Santa Teresa, Costa Rica: 2023 Travel Guide

Santa Teresa Costa Rica is a laid-back beach town that you will fall in love with and never want to leave.

santa teresa

The Santa Teresa Costa Rica Vibes

Santa Teresa, Costa Rica is a Pacific coast beach destination. The town offers a blend of natural beauty, laid-back atmosphere, and thrilling adventures. 

The town is located on the Pacific Coast at the tip of the Nicoya Peninsula. It is a bit difficult to get to, but we think that the remote location contributes to the relaxed feel of this part of the country.

One of the defining features of Santa Teresa is its stunning beaches that are popular with surfers. The waves here are great for more experienced surfers, but there are a few beaches that beginners can try out as well. 

The town itself has a bohemian and relaxed vibe. You can find a mix of locals, expats, and visitors here. The main street is lined with boutique shops, trendy cafes, and excellent restaurants serving a variety of cuisines.

In the past, the main part of town was unpaved and it was common to see most people on ATV’s. 

In the past year, the main road has been paved, which we feel has kind of taken away the unique vibe here. 

Oh well!

Background Info About Santa Teresa Costa Rica

Nearest International Airport

Juan Santamaria International Airport in San Jose and Liberia Airport are semi easy to get to

Popular Things to Do

surfing, yoga, relaxing, day trips to Montezuma

Best Way to Get Around

Rental car, ATV rental, tours with transportation included, walking in the downtown area

Best Time of Year to Visit

Dry season is from late December until mid-April.

Grocery Stores

Super Ronny #1 and #2 are our go-to spots for everything. They are a bit on the pricey side though.


Banco de Costa Rica Mal País. It is on the corner as you enter town

Gas Stations

There are two gas stations in Cobano (a 15 minute drive from Santa Teresa).

Cóbano Service Station and Servicentro Jimal

(keep in mind all gas stations here are full service. So stay in your car and an employee will fill your car up).

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Thomas (the German) and Sarah (the US-er).

We met in Virginia, moved to Germany, and have called sunny Costa Rica home since 2016.

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Santa Teresa, Costa Rica: 2023 Travel Guide
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Santa Teresa, Costa Rica: 2023 Travel Guide

Map Of Santa Teresa

Santa Teresa is located on the Nicoya Peninsula, the little hook of Costa Rica on the Pacific Coast.

This area is not the easiest to access, but that seems to give it a lot of its charm.

Flights to Costa Rica

Santa Teresa is great because it is easily accessible from the Liberia airport and the San Jose airport. 

More and more airlines are starting service to Liberia so check out the rates. It may be worth it for you.

If you haven’t booked your flight yet, we suggest using Skyscanner. We consistently find the best rates through their website.

Driving to Santa Teresa

Driving Directions to Santa Teresa from San Jose

We always suggest renting a car and driving to Santa Teresa on your own. 

There are two ways to make this trip.

  1. Drive the entire way. This will take about six hours.
  2. Take the ferry from Puntarenas. This will take about five hours (but 80 minutes of that are no driving because you’ll be on the ferry)

So, let’s go through each one.

Driving the Whole Way

If you opt to drive the entire way we suggest driving from the city to the coast on Route 27. This is a toll road. They accept US dollars or colones.

Near Puntarenas you will exit onto Route 1 heading north. This road has been under construction for awhile because they are widening it. So, you may have smooth sailing, but might also hit construction.

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Santa Teresa, Costa Rica: 2023 Travel Guide

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In the town of La Palma you will hit a roundabout where you will go to the left onto route 18. 

If you need a bathroom or food break, there is a small plaza on the right before the roundabout that has a KFC and Subway in it.

Other than that, there are not a lot of options for quick meals.

And I will admit, Subway is weirdly very good in Costa Rica. 

Immediately after the roundabout there is also a gas station on the left on the corner. If you need a gas station, snack, or bathroom this is a good spot to stop.

From there, you will continue on Route 18 to Nicoya.

There are always police hanging out on Route 18, so stick to the speed limit. 

In Nicoya you will turn left and finally be heading south of the Nicoya hook. 

They recently redid all of these roads so they are super nice in many spots. But, keep an eye out, there are a lot of speed bumps that are sometimes not well marked. We have definitely flown over a few!

Drive along the coast until you hit the town of Paquera (this is where you would have come out if you took the ferry). 

From Paquera, continue driving on Route 160. Follow the signs for Cobano / Santa Teresa.

Continue on Route 160 until you reach Cobano, which is approximately a 30 to 40-minute drive from Paquera.

