Santa Teresa was the place I went for my Holy Week vacation in Costa Rica. How can I describe it? Let’s see, it’s a beach town deeply rooted on the outskirts of a jungle far away from any city or any major development with a see-it-to-believe-it beach atmosphere. Seemingly the perfect getaway, for the right type of person of course.
Here’s what I went through.
Three bus rides and a ferry is what I had to go through to get to Santa Teresa. Ten grueling hours of traveling, intolerable if not for the beer on the ferry and the gorgeous otherworldly scenery straight out of (you guessed it, again!) Jurassic Park. I was with a friend, despite my urge to travel alone.
A couple people helped us get there, giving us some useful (and not-so-useful) tips along the way. For instance, the last guy who tried to help us told us to get off the bus 2 kilometers from the actual town (this is after ten hours of traveling, remember). Onward!
Stupid me didn’t book a room for the arrival night, thinking it would be easy to find one. Six hostels, one hotel, and a load of disappointment later, we found one in the comfort of the Colombian-owned “Don Jon’s Hostel”. Apparently, as the receptionist told us, this hostel was the place to be in Santa Teresa.
It was a normal looking place, sort of what you’d expect in a surf town. It was almost exclusively outdoors. There were loads of surf boards lined up to rent, surf lessons offered, a bunch of hammocks outside the dorms, and lots of people from all over the world hanging out together in the lounge listening to reggae music. They were all there to surf and party. And of course, to relax, just like me.
The guy who owned the place was, as you’d guess, Jon. He was from Colombia, and like so many other smart people, he moved away to run a hostel. I met the guy and hung out with him a few times. We didn’t really say too much to each other, but he was really nice. Most of the time he was surfing or drunk, and I never saw him with a shirt on, and I don’t think he saw me with one on either. But he was living the life. I’m jealous, Jon.
Now, here’s what I’ll warn you: Santa Teresa is rampant with drugs. People were rolling and smoking blunts in the open outdoor lounge. One morning, while I was laying on a hammock, some crazy woman told me that she had a horrible headache from a bad LSD trip. She was drinking a beer of course. I bought her another and told her to relax. I also saw people openly selling drugs on the street, but that’s really not all uncommon in these types of towns.
Santa Teresa is primarily a surf town, and because of that, it’s also a party town. People go out every single night and converge on the only road in town to enjoy the night’s activities. Every Thursday, there’s a giant party at the most popular bar in town until it closes and they move next door. Any other night, people seemingly go where the wind takes them. Word gets out fast on where the fun is. Everyone will tell you. “Hey, there’s a party at Banana Beach tonight, you comin’? We’re all going to dance and watch the sunset together!” Invitations all around for everyone, because it’s just chill and everyone is welcome. I really love that.
What I found Santa Teresa to be is, most of all, a tight-knit community. Say what you will about the party culture but this is a place where everyone can appreciate each other, let go of the outside world, and relax together. It reminded me of King Harvest’s “Dancing in the Moonlight”, the song is Santa Teresa to a tee.
They don’t bark and they don’t bite, they keep things loose and keep things light, everybody was dancin’ in the moonlight
Dancin’ in the moonlight, everybody feelin’ warm and bright
It’s such a fine and natural sight
Everybody dancin’ in the moonlight
Paradise, yeah? Hippie central? I haven’t even talked about the beach yet, or my favorite thing about Santa Teresa. This is where the mysticism part kicks in.
First, let’s get this out of the way for the surfers: the waves are huge. People are addicted to surfing here. There are no old couples strolling the beach together to enjoy a nice evening together like so many other Costa Rican beaches. Okay, well…maybe you’ll see one couple, but I promise no more than that. This is surf city. Back at Jon’s Hostel, the reggae music was loud, but on TV were seemingly endless surfing competitions. Every day in the morning and night, there were surfers on TV. The teenager who worked at the hostel was glued to the TV when he wasn’t out with his board. It’s an obsession.
The beach in Santa Teresa is long, empty, and completely untouched by development. The sand is soft, the water is the perfect temperature, and there isn’t a rain cloud in the sky. It’s beautiful, but that’s not all. My favorite part about Santa Teresa is the atmosphere, and this can be attributed to two things that I could not wrap my head around:
First is the color of the water. One can look out into the ocean and see five shades of the most gorgeous blues at any given moment, but when the waves wash ashore, there’s a lavender sort of color that accompanies the fizzling bubbles as the tide rocks back and forth to the rhythm of the gravitational pull. The lavender contrasts with the smooth stony color of the sand to produce a feeling unlike any other that washes over you like the waves themselves. You truly have to see it to believe it.
My second favorite thing, and in my opinion the most distinct thing about Santa Teresa, is the endless fog. Now, that might just sound like bad weather to you, but I’ve been to a lot of beaches here in Costa Rica, and none of them have this sort of effect. Both sides of the beach, like so many others here, are dominated by two pieces of land that jut out into the ocean. If you look in either direction at any given time, they will be enveloped in a mysterious fog. It’s uniquely Santa Teresa, and the fog doesn’t go away. It’s always there, and the color changes depending on the time of the day. I’m sure you’ve seen it in the pictures throughout this article, look closely at the header for this piece. That’s why I chose it: it’s uniquely Santa Teresa. But even a Nikon camera doesn’t do it justice; it’s something you can’t just look at. It’s something you have to come to Santa Teresa to feel.
I spent a week in Santa Teresa. I met some friends and had a great time. My last night there, I ended up going to a bar with the people in my hostel and we listened to a local musician play some classic rock. I met a dude from Los Angeles and a girl who lives in a beach town here, Samara. I already knew nearly everyone in the bar when I got there so I was already among friends. Not to mention, beautiful women were just about everywhere. But we were all so comfortable in each other’s company, which goes back to why I called it a small community. Visitors are pushed in and out according to their vacation schedules. People come and go every day, every week, but Santa Teresa remains. Everyone is welcome there to relax and enjoy life. It’s amazing and I hope I get to go back some day. It’s worth the journey.
So to conclude my story, I ended up going back by myself. I met a British guy and we spent the journey together talking nonstop about ridiculous things, like the unbelievable slow pace in Costa Rica and how people from New Jersey or London would have a fit. “Just take the money and give them the ferry ticket already, it shouldn’t take 2 minutes for every person, we’re going to miss the boat!” We also talked about the scary amount of transvestite prostitutes in the area, the psychotic gun situation in the United States, and the funny differences between British curse words and American curse words. Thanks for the laughs, Jack.
Then I ran into the DJ from Don Jon’s Hostel, he was on the ferry too. He told me he’s going back to The States for about a month and then he’s traveling to Melbourne (or Sydney?) Australia to DJ around the country for the first time because he has a girl out there who he met online? I think that was it, I don’t know, he was a weird dude. I thought he was really drugged out, didn’t really want to talk to him.
Pura Vida from Costa Rica