out surf spots at Playa Santa Teresa. La Lora, arguably the most popular due to its consistent swell, white sand, and rock free sand. Suck Rock attracts more advanced surfers with its big waves. Located between Mal Pais and Santa Teresa is Playa Carmen, another popular surf spot with less forceful waves, making it a great option for novice surfers.
- Head to Montezuma: About 45 minutes down the road from Santa Teresa is Montezuma. Similar to Santa Teresa in its bohemian flair and beautiful beaches. The town is small and condensed with most businesses catering to tourists. Check out their Saturday morning farmers market, hang out at the beach, venture out to the three tiered waterfalls.
- Pacific Wolf Factory: A super cute ethically made clothing boutique, owned by expat couple, Alexandra Hawley and Simon Fernandez. The pieces are designed by Alexandra herself, and they are some of the most beautiful I’ve seen.
- Kina Surf Shop: Truly a one-stop-shop, Kina is the place to go for board rentals, swimsuits, surf lessons, and beachwear.
- Osa - Located just down the hill from Outsite is Osa. With a standout menu comprised of their daily catches, seasonal ingredients, and a drool-worthy cocktail list, Osa should not be overlooked.
- El Almacen - The cutest little snack house located right next to Pacific Wolf Factory, serving pastries, meat, cheese and more.
- Koji’s - Koji Hyodo, sushi chef extraordinaire, is behind the impressive and expansive menu at what is arguably Santa Teresa’s best sushi restaurant.
- Al Chile Viola - For your Italian fix, check out Al Chile Viola. Open Monday through Saturday for dinner.
- Zwart Art Cafe - Coffee shop meets art studio. Serving some of the best coffee in town, along with smoothies and healthy eats, Zwart is the perfect place to take a break from the sun and surf. Check out the bookstore in the back along with the owner’s artwork displayed throughout the space.
- The Bakery - For all your breakfast, brunch, and lunch needs, head here. The Bakery features an extensive menu beyond simple baked goods (although you certainly don’t want to sleep on those)
Words and photos by Gina Spinelli // @ginaspinelliphotography