In Cobano, follow the signs for Santa Teresa. You will need to take a left turn to connect to Route 618.

Continue on Route 618 until you reach Santa Teresa. The drive from Cobano to Santa Teresa takes around 20 to 30 minutes.

Taking the Ferry

The best way to do this (if coming from San Jose) is by going on the Puntarenas ferry to Paquera. In total this trip will take about five to six hours.

However, about two of those hours will be spent on the ferry/ getting off the ferry. So, in actuality, it is not too much driving.

Enter,”Naviera Tambor ferry” as your destination in your GPS. This will bring you to the ferry terminal in Puntarenas.

Basically, you will drive on Route 27 all the way to the city of Puntarenas. Route 27 is a toll road. You will spend about $8 USD in tolls. They accept US dollars or Costa Rican colones. 

In Puntarenas you will exit and drive straight through the downtown area until the very tip of Puntarenas. 

This is a city so there are a lot of traffic lights and people walking everywhere.

At the ferry terminal you will drive your car onto the ferry, exit your car and sit up top and enjoy the ride.

Check out our guide to the Puntarenas ferry for all the details

We suggest prebooking a ferry ticket to ensure you get on board. You want to go in the direction of “Paquera”

From Paquera, continue driving on Route 160. Follow the signs for Cobano / Santa Teresa.

Continue on Route 160 until you reach Cobano, which is approximately a 30 to 40-minute drive from Paquera.

In Cobano, follow the signs for Santa Teresa. You will need to take a left turn to connect to Route 618.

Continue on Route 618 until you reach Santa Teresa. The drive from Cobano to Santa Teresa takes around 20 to 30 minutes.

Note: We suggest using the free app Waze for directions in Costa Rica. It is widely used here and people are great about marking where there are police, things in the road, etc.

Driving Directions to Santa Teresa from Liberia

From the airport head south on Route 21 toward Nicoya.

Continue on Route 21 until you reach the town of Nicoya. In Nicoya there are some food places and gas stations if you need a break.

Also, if you would like one of the most interesting dining experiences of your life, check out, Bernina Artisan Food.

It is about a 10 minute detour but totally worth it.

But keep in mind it is on the high end price wise and you will probably end up spending at least an hour here.

Anyway, in Nicoya, you will stay on Route 21 all the way to Paquera. 

In Paquera, turn left onto Route 160. 

Continue on Route 160 until you reach Cobano, which is approximately a 30 to 40-minute drive from Paquera.

In Cobano, follow the signs for Santa Teresa. You will need to take a left turn to connect to Route 618.

Continue on Route 618 until you reach Santa Teresa. The drive from Cobano to Santa Teresa takes around 20 to 30 minutes.

Note: Google Maps may try to direct you along the west coast on the Nicoya Peninsula. Don’t drive this route! It involves river crossings and is almost impossible to pass. You want to drive along the east coast of the Nicoya Peninsula. 

Rental Car to Santa Teresa

We suggest renting your car with our favorite Costa Rica rental car company, Adobe. They have an office at the Liberia Airport and at the San Jose Airport. 

We suggest them because they are upfront with their prices, have excellent customer service, and are just overall a great local company.

They have kindly given us a 10% discount plus other great perks to pass on to you. 

⤷ Book Your Rental Car with Adobe

In the past, you needed a 4×4 to get to Santa Teresa. That is no longer the case. The roads are mostly well-maintained.

However, a lot of accommodation options are located in the hills above the towns on unpaved steep roads.

I suggest checking exactly where your hotel is located to help you decide the right car for you.

We suggest at least renting an SUV for decent clearance. 


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Private Shuttle to Santa Teresa

It is possible to take a private shuttle from almost anywhere in the country to Santa Teresa.

We suggest Adobe Transfers for all your private shuttle needs.

They have experienced drivers, comfortable air conditioned vans, and will be happy to make short stops along the way if you need. 

⤷ Get Your Private Shuttle Quote Here

Public Bus to Santa Teresa Costa Rica

Public Bus from San Jose

The cheapest way to get to Santa Teresa is by public bus (if coming from San Jose).

However, this will take 7 to 8 hours and involves switching buses 3 or 4 times and going on the ferry. 

⤷ Check out the bus schedule

It is possible to do this from the San Jose airport or from downtown San Jose.

The downfall of this is that if you miss one bus connection you are kind of out of luck and may need to wait several hours until the next bus arrives.

The bus goes onto the ferry (which I think is kind of cool). You will need to buy a ferry ticket at the terminal while you are there.

