For the solo female traveler it can be rewarding to stay local to an area with the exception of a few half-day to full-day trips. Simply, less time spent in transit and more time in leisure mode.
Stay local, become a towny, make friends, eat at all the best spots and get the inside scoop on all the off-the-beaten-path gems. That’s exactly how I chose to spend my eight days. Loosely planted in Santa Teresa.
After arriving at 7am to San Jose International, I hustled over to the domestic terminal to catch a local hopper plane with Green Airways. This flight is fun! From its amazing window views, barefoot friendly pilots, to the in flight cooler of water and beer, I promise you are off to a great start. Once landing in Tambor just a quick 25 minutes later, be ready to pay an airport tax of 3 USD. It may be worth it to arrange transportation ahead of time, or you could wing it like I did. I was lucky to share a taxi ride with another passenger into Santa Teresa, splitting the cost of 50 USD.
Most places have a 2pm or later check in, so it’s a good idea to book a place that has amenities like a pool with lounge chairs. If not, just leave your bags at the reception and head to town for a meal.
Stay: Canaima Eco Chill house
For about 80 USD, Canaima Eco Chill house was a laid back jungle dream. Artisan crafted and Instagram worthy, this lodge is situated off an inclined dirt road only a 12 minute walk to the beach. You will need wheels if you plan on coming and going with ease, otherwise enjoy the steep climb as apart of your daily workout.
Having no shortage of sushi in town, I chose to eat at Satori two nights in a row. With live music, candle lighting, fresh open air, local vibes, amazing fish and Mojitos, it was certainly a recipe for a repeat dining experience. I ordered the tuna nigiri with the snapper avocado roll, properly named “I love Santa.”
Tip: the Snapper, Tuna and Mahi Mahi are all local fishes, while the Salmon is flown in. Eat sustainable and fresh and always choose the fish that is local to the waters.
For digital nomads and eco chic travelers, Outsite is a co-living-space company that caters to a “global office” lifestyle. Complete with a conference-like work space, yoga area, full-size kitchen and tasteful rustic-chic upstairs living room; this open-air concept house sits above Santa Teresa in a gated community with oceanic views. With amenities like an espresso machine, in-room soaking tubs, private balconies and a stone swimming pool; you will feel dangerously close to extending your stay! I paid 175 USD during one of the most busy weeks of the season, the Holy Holiday just before Easter.
Pro Tip: Find a local Bodyworker and ask about their travel rates. I paid 120 USD with gratuity for a 90 minute session on my balcony overlooking the sea.
On the main road, EatStreet is a food hall concept with five different mini restaurants serving up ceviche, tacos, breakfast, vegan bowls, smoothies, coffee and cocktails. It’s a great place to feel social and eat something yummy anytime of the day. For dinner I had the ceviche. Let’s just say I had it three more times during my stay! If you like a hint of spice in your fish, I guarantee this will satisfy your ceviche craving. For cocktails I had the Chelada, which is spicy tomato juice and Cachaça.
For some continued cliff-side luxury I was lucky to book at Mint, situated in the hills just off the main road. Arriving early in the day, I wasn’t able to check in till 3pm so I indulged effortlessly in the Swedish hospitality provided by the owner. I spent the afternoon nibbling on papaya, passionfruit and house-made banana bread while engaging in scenic poolside leisure fit for a queen sloth, me! A full breakfast is included during your stay with house-made tropical jams, baked biscuits, coffee and fresh coconut juice out of the shell. I stayed in the deluxe double room overlooking the shorelines of Santa Teresa. At night I relaxed in my private rooftop hammock under a canopy of stars and woke up with a floor to ceiling view of the rising sun.
I meet some other travelers at the beach who had just caught forty pounds of Yellowfin Tuna on a fishing trip, and was invited to a local Soda where the catch was prepared with an orange teriyaki glaze. Not only was this the thickest piece of fish I’ve ever been served on a plate, it was also one of the most tasty meals I’ve had in a long time. Our bill for 4 people was roughly 28 USD including a hefty tuna-mango appetizer and a round of cervesas.
Tip: Monday nights are happening at Banana Beach. With a sunset crowd, fire spinning, a cash prize surf competition, house DJ and drumming; It’s a great place to make new friends, watch the sun disappear behind the horizon and feel the energy of other travelers.
Stay: Amor de Mar
Since Montezuma is only a 35-minute taxi ride from Tambor Airport, I chose to spend my last night there, staying at Amor de Mar, a beachside eco-lodge with incredible sunrise views. The town is small but lively, with mostly locals and other travelers who have drifted over from Santa Teresa.
If you meander into town, keep an ear out for the sounds of bossanova vocals, saxophone, drums and guitar at Organico. Order the tuna tartare and their Piña colada, which was basically tiramisu in a glass. Incredible!
For after dinner cocktails I walked over to CoColores for candle light caipirinha’s accompanied by a new friend and some very chill house cats.
Day trips from Santa Teresa:
- Mal Pais is roughly a 15-minute drive and has a smaller, more local feel to it. I met some new friends at a beach hostel who were playing a gig at a pizza spot called Donna Teresa in Mal Pais. Naturally, I followed the music and caught a ride with other travelers who had acquired a retro van requiring a push-to-start engine.
- Montezuma Waterfall is situated on the very southern coast of the Nicoya Peninsula, about 45-minutes from Santa Teresa. There a a few different routes, but I took a quad on the route through Cabuya, down the coast to Montezuma. Complete with muddy ditches and winding country roads, this route will give you a Charlize Theron in Mad Max kind of Furiosa feeling. The waterfall is the main attraction in Montezuma. The trail down to the falls may be packed with tourists depending on where you enter.
- Have lunch and a fresh green juice at Anamaya and ask your server how to get down to the falls. Let’s just say there is a secret passageway.
- Just 25-minutes outside of Santa Teresa, check out La Selva Brewery in Cabuya to wet your whistle with some local beers in a rustic farm-style setting. Take the back roads on a 4×4 and be sure to bring a bandana, it’s a dusty ride.
More places to eat in Santa Teresa:
- El Patio is a great outdoor spot for breakfast or lunch, offering up the usual suspects like burritos and açaí bowls. I ordered the bagel breakfast sandwich, filling me up until dinnertime.
- Earth Café has a chill vibe with rainbow iguana’s eating mangos in the tree canopy. The breakfast burrito was amazing!
- Cafca Café apparently has the best açaí bowls, but I like a hot breakfast and opted for the avocado toast and hot mint tea.
- Playground Selina is situated just off the beach path. This is another great café for breakfast, lunch or dinner. I sat down for a ginger beet smoothie and enjoyed the patio after a long afternoon at the beach.
From the moment I arrived in Santa Teresa I was met with a feeling of ease and familiarity. Mixed with a beat of Bali meets Old Tulum, the town is bustling with wave chasers, yogi’s and digital nomads. Whether you drop in on a vinyasa class, take a surf lesson or just nibble on papaya at your hillside villa, Santa Teresa is uncomplicated, no need to overthink it.