Santa Teresa and Mal Pais, Costa Rica are just a few hours from much of anywhere in the U.S. and the list of options for what to do in Santa Teresa and the best places to stay are limitless.
This sleepy little town is located just north of Montezuma, Costa Rica on the southern tip of the Nicoya Peninsula.
Thrill seekers, beach bums, nature fiends and honeymooners alike, Santa Teresa is a freewheeling adventure playground so pack your bags for Costa Rica.
Mal Pais, Costa Rica is known for its beautiful beaches and adventure lovers can enjoy white water rafting, canopy, hiking, surfing, staying at luxurious boutique hotels or all-inclusive resorts made just for families and couples.
Santa Teresa is completely undeveloped and feels like a different world compared to the hustle and bustle of places like San Jose, Monteverde, Tamarindo Beach, and Jacó Beach.
There is so much to do while staying in Santa Teresa and Mal Pais, Costa Rica – it’s a great destination if you are seeking action packed adventure or if you are seeking a more relaxed escape complete with yoga, massages, or enjoying a cocktail while watching sunset.
Whatever you are seeking on your Costa Rica trip, it is likely that you will be able to achieve it in Santa Teresa.
It’s extremely mellow and low-key so if you are looking for a party town – wrong place.
Keep reading my Santa Teresa and Mal Pais, Costa Rica travel guide as I will help you answer the following the questions:
- How To Get To Santa Teresa and Mal Pais, Costa Rica?
- Is Santa Teresa, Costa Rica Safe?
- How far is Montezuma from Santa Teresa?
- What is the closest airport to Santa Teresa Costa Rica?
- What are the Best Hotels in Santa Teresa?
- What are the Best Restaurants in Santa Teresa?
What is the Best Area to Stay in Mal Pais Costa Rica?
Santa Teresa is the best area to stay in if you want to have an authentic Costa Rican Experience.
Santa Teresa has 800 miles of shoreline, protected rainforest, and reserves, volcano-heated hot springs, and lush river valleys that keep me returning year after year.
Santa Teresa has not become a tourist trap just yet like so many other parts of the country with the influx of condos and mega-resorts.
This little town remains rugged, rustic and natural but I worry that will not be the case much longer because Santa Teresa and Mal Pais, Costa Rica is slowly becoming the new “It Destination”
Whether it’s a family trip with horseback riding or a romantic getaway with your spouse there a ton of things to do in Santa Teresa, Costa Rica.
Best Things To Do In Santa Teresa, Costa Rica
With the onslaught of backpackers and surfers came an onslaught of boutique hotel, restaurants, and shops.
Santa Teresa has flourished into a one of kind destination that will make you a repeat visitor like my me and my husband.
On the surface, Santa Teresa appears to be rather remote and unexciting at least that’s what my husband and I thought on our first visit to Santa Teresa.
Since that very first visit we fell in love and it has become our little slice of heaven right here on earth and it is full of excitement, activities and some of the best beaches in the world.
Santa Teresa Beach
If you are not a great swimmer please proceed with caution because the waves will take you out and I mean that literally.
There are a few small bays on the shoreline where you can possibly swim but they are hard to find and you have to look for them. (Ask a local)
Surfing in Santa Teresa & Mal Pais
The beaches of Santa Teresa offer some of the best surfing experiences in Costa Rica. They boast of world-class breaks and ideal surf conditions all through the year.
You can enjoy surfing and relaxing in this tropical paradise which boasts of white sand beaches, blue lagoons, rainforests teeming with wildlife and plenty of silence and solitude.
Additional Things To Do in Santa Teresa
There is so much to do while staying in Santa Teresa; it’s a great destination for those who are seeking action-packed adventure days, as well as those who are seeking a more zen-like escape complete with yoga, massages, and long sunset walks.
Maybe the perfect Santa Teresa day is complete with action and relaxation. Whatever you are seeking on your Costa Rica trip, it is likely that you will be able to achieve it in Mal Pais Costa Rica.
Where To Snorkel In Santa Teresa, Costa Rica
Snorkeling in Santa Teresa can be an awesome experience especially in the dry season (Dec-Apr) when the water is generally more transparent.
The area has very clean water and thus an abundance of fish and other creatures. Moray eels, sea turtles, and octopus are commonly seen.
Please, be careful because the waters in Costa Rica can be extremely rough and are not made for beginning swimmers.
Map of Santa Teresa Beach and Florblanca Resort
Traditional Costa Rican Cuisine
Eating has got to be the best thing about exploring Costa Rica. When it comes to good eats Santa Teresa has all of the boxes checked off from street food to 5-star dining.
