NATURE | TRAVEL
We knew we wanted a “surf & yoga” trip where the cocktails would be kept to a minimum and the physical exertion maximized. Thus, we set our sights on the Pacific coast of Costa Rica. The decision on where exactly to go was more painstaking, as even after devouring every blog post and guide out there, we were still toying with several ideas. (For the record, we disagree with NYT’s assertion that Santa Teresa is the new Tulum.) In the end, Santa Teresa proved to be the free-spirited, low-maintenance, spiritually and naturally rich, and social place we were seeking, and we hope our brief account will help demystify it for those found in a similar traveler’s dilemma.
Santa Teresa is a long strip of road with beaches on one side and various establishments on the other - and that’s where the similarities with Tulum pretty much end. We can best describe the Santa Teresa scene as a post-apocalyptic expat haven - tanned surfers carrying their boards, walking barefoot on the dusty road, ATVs and large trucks whizzing by, countless dogs roaming freely. It feels busy but also relaxed and carefree.
Every morning we’d pack our backpacks with all the essentials - sunscreen, beach towels and yoga clothes, climb into our 4x4 and gingerly make our way down the steep and rocky hill accommodating our Airbnb. Efficiency was key, as we tried to minimize the number of times we had to drive up and down that dreaded hill! Our explorations took us to Santa Teresa Beach - a wide swath of darker-colored fine sand with choppy waves too forbidding for beginner surfers; Playa Hermosa - another gorgeous (as the name would suggest), wide-open beach with the ideal beginner conditions; and the so-called Playa Suecos (a.k.a Secret Beach) - much more secluded and intimate. Not surprisingly, our very first surf lesson in the warm, foamy water of Costa Rica was enough to get us hooked. We’re already planning our summer trips to Rockaway beach near New York, known for its surf culture.
To round out our surf & yoga experience, we focused our diet on simple plant- and fish-based fare, which abounded in the local cafés. Our favorites were: Zwart Café, with its white-washed interior, local art and library; Earth Café, with its scrumptious raw tuna bowl and addictive Swedish chocolate balls; and the famous Bakery, with its bottomless menu of quinoa bowls, smoothies, and the like. We feasted on Santa Teresa’s perfect mangos and avocados easily found in every grocery store (our favorite being Green World Market). We tried local Japanese fare at Katana for dinner, and had a night for the books at Kika - a restaurant opened by Argentinian brothers who are a fixture in the Santa Teresa scene. They are also the creative and culinary minds behind Rocamar (a beachfront restaurant and lounge that throws a bonfire party on Sundays) and Café Social. After a delicious dinner (try the fish cakes and grandma’s pork dish), Kika morphed into a live music venue that drew all of Santa Teresa’s fun-seeking crowd. Thursdays at Kika have become a well-known local tradition. Last but not least, don’t forget to try the traditional rice and beans found in the so-called sodas.
To us Santa Teresa means blissful simplicity, warm hospitality, and a real chance to unplug. Visiting there may well become our new tradition, perhaps after conscious effort to make peace with the army of not easily intimidated many-legged crawly creatures :-).