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Dreamlike, diverse and grappling with change: Our Santa Teresa deep dive

December 22, 2018

Even Costa Ricans fawn over the idea of visiting Santa Teresa.

When you step on the beach you’re surrounded by a colorful assortment of nature. The sky and ocean blend together in the horizon and turn into a mosaic of deep purple and vibrant orange at sunset. The beach itself is surrounded by deep green vegetation on either side and there’s often a light mist, making this picturesque town seem even more like a dream.

The beach is often dotted with tanned travelers speaking an assortment of languages. A lot of them will have big old surfboards, perfect for learning. You’ll see a few shortboard-riding locals tearing up waves, too.

The waves range from beginner to world class and the tourists range from tent-dwelling backpackers selling handmade goods to some of the world’s biggest celebrities. Leonardo DiCaprio has been spotted at local bars. Tom Brady and Gisele Bundchen are basically part-time residents, and Zac Efron was recently seen climbing waterfalls and riding horses in the area.

There’s still no celebrity enclave in Santa Teresa, but there are large communities of Argentinians, Israelis, and restaurateurs that have set up strong roots in this beach town. Places like The Bakery have brought fresh baked goods to a community that was only accessible by horse a few decades ago. Product C offers seafood so fresh it’s almost still breathing, and if you’re on a budget, The Taco Corner offers amazing burritos and tacos at a decent price.


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All this growth also comes at a cost. While Santa Teresa does seem like a sandy utopia, there are some gritty truths laying behind the mist – primarily because the local government hasn’t been able to keep with the town’s exploding growth. During a recent weeklong visit to take a deep dive into this beloved destination, The Tico Times’ editorial team explored some of the challenges facing this community, and how local leaders are working to solve them.

Throughout the month of December, you’ll be able to read about Santa Teresa’s struggles with sewage management as tourism has boomed; Waterkeepers, a nonprofit organization formed by local residents to act as a watchdog for clean water in the area; and foreigners’ campaign to ban the use of a herbicide that local farmers call their only option.

We’ll also explore how the community is working to respond to increased drug use and crime in the area, particularly following the murder of a Mexican tourist, Maria Mathus Tenorio, on the beach at night in late August; one such initiative, “Ride para las Sirenas,” offers women free rides back to their hotels.

You’ll also meet some of the area’s best surfers, learn exactly how to get to and from this out-of-the-way spot, and unwind alongside our team through our videos, photos and insights into some of the town’s best views, eats and drinks.

Upcoming stories

Video: How to surf in Santa Teresa 

Surfing in Santa Teresa

The Bakery 

Keeping an eye on wastewater 

Cultures collide over herbicide 

A murder shatters the illusion of safety


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A murder shatters the illusion of safety

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