11 Best Tips for Vacationing in Santa Teresa, Costa Rica

By Amanda Paa – Updated January 29, 2024
Vacationing in Santa Teresa, Costa Rica is so beautiful, with its white sandy beaches, warm weather, and amazing food. Don't miss these insider tips regarding cost, what to pack, the currency, how to get there, transportation while there, the language, and favorite activities. I've also included the 8 best Santa Teresa restaurants that we ate at it for planning purposes.

Brian and I just returned from a week long vacation to Santa Teresa, Costa Rica to celebrate milestone birthdays. It was our first time visiting this Central American country and we were stunned by its beauty! The warmth and sun was very much welcomed, and my skin loved the humidity.

This popular beach town is located on the Nicoya Peninsula in Puntarenas Province, Costa Rica. It has gained recognition as a surfers’ paradise and a laid-back destination with a bohemian atmosphere.

There were a lot of things I now know about vacationing in Santa Teresa, and Costa Rica in general, that I wish I’d known before going. So I’m sharing those with you today so you can plan your own trip with insider knowledge.

1. When to Go:

Costa Rica goes through two seasons: wet (May to December) and dry (January to April). The best time to vacation there is during dry season; when you can expect hot temperatures, humidity, and sunny skies. Wet season peaks in September and October with lots of rainfall, so avoid those months.

There will be more and more people visiting the closer you get to March and April, when most travel happens because of spring break. We went in January, and it seemed to be perfect timing with incredible weather (90 degrees F every day), and less people than the spring break months.

2. Cost of a Santa Teresa Vacation:

I wish I would have known that Costa Rica is the most expensive Central America country – no travel blogs talk about this! You will pay the same or often more than you do here in the United States (at least where we live) for everything. Yes, everything. An example, we ran out of sunscreen and went to 6 different local supermarkets. The cheapest we could find was a bottle for $22. And it wasn’t even good sunscreen. :/A box of cereal at all grocery stores was $8 to $12. So just an fyi! But the beauty and experience is SO worth it. I’d go again tomorrow.

Here are concrete examples of cost so you can plan accordingly, and decide if it fits in your budget.

  • Airfare for 2 from MSP (direct flight): $1770
  • Hotel Room: $250 per night (up to $1,000’s)
  • Average cost of breakfast or lunch for 2: $40ish
  • Average cost of dinner for 2: $80ish
  • ATV rental for 5 days: $400
  • Airport transportation from Liberia to Santa Teresa (one way): $280
  • Alcoholic drinks: $10 to $20 (local bottle of beer, $5)
  • Coffee drinks: $4 to $9
  • Horse Back Riding: $95 a person
  • Massage: $100 an hour

3. How to Get to Santa Teresa:

Santa Teresa is quite a jaunt from the closest major airport, Liberia, and is located on the the southern part of the country’s northern peninsula, the Nicoya. We flew direct from Minneapolis to Liberia on Sun Country Airlines and from there had a private driver who drove us the 4 hours to Santa Teresa and back the following week. The driver cost was $640 with tip, round trip. I really enjoyed being able to see a lot more of the country this way. The roads are very windy and narrow though, so if you get car sick easily, this may not be a good option.

There is also the option of taking Sansa Airlines to fly from Liberia to Cobano, which puts you within a 40 minute drive from Santa Teresa. You’d then take a taxi to get there. However, we found Sansa Airlines to be very unpredictable; they changed our return flight from Cobano to Liberia two times just 48 hours from departing. And the changes meant we would miss our connecting flight in Liberia to get back to MSP. We then had to scramble to find a driver to get us to the Liberia airport, and the airline refused to refund our money even though they were the ones who made the changes.

dog laying on beach in santa teresa costa rica

4. Where to Stay:

I wish I’d know that in general, staying on the north side of Santa Teresa is preferred rather than the middle and south side, which are very busy and can be loud at night.

The first 4 nights we stayed at Mint Boutique Hotel (adults only), which was lovely and has the most incredible view, set high up in the hillside overlooking the town and Pacific Ocean. It has just 5 individual rooms that have their own private rooftop terrace. The rooms have huge windows for the ocean view, a king size bed, beautiful shower, and air conditioning. Each morning you are served a homemade breakfast with fresh local fruit, pastries, vegetables, granola, and coffee.