Domestic Flights to santa Teresa

There isn’t an airport directly in Santa Teresa, but the Tambor domestic airport is only about 45 minutes away by car or taxi. 

Sansa is the main domestic airline in Costa Rica and they offer flights from San Jose Airport to Tambor. 


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santa teresa beach
Santa Teresa, Costa Rica: 2023 Travel Guide

Transportation In Santa Teresa

Once you arrive in Santa Teresa you will need transportation to get around town and to fun activities. Here is our opinion on that….

We always suggest renting a car because it gives you the most flexibility to do off the beaten path activities and allows you to stay at a hotel that is not right downtown. 

The downtown area is very condensed and walkable, but most activities, besides surfing and relaxing on the beaches, are located within a thirty minute drive of downtown.

Another option is to rent an ATV for a day or two once in town to explore the surrounding areas. 

As we mentioned above, you don’t need a 4×4 vehicle unless you are staying in the hills above Santa Teresa.

Also, if you plan to drive to Montezuma, it is best to go around rather than through the road at Mal Pais. If you go by Mal Pais you will need to do river crossings, which are mostly impossible during the rainy season. 

ATV Rentals in Santa Teresa

Once you arrive in Santa Teresa you may want to rent an ATV. There are several companies in the downtown area.

We don’t have a favorite place to suggest to you. But we suggest reading reviews before you book anything.

Also, ask about if you need to return the ATV with a full tank and ask where you can get gas. 

santa teresa beach

Santa Teresa Costa Rica Weather

Like most of the country, the dry season here runs from mid-December until April or May.

In early May the rainy season usually begins. 

From May until August, you can expect some afternoon rainstorms, however, we once visited in early August and we didn’t have any rain during the four days we were there. You just never know!

From mid-August until December a lot of things close down because the weather can be really rainy.

We visited one year in late September and it rained every day but the next year we visited at the same time and had perfect weather. 

It’s impossible to predict.

Things to Do in Santa Teresa Costa Rica

Go Fishing

The fishing in Santa Teresa is on point. We suggest booking your tour with Captain Jason. With him, you can enjoy a half-day sportfishing experience. You might catch tuna, mahi-mahi, snapper, etc. 

Walk the Beach

Playa Santa Teresa is long. It is possible to walk for miles and miles.

Just be warned, at high tide this can be a bit more difficult because little streams form which you will have to cross.

Take a Day Trip

Santa Teresa is a great jumping off point for exploring nearby areas such as the town of Montezuma. In Montezuma you can go to the Montezuma waterfall, hike at Cabo Blanco, take a day trip to Isla Tortuga, and more!

surf santa teresa

Surfing in Santa Teresa Costa Rica

Surfing is the most popular activity in Santa Teresa. 

If you are an experienced surfer you can easily rent a board from one of the many surf shops in town. 

If you would like to take surf lessons, that is a possibility as well. 

We suggest booking your lessons with Richard at Playa Hermosa in Santa Teresa. 

He will teach you surf etiquette and safety as well as give you a thorough lesson on how to get yourself up and standing to surf the Nicoya Peninsula waves.

Arrange Your Surf Lessons

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santa Teresa Restaurants

Fine Dining

Nectar– This restaurant is located at Florblanca Resort. It is the perfect place for a romantic dinner date. They have amazing seafood, sushi, and plenty of other options as well. 


Banana Beach Restaurant: This is our go-to hang-out spot in Santa Teresa. They have good food and a nice two-for-one drink menu, but really, the atmosphere is what makes this place really stand out.

It is located directly on the beach and you could easily spend a long lazy afternoon/evening here.

The Bakery: I think it is a bit pricey, but that is part of the hipster vibe. The Bakery serves great food though and is definitely the best breakfast spot in town.


Taco Corner:  They serve good tacos at a reasonable price. The burritos aren’t my fave (too much rice and not enough good stuff), but the tacos are on point and served quickly.

Chicken Joes: If you are looking for a relaxed spot with some tasty food, this is a great option. The chicken is amazing! They also serve good tacos.

Santa Teresa, Costa Rica: 2023 Travel Guide
Santa Teresa, Costa Rica: 2023 Travel Guide
Santa Teresa, Costa Rica: 2023 Travel Guide

Santa Teresa Costa Rica Hotels

High-End Hotels

Hotel Nantipa– Enjoy luxurious modern rooms directly on the beautiful beach. There is a restaurant, bar, and pool on the property.

Vista del Alma– An adults-only resort with amazing ocean views. All units have a kitchen, balcony, and some units have a private hot tub. There is also a nice pool for guests to use.