The best ways to experience a different culture is to approach it like a local and your first stop should be the local farmers market. Here’s my guide to show you what and where to eat in Mal Pais.
Basic Dishes In Costa Rica
There are several staples that are an integral part of most meals in Costa Rica. Rice and beans along with Corn tortillas are served with almost every meal including breakfast.
- Breakfast – A typical Costa Rican breakfast is a plate of Gallo Pinto, eggs, homemade corn tortillas or fresh bread from the bakery, and sweet plantains.
- Lunch – A typical Costa Rican lunch is rice, beans, and chicken, pork, beef, or fish, a salad, and sweet plantains. You can also eat tortillas, avocado, and Picco de Gallo. Additional lunch options are shrimp, mixed seafood, pork, mixed vegetables, or fresh ceviche.
- Dinner – A typical Costa Rican dinner has the same options as at lunch.
What to drink in Costa Rica
Jugos frescos or jugos de naturales frescos are the main drink of choice whether it’s for lunch or dinner. Most locals make their own homemade juices using native fruits like tamarindo, passionfruit, mango, pineapple, strawberry, lime, and orange are very refreshing.
You will find locals selling these juices in a plastic bag that is tied with a knot with a straw sticking out of it.
Cocktails on deck!
I love love love a good cocktail. Did I say I love cocktails! If you are with your hubby or hanging out with your girlfriends there is nothing better than listening to the waves crash and drinking a good cocktail.
If you are in Costa Rica I would drink what the locals drink which includes Imperial, Pilsen, and Bavaria.
- You must try guaro – the national liquor of Costa Rica. There are a few signature cocktails that are a must-try when visiting Costa Rica. Chili guaro is a famous shot in Costa Rica. It kind of tastes like a light Bloody Mary and it is made with guaro, tomato juice, Tabasco, and lime.
- Miguelito is another delicious shot that is similar in taste to a pina colada but stronger. A basic Miguelito shot is made with guaro, coconut milk, and evaporated milk.
- A guaro sour is a traditional cocktail that is made with guaro, lime, club soda, and a little raw sugar. This is always my go-to cocktail when visiting Santa Teresa.
Where To Stay In Santa Teresa
What To Know Before You visit Santa Teresa and Mal Pais Costa Rica
Costa Rica isn’t as cheap as it used to be, and you will get hit with a 13 percent tax at every hotel and restaurant in addition to a 10 percent service charge at every restaurant.
I am doing most of the work for you but you will need to set airfare alerts to make sure you get the best rates.
- Bug Spray – Bring bug spray. You are traveling to a tropical climate and that means bugs. Bugs everywhere. Aside from the more serious Zika. Bug spray is extremely expensive in Costa Rica so don’t leave it at home.
- SunScreen – Costa Rica is close to the equator. If you are coming from a northern climate, ie the United States, Canada or Europe, you will quickly notice the sun is a lot stronger. Wear sunscreen.
- Renting A Car -Seeing the country by car is a great experience. Although it is recommended to hire a driver Renting a car in Costa Rica is NOT like renting in the US. It is a lot more expensive and you are required to purchase basic coverage, doesn’t matter if your credit card offers insurance, it is a must and the cost is typically higher than the car rental.
Driving in Santa Teresa Costa Rica
Driving in Costa Rica especially Santa Teressa will be completely different from what you’re used to in the states. Traffic rules (laws) in Costa Rica are often looked on more as guidelines. There are no street signs or street addresses as we have in the US.
Credit Cards or Cash
Both debit and credit cards are widely accepted in Costa Rica. ATM’s are everywhere but there are few considerations to keep in mind.
- Call your bank or financial institution and let them know you are traveling.
- Nothing more frustrating than, after a great meal, your card is declined.
- Cash is King.
Travel Safely in Costa Rica
Crime is part of life no matter where you travel to and Costa Rica is no exception. I have been to Costa Rica dozens of times and nothing has ever happened to me or my husband.
It’s unlikely you will experience any violent crime unless you happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Remember, Costa Rica is a third world country and most people are poor. Don’t let your common sense go, listen to that gut feeling, if something feels wrong it probably is wrong.
Don’t Leave valuables in the trunk of your car and not on the seat, in plain sight.
How To Get to Santa Teresa Costa Rica
The most common ways to get to Santa Teresa are either by plane or ferry. Other options include a speedboat then shuttle via Jaco and driving (which is a bit treacherous) so hold on to your hat because you will think you are about to meet your maker.
Two Options On How To Get To Santa Teresa and Mal Pais Costa Rica.
Fly to Santa Teresa
The quickest and easiest way to get into Santa Teresa is to take a quick 25-minute puddle jumper flight from San Jose to Tambor then arrange a private taxi/shuttle from Tambor into town.