The common area is stunning, and features an infinity pool, sitting area, bar, and lounge space. It was designed by Costa Rican architects at Studio Saxe and filled with hand picked locally sourced furniture and design details. I’d highly recommend a stay at Mint. (We stayed at an AirBnB the other 3 nights and it was fine, but not great so I will leave those details out.)

walking up costa rican staircase

5. Important Things to Pack for Costa Rica:

  • Sunscreen (the UV rays are intense because you are closer to the equator)
  • Hat
  • Bug spray (there are mosquitos)
  • Ear plugs and sound machine (the city can be loud at night)
  • Extra underwear/bras (you get hot and sweaty!)
  • Beach towel
  • Sunglasses
  • Small backpack or carrying sack so you don’t have to carry a purse

6. Renting an ATV:

Santa Teresa is made up of one long, mostly dirt road. The road is shared by ATV’s, dirt bikes, and some cars. We found it essential to have an ATV so that we could easily get around, as there are NO SIDEWALKS, uneven roads and paths, and a lot of traffic. So although many young folks walk, it isn’t super safe.

I wish I’d have known to bring a bandana to cover my mouth while riding the ATV, as it is extremely dusty and dirty during dry season. Sunglasses protected my eyes, but goggles would have been nice, too.

An ATV also allowed us to go up and down the coast with ease, visiting many of the beautiful beaches and tide pools. We took the road from Mal Pais to Montezuma for the epic waterfall, which was worth it in itself. ATV rental was $80 a day, and they did charge us for gas used when we returned it, which they did not tell us at the beginning of the rental. Gas was $30.

If you’d take a taxi instead, it would get very expensive. We needed to do that on the first day and it was $10 for a one way ride less than a mile.

7. Favorite Restaurants in Santa Teresa:

The food here is incredible. Wow. It is not like some warm weather destinations where the food is very -meh- because they have to import everything. In Santa Teresa, you will find so much freshness and attention to flavor (I found it very similar in quality to the restaurants we visited in Oahu). Overall, portions are very generous; Brian and I split almost every meal.

It’s also very easy to eat gluten-free in Costa Rica because they use plantains, corn, and rice in many ways, and few things are processed. I was also stunned to find a true sourdough bakery, a true sourdough pizza spot, and excellent housemade gluten-free bread.

  1. Ani’s: such fresh options! we had the green juice and thai peanut salad which was so hearty, with brown rice and seared tofu. yum. loved it.
  2. Rocamar: this is a great afternoon spot right on the beach for drinks and appetizers. a little bit outside of Santa Teresa so not as crowded. stunning view! my aperol spritz was perfection, as well as Brian’s pina colada and handmade empanadas.
  3. The Bakery: my favorite spot for breakfast and lunch. amazing toasts, croissants, sandwiches, pastries, drinks – you name it. do not miss it.
  4. Katana: great sushi and pad thai, inventive appetizers.
  5. Muzza Pizzeria: true sourdough pizza that was so so good. we went twice. huge, fresh salads as well.
  6. Kaukau: we loved their eggs benedict that was made on sourdough bread with an incredible avocado spread, crispy fried onions, and hollandaise.
  7. German Sourdough: great sourdough bread! we got a sandwich to bring to the beach and it was delicious. made with ham, cheese, chipotle aioli, lettuce, tomato. big enough for the two of us.
woman holding a sourdough sandwich
thai tofu salad on a plate
green juice in glass bottle

One thing I wish I would have known: many restaurants in Santa Teresa give something free (like a shot or appetizer) to those who show proof of leaving a google or yelp review, so the ratings are often skewed higher than they should be. We were burned on this once, and had the worst meal of our trip.

That being said, I wouldn’t really trust google map reviews for restaurants there, instead check out blogs or instagram to see for yourself.

avocado eggs benedict on white plate
sourdough pizza with pepperoni on a plate
tuna breakfast toast on blue plate

8. Language in Costa Rica:

This is a Spanish speaking country, but in the tourist populated areas, most people speak and understand English. Menus will provided in English, too.