Mid Range Hotels

Lua Villas– Located north of Santa Teresa, this is a great place to stay for a boutique hotel vibe away from the crowds but still within 300 meters of a nice beach. We love this property.

Budget Friendly Hotels

Somos– This place is an amazing spot to stay in Santa Teresa! It is possible to stay in a private room or in a shared dorm. The property has a nice pool, restaurant, and is just 200 meters from the beach.

Salty Enthusiasts – This hotel offers dorm-style accommodations as well as private rooms with shared bathrooms. There is a shared kitchen on the property for guests to use.

Santa Teresa, Costa Rica: 2023 Travel Guide
Santa Teresa, Costa Rica: 2023 Travel Guide

Airbnb and VRBO in Santa Teresa

We always love renting a home or villa for our vacation in Santa Teresa Costa Rica. This gives you more privacy and allows you the flexibility to cook your own meals.

Note: We try to only ever suggest places with good cancellation policies, but always double-check before booking.

Villa Akoya – This villa is on the smaller side (it sleeps eight guests in three bedrooms). Despite that, we love it because it is a very nice home with a pool and is located directly on the beach. If you are coming to Santa Teresa for some daily surfing, this is a good option for you.

Casana – This would be a nice place to stay with a group of other couples. The house has five bedrooms, each with its own en-suite bathroom. The home is modern and well maintained. However, the real draw is the huge deck area with pool, rancho, and Pacific Coast views.

Villa Bonita – This villa sleeps nine guests in four bedrooms. It is located directly on the beach and has a private pool. I like this place for the style of the home and the proximity to the beach. The staff here are amazing and will go above and beyond to help you with whatever you need.

Santa Teresa, Costa Rica: 2023 Travel Guide
Santa Teresa, Costa Rica: 2023 Travel Guide
Santa Teresa, Costa Rica: 2023 Travel Guide

Group Tours to the Santa Teresa Area

Take the planning, stress, and guess work out of traveling by booking a multi-day tour with an experienced guide.

For more tour ideas check out Tour Radar

Costa Rica Adventure

A 10 day adventure that mixes adventure with relaxation. On this trip you can go zip lining, take a night safari, relax on beautiful beaches, take yoga classes, and more!

Santa Teresa Travel Tips

– We haven’t had any bad experiences, but have heard that crime has increased in Santa Teresa in recent years. It is best not to carry large amounts of cash on you and don’t walk around alone after dark.  

– Don’t forget travel insurance! Heymondo travel insurance was designed with ease and flexibility in mind.

Their comprehensive plans offer 24/7 assistance, trip cancellation and interruption coverage, lost baggage coverage, assistance in case of medical issues, as well as the option to add-on adventure activity coverage. 

↳ Get Your Travel Insurance Quote

Packing for Santa Teresa Costa Rica

We suggest carrying your stuff in a large backpack instead of a suitcase if possible.

If you plan to surf, don’t forget a rash guard shirt that has UV protection. 

We usually live in flip flop here, but if you plan to do some hiking you will want some sneakers or good hiking shoes.

Check out our Santa Teresa Packing List on Amazon for all the essentials. 

Santa Teresa Costa Rica FAQ

Is Santa Teresa worth visiting?

Yes, Santa Teresa is definitely worth going to. This area has such a unique surfer vibe and the remote location makes it even better. 

Is Santa Teresa Costa Rica safe?

Yes, generally Santa Teresa is safe. However, petty theft does sometimes happen. Always use caution and keep an eye on your belongings. 
Also, we have heard there has been an increase in more serious thefts and crime, but we can’t say for sure. 

Is Santa Teresa Costa Rica walkable?

It is and it isn’t. The downtown is small enough that you can easily walk. However, there are no sidewalks and in many places, there are drops on either side of the road, which can make it difficult to walk along. 

What is Santa Teresa Costa Rica known for?

This area is known for being an intermediate to advanced surfer destination. The whole town has a relaxed surfing vibe.

Can you swim at Santa Teresa beach in Costa Rica?

This area is known for big waves and rip currents. It is probably not the best idea to swim here. 

Articles About Santa Teresa Costa Rica

You Might Also Like Visiting

Montezuma: A small beach town with tons of fun things to do

Mal Pais: A small remote fishing village with beautiful ocean views

Nosara: A relaxed yoga and surfing town that is popular with backpackers

….if none of those appeal to you, check out our Guide to the Nicoya Peninsula for more ideas of places to visit in this area.