Santa Teresa might just be the most popular beach destination in Costa Rica. If it’s surfing, relaxing, good food, and palm-tree-lined beaches you’re after, then Santa Teresa is where you need to be. The town is scattered around a 3 km road with lots of delicious cafes and restaurants, cute boutique shops, and many quad and surfboard rentals. It is touristy, and it might take you a few days to appreciate the hustle and bustle of this little town, but it definitely has a bit of charm left. The fact this town has dozens of different surf breaks for different levels definitely adds to that charm. Because, whether you’re a beginner or a pro; Santa Teresa will spoil you with plenty of waves!

Where to stay: Lucero Surf Vacations

A good night’s sleep is important, especially when it’s waves you’re chasing. Your ultimate surf getaway would be Lucero Surf Vacations. This Bali-inspired spot is just a short walk from multiple surf breaks and has everything you could possibly want. Comfy beds, a refreshing pool, a wholesome breakfast, and a great surf teaching team ready to show you around! We really enjoyed our stay here because of the welcoming vibe, but also because of its location. It’s in the middle of town and basically everything (food and surf) is within walking distance. We could’ve easily hung around for weeks and just follow the rhythm of eat, sleep, surf, repeat. 

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Where to stay: The Green House

Tucked away from the hustle and bustle of Santa Teresa’s main street, this beautiful place feels like a jungle hideout. Even though the walk down the hill is only 5 minutes (a bit longer uphill ;)), you feel miles away from basically anything. Wake up with the sounds of tropical birds and howler monkeys, while nipping on your Costa Rican coffee and seeing the sun rise above the hills. Can you ever wake up grumpy when that’s the start of your day? We guess not!
The design and interior of the houses just walked out of one of my Pinterest boards. It’s just so beautiful and well-thought-through. Having your own little plunge pool to cool down, multiple little seating areas, and a full kitchen, makes this an ideal spot to stick around longer (remote working, anyone?). You might think, is there anything that makes this place even better? Well yes! They are an Ocean Friendly Business and part of the Nicoya Water Organization. Douze points from us!

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Where to Surf in Santa Teresa

Surfing Santa Teresa can be done year-round. Even though the swell season runs from April to September, the rest of the year won’t go flat at all. December till February is a bit more beginner-friendly as the waves are cleaner and more mellow. However, if you wanna get barrelled, surf double overhead waves, and work on some gnarly and hollow breaks, then book your 6-month surf sabbatical for April. 

Mal Pais

Situated South of Santa Teresa starting at Playa Carmen, you’ll find this sleepy fishing village with some very decent reef and beach breaks. It’s a fairly easy wave but can get more challenging when the swell picks up. There are some long rights and shorter lefts available which can be good for the more advanced beginners who’d like to learn how to catch green waves on their own. The reef breaks at Mal Pais are a bit trickier as the take-off is faster and there can be some shallow rocks. Also, when it gets bigger the waves do close-out. It works best during mid tide with a S-SW swell. 

Surfing Playa Santa Teresa Costa Rica

Playa Santa Teresa

This is the main beach of Santa Teresa which basically stretches from Playa Carmen in the South to Playa Hermosa in the North. There are many beach breaks along this stretch which can get pretty crowded when the surf’s good. Fun breaks can be found at Zeneidas, Selinas, and Rocamar, but there are plenty more if these don’t look like something for you. It mostly caters to intermediate and advanced surfers, as the waves can be hollow and powerful with rapid takeoffs. With some decent swell, you’ll be able to find some fast barrels here as well. It works best with upcoming tide, from low to mid tide, with a SW swell.

Playa Hermosa

Playa Hermosa is North of town and offers a long stretch of beach with multiple breaks. It’s a popular spot for surf schools and in general, offers good beginner waves. The waves here just keep on rolling in, so it’s a good spot to work on your pop-up and catch lots of whitewater waves if you’re a beginner. It works best during incoming tide from mid to high tide. 

Playa Hermosa near Santa Teresa Costa Rica
Surfing at Playa Cabuya Costa Rica

Cabuya

On the other side of the peninsula, you can find the spot Cabuya or Cedros. This spot can work as an almost perfect right-hand point break and is often a bit more mellow when the swell is big in Santa Teresa. It needs a midsize or bigger swell coming from the South to properly work, but when it does you can find some really clean fun waves here. We’d recommend surfing this spot with higher tide due to the reef you need to pass when paddling in and out, but it can be surfed on low tide as well if you can’t be bothered (or have some booties with you). 