If you have some Spanish language knowledge, it can be helpful, but not a must. If you don’t know any Spanish, even learning simple phrases before going like “Buenos Dias (good morning) and Buenos Noches (good night), is a nice gesture.

9. Currency in Costa Rica

The local currency is Colones. Right now (Jan 2024), the exchange rate is about 500 colones to $1 USD. Most restaurants accept US dollars and almost all accept credit cards. If you pay in cash with USD, you will receive colones in change, just as an FYI.

When renting things like an ATV, they will only take cash as well as tours and airport transportation, so you will need to be prepared for that. There are several ATM’s in Santa Teresa that dispense both colones and USD, but I wish I would have known that you can only take out $200 USD(or the colones equivalent) per transaction, and each transaction had a $7 bank fee.

10. Safety in Santa Teresa

We never once felt unsafe during our time here. There is a lot of activity going on in the city and only one main road, so you won’t find yourself going down dark and scary alleys. You will also see police around the very busy areas to control things if needed. The most common thing is petty theft, so don’t leave anything valuable in your ATV or on the beach unattended.

girl in tide pool in santa teresa

11. Favorite Things to Do in Santa Teresa

Spending the day exploring up and down the coastline was so much fun, and what we did the most of. We enjoyed visiting the different beaches, reading underneath palm trees, and swimming in the tide pools. The water is so warm, comparable to bath water, which I was not expecting!

Beaches I’d recommend:

  • Playa Hermosa
  • Playa Santa Teresa
  • Playa Manzanillo
  • Playa Las Manchas

I’d highly recommend a horseback riding excursion with Horizonte Horse Experience. This 3-hour long excursion takes you along the sandy white beaches and into the jungle a bit, with a rest stop at a local watering hole for a drink. You then proceed back to hit the beach run as the sun is setting. It was absolutely magical; something I will never forget. Our guide was wonderful, and the horses so gentle and calm. As someone who had never ridden a horse, I wasn’t sure what to expect, but it was very intuitive. My butt was sore though, lol.

We also loved a day trip to the Montezuma Waterfall. You hike up to the waterfall, which isn’t a long ways; just a little tricky (but doable). It’s an absolutely stunning scene, with room to swim beneath the crashing water. I jumped right in and it felt amazing. The sound of the waterfall is so calming, too. Afterwards we went to Butterfly Brewing Company, which is very close-by, tucked into the jungle. The beer was excellent, as were the drinks. They make all of their food in house; our meal was great.

I also enjoyed shopping in Santa Teresa and found some really cute, well-made clothes at a few of the boutiques. Much of the clothing is handmade from linen, which I really love, and affordable for the quality.

horse back riding on a beach in costa rica at sunset

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January 29, 2024


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  1. Haley

    Happy milestone birthdays! Looks like it was an incredible trip with lots of great food – naturally, right?!

  2. Maggie

    What a great way to celebrate your birthdays! This is such a great post that it makes me want to go there immediately. You are a lady of many talents – thank you for all your great recipes. You have made me a better baker for sure.

    • Amanda Paa

      Oh, thanks Maggie! Appreciate you reading and being here.

  3. Julie

    Very nice blog! Thanks Amanda! You are right about the cost of going to Costa Rica. My husband and I have traveled there many times and although it used to be a reasonable place to visit, it is definitely not anymore. We usually stay around the Tamarindo area – which has gotten very expensive, but we will be staying south of there in a less busy area this next time. I would definitely recommend renting a car and seeing different places in the country. Just “obey” the rules of the road and you will be fine! Sometimes if you find a more local “spot”, the prices are lower too!

    • Amanda Paa

      Hi Julie! Yes, very interesting how Costa Rica really exploded around 2020, 2021. The couple who owned the hotel we stayed at said that many tech millionaires were coming to the area to work remotely and bought up so much of the land, which increased the prices of everything. But it’s so beautiful, worth it! I hope you have a great time this trip.

      • JULIE

        thank you!