The once sleepy surf town of Santa Teresa has been exploding in size attracting people across the globe with the allure of wellness, surf, and good vibes.
Nestled on the shores of the Pacific Coast down at the southern tip of the Nicoya Peninsula this small town is now a hot spot in Costa Rica receiving a lot of attention from expats and tourists alike.
Here are the pros and cons of living in Santa Teresa, Costa Rica as an expat to help you to decide if the jungle surf vibes of Santa Teresa is the perfect place for your expat paradise or is best as a memorable Costa Rican vacation.
The pros of living in Santa teresa
1. An embodiment of the pure life concept
As you enter the unpaved road winding into Santa Teresa you feel as if you are being transported into a scene of Jurassic Park through the towering powerful trees. It is a casual remote town where many come for the simplicity of it all and the heart of the pure life in all its untouched nature.
2. Monkeys, monkeys and more monkeys!
It won’t be the sound of roosters waking you up in the early mornings. In Santa Teresa and the surrounding towns, it is the howler monkeys that will be serenading you. The deep howls echo throughout the treetops.
In the neighboring town of Mal Pais, you may have just as many white-faced capuchin monkeys visiting your property as you do raccoons.
Simply walking to the stores you will see the groups of howler monkeys crossing the power lines to make their way to the trees on the other side. It is a daily occurrence spotting these amazing creatures and you never tire of seeing them especially the faces of the little babies.
3. The most stunning beaches and sunsets
The sandy light sand beaches stretch for miles all along the coast lined with tropical palms creating a perfect setting for pure relaxation and beauty. It truly is so stunning and every photo is a postcard in itself.
Tidepools are never-ending upon the shores setting up the perfect space for a private pool in the sea. You never need to share, there are so many with hidden places for everyone.
The sunsets draw everyone out to the beach, it is a community activity of only good vibes. Drinks, music, and just a sense of happiness. You feel the spirit of Santa Teresa with every gorgeous sunset. Even the street dogs flock to the beaches and you will find yourself with a new friend to love as you watch the artwork of the sky light up your soul.
4. A community of dog lovers
If you love animals, Santa Teresa is meant for you. If you didn’t have a dog before you moved, you will end up with a new furry friend looking for love. Dogs are so loved you will see them riding in the baskets of ATVs or on the front of the motorcycles riding through town.
5. Healthy life style is natural here
Santa Teresa is the epicenter of health and wellness in the area. Almost every style of yoga is practised and offered set against the backdrop of the lush trees or views of the spectacular beach.
Healthy living and open-minded views of life thrive here in the small community. Organic, vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free all is recognized, supported, and catered to.
The street is scattered with barefoot and casual goers, with a surfboard in hand, off to catch the next wave. Santa Teresa is known for its epic surf and it’s what attracts so many to this beachside surf town.
6. A good choice of areas to live to suit different tastes
Santa Teresa can be a bit busy with the hustle and bustle during tourist season so many chose to live on the outskirts of town on the back roads into the jungle.
Many move to this area for the remote feeling, the casual way of living nestled amongst the pure nature of Costa Rica. Homes are drowning in trees and greenery, bursting with color and back-to-earth vibes.
It isn’t for everyone, so it is best to rent first or spend an extended vacation here to see if you are adaptable to this style of living.
Santa Teresa and the area’s jungle vibes attract celebrities with many renting and owning vacation homes for the elusive privacy and rawness of the surrounding area.
The road out of Santa Teresa takes you right into Playa Hermosa within minutes and into a picture-perfect scene, it is the town’s quiet, chill neighbor.
Many choose the Playa Hermosa area to escape the noise of Santa Teresa and find the calmness of nature and beach here. Hidden within the hills are mansion-like and eco-style homes.
The other end of Santa Teresa runs directly into Mal Pais with a bohemian and earthy vibe.
You will find eclectic restaurants, the magic of the tide pools, and homes scattered throughout the hills nestled on the cliffs with amazing panoramic views of the beaches. In the night you will see the twinkle of the homes pop out through the darkness of the trees, sparkling in the mountains.
Tambor is a little under an hour away from Santa Teresa and is attracting many expatriates to their gated community of condominiums with new developments all within Los Delfines Golf & Country Club.
You never need to leave the community if you don’t want, with a golf course, an on-site grocery store and ATM, pool, restaurant, and endless community activities. This is an alternative to those looking for some of the amenities and comfort from home while still living their dream on the beaches of Costa Rica.
7. Amazing restaurants and seafood
Almost every other building along the narrow road through town is a restaurant with so many styles of cuisine to choose from. Santa Teresa has taken food to new elevated levels for such a small community.
Restaurants range from seafood and sushi, wood-fired pizzas, Italian, Argentina, and Israeli cuisine, the popular Taco Corner, and the amazing La Cevicheria, with the best ceviche in town.
Even the local soda shops are full serving rich local flavors, and Chicken Joe’s always has the best chicken in town.
Earth Café is serene with Instagram-worthy dishes that taste just as good as they look. El Tercer Ojo (The Third Eye) name is just as fun and unique as the food and atmosphere.
Eating out is more than just a simple meal in Santa Teresa, it is always a dining experience even in the most casual of atmospheres.
One of the great things about Santa Teresa and its restaurants is that many of them are pet friendly as they are open-air and outside dining. You don’t have to worry about leaving your furry babies at home, they are almost always welcome!
8. No Spanish needed to survive
Santa Teresa and its neighboring communities of Mal Pais, Playa Hermosa, Montezuma, and Tambor have become such a popular destination with tourists and expatriates that you may hear English just as much as Spanish.
Many of the long-term visitors and residents typically speak both and often at times a third. You definitely don’t need those last-minute Duolingo lessons to survive in this area.
