Santa Teresa makes the rest of the world feel very far away.
The town’s dusty, unpaved road trails the coastline, connecting the locale’s four beach areas – Playa Carmen, Playa Hermosa, Santa Teresa and Mal Pais. Despite being within reach of Costa Rica’s eco-tourism boom, Santa Teresa remains unspoiled. The white-sand beaches stretch out unencumbered by resorts and restaurant chains – their long-breaking waves dotted with surfboards and the occasional beach pup bounding into the water to cool off. The strip of town unwinds along the beach with the jungle threatening to swallow it – the sounds of waves lapping at the sand always within earshot.
Once a fishing village, tucked-in and yawning, Santa Teresa has been awoken by a collection of hostels, villas and restaurants. Urban drop-outs from around the world, surfboard, camera or yoga mat in hand, soak in the sun and the salt.
A haven of permanent vacationers.
And as expected of a paradisiacal haven, it’s a bit of a journey to get to – so buckle up.
Coming from Montezuma (check out my post on Montezuma here), Ana and I just hopped into a cab from the one and only local cabby in Montezuma – with the total trip time around thirty minutes. The boys were coming all the way from Ottawa and Toronto in one day, so it was quite the day for them; a seven hour flight from Ottawa / Toronto to San Jose, a four hour layover in San Jose, a heart-pumping jet over to Tambor, and then a 30 kilometre cab ride to Santa Teresa. They showed up to our Air Bnb that night, pale and swaying, dropping their luggage at the door.
We were in Costa Rica the beginning of May which is also the beginning of rainy season – and if you’re choosing a time to best visit, book your flights for the beginning of rainy season. The threat of rain empties out the beaches and the price to stay is slashed in half. During the days, the skies were a canvas painted with the ocean’s hues, and the sun was unrelenting, bright and blazing. In the evenings, the rain did come – and we welcomed it – a reprieve of the intense heat of the day. We would retreat to our villa, make dinner and a batch of mojitos, and listen to the storm.
We spent our days on Santa Teresa beach, sprawled out in the soft, white sand, sipping sweet local rum.
Mike did some surfing at Playa Hermosa and I held vigil on the beach, reading my book and playing around with his camera.
Our mornings were unhurried, as vacation mornings should be. We would sip iced coffees by our villa’s pool, sway in the hammock, and lay out in the plush lounge chairs. Ana, god love her and her Latin American background, would cook up Huevos Rancheros for breakfast, made with the local produce from the grocery store around the corner.
Right next door to us was the Zwart Art Café, come to life with a mission to feed your stomach with the fresh plates and a vision to feed your soul with the artwork as you walk through Canadian artist Margriet Zwart’s studio (owner of the studio / cafe). Streaks and slabs of vibrant paint slash the all-white interior, and paintings of waves, sun, and sand enclose around the few expats plopped onto the cafe’s benches with their laptops and smoothies.
As the sun lowered, we would choose a spot along the beach for drinks and dinner. We watched the sunset (and the beach pups chase off horses, nipping at their hind legs), mojitos in hand, at Banana Beach and then strolled along the beach over to Habaneros for dinner. We ate our tacos on the beach patio, talking over the rolling waves, faces aglow in candlelight.
And hey, if you’re in the mood for a new tattoo, a couple of Americans set up shop right where Santa Teresa meets Mal Pais. Owner Kawika Montoya brings custom traditional style tattooing to the beach – check out their Instagram page here. But if tattoos aren’t your thing, at least poke in to meet big, bad Iggy – the shop’s Doberman pup.
If we thought getting to Santa Teresa was a little rough, we had another thing coming. The night before our flight out, rainy season was in full effect – the rain came down in sheets, heavy and hard. When we peered outside our villa, our shoes were bobbing around in the flooded backyard and the pool had entirely disappeared. The slope of the street we stayed on turned from road to waterfall.
The following morning, with the bridge out of Santa Teresa wiped out, we drove along the beach to make our escape. As we cabbed out of the town, all of the restaurants and storefronts were closed up – restaurant and shop owners, equipped with rubber boots and buckets, poked around surveying the damage. The air hung heavy with moisture and the sky was a deep, ominous shade of grey.
When we pulled into the Tambor “airport” (airport being a sheltered bench and a patch of gravel for the plane to take off from), it was soon announced that the flight was cancelled. We scrambled back into our cab, had him drop us off at the ferry, and hastily pulled our luggage on board. We all sat anxiously, staring at the clock – if we missed this flight from San Jose, we’d have to wait until the next one… next week.
But we made it, with a whole five minutes to spare, and as we lifted off I couldn’t help thinking to myself – it might not have been so bad to miss this flight…
Santa Teresa is a place to stay. Indefinitely.