How Santa Teresa Broke My Spirit - This American Girl

Santa Teresa Home


To be fair

Santa Teresa didn’t stand a chance.


Santa Teresa lizard


Our perfect life in Nosara behind us, Marissa and I entered this dusty one road town with trepidation.


Santa Teresa hammocks


We began at a hostel recommended by lonely planet where showers lacked doors, beds smelled of mildew, and the owner exhaled his liquor-drenched breath against my dirt-streaked face.


Santa teresa beach hotel


Waiting for a taxi a twenty something local brought me cold bottled water and kissed my mouth before I could turn away.


Santa Teresa beach


When we walked to Playa Hermosa, hermosisima it was.

We blissfully frolicked in the ocean, until the tide rushed in, covering our belongings with its wet embrace.


Santa Teresa beach club


We wandered along the beach to have a drink at a restaurant’s beach barbecue. We swung side by side in a hammock, sharing mango daiquiris. The staff begged us to stay after they closed. Then, after breaking our budget, the drunk owner promptly kicked us out.


Santa Teresa beach


When I took my morning surf lesson with a darling Italian instructor, who could not have been more adept, the waves pummeled me, and my fear would not let me stand.


Santa Teresa beach


But despite our misadventures, I know that this place is loved by many.

And I know why.


Santa Teresa beach


Because Santa Teresa is a place


Santa Teresa beach


Where surfers watch waves

crash below the pink morning sky


Santa Teresa beach


greeting one another hello

and smiling at the promise of the swell.


Santa teresa surfer


Where lovers wade hand in hand

into the warm sea


Santa teresa sunset


and snuggle in hammocks

sipping tropical cocktails

at their beachfront hotel.


Santa teresa surfer


Where families play soccer

under a fiery sunset


Santa teresa sunset


and head to the nearby bonfire

for burgers and fries.


Santa teresa sunset


Where backpackers tell stories

surrounded by candles

under the starry night sky


Santa teresa sunset


and dance at beachfront discos

until the pink promise of morning washes over the horizon

once again.




Santa Teresa/Mal Pais, Costa Rica 


Cuesta Arriba Hostel

$15 for a dorm bed, $50 for a private room, including toast and coffee

After leaving Tranquilo Backpackers (the party hostel recommended by Lonely Planet) Cuesta Arriba Hostel was a godsend. Immaculate and spacious dorm rooms, a large kitchen, and a lovely outdoor pool in the garden make it feel more like a hotel than a hostel. The hostel is located a couple of miles outside of town, on the main road, near the best beaches, bars, and restaurants. They offer yoga classes every morning, arrange tours and surf lessons, and all staff members extremely friendly, helpful and accommodating.


Horizon Hotel and Yoga Center

$120 and up for a private cabin, $210 for a private villa with private pool

Escape the dust and traffic of town up in the hills at the Horizon Hotel. Lovely cabins overlook the ocean, come equipped with hot water showers and kitchens, have private balconies with views, and share a pool. The onsite restaurant serves delicious vegetarian fare and the yoga center adds to the tranquility of your experience. I can’t imagine a more perfect escape. People love this place so much it’s ranked #2 in Santa Teresa among much pricier hotels and resorts.





The Soda Next Door to Cuesta Arriba Hostel (Sorry I don’t know the name!)

$2.50 for salads, $5 for big entrees

For budget backpackers like myself, the small local Costa Rican soda next door to Cuesta Arriba hostel offers huge portions of fish, rice, beans, salad, and plantains for $5.



$5-20 for small plates

Snapper sashimi, seared octopus, tuna sashimi, and inventive sushi rolls… in Costa Rica?? Believe it. The Japanese owner serves up sushi comparable to that served in New York, LA, and Vancouver in a lovely outdoor setting. Go here to splurge. You deserve it 🙂



$5-15 for breakfast and lunch

Downstairs from the Nautilus wellness center, Olam is a health food lover’s dream. Feast on organic eggs and gluten free pancakes at breakfast and quinoa veggie bowls for lunch. Power smoothies are the perfect post surf or yoga treat. The owners even offer a four day cleanse where they will help you detoxify and identify any food allergies you may have.





Take a surf lesson

$40 for 1.5 hours

Cuesta Arriba hostel arranges surf lessons with their preferred instructor, but any surf shop will do the same. I highly recommend my instructor, Gianni. He worked for years as a lifeguard and understands the importance of safety when surfing. Unlike other instructors I have used in the past, Gianni teaches you to be self sufficient by explaining precisely how to bring your board into the ocean against the crashing waves, how to plan your entry based on the direction of the tide, and what to do if you get caught in a riptide. He explains the etiquette of surfing: which waves to take and which waves to give to other surfers. He will closely examine your stance and form both on the sand and in the water to offer specific feedback. And aside from all of that, he is simply a lovely and patient person to spend a couple of hours with.


Flow with yoga

$12 for a class at Hotel Tropico Latino, donation class on Mondays, free meditation on Wednesdays

Beachfront hatha and sunset yoga on a beautiful wooden deck. I can breath deeper just thinking about it.


Do a surf and yoga retreat

$2,000+ for one week at Vajra Sol includes accommodation, healthy meals, daily yoga and surf lessons 

Why not combine the two and connect your body and mind with the sand and sea? These retreats offer incredible relaxation and help you truly deepen your yoga practice and surfing skills.




And of course, you can always walk for hours on the stunning never ending beach.



Want to create a truly life changing trip to Costa Rica? My eBook, The Ultimate Guide to Costa Rica will show you how!


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