Especially in Tambor’s new developments, it is primarily all English-speaking residents that have made the move either seasonally or long term.
That being said, the best way to learn about the country and to feel part of Costa Rica is to speak with the people and the locals.
Spanish can be fun to learn and the locals are always so patient when you try, helping you along the way. Poco a poco you will learn, just have fun with it.
9. All the necessary amenities on your doorstep
Although quite far from the country’s capital, Santa Teresa and the area does have the essentials to get by as it is such a tourist destination.
There is a bank in town and a few ATM’s so you can take care of your financial needs without traveling far.
There is also an urgent care center and doctors available for non-urgent care matters right in the town’s business area.
There are even a few pharmacies and if your prescription isn’t available, they will often bring it from the city for you.
In the neighboring area, there are several dentists and you will find both private and public healthcare.
Just outside of town is Futuro Verde, an international bilingual school with its progressive thinking it has become the popular choice for many families.
Costa Rica has a special police force dedicated for tourists. Santa Teresa has a delegation committed to this due to the population of tourists in the area. They are the officers in the white shirts and are available to help with any issues and problems that arise.
The cons of living in Santa Teresa
Yes, Santa Teresa is a paradise, however, it’s not without problems and it’s worth knowing about them before you move. So, here are the disadvantages that come with living in Santa Teresa
10. The unforgiving roads and dust
Whatever you do, do not try driving in a small compact car, you may lose the bottom of it.
Santa Teresa has one road that runs through town and until just recently it wasn’t even paved.
All the side roads are dirt and gravel roads. The roads leading into town are not paved and at times the potholes can seem like the size of a small tidepool at the beach.
A 4 x 4 is the best to manoeuvre the unpredictable roads, anything that isn’t low to the ground. However, most people rent or buy ATVs if they don’t have a motorcycle.
It really is the best way to get around especially in the rainy season and if you live outside of town.
You will see more ATVs than you do cars zipping around. It can be quite fun riding around, a bandana covering half your face like something out of the movies.
With that being said driving can be very frustrating at times with all the tourists in vacation mode, feeling fearless taking over the roads without a worry or care.
11. Petty crime: if you leave it, you lose it!
Petty theft has been on the continual rise in Santa Teresa and is one of the most common crimes in Costa Rica. It is a crime of opportunity you have to remember though.
Many leave valuables in the car and everything is taken when you return back from your dinner or swim.
Bags are scattered along the beach as people go wading into the tidepools or for a swim to beat the heat and return to it being gone.
As sad as it is to say but it has become almost a hobby or part-time job for some as they can almost guarantee an income all thanks to those forgetting their common sense when they come to paradise.
12. You feel far away from everything
A little over an hour away is the ferry to cross over the Gulf of Nicoya in order to get you to San Jose which is then another hour and a half. It’s not something you would typically want to try and do in a day unless you don’t mind feeling rushed.
Venturing out to get clothing and supplies is a planned-out trip making it feel like a fun small adventure.
Taking the ferry is definitely the best part, sailing across with the breeze looking out at the little islands scattered throughout.
Liberia is almost 4 hours away so it is a journey in itself as well, however, they do have a Walmart and PriceSmart so you can stock up on everything you need.
If you are craving the fast foods of home, Liberia also has the commercial favorites of Taco Bell, Subway and McDonalds.
13. Public transportation is a bit patchy
Luckily there is public transportation in the area and it is reliable with a dedicated schedule.
However, it can be a bit of a chore to take the bus from one town to another, needing to switch buses; and the network mainly covers only one area of the region.
On a positive note, there is a bus route to get you to San Jose that will cross you over the ferry and onward to the capital. It may be at least half your day but it will get you there and is super cheap and comfortable!
14. It’s always touristy and becomes a party town at times
Not necessarily a negative for all, some may love that Santa Teresa is busy and always has something going on.
Playa Carmen and Banana Beach are the most crowded and popular areas in town to hang out so if you are looking for a quiet sunset, avoid this area.
Santa Teresa tends to attract a very young tourist crowd as the town is full of hostels but there is still plenty of room to find space of your own and some peace.
15. Rising cost of living
Over the past year, there has been a dramatic change in the cost of living in Santa Teresa as the new generation of online remote workers arrived.
With many wanting to come and live the digital nomad dream in Santa Teresa, surfing and working, demand for housing was created.
Small 1-bedroom accommodations that were once $500 are now being rented for at least $1000.
The town is small and housing has become quite limited. You can expect to pay anywhere from $1,500 – $5,000 a month for a home rental.
Many have looked towards the neighboring villages of Mal Pais and Playa Hermosa to help with more affordable living.
Groceries and supplies in town cost slightly higher than that on the other side of the Gulf as most things come across the ferry, traveling further to reach the area.
Basic essentials like a bottle of shampoo can be $8 and $4 for deodorant. However, that also goes without saying in all of Costa Rica where beauty and body care tends to be pricier.
Dining out for two at the local soda can be affordable at $20 for a meal of casados with beans, rice, salad, and meat. However, if you are looking to eat at one of the amazing restaurants in town expect to double that.
Final thoughts on living in Santa Teresa
Depending on who you ask, some say Santa Teresa is magical, others say there are too many tourists and it is being ruined. It can definitely be expensive as the town begins to boom exponentially.
However, the heart of the town is that everyone is just in search of being happy. It is a place you need to experience for yourself, to see where your heart lies.
What everyone can agree on is that it is beautiful, there is so much raw untouched nature.
Sitting out in a tidepool, watching the colors paint the sky such beautiful scenes as the sun sets is something words can not describe.
It is the perfect place to live out your expat dreams if you want your days to be filled surrounded by endless lush tropical trees, never-ending sunsets on long sandy beaches, and to find pleasure in the simplicity of life again.