Please arrange for transport from Tambor to your hotel prior to arrival to arrange for a driver to pick you up!
Sansa flies out of the SJO airport but in order to get to their planes, you have to go on a quick walk to their ‘terminal’.
You’ll be bombarded by taxi drivers, private shuttle services and a ton of people with signs providing tour services.
Just keep walking and you’ll see a gated parking lot with arms blocking the entrance, that’s where you turn in.
The Security guards will open the gates for you and then you walk to the building where you check-in and wait in their ‘departure’ area.
NatureAir flies out of SJO as well but you can get to their departure area without leaving the airport. Once you exit the arrivals area, go back up to departures and follow the signs that say “domestic flights”.
The great thing about flying is the ease and the stunning view of the jungle as you fly overhead. Please note that these are all propeller planes that are tight for space and have limited seating capacity.
keep your luggage below 30lbs! For every lb over 30, you’re required to pay $1 in fees (i.e $1/pound).
Ferry to Santa Teresa
The Ferry is from Puntarenas to Paquera. Click here for the Ferry Schedule. It’s roughly $1.40 for a ticket!
There are three Ferry options:
- Direct Bus: This bus leaves from the bridge at Villa Bonita in Alajuela at 6:20 AM and 2:20 PM. The cost of the ticket is $15.50 and the bus will take you from Alajuela to Mal Pais/Santa Teresa. It does not drop you off in front of your hotel so have a good idea of where you’re going to get off at a landmark.
- Regular Bus: Go to the bus station in San Jose and take the local bus to Puntarenas which departs every 40 minutes. Once you arrive in Paquera, get on another bus to Cobano and once you’re in Cobano, you’ll have to take another bus into Santa Teresa. Click here for the Cobano bus schedules.
- Private Shuttles: This is by far the easiest way to go about doing the transfers but it will cost you roughly $50USD.
I would recommend the following companies for the private shuttle-ferry-shuttle service:
- Tropical tours
- Montezuma Expeditions
Best Time To Go to Santa Teresa, Costa Rica
High season is December through April, with reliable sunshine but larger crowds and prices to match. The rest of the year is the green season, with better deals and regular rain showers.
October is the wettest month, but if you don’t mind a little rain every evening I say go for it.
The hubby and I got in a torrential downpour riding our bikes back to Florblanca but what’s the point in being pissed? We were in Costa Rica things could be worse.
Weather In Santa Teresa Costa Rica
Costa Rica has a tropical climate, with a wet and a dry season each year on the Pacific side, and occasional showers throughout the year on the Caribbean side.
The weather in Santa Teresa, Costa Rica varies depending on which side of the country you’re visiting.
November through mid-April – These are warm, sunny comfortable months. You will experience warm days with cool offshore breezes, cooler nights, and lush greenery throughout the Nicoya Peninsula area.
You may have the occasional rain shower, but typically these months are full of sunshine and clear skies. Although there is always some humidity in Santa Teresa Costa Rica, these months are typically the driest of the year.
Late-April through August – You will experience some rainfall during these months, generally during the evening or nighttime.
It’s a beautiful time of year and travelers even get to take advantage of fewer crowds in the area and lower prices.
While this is still considered the green season and rains can be expected, you will still experience plenty of sunshine.
September and October – This is when my hubby and I typically visit Santa Teresa and the rains are a little heavier during these months.
You will still have extremely gorgeous days with heavy rains about an hour or so every afternoon and the sun pops back out like it never left.
This is the perfect time kick back in your hammock with a good book and just relax to the sound of rain on your tin roof.
These months are beyond relaxing and peaceful which is why the hubby and I keep returning and the weather in Santa Teresa has never deterred us from going back.
Don’t Forget Travel Insurance!
I can’t stress enough the importance of travel insurance, especially when visiting a country like Costa Rica. You will need insurance even if you just plan on hanging out on the beach.
What’s the worse thing that could happen? Hindsight is always 20/20. What if you decide to go hiking, surfing, scuba diving, or zip-lining), you need to be protected on your travels and peace of mind is irreplaceable.
I learned about the importance of travel insurance the hard way last year in the Czech Republic and now I will never travel without coverage.
Conclusion of What To Do In Santa Teresa
Santa Teresa and Mal Pais Costa Rica is an experience, a “Pura Vida” experience. What makes Santa Teresa so appealing is the undeveloped landscape.
Let the Pura Vida take you on its journey (go with the flow), and remember to have fun!
Santa Teresa is the best area to stay in Costa Rica and it has to be on your radar otherwise, you wouldn’t know this little sleepy town existed.
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Additional Articles For Exploring Costa Rica
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