Without a doubt, Santa Teresa is one of the coolest places in Costa Rica. It’s remote, it’s beautiful, it has miles and miles of beautiful coastline, and a laid-back, beachy culture.
What’s even better is that there are TONS of things to do in Santa Teresa. Whether you’re a backpacker, surfer, (bonus points for surfing backpackers), or simply checking out the best beaches in Costa Rica, there is something for everyone in this Costa Rican beach town.
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How to get to Santa Teresa:
One of the driving reasons for Santa Teresa’s cool, laid-back vibe is likely its remoteness. It’s located all the way at the southernmost tip of the Nicoya Peninsula, and it’s fairly difficult to get to. However, once you do get there, it is certainly well worth the trip!
- From Liberia:
By car: The quickest and easiest way to get to Santa Teresa is to drive. It’s a little over 100 miles, and the journey would probably take 4-5 hours.
If you rent a car, it’ll cost anywhere from $40-$100/day. If you book a shared shuttle, it should cost about $60 for this journey.
As far as I know, there isn’t a bus route for this journey.
- From San José:
Even though it’s technically further away, it is easier to get to Santa Teresa from San José than Liberia.
By car: Santa Teresa is a little over 160 miles from San José, and the drive should take about 6 hours.
By bus: Luckily, it’s pretty easy to get to Santa Teresa from San José by bus! A direct bus from San José to Santa Teresa leaves daily, takes about 5 hours, and costs about $11. Check the schedule here.
**Disclaimer on bus schedules:
Unfortunately, there is no guarantee that any bus routes you find online are going to be 100% accurate. I’ve done my best to share the most up-to-date information as possible, but buses in Costa Rica are notoriously unpredictable, and the schedules posted online may be close, but not quite right.
The BEST way to get information on buses, is to check at the actual bus terminal itself.
With that said, a lot of the information is accurate, and can still be useful for planning a trip to Costa Rica, as long as you make sure to double check at the terminal.
Now, let’s jump right into the best things to do in Santa Teresa!
What is Santa Teresa known best for? The surf of course! Located right at the southern tip of the Nicoya Peninsula, Santa Teresa picks up loads of swell over several miles of pristine beaches.
The Santa Teresa surf ranges from beginner friendly to a total blast for intermediate + level surfers, so there’s really something for everyone. And who doesn’t love surfing in 85 degree waters?
Whether you’re planning a Costa Rica surf trip, or simply on vacation in Costa Rica looking for something to do, surfing in Santa Teresa is an epic experience.
There are loads of surf shops here where you can rent boards too. It typically costs about $10-$25 a day to rent a surfboard, depending on the quality of the board and where you rent from.
During my trip, I stayed at Don Jon’s beach hostel, and he was renting a pretty nice array of boards out for $10/day for his guests.
2. Take a surf lesson
If you don’t know how to surf, don’t worry- one of the best things to do in Santa Teresa is to learn to surf!
Learning to surf in warm water is the way to go, and Santa Teresa is a great spot to learn. The currents can be pretty strong here though, so if you’re an absolute beginner you should 100% book a surf lesson!
Your instructor will provide everything you need, teach you how to pop up, paddle out, the rules of the lineup, and more.
The lesson even comes with some GoPro photos, which is pretty sweet.
3. Hit the beaches
One of the best things to do in Santa Teresa is to hang out on the beach. And, Santa Teresa has several different beaches so you’ll have plenty of options.
The beach furthest south is called Mal País, and then going up north, you have Playa Carmen, Playa Santa Teresa, and then furthest north is Playa Hermosa.
The beaches can get pretty hot during the day, so if you’re planning on posting up for a day-long beach day, consider bringing along a shade tent, or at least plenty of water and reef friendly sunscreen!
One of the cooler, more unique things to do in Santa Teresa is to skate! There is a super rad skatepark right behind Selina Norte.
They offer skateboard rentals for pretty cheap, and they even have surf skates so you can practice carving for the surf.
The skate park is pretty shaded as well, so if you find yourself looking for something to do during that hot afternoon sunshine where you don’t realllyyyyyy want to be on the beach, this is a great option!
5. Day trip to Montezuma Waterfalls
The Montezuma Waterfalls are incredible, and if you have a day (or even a morning/afternoon) to spare, you should 100% take a day trip there.
Montezuma is a hip little beach town about 30 minutes south of Santa Teresa, with colorful buildings, rugged beaches and of course- the waterfalls!
The Montezuma Waterfalls are totally free to visit (not including a $2 parking fee). Once you park, it’s a short walk/ hike to the falls, where you can swim around, take pictures, and hang out.
6. Take a yoga class
Santa Teresa is a very popular yoga destination, and if you practice yoga, or want to try it for the first time, this is a great place to do so!
Some of the most popular yoga studios include:
- Vajra Sol Yoga Retreats
- Horizon Yoga Centers
- Believe Surf & Yoga
- Funky Monkey Surf & Yoga Lodge
7. Rent a Quad
The town of Santa Teresa basically consists of one long road, running parallel to the ocean with shops on each side.
The traffic can be pretty bad, and since it’s only a 2 lane road, it can be a little tight with a car sometimes. It also takes about an hour to walk from one end of the road to another.
The BEST way to get around, is to rent a quad!