Surfboards for rent in Santa Teresa Costa Rica

Surf shops & board rental

When we arrived in Santa Teresa we just broke both our boards the week before. With a surf trip planned around the Nicoya peninsula, you can imagine our joy. Not. We did find two good spots in Santa Teresa where you find lots of different board options including a few more performance ones. If you’re looking for Al Merrick or Hyptokrypto’s, then visiting Nalu is a good idea. If you wanna have lots of options differing from Rusty, to Firewire, to Takayama, then make sure to pay Kina Surf Shop a visit. Both shops are also great if you ran out of wax, broke all your leashes, or messed up your tail pad! Rentals are between 15-25 USD per day, depending on the type of board. 

Where to eat

If you wanna have a low-key meal then Eat Street is a great option. The different food trucks offer things like tacos, pizzas, burgers, healthy bowls, and pastries. You can go here for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and have your belly filled with good stuff. We really enjoyed the Asian-style bowls here; the price-quality was definitely good (especially as Santa Teresa is proportionally more expensive than the rest of Costa Rica). 

Food at restaurant The Bakery in Santa Teresa Costa Rica

The Bakery

The Bakery is an institution in Santa Teresa. I bet you’ll get this place recommended by everybody who you’re telling you’re going to Santa Teresa. And it makes good sense! Whether it’s breakfast, lunch, or dinner, The Bakery is always a good idea. We loved their Spicy Tuna Sandwich, their Mahi Mahi burger, their pastries, their fresh bread, oh, who are we kidding, what not!?

Katana

This place is definitely worth a visit. It might be a bit weird to have Asian food when visiting Costa Rica, but if you don’t feel like rice and beans for a night, this is a great alternative! When you’re there make sure to go for the Katana Duck and their Butter Chicken; both are absurdly good. After eating those I was already debating if we could return the next day for the exact same meal. 

Butter Chicken at Restaurant Katana in Santa Teresa

Ani's

Serving you all the Bali vibes with their colorful smoothie bowls, yummy sandwiches, and good coffees. Ani’s is a relaxed cafe with really nice staff and lots of delicious things on its menu. Famous for their bowls, but definitely don’t miss out on the rest. 

Manzú

Do you have something to celebrate? Whether it’s a birthday, anniversary, or just life in general; having dinner at Manzú will definitely give you a celebratory feel. Start on the beach during sunset with your feet in the sand and a cocktail in your hand. Then dine under a sky full of stars and indulge in all the delicious things Manzú has to offer. The team is incredibly friendly and really makes your evening even more special. 

Manzu restaurant in Santa Teresa Costa Rica
Pizza at Restaurant Amici in Santa Teresa Costa Rica

Amici

The best pizzas in town can be found at Amici. Paper thin, well covered with lots of delicious ingredients, baked in a huge wood oven; we’re telling you, they’re nailing the pizza game at Amici. If pizza isn’t your thing, don’t worry; we had some really good gnocchi and pasta here as well!

When all you need to do is surf and eat

Even though Santa Teresa can be dusty, muddy, busy, and loud, it is definitely a place that can grow on you. It definitely has all the backpacking surfing vibes and we totally understand that people tend to stick around a little longer than planned. There won’t be a place in Costa Rica where you can find so many different and such good food options as here. It might actually also be one of the best spots to learn how to surf. I mean, surfing with whales playing in the background and monkeys playing in the jungle backdrop is one of the best things in life, right? So guys, make sure to put Santa Teresa on your travel bucket list and enjoy everything this town has to offer!

Pura Vida,
Marthe

surfers on the beach of Santa Teresa Costa Rica

Photos by: J. Roeland & M. Barends©

Recap

Do you rather look at images than reading stories? No worries, we have a short recap of everything you need to know below.

Best time to visit

If you like blue skies, mellow waves, and a touristy vibe in town; visit between December and February. If it's waves you're after, then visit Santa Teresa anywhere between March and September.

Our hotel picks

Don't mind spending the extra dime then definitely stay at The Green House. If it's proper surf vibes you're after then Lucero Surf Vacations is your spot.

Currency

Colones or US Dollars. Remember to pay the currency which is asked to avoid crazy exchange rates.

Best food

Breakfast at Ani's, lunch at The Bakery, dinner at Katana.

Best surf spots

Beginner: Playa Hermosa
Intermediate: Mal Pais or Cabuya
Advanced: Anywhere ;) but success guaranteed at Zeneidas

Weather

An almost always steady 28 ºC or 82ºF.
Dry Season: December - April
Rainy Season: May - November

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