When you drive down the road from Cobano and arrive at the beach, you’ll get to “the crossroads”, near Frank’s Place and the Playa Carmen Mall. Santa Teresa is everything to the right, and Malpais is everything to the left. The crossroads is at Playa Carmen. No one knows for sure what to call this area. Is it Malpais, Santa Teresa, or Carmen? Whatever you call it, the whole area has become extremely popular in the last few years. Ten years ago when Montezuma was already a famous destination, Santa Teresa was just getting electricity. Santa Teresa’s world class surfing and gorgeous white sand beaches have put it on the map for tourists visiting Costa Rica, and hundreds of foreigners have moved here to live year round. Most of them surf nearly every day, and Santa Teresa is definitely a surfer’s dream town.
Santa Teresa is one very long road that parallels the beach for several miles, with hotels, restaurants, and various businesses along both sides. It seems like every week another building appears, and there is a lot of development. So far, nothing over three stories high has been built, but high-rise condos seem almost inevitable, since the real estate prices have skyrocketed. There seems to be no shortage of wealthy foreigners wanting to buy a piece of paradise, and Santa Teresa is the most expensive and desirable spot in the southern Nicoya peninsula. Fortunately, the local municipality is against this type of development and doesn’t want the area to be ruined the way Jaco and Tamarindo have been.
Most of Santa Teresa is white sand beaches, with occasional rocky outcroppings. There are many public access roads to the beaches, but little parking, and the natural topography of the beaches have created some interesting and varied surf conditions. There are two great point breaks in Santa Teresa (Suck Rock and Playa Hermosa). On the mountain side of the road, are many rough steep dirt and gravel roads winding into the hills to reach many ocean view homes and building sites that dot the hills.
Santa Teresa is still a bit of the wild west. To some extent, it’s rough, gritty, and lawless… far away from civilization despite it’s world-class restaurants, croissants, yoga retreats, and Italian gellato. Like all towns in Central America, it has its resident thieves who are ready to snatch your bag off the beach, its drunk husbands laying unconscious in the rocky gutters at night, and leathery old cowboys trotting on their horses, wondering where the world they once knew went. It’s a place for adventure… not your grandma’s vacation destination. Two-hundred pound jaguars are still seen not far from town.
But despite all this, Santa Teresa is also known as the place where the beautiful people of the world come to surf and relax away from the masses. Many celebrities and supermodels are spotted here, sometimes riding the wave next to you.
Surfing Santa Teresa
Most people come to Santa Teresa to surf, and there are many great beaches. Any hotel you stay in around Santa Teresa or Playa Carmen is going to have a great surf beach within a 5-minute walk, and many have them directly in front. The two favorite (and most crowded) spots are Playa Carmen and La Lora, both of which are long sandy sections with beach breaks in front. If people-watching is your thing then these are the best spots (but still not crowded like you’d find in more populated places) but if you’re looking for a private setting, head to Malpais or some of the secret spots just north of Playa Hermosa.
More Info about Santa Teresa / Malpais
Santa-Teresa.com – Website dedicated to Santa Teresa Travel and Tourism
MalpaisSurfing.com – Surfing information for Mal Pais and St Teresa
Wikpedia Santa Teresa – Wikipedia’s fairly useless article on St Teresa