Quads are easy to park, fun to drive around, and a great way to explore the beach.
I just wouldn’t recommend renting a quad for your entire trip, as they’re pretty expensive.
- My #1 tip for renting a quad in Santa Teresa:
Rent it EARLY! Like as soon as you know your trip dates, reserve a quad rental. They book up super early in advance, so if you’re planning on having one during your trip, you should rent it early!
8. Hit Happy Hour
Cocktails can be pretty pricey in Santa Teresa, but the way around it is happy hour! Tons of restaurants and bars offer happy hour in Santa Teresa.
One of my favorite happy hour deals was at Selina Norte, and they have a great outside seating area too.
9. Go shopping
If you have money in the budget to spare, Santa Teresa is a great place to do some shopping! On the southern end of town, there are tons of little boutiques and surf shops.
My favorite store had some really unique, high-quality dyed garments from Duzty Supply.
10. Explore the Santa Teresa nightlife
What was once a quiet, remote beach town is now a hot spot on the Costa Rica backpacking circuit- Yep, Santa Teresa has a decent amount of nightlife.
Whether it’s a big beach bonfire, or live music at the disco La Lora, there seems to be something going on almost every night of the week in Santa Teresa.
The easiest way to tell where the party is? Well, you can either ask your hostel staff, or just take a peek at the road- you’ll probably see hoards of people all walking one direction, and chances are that’s where the party is.
11. Listen to live music
I really liked how much live music there is in Santa Teresa. A few places that have live music are Somos, Kika, Selina Norte, and Banana Beach Restaurant.
Usually, if you walk around during the day, restaurants will put signs out front advertising if they’re going to have live music that night. If you’re set on seeing a particular venue or artist, I recommend making a reservation for a table because restaurants tend to fill up here if they have live music!
12. Visit Eat Street
Eat Street is a popular outdoor market on the north end of Santa Teresa. They have a smoothie bar, cocktail bar, a vegan restaurant, and a restaurant with Asian Fusion.
This place is always pretty happening, and they even have a little bocce ball court!
13. Watch the sunset
Hands down, the best thing to do in Santa Teresa is to watch the sunset from the beach- you should try to do this every night of your trip!
There’s nothing quite like a Costa Rican sunset, and watching the sunset every night just might be the thing you remember most fondly from your trip to Costa Rica.
Where to stay in Santa Teresa
One of the things I like the most about visiting Santa Teresa is that they have a lot of accommodation options, especially in the budget range!
Here are my favorite budget accommodation options in Santa Teresa:
- Don Jon’s– this hippy surf hostel was one of the best places I’ve stayed in Costa Rica. Don Jon, the owner is a super sweet guy, and the common space here is very nice, plus they have a nice open air yoga studio, and free off-street parking.
- Zeneidas Surf Garden– If you want to stay literally ON the beach, this is the hostel to stay at. It’s located right in front of the main surf break. They have nice common spaces with hammocks, a library, and even two kitchens.
- Somos– If you’re a digital nomad, you should probably stay here- they have excellent WiFi, tons of places to work from, and a delicious cafe.
If you have a little more money to spend on accommodations in Santa Teresa, you can stay somewhere pretty nice, like:
- Point Break Santa Teresa– This lovely hotel is located only 2 minutes from the beach, and offers clean, quiet, air-conditioned private rooms. They also have a shared kitchen available, which is pretty rare for hotels!
- Hotel Santa Teresa– This beachfront hotel offers luxury at a great value. They have beautiful, modern, air-conditioned rooms, a pool, and breakfast is even included with a stay here! This is a great accommodation option for couples.
Where to eat in Santa Teresa
Santa Teresa has a TON of tasty restaurants!
When I was there, I was on a pretty tight budget, but I ate at Soda Pura Vida pretty much every day…. Sometimes twice a day….
Soda Pura Vida serves delicious typical Costa Rican food, and the prices are pretty much unbeatable in Santa Teresa.
Some other tasty places include:
- Eat Street– I know I already mentioned them, but their food is definitely worth checking out. I loved their cocktails too, they had an aperol spritz with coconut water… 10/10.
- Pizza Tomate– They serve delicious pizza at an affordable price. They also have a really nice, big, outdoor seating area.
- Suna– For something different, check out Suna for some tasty Thai food. They have a beautiful upstairs seating area, and rich, delicious Thai food! I loved that they had tons of vegetarian options too.
What to pack for Santa Teresa
For a full list of what to pack for Costa Rica, check out my Costa Rica packing list. Here are a few essentials though:
- Polarized Sunglasses– for some reason, more so than everywhere else in Costa Rica, Santa Teresa is INSANELY bright. So be sure to bring some polarized sunglasses… and make sure you don’t lend them to anyone that might drop them in the ocean, because sunglasses in Costa Rica are really expensive. Rip, my Ray Bans.
- Reef-safe sunscreen– You’ll definitely want to bring this on your trip to Santa Teresa.
- Comfy walking shoes– Odds are, you’ll do a lot of walking in Santa Teresa, especially if you decide to hike to the Montezuma waterfall! I love my Chacos, they offer great support and are awesome for waterfall hikes.
Final thoughts on the best things to do in Santa Teresa
That concludes my list of the best activities in Santa Teresa! I hope this list has offered you some helpful information on how to best enjoy this rad